Friday, June 24, 2011

Foster Nips Crear At Lee County

Terry Hoening was a happy race promoter Friday night. For the first time this season on one of his scheduled race nights at the Lee County Speedway there was no chance of rain, the temperature was in the mid-seventies and there was no wind to speak of. It truly was a perfect night for dirt track racing and a good-sized crowd was treated to a near perfect night of racing highlighted by a thrilling finish in the IMCA Modified main event.

The one thing that kept it from being a perfect night was a scary accident that occurred in the first heat race for the IMCA Modifieds. Lonne Heap had jumped out to a comfortable lead while the other seven cars raced in a tight formation well behnd him. Suddenly something broke on Heap's #90 as he exited turn two and he slowed to the high side going down the back stretch. With cars racing three-wide and quickly closing Dennis LaVeine tried to get down the track at the last moment, but just couldn't miss Heap's coasting car and the contact sent Heap into a double barrel roll while LaVeine came to a sudden stop. Thankfully both drivers crawled out of their cars under their own power and after some extra attention for Heap from the ambulance crew, both drivers were confirmed to be okay despite the hard contact.

The IMCA Stock Cars were the first of five features on the card tonight and with most of the thirteen car field capable of winning you knew that this would be a good one. Pole-sitter Jeremy Pundt edged ahead of fellow front row occupant Corey Strothman in turn one only to have Strothman answer back out of turn four to lead lap one by a nose. As Pundt did his best to ward off the challenges of Cale Samberg for second, Strothman gradually built up a lead. The gap continued to grow as the battle for second became more intense featuring three-wide racing seemingly every lap. Matt Greiner had started in the sixth row and with four laps remaining he moved into the second spot, but by then Strothman was too far gone and would not be caught as the driver who is now tabbed as "Rock Star" cruised in for the win. Greiner settled for second ahead of tenth-starting Jeff Mueller, Samberg held down fourth and Ryan Cook filled out the top five.

Next up were the IMCA Sport Mods for their fifteen lap finale with Jacob Smith pacing the field on lap one. Rodger Dresden had started third, right behind Smith and he didn't waste anytime moving around Jacob to become the new leader on lap two. It was a similar story to the Stock Cars as while the battle for second waged on, the leader Dresden opened up a healthy advantage until Jim Gillenwater moved into second after starting eighth. The lead was shrinking as the laps wound down and as the white flag waved Gillenwater was within striking distance, but Dresden held tough on the final circuit and held off Gillenwater by two car-lengths as the Keokuk drivers went on-two on the finish. Dean Kratzer would chase tonight's version of the Komets in for third with Joe Bliven and Jeff Mueller next in line. Mueller made a nice recovery after pitting for a flat tire early in the race.

The start of the four cylinder Wild Things feature was definitely "wild" as outside front row starter Casey Mahaffey got turned sideways in front of the field coming below the flagstand. Somehow Mahaffey recovered and everybody scrambled for racing room allowing Mahaffey to actually come back around and lead lap one before the right front tire went flat on his #66. This handed over the lead to David Helenthal with Nick Wilkerson in hot pursuit as both drivers bolted from row six to the front in just two laps. The chase was on now as Wilkerson stayed right with Helenthal throughout the remainder of the twelve-lap event and as the leaders executed the final set of turns they had to deal with a lapped car. Helenthal look as though he might get trapped as Wilkerson aimed his car for the bottom line, but Helenthal found just enough room to edge out his prime challenger by a car length at the stripe. Darin Smith picked his way to the front in a more methodical fashion coming from row seven to take third, Chuck Fullenkamp was fourth and Bill Michel finished fifth.

