Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Few Car Show Pics From Westland Mall

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Friday, March 25, 2011

$&*#! It Is Snowing!

Snow in Iowa on March 25th is not that unusual. Snow in St. Louis on March 25th however is very much out of the ordinary and with the forecast calling for a wintry mix, the plug was pulled on this weekend's UMP Roundup/Party In Pevely mid-week. Of course, in true AWP fashion, there were people on the STLRacing forum who right away called the decision into question once again showing that even when a promoter makes a good call, the internet experts will pick it apart.

I heard on a Radio Iowa news segment this week that for the past three years there has been at least one location in Iowa that has received an inch or more of snow in April, so we are not likely out of the woods yet.

As I worked through the 2000 through 2005 race seasons this past year compiling the All Iowa Points it confirmed what I had thought all along. More years than not we lose a lot of races to the weather here in the upper Midwest during April and May, yet every year we act like it is a unique phenomenon. Holding early season races holds a much higher risk to reward ratio for the promoters as they run a greater risk of having a show negatively impacted, or cancelled by the weather. But, if they catch a mild and sunny day, the race-starved fans flock to the stands to provide that early season "reward" that all promoters need to get their season off to a good start. Race fans are a fickle bunch though, as when a race that is scheduled for early April and it gets wiped out by a cold rain there is always somebody saying how stupid it was to schedule a show so early in the first place. I'd like to think that the silent majority still feels thankful that the promoter would take that risk! Let's hope that this year's risk-takers are handsomely rewarded.

Kudos to Iowa Late Model shoe Chad Simpson who pulled out to Florence, Kentucky, last Saturday for the $5,000-to-win Spring 50 and finished fifth behind Eddie Carrier Jr., Scott James, Don O'Neal and Rod Conley. It was also noteworthy that teenager Bobby Pierce of Danville, Illinois, finished seventh.

Probably the biggest news in racing this week was the announcement that National Speed Sport News would no longer be found in the mailbox of its subscribers after more than seventy years in business. At first I was surprised by the news, but after thinking about it based upon my own experience with NSSN it made sense. I was a subscriber on a couple of occasions back in the 1990's and back then it was the place to go if you wanted to get news on NASCAR, Indy Car, IMSA, Formula One, etc. and I am assuming (since I haven't even looked at a copy over the past few years) that this remained their focus until the end. I also subscribed to a host of other regional papers at that time and frankly there were many weeks during the heart of the season where I would only crack open the Speed Sport to scan through Chris Economacki's column to see if there were any names from short-track racing mentioned. If I could have subscribed to Speed Sport from October through March only, when it was weekly while the regionals went part-time, then I would have, especially to catch Ron Hedger's "SuperFan" columns (that's how I got to know Gary Storey, Ed Reichert, etc.) in January and February. But they didn't offer the winter-only concept and so I let it lapse as I could get my NASCAR news from the national media and this new thing they called "the web", and I frankly couldn't give a crap about Formula One and IMSA (sorry Barry).

The question now is this. With the grand-daddy of all racing papers unplugging the presses will the remaining regionals be like dominos and follow suit, or will they find a way to capture and maintain an audience of subscribers and advertisers to survive and perhaps even grow? Newspapers have a heck of a lot more costs to cover than us internet jockeys and it is extremely tough to get racing promoters and businesses to spend money right now on advertising. averaged 7,000 unique visitors and just under 16,000 visits per month during the 2010 racing season, yet we have not convinced anybody yet that it would be worth $150 to have an ad on the site for the entire 2011 season. Can you imagine how tough of a sell it is for a paper with 2,500 subscribers to try to get the same amount for an ad in just one issue? And as a true sign of the times, in the press release announcing the end of Speed Sports' weekly publication, they did point out that the online edition would continue.

Illegally treated tires popped into the news again this week as the Carolina Clash Late Model series disqualified three drivers from their March 12th event at Carolina Speedway after tests indicated the issue. Race winner Ricky Weeks, third-place finisher Ross Bailes and Dustin Mitchell who finished eighth in the original rundown are all appealing the decision.

