Sunday, June 12, 2011

A Fine Night of Racing In Maquoketa

While I have been to every track in the state of Iowa that currently operates on a weekly basis, there are a few of those tracks that I have not been to for a "weekly" race night, and one of those was the Jackson County Speedway in Maquoketa. One of the things that I love about weekly racing, especially at a track that is sanctioned by IMCA, is that I know that the lineup procedures will put the drivers with the highest point average at the back for the heats and the top dog will start either tenth or twelfth in the feature race depending upon the number of heat races that are required for each division. That, and the fact that this nifty quarter-mile in eastern Iowa has been averaging over twenty cars a night in both the Late Models and the Modifieds is what brought me north for the evening.

With all of the rain over the past few days it was pretty soggy in the infield and off the edges of the speedway and it was obvious that promoter Bob Wagener and his track crew had done some blading to remove the slop off the racing surface, but by race time the track was hard slick from top to bottom. That for me is usually a cause for concern as a one-lane race night often follows, but not here as veteran driver Gary Webb pointed out to me that the banking still allows for drivers to run the top, the bottom and even the middle when the track is in this condition.

The Hobby Stock class ran first in the order tonight and it was Gene Ehlers who paced the field early in their twelve-lap main event. Following a caution on lap four Kile Vohringer muscled his Mopar past Ehlers for the lead and as Ehlers tried to make a comeback he spun in front of the field in turn three while in second. With the track using the "one spin and you're in" rule during the heats the drivers get in the habit of keeping their cars moving in the feature as well and after everybody avoided Ehlers he stayed in motion and the race continued with Vohringer now enjoying a solid lead. Kile looked to have the race well in hand until lap nine when Ehlers spun once again this time bringing out the caution and bunching the field for a restart. That was exactly what Nate Yoerger needed as he had worked his way up from twelfth to second and would now start right behind the leader with three laps to run. The two ran side-by-side for the next two laps with Vohringer still holding a slight advantage until the final circuit when Yoerger eased ahead in turn two and then raced on for the exciting victory. Vohringer had to settle for second ahead of Joe Grant and Justin Yarolem while the winner's father Bruce Yoerger finished fifth. The fact that 60% of the top five finishers run some variation of the #42 thrills veteran scorekeeper Ed Potter, but you can count on him to keep them straight.

Twenty-six IMCA Modifieds filled the pits tonight and with three heats transferring the top four to the feature, one B-Main was needed to qualify the final eight cars to fill out the twenty-car starting field. Promoters, did  you catch that? If you have fourteen cars who are still left unqualified for the feature it is better to run one B-Main and transfer eight than it is to run two B-Mains with seven cars to transfer four out of each. And the B-Main field here tonight solidified that opinion by running their event non-stop without a caution. I have never understood the "two B-Main" concept if there are twenty cars or less left unqualified after the heats. You are going to start twenty or twenty-four cars in the feature, so why can't you start fourteen or sixteen for example in the B-Main? Plus, it takes away the scenario where one of the two B-Mains ends up being stacked, or where one ends up with fewer cars than the other due to scratches. Promoters and series directors, please reconsider your current methods. :)

Okay my preaching is over and now back to the twenty-lap Modified feature. Brian Webb and Mitch Morris started on the front row, obviously after they have had some tough luck here earlier in the season because you usually don't find such a stout front row when the top twelve in average points are inverted. Webb grabbed the lead with Morris in pursuit and the two pulled away as the rest of the field raced two and three-wide behind. Jake Waterman had started tenth and had picked his way up to third when a caution waved for Tom Pestka who had slipped off the top side of turn one with six laps remaining. This wiped out Webb's big lead and put Morris and Waterman side-by-side behind him for the restart, but the driver from Davenport did not even flinch as he went on to pick up his second career feature win. Webb's first win came just eight days earlier when he captured a $2,000 victory at his hometown race track. Waterman chased him in for second while Morris held down third with Dan Klatt and Doug Crampton unofficially in fourth and fifth as the race ended under caution and went back to the white-flag lap for the finish.

The Street Stocks were up next and it would be my second opportunity of the week to watch current All Iowa Points leader Timmy Current reach victory lane. Current started eighth and moved quickly to the front passing Jed Holland for the lead on lap five of fifteen. It was not smooth sailing from there though as a pair of cautions on lap eight and ten kept the field bunched together and tenth starting Joe Bonney took advantage. Bonney muscled his way under the leader into turn one on lap twelve and the two ran door-to-door for the next two circuits. With Bonney using the low-line that Current had previously favored, Timmy now moved up the track a bit and found an even better groove as he re-established himself as the leader and put a couple of car lengths on Bonney before the checkers waved. Chip Kohl passed Holland late for third while Kevin Brame rounded out the top five in this one.

Twenty-one Late Models were next up on the schedule and it was Luke Pestka outrunning fellow front row starter Kirk Caes for the early lead. Ray Guss Jr. had failed to reach the top four in his heat race so he started this one way back in row eight and while Pestka stretched out the early lead I enjoyed watching Guss slice his way through the field moving all the way up to sixth before the caution waved for a spun out Justin Kay on lap seven. Guss picked another two positions before the caution waved again on lap ten and it looked as though he would be able to mount a challenge to win this one with fifteen laps remaining. Pestka and others though had different plans. The leader once again pulled away on the restart and it was Ryan Duhme who now showed some strength as he worked his way into second after starting in the tenth slot. Guss moved to third and both he and Duhme began to close the gap on Pestka, but when the battle for second heated up that was exactly what Luke needed as he ran a flawless twenty-five laps to take the victory. Duhme fought off Guss to finish second while Doug Nigh took fourth. Terry Neal also made a nice charge coming to fifth from twelfth.

The Four Stock feature completed the evening and when a car rolled over the top of turn three mid-race I decided to beat the traffic and get a head start on the two hour drive back home. I understand that Gene Potter went on to take the victory in the event.

The show started right on time at 6:30, there was a ten minute intermission after the heats and it was still well shy of ten o'clock when I made my way out. It was great to hear Phil Roberts on the microphone once again as not only does he make sure that you know who is driving what, and where they are from, but he will also offer up several nuggets of interesting info about drivers during the evening. He was joined by Rich Hall who did a fine job as well. I have a lot of great race tracks that are closer to my home that run weekly shows on Saturday nights so you won't see me in Maquoketa often, but if you live anywhere near Maquoketa you have a pretty fine track in your vicinity as well.

No racing for me this week as it is that time of year where the bands play, the beer flows and the mayflies threaten at the annual Steamboat Days event in Burlington. Plenty of great action coming up around the area though so I'll be looking forward to your reports on how things go this week. Enjoy the races!

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