The race track definitely held its moisture tonight so the remaining thirteen Modifieds were flying around the 3/8-mile oval during their twenty-lap main event. Last week's feature winner Dustin Crear grabbed the lead at the outset and put a few car lengths on the second place car of Wyatt Lantz. Of course whenever you are at the Lee County Speedway the guy who is always worth the price of admission when the track is tacky is Josh Foster and tonight was proof of that. Racing on just two hours sleep after a tough night at the Hawkeye Dirt Tour event in Cresco the previous evening, Foster was on the fly moving from tenth up to third before the caution waved with six laps remaining for Derek Hamm who had spun in turn two. On the restart Crear still looked strong while Lantz and Foster raced wheel-to-wheel behind him for second. Foster cleared Lantz with two to go and then closed up the lead on Crear diving to the inside of the leader into turn three. Foster slid up the track to complete the slider, but Dustin pointed his car down low off of turn four and the two took the white flag in a virtual dead heat. Entering turn one it looked as though Crear had the advantage, but Foster is magic on the cushion here and he blasted off of it exiting turn two to take the lead and soon the win in a thrilling fashion. Crear can hold his head high with this runner-up finish while Lantz looked good all night in third. Brandon Banks drove his day glow yellow "nuclear banana" #22 in for fourth and Brandon Savage came from thirteenth to finish fifth. In victory lane Foster acknowledged that he loves a "hammer down cushion track" and then stated "I haven't had that much fun in a race car in a long time." If I know Josh and his crew, it might be another short night of sleep, but for much different reasons!

The Hobby Stocks rounded out the evening as Matt Tucker and Dane Fenton swapped the lead in the first two laps with Tucker getting back out front for laps three and four before the caution waved. Late in the caution period Tucker's tire went flat and he hustled back to the pits to try to get it changed before the green flag returned. Fenton assumed the lead from there and when Ray Raker had to pay more attention to a challenge from Dan Wenig for his second spot, that was all that Fenton needed to go on and post his first career feature win. Raker held back Wenig for second, Tanner Thomann arrived late, started last and finished fourth while Michael Amenell moved past Jim Lynch on the final lap for fifth. Lynch held on for sixth despite running the final two laps with a flat tire.

Throw in a Candy Dash for a large throng of kids and the fact that the final checkered flag waved at 10:10 p.m. and you have even more reason to walk out of this one thinking, "that was really fun, I can't wait to do that again soon." And race fans will have two chances to catch the racing action at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson next week as on Thursday night the IMCA Modified Hawkeye Dirt Tour will roll into town along with the Stock Cars and Sport Mods for the 4th Annual Liberty Cup, then on Friday night the IMCA Late Models and 305 Sprint Cars will headline along with point racing for the Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Wild Things.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I Really Need To Get To A Race!

It has now been twelve days since I have been to a race. Yes, it is mostly my fault as I decided long ago that I would take in all six nights of Burlington Steamboat Days last week and of course all six nights enjoyed perfect weather for listening to music and drinking beer down on the riverfront. There is no way if I tried to go to six straight nights of races that the weather would cooperate as well. Maybe Barry and I need to change the name of this site to Positively Music and see if that changes our luck.

I'm not sure why I made the decision to commit to every night of Steamboat Days since there wasn't anybody that I would have considered to be a "can't miss" act there this year. Trace Adkins and Ronnie Dunn were solid as I expected while Seether and Theory of a Deadman would have been better if I could have heard the lyrics even a bit over the thundering music. The two shows that were the best though were Three Days Grace whose lead singer knew how to work a crowd as good as any rocker that I have seen and up and coming country rocker Eric Church. This Church video was shot at the quarter-mile Clarksville Speedway home of The Tuckasee Toilet Bowl Classic and if you don't blink you'll catch a glimpse of Kasey Kahne.

So with the music festival behind me I was really pumped up for the UMP Summer Nationals stop at the Spoon River Speedway near Canton, Illinois, on Tuesday night. I kept a close eye on the radar all day and it looked like everything was going to build up just east of the track, but just before I left work at five I noticed one thin line had popped up just to the southwest of the Spoon. Since there was a chance of rain five of the six nights of Steamboat Days (I can't tell you what my buddy Herb still calls it) I figured I'd push my luck again and started driving east on 34. Two miles out of town though, and without warning the left lens of my glasses popped out of the frames and then dropped down between my seat and the center console. Well this isn't good!

I pulled over to the shoulder and started searching around for the lens and when I couldn't find it right away I felt that my search could be more focused if I didn't have a steady flow of traffic blowing by me at seventy miles per hour. So I climbed in, started the car, closed one eye and made my way across the road into the Boles Auto Sales lot where I thought that I could search for the lens and then hopefully put it back in so that I could continue my trip. As I climbed out of the car, owner Paul Boles walked out and asked how I was doing so I explained my dilemma and he said "I can fix that!" I've known Paul for years, he's the type of guy who will do anything for you and he has done just that over the years supporting several drivers and the two area race tracks, so it was no surprise that Paul would offer up his help for this unique repair. He pulled out a precision screwdriver and after a couple of attempts at getting the lens positioned correctly, we finally had it where it needed to be and I was back in business. There were two race ready Modifieds sitting in the shop, cars that his son Scott will race once the Little League season wraps up as grandpa Paul loves his baseball too. So if you are ever looking for a good deal on a used car, or a great rebuild, or if you need to have your glasses repaired, stop in and visit with Paul at Boles Auto Sales on the east side of Mount Pleasant. Thank you so much for your help Paul!