With the weather taking away any thoughts of going racing this weekend in our area make sure you check to see who might be having car shows near you. I plan on heading down to the Westland Mall in West Burlington on Saturday for 34 Raceway's annual show and remember that it is a Saturday-only show this year. Hope to see you there and I'll plan on putting some photos up here when I get back to the computer.

As we head into this non-racing weekend here are the current Florida Late Model point standings after Speedweeks and a couple of weekly shows at East Bay.

1 Scott Bloomquist Mooresburg TN 31

2 Billy Moyer Batesville AR 23

3 Don O'Neal Martinsville IN 20

4 Jimmy Owens Newport TN 14

5 Jimmy Mars Elk Mound WI 13

6 Brady Smith Solon Springs WI 11

7 Austin Hubbard Seaford DE 10

8 Bryan Bernhardt Clearwater 10

9 Travis Varnadore Dover 8

10 Josh Richards Shinnston WV 7

11 Jason Feger Bloomington IL 6

12 Bub McCool Vicksburg MS 5

13 Brad Neat Dunville KY 5

14 Rick Eckert York PA 5

15 Tim McCreadie Watertown NY 5

16 Tyler Reddick Corning CA 5

17 Dan Schlieper Sullivan WI 4

18 Dennis Erb Jr. Carpentersville IL 4

19 Earl Pearson Jr. Jacksonville FL 4

20 Jonathan Davenport Blairsville GA 4

21 Chris Madden Grays Court SC 3

22 Eddie Carrier Jr. Salt Rock WV 3

23 Maverick Varnadore 3

24 Steve Francis Ashland KY 3

25 Steve Mathis 3

26 David Pollen Jr. 2

27 David Breazeale Four Corners MS 2

28 Jared Landers Batesville AR 2

29 Roger Crouse 2

30 Ryan Unzicker El Paso IL 2

31 Vic Coffey Caledonia NY 2

32 Wendell Wallace Greenbriar AR 2

33 David Schmauss Tampa 1

34 Shan Smith 1

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Are My Eyes Bleeding?

Have you checked out the Special Events Calendar at Positively Racing? As of today it lists 716 "special" (not weekly shows) events at tracks in Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. This is the result of poring over the schedule pages of numerous track and series websites over the past four months in an attempt to pull them all together into one. One place that a race fan in our coverage area can go when they know they have a Tuesday night in June available and they want to see if there is a race anywhere nearby. My hope is that it is something that our good friend Gary Storey would have loved if he were still here chasing races in his true "SuperFan" fashion.

Did I catch them all? Doubtful.

Are there errors? Likely. After all I came across several instances where a track would have a series scheduled for a night on their website that did not match the scheduled date on the series' schedule.

That is why we have that little disclaimer at the top stating "Schedules subject to change without notice. is not responsible for the accuracy of this schedule" Heck, most of the track websites carry a similar disclaimer for their own schedules and one of them gave some great advice in this age of $3.65 per gallon gas prices, "Call before you haul".

If you see a race date on the calendar that interests you, go to the track's website, get a phone number and place a call just to make sure that everything is still on.

Building this calendar was a chore (are my eyes bleeding?), but it was enjoyable as well. There are still many tracks in the region that I have yet to visit and I found myself trying to see if certain dates might allow for that inaugural voyage to Central Missouri, Brownstown IL, 141 Speedway, Ogilvie, Husets, Junction and many more. And of course I made note of the events that I wanted to catch at my favorite tracks during the upcoming season.

I was a bit surprised to find that the schedule for the WISSOTA Late Model Dart Challenge Series was still not complete as of yet (it hs since been released and should be included on our schedule page soon) and there were several track websites, especially in Wisconsin and Minnesota who still have a note on their 2011 schedule page similar to "Still Under Construction". So as those come out I'll be adding to the list while also removing the events that have already come and gone.

And, for the All Iowa Points paying tracks that run weekly, you can jump over to the Weekly Events Schedule to get a feel for when their track points season begins and ends in 2011.

So there you go, you now know where to find the events, now go out and Support the Sport.

Let's go Racing!!

Saturday, March 19, 2011

First Race Of The Year!!

