I am now halfway through my “research project” of closing the gap from when I stopped compiling the All Iowa Points in 1999 to when I resumed in 2006 with the completion of the 2002 season. This one went pretty fast as much of the spring schedule that year was washed away by weather, although the point totals by the top drivers still reflect a pretty full season of action. Once again I want to thank my colleague Barry Johnson for the use of his Hawkeye Racing News archives to do this project and it was fun to read the columns of another PR.com colleague Ryan Clark as 2002 was his first year as editor of HRN.
This was a season of repeat champions as six of the eight divisions saw the same driver as the year before wind up on the top of the points list.
After overtaking Rob Toland late to win the 2001 All Iowa Points Late Model championship, Denny Eckrich dueled it out with Todd Cooney through July before pulling away late to take his second straight state title. Eckrich only captured five checkered flags on the season, but his forty-four top-five finishes were thirteen more than any other Late Model driver in 2002. With fourteen feature wins Cooney claimed the IMCA Late Model championship that year and finished second in the All Iowa Points. Jeff Aikey and Tommy Elston tied for third in the final standings while eight-time champion Gary Webb filled out the top five. It should be noted that a driver who did not even race weekly in the state finished in the seventh spot. 2002 was definitely a breakout season for Brian Birkhofer, one that was topped off when he passed Scott Bloomquist on the final lap to win the World 100 at Eldora Speedway. Birky had plenty of success in his native state as well winning thirteen races on Iowa soil all paying $5,000 or more. We often see national stars in the top ten of the All Iowa Points in the 410 Sprint Car division, but never in the Late Models until this year.
Dubuque’s Ron Barker was dominant in 2002 winning weekly races and special events throughout the region including the debut of the World Dirt Racing League for Modifieds. On All Iowa Points paying tracks Barker garnered fifty-two top-five finishes including thirty-one feature wins easily giving his third straight, and fifth overall AIP Modified title. Sioux City area drivers Chad Waples and Jay Noteboom had great seasons with thirteen and eighteen wins respectively, but they were a distant second and third to Barker in the final rundown. Last year’s (2001) runner-up Brad Pinkerton finished in the fourth position while Troy Cordes closed out the year in fifth.
The Pro Stock/Limited Late Model division was one of two that did see a new champion in 2002 although the title did stay in the Dubuque for the fourth time in a row. Jeff Tharp scored eleven feature wins and passed mid-season leader Andy Eckrich to take his first AIP championship. With a win at the Yankee Dirt Track Classic Eckrich forged a tie with Ty Kleiner for the runner-up position, defending champion Dan Shelliam ended up fourth while western Iowa competitor Mike Collins completed the top five.
It was déjà vu all over again in the Stock Car ranks as Jeff Anderson and Brian Blessington recovered from a slow start due to the spring weather and then forged their way to the front leaving early season leader Mark Elliott in their wake. In the end it took a top five finish at the Fall Challenge in Webster City for Anderson to edge ahead of Blessington by five points to win his third straight All Iowa Points Stock Car Championship. We know that Blessington won the title in 2006 and 2007 so it will be interesting to see if these two keep a lock on it for ’03, ’04 and ’05 as well. Anderson scored twenty-one wins on AIP tracks in ’02 while Blessington picked up fourteen checkered flags on the season. With eighteen feature wins Elliott finished third, Tom Schmitt became a force in northeast Iowa and took fourth while southeast Iowa’s Jeremy Miller logged some miles on the hauler to finish in the fifth position.
There were plenty of dominant drivers at different tracks in the Hobby Stock division during 2002, but for the third straight year, and for the fourth time overall, nobody was more dominant than Kris Walker. Forty-six top-fives including twenty-eight feature wins vaulted the Oskaloosa driver to the top of the All Iowa Points list once again, only eight points ahead of northern Iowa’s Shane Monson. This was Monson’s second straight runner-up finish in the standings as he racked up twenty-six feature victories on the season. Bill Bonnet was fifth the year before and improved to third in 2002, while Andy Boeckman and Darrin Walch completed the top five.
Defending champion Ed Green went to the top early and ran away with his second straight Limited Modified AIP title scoring twenty-five feature wins along the way. Green’s top competitor Todd Hansen of Clear Lake finished second, a newcomer to the division in 2002 Al Johnson tied with Keokuk’s Chris Larson for third while another division rookie Doug McCollough wound up fifth.
Terry McCarl was once again in control of the 410 Sprint chase from start to finish as he tallied his fifth straight All Iowa Points championship. This now gives T-Mac eight All Iowa Points titles (1994, 1996, 1998-2002 and 2009) tying him with Gary Webb and Ed Sanger for the most ever in any division. Chances are pretty good that McCarl will win another one or two, either in the remaining three seasons that I have to re-construct, or here in real time. Chad Meyer was a distant second in the 2002 points chase, Knoxville Nationals winner Steve Kinser finished third with Justin Henderson and Don Droud Jr. next in line.
Young Clint Garner exploded onto the scene late in 2001 and then posted impressive numbers in 2002 with seventeen feature wins and his first All Iowa Points 360 Sprint championship. Micah Schliemann, Gordy Vogelaar and Matt Spies were next in line while two-time defending champion Jake Peters was fifth.
It should be noted that results for tracks such as East Moline, Quincy and Eagle were rarely included in the paper during the 2002 season showing once again that the All Iowa Points are only as accurate as they can be given the results provided to the media by the tracks.
A full rundown of the 2002 All Iowa Points can be found on the Points page at PositivelyRacing.com
Now it is time to move on to 2003, a season that will become the first year to compile the points for the Four Cylinder division. My goal is to have this one completed before the first green flag waves on the 2011 racing season here in the Midwest.