Turns out that those two Modifieds would be the only race cars that I would see that night as I learned just before I reached Monmouth that the thin line of thunderstorms had blossomed and washed out the show at Spoon River. The race has been rescheduled for July 13th. The following night I gave it another try making the drive up to Oskaloosa despite the fact that I knew that the chances of getting a full night of racing in were slim due to the bands of drizzle and light rain that were pinwheeling through southern Iowa. There weren't many cars and there weren't many people as obviously others made the right decision based upon the weather and stayed home. After a set of hot laps for each division that only saw about one-third of the cars on hand take part, promoter Todd Staley polled the drivers as to whether or not they wanted to race given the conditions and only one, Mike VanGenderen, said that he wanted to go ahead and run. To be fair, one young driver that I didn't recognize then shouted out "I'll race ya VanGenderen" which drew a nice laugh before everybody dispersed, loaded up and headed for home.

Cresco was a little too far for me on a Thursday night so of course the weather cooperated and the Hawkeye Dirt Tour event is being run as I type this up. The forecast looks great for Friday night and I have my sights set on the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. If the weather changes and takes out this one, then I'll know that I am a jinx!

A couple of interesting stories out of Missouri this past week. First was the bizarre sequence of events that unfolded when a veteran central Missouri promoter showed up at The Racin' Boys studio last week and announced that he would be closing down his track due to the fact that his property taxes would be going up. The figure that was first thrown out was $22,000 and the next thing you knew there was a forum post with the e-mail address of the county assessor and the tirade against government was on. During the internet portion of Track Talk (I try to listen every Saturday morning) the Boys spent forty-five minutes discussing the subject including a couple of call ins from long-time employees of the track and the show wrapped up with everybody saying that we should all get behind this promoter and show our support. As I was listening I was thinking that the property taxes on my home went up by about $200 this past year because my assessed value had jumped by about ten grand, so I started trying to imagine what the value of this race track must be in order to have its property taxes go up by $22,000 dollars. Geesh, did it go up by another million? Wow, I have to go check this place out as it is one of a few tracks in Missouri that I have yet to visit. The forum thread grew rapidly, there was an e-mail sent to the governor, an intern at a Kansas City news station vowed that he would dig deeper, and one fellow who must have a Caps Lock button that sticks even suggested a Friends of the the Track Fund where people could help cover the increased taxes by joining for $100 each. And then it happened, a voice of reason stepped in and said "One question, after watching the tape of last night I heard Earl say something about a new building & new fence. If so could that be the $22,000 added tax value he was talking about? If so wouldn't that just raise his taxes by $200 or $300 more a year? I just can't believe they would jump up $22,000 more a year for what he has done. Now I am just asking a question here. If so $200 to $300 more a year isn't bad." Way to go 22all theway. (Note: I did correct some spelling errors and added some punctuation in that quote as when you are the voice of reason you don't always have time to use spell check)

Ruh, roh! That was soon followed up by a post who claimed that he got it straight from the source that it was the valuation that had been raised by $22,000 and that the taxes would increase by $460 annually because of it. Well then all hell broke loose and the tide turned from overwhelming support for the veteran promoter to, well you can probably guess. The Racin' Boys even took a few hits since the forty-five minutes of air time over this and the show ending plea of support alone had to be well worth the extra four hundred and sixty bucks, the only problem is that it isn't going to Kirk and Scott! I'm hoping that this was all just a misunderstanding in a climate where we are all utlra-sensitive about taxes, the price of gas, the slow economy, etc., etc. But one thing is for sure, come Saturday morning at 8 a.m. I'll be tuning in for what should be a very interesting session of Track Talk with the Racin' Boys!

I was so caught up with this entertainment that I didn't catch the other controversy out of Missouri until my friend Gary Lee sent me the link on Racin' Boys from the MLRA event at Lake Ozark Speedway. The feature race was rained out and from the extra research done by the Boys it appears that it is a pretty good bet that this promoter and the MLRA won't be working together again anytime soon. To quote Morris Day, "such nastiness!"