There is nothing better than the feeling that you get when you pull into a race track for the first time in a new season. After four and a half months the sight of that first car haluer on the highway and the smell in the air as I walk toward the grandstands gets my adrenaline pumping and that feeling was renewed Friday night as I approached the historic Belle-Clair Speedway in Belleville, Illinois. After watching the radar all morning I nearly made the decision to stay home and watch more basketball, but I took the chance and the action on the tiny 1/5-th mile speed bowl made the four hour trip very worthwhile!

The "Shamrock 40" for the UMP Super Late Models was the headliner and with a $1,500 winner's check up for grabs I thought that I might see more than the nineteen car field that assembled, but perhaps the radar, the forecast and those darned gas prices all played a role in the car count. There were plenty of top contenders who were there though and the action during the qualifying races was rough and tumble in the tight confines leaving only a few cars with straight sheet metal. Frankie Martin and Michael Kloos started the forty-lapper on the front row and it was the pole-sitter Martin who jumped to the early lead. With Martin up on the cushion and Kloos working the bottom, the lead changed hands on lap four. The large crowd on hand tonight was particularly interested in the progress of Randy Korte who was returning to action after missing nearly all of 2010 following surgery. Korte had won the first heat in thrilling fashion but when the dice roll for the dash started him at the rear of the six-car event he could only earn a third row start in the main event. "King Kong" was on the charge though and on lap sixteen he moved by Martin for the runner-up spot.

Kloos enjoyed a solid lead at this point and there were also a few lapped cars between he and Korte. While the gap between first and second may have been closing a bit, Korte had to be more focused on the challenge that he was getting from Mike Hammerle. The veteran driver out of St. Charles, Missouri, is never flashy and you will rarely see him up there banging the cushion, but if the low groove is working you can bet that "The Hammer Man" will be in contention and that was the case tonight. Korte and Hammerle made contact going into turn one with ten laps to go, but both drivers maintained control as tenth-starting Brent Kreke moved in to make it a three car battle for second. Two laps later Korte slowed with mechanical issues ending his evening and the caution erased a big lead for Kloos.

Kreke would restart in second and having found a groove through the middle he was all over Kloos when the green flag returned. Kreke was able to put a nose to the outside of the leader on two occasions over the final laps, but Kloos was solid on the bottom as he held on to take the opening night victory. Kreke settled for second with Hammerle in third, Martin faded to fourth and a rim-riding Cory Daughtery who started next to Kreke in row five completed the top five.

The UMP Modified field of fifteen was also lighter than I expected and it was the defending National Champion Mike Harrison who went flag-to-flag to win the twenty-lap main event. It was not a cruise through the park for Harrison though as he first had to squelch the early high-side challenge of Brian Bielong by moving up to that top groove and then later it was Dean Hoffman who tried to drive by him on the bottom. Harrison showed his muscle on the final restart as he ran the final four laps flawlessly on a cushion that was now right up against the wall on both ends and the $750 top prize was his. Hoffman finished second, Brett Korves came from the fourth row to finish third, Tim Hancock started twelfth and finished fourth while Bielong ran the final eight laps with a flat left front tire and faded to fifth.

The Sportsman division was also on the card and it was Mike "Wahoo" Jones who passed John Schrand and lap six taking the win in the fifteen-lap finale. Schrand, Cory Ford, Denny Tribout and C.J. Simpson completed the top five.

Belle-Clair Notes......Announcer Mike Meuer welcomed the crowd to the 63rd season opener for the speedway that is tucked into the south side of the city of Belleville. Proof that a city and a race track can coexist just fine. For Meuer, the "Talker Guy" with the perfect voice, it was the beginning of his 41st year of calling stock car races.....This was my second-ever visit to the facility having stopped here on our "Talladega Trip To Hell" back in 2007. Not far down the road from Belleville the trip turned ugly and included two blown tires on an RV, a disabled fuel pump, a motel in southern Illinois that had decoy cars with no engines parked in front of it, a rented Dodge Caravan with seven men (and of course a cooler), a drunk driver passing us and then rolling his car in the ditch just ahead of us and a Monday rain date for the Cup race. And those were just the highlights! Thank goodness this vist to Belle-Clair went off without incident......The track was perfectly prepared tonight, but I would definitely recommend that you arrive early and sit up high in the covered grandstands on either side of the track if at all possible. Early in the evening during hot laps, while the track is still moist, the cars sling mud into the crowd and even though I was three rows from the top and just to the right of the start-finish line I still found a couple of tater tots in my hair later in the evening. At feature time, even though the track did not seem to be dusty, it was definitely swirling in the air and while the roof kept most of it off of me I noted on the way out that the bottom rows were completely covered with a layer of dirt......C.J. Simpson did double-duty taking fifth in the Sportsman main and he was 11th in the Late Model feature....."The Italian Stallion" Bobby Martintoni drove the #8B Modified tonight that will be wheeled by Brandon Bittle this season. Martintoni was a top-five contender early before being the first to retire to the infield.....I wasn't the only Iowan on hand as I spotted Hawkeye Racing News columnist Larry Bontz headed into the grandstands as I approached the ticket window, but I never did find him inside.....The show started promptly at 7 p.m. and the final checkers waved at 9:46.....The speedway will take next Friday off before starting its regular season on Friday April 1st.

Race number one for 2011 is now in the books and while another trip to the St. Louis area for the UMP Roundup in Pevely next week may be tempting, my next event will likely be just a little closer to home during the first week in April. Check our extensive Specials schedule at to find an event near you and start your season out in style.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Project Completed, The Gap Is Closed

The sixth and final season of my “research project” to close the gap from when I stopped compiling the All Iowa Points in 2000 to when I resumed in 2006 is now complete and some new names have been added to the list of champions that now runs consecutively from 1967 through 2010. Once again I want to thank my colleague Barry Johnson for the use of his Hawkeye Racing News archives to do this project!

The 2005 Late Model chase was a good one coming right down to the wire with Terry Neal edging out Rob Toland by just nine points to earn his first All Iowa Points championship. Neal captured twenty-one feature wins on the way to the top leaving Toland just shy of capturing his second straight championship and what would have been his fourth straight as he was also the champ in 2004, 2006 and 2007. Brian Harris and Kevin Blum were also in the hunt at mid-season before Neal and Toland pulled away. Harris would wind up third with Blum taking fourth and Darrel DeFrance completed the top five.

With seven-time champion Ron Barker now focusing a bit more on his Late Model efforts, the door was open for some new faces at the top of the 2005 All Iowa Points Modified list. Northwest Iowa’s Jay Noteboom jumped out of the gate early and was never seriously challenged in winning his first AIP championship on the strength of twenty-five feature wins. Ron Pope was solid in second ahead of Waterloo area competitors Troy Cordes and Vern Jackson while “Racer” Ricky Stephan rounded out the top five.

The Pro Stock/Limited Late Model division continued to shrink and in what would be its next to last year in the All Iowa Points it was Scotty Welsh of Cedar Rapids taking top honors. The 1981 Sportsman champion Alan Wessells was the runner-up with rookie driver Justin Mitchell in third. Dan Higdon and Doug Smith tied for fourth.

The chase for the Stock Car state championship was tight through July before Kevin Opheim kicked it into high gear capturing his first AIP championship. Opheim racked up twenty-six feature wins on the season and outdistanced Damon Murty by twenty-eight points. Three-time champion Brian Blessington (2004, 2006 & 2007) took third, Jason Rauen was fourth and fifth went to one of the racing brothers out of Lake City, David Smith.

Two of David’s brothers, Dustin and Donovan Smith were again dominating the Hobby Stock point race with Dustin taking his turn on the throne in 2005. For Dustin this would be his second Hobby Stock championship after winning in 2003 and it is now his fifth AIP title overall as he is currently the three-time reigning Stock Car champion from 2008 through 2010. Dustin won thirty-two times on the season while Donavon, the 2004 and 2006 champ won fifteen times and they were often racing against each other. Andy Boeckman made it a northwest Iowa trifecta finishing third while current Modified stars Colt Mather and Chris Ableson were fourth and fifth.

A pair of west central Illinois based drivers topped the All Iowa Limited Modified Points list in 2005 with Wyatt Lantz of Augusta taking the championship on the strength of eighteen feature wins. Quincy’s Tony Dunker was second, Keith Sanders and 2006 champion Ryan Gustin tied for third while Jake Simpson ranked fifth in the final standings.

Once again the Four Cylinder chase for a championship was fun to follow as four drivers were still in contention in late September. In the end it was the division’s traveler Joe Zrostlik who racked up the most points making him a two-time AIP champ also winning the division in 2006. Zrostlik’s seventeen feature wins came on several different tracks including southeast Iowa’s Lee County Speedway as well as Fairmont, Minnesota. Defending champion Greg Birkhofer tied with Bryan Klein for the runner-up position, Justin Kay was fourth and Dan Mohr took fifth.

After seven straight All Iowa Points 410 Sprint championships Terry McCarl took his talents to the World of Outlaws tour in 2005 and that resulted in an entertaining battle for the top. Oklahoma native Wayne Johnson stepped up to become the new champ ten markers ahead of Aussie Kerry Madsen. Chad Meyer picked up the third spot ahead of Billy Alley and 2005 360 Sprint champ Dusty Zomer.

It was a South Dakota sweep in the 360 Sprints as the top four drivers all reside in Sioux Falls. Jake Peters earned his third All Iowa Points honor as he also won the division in 2000 and 2001. Gregg Bakker finished just three points behind Peters in second, 1999 champ Butch Hanssen finished in the third position and Micah Schliemann was fourth. 2003 champ Dusty Ballanger and “future” two-time champion Jody Rosenboom (2007 & 2008) tied for fifth.

For a full rundown of each division visit the Points page at PositivelyRacing

That’s it, the project is complete! It was quite a trip down memory lane going through six full seasons worth of Hawkeye Racing News, back when nearly every track sent their results in to the paper and promoters placed ads for their special events. I also noticed that my writing style was pretty much the same then as it is now. Find the positives and play them up and, if there were negatives, report them as fact without embellishing them. Perhaps not the most thrilling read, but that is my style and there are plenty of other alternatives that I have always encouraged readers to check out as well. The 2011 season is only weeks away, be positive and support the sport! See you soon at the races.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Good Decision.....and more

A few thoughts here on the first Sunday of March.....

Todd Staley, the USMTS and the folks at the Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Nebraska, made a good decision on Tuesday when they pulled the plug on the two-day show that was scheduled for Friday and Saturday of this weekend. With the recent snow cover on the track and the forecasted weather it would have been brutal conditions for drivers and fans alike. I was in Omaha for business Friday evening and my original plan was to then head west to McCool, but with the temperature in the high 20's and a thirty mile per hour wind whistling out of the north, even if they would have been racing I would have headed for home instead! The show has been rescheduled for June 3rd and 4th.

The early cancellation gave drivers the option to head south for the Texas World Dirt Trach Championships at the dirt track just outside of Texas Motor Speedway where for the second week in a row Terry Phillips took home the big money by winning in his Modified. Recent USMTS winner John O. Whittington ran second while another Tour regular Rodney Sanders was sixth. In the SUPR sanctioned Late Model portion of the program another southwest Missouri based driver was the winner as Will Vaught outdistanced Chris Brown and Late Model rookie Morgan Bagley. I noted that West Liberty Iowa's Todd Hormel once again made the trip down to Texas to compete. Hormel is the classic "budget racer" often pulling his #69 Late Model to the local tracks on a flatbed trailer behind a pickup truck, but he gets the most out of what he has, stays out of trouble, and every once in awhile jumps up into the top ten. Todd had one fifth-place finish this past season and was a Late Model feature winner at Columbus Junction in 2005. In Texas on Saturday, as the lone representative from Iowa, Hormel finished eighth in the first heat race and was sixth in the first Last Chance Qualifer missing out on making the twenty-two car feature field.

On February 3rd promoter Kevin Gundaker made a forum post on titled "Lake Ozark Speedway 2011 Season Opener Saturday April 16th!" stating that the rules had been posted to the website and that a practice day would be held on April 10th. Just a month later he shocked mid-Missouri with the announcement that G&G Ozark Motorsports will cease operations at the speedway. So unless another party buys or leases the track there will be no racing at the beautiful facility that sits just to the north of the Lake of the Ozarks. Yes, it can be a tough draw to pull people out to the races from a resort area on a Saturday night, but I have always been impressed with the crowds on the nights that I have attended. Granted, most of these were for "special events" so maybe the weekly crowds were just not up to snuff, but this will leave at least eighty racers looking for another Saturday night venue.

Another mid-Missouri Saturday night track that looked like it would be dormant for 2010, 24 Raceway in Moberly may now have new life, but on Sunday nights. Stock Car driver Rick Girard of Columbia who got his feet wet last Fall running some shows in Memphis appears to being going "all in" as a promoter this season running the Scotland County Speedway on Saturday nights and 24 Raceway on Sundays.

Up in the northeast Iowa community of West Union where there just happens to be not one, but two dirt tracks, things have been interesting since August of 2010 when the fairgrounds track closed out its season earlier than originally planned. Apparently Lee Hansmeier, the owner of the shuttered Echo Valley Speedway, then hinted that his track might just re-open again in 2011 with a Friday night program only to have the fairboard announce this winter that they temselves would be running on Friday nights. And with a grandstand admission price of only five dollars!! On Thursday, this was posted to the Echo Valley Speedway website "It is very disappointing to me that early last fall we announced that Echo Valley would try running our weekly races on Friday Nights in 2011, only to find out 2 weeks ago that the Fayette County Fairboard was also going to race Friday nights with a lower than normal admission price. After countless sleepless nights I have finally figured out that there is no way I can compete with a tax supported and non-tax paying organization. Therefore, I must announce that Echo Valley will not race in 2011. Maybe we can have a special or two. The Banquet Center & Can Redemption Center will continue to operate as normal. Watch our website for upcoming new adventures at Echo Valley!!!"

So what has gotten in to Danica Patrick? After looking totally lost and overmatched in her 2010 NASCAR showings, she has definitely reversed her fortunes behind the wheel of a stock car in 2011 leading a lap under green in Daytona and finishing fourth yesterday in the Nationwide Series race at Las Vegas. Danica now ranks fourth in the Nationwide points standings although that will be short-lived when she gets back to her full Indy Car schedule. The young lady is proving that she is not just a marketing friendly pretty face and is indeed the talented race car driver that many people thought she would be. I love the new rule by NASCAR forcing a driver to choose which series championship he or she is competing for. It is nice to see drivers like Reed Sorenson, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Jason Leffler at the top of the Nationwide Standings instead of the Cup invaders.

I must say that I am a new fan of 2011 ARCA series competitor Maryeve Dufault. What do you think Herb?

Wapello Iowa native Danny Breuer picked up a $1,250 check for running second in the NeSmith Chevrolet Dirt Late Model Series event at East Bay Raceway in Gibsonton Florida on February 26th. Breuer who has raced out of Troutman North Carolina for the past several years chased winner Phillip Cobb.

Many fans, friends and family celebrated the life of Johnny Johnson last Saturday at the Burlington Country Club. The man was a self-made success who had no trouble speaking his mind and he had a huge influence on the sport that he loved. Johnny was very instrumental in the growth and stability of Late Model racing locally and nationally through his participation, sponsorship and opinions. He himself did not start racing until he was in his early 40's and he was still going strong winning races in his 70's before his battle with Alzheimer's took over. It was said on Saturday, and I completely believe it to be true, that despite all of his accomplishments and success in business and in racing, he was the most proud of his four children and their own successes. May racing's "Man In Black" Rest in Peace and Pride.

With the postponement at Junction my first race of 2011 will now be at either Beatrice or Pevely depending of course upon the weather. This week we'll be supporting the Mt. Pleasant Panther boys as they return to the Iowa State Basketball tournament facing MOC Floyd Valley in the first round on Wednesday. Go Panthers!