Okay, when I'm writing about forum boards and controversy, plus using obscure pop culture references you know that it has been way too long since I have been to the races. Please Lee County, don't get rained out tomorrow night!!!

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!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Morning Notebook: June 11, 2011

Usually I spend my Saturday mornings going through results and compiling All Iowa Points, but with Chateau Raceway being the only Friday night track that was able to race last night, that task did not take long.

I also spend my Saturday mornings listening to The Racin' Boys from 8 to 10 at

I am going to go racing tonight, but just don't know where yet. I see that Memphis, Missouri, is already cancelled due to wet grounds and it wouldn't surprise me if a few more suffer the same fate so my choices may dwindle as the day goes on. The SLMR Late Model show at Corning has caught my attention although the three and a half hour trip is a deterrent. Other options that I'm looking at are Burlington, West Liberty, Maquoketa (never been there for a weekly show yet), Independence and Boone.

The World of Outlaws are at Knoxville tonight and that would be a second week in a row for me at the track. With Tony Bokhoven out in California last Saturday working for Speed, I had the honor of filling in for him on the microphone for a great night of action in all three sprint car divisions. The racing was fantastic on a wide mutli-grooved surface and all three features saw lead changes late topped off by a thriller in the 410's where Terry McCarl swept past his son Austin and then leader Danny Lasoski late for the win. Even though it was the 50th career win at Knoxville for McCarl, it was somewhat of a surprise given Lasoski's dominance at Knoxville so far in 2011. The following night the McCarls wrapped up a dream weekend for them as Austin won the feature at Husets with Terry running second. I enjoyed announcing with young Jason Price who was working the mic for only his second night, the first being the night before during the Master's Classic, and I was impressed with his talents and enthusiasm. His nickname is "Whitey" and I am not sure if that comes from his blond hair, or the fact that his normal job at Knoxville is applying the white chalk line in turn four just prior to the start of a race.

The exploits of AWPs (anonymous weasel posters) on forum boards continues to amaze me. Track promoters are already facing an extreme uphill battle this year with a struggling economy, high gas prices and unfavorable weather as if it isn't raining, it seems like it is hot and very windy creating difficult track conditions. Count on the AWPs to add more fuel to the fire though and it always makes me wonder just what it is that they think they will accomplish. Can they truly consider themselves race fans when it appears that they are trying to run down a track or promoter so much that it will shut down? What do they think will happen then? Run a place into the ground too much and nobody is going to want to step in to run it, so guess what, no more race track. Want proof? Just look around a bit. And if they think that some "super promoter" is going to come swooping in to the rescue, someone who knows exactly how to prepare the track under every possible weather condition (predicted or unpredicted), one that is going to have deep pockets so that they can "pay what the drivers deserve", they are delusional. I believe that it has gotten to a point where nobody in their right mind would want to open themselves up to the public scrutiny and bashing for the opportunity to lose money unless they are already in the promoting game and have become thick-skinned enough to accept it.  I hate to say it, but more tracks might close before the end of this season and more promoters may call it quits after the season is over. Let's see if my theory, that new people will not be willing to take the risk both personally or financially, holds true.

I myself always figured that someday I would own or promote a weekly race track, but not any more. Why would I when some AWP can start a thread speculating about how many concession stand lines I might or might not have open at my next race night and then have that thread develop into the bashing of two of my most valued and respected employees? Ridiculous.

And while I'm on a rant, if you are online on a forum board looking for results and someone directs you to where you can find them by making two simple clicks, either ignore it or make the clicks and get the results. For crying out load, now even nice ladies who compile results for nothing more than just their love of the sport (no compensation) catch hell from AWPs who apparently have no problem with making one click and forty or fifty keystrokes to bitch about having to make two clicks. Amazing.

I hate to say it, but I think that the AWPs are starting to take away my love of the sport as well, so I need to stay away from the message boards for awhile and get back to the tracks and focus on what I love about racing! The sights, the smell, the people and the competition, the things that somebody who just sits at a keyboard most of the time is obviously missing.

Speaking of competition, let's take a quick look at the current All Iowa Points standings though June 7th and see who is on top. In the Late Models it is Ray Guss Jr. with a 14 point advantage over Andy Eckrich while Terry Neal is another point back in third. Guss is looking for his third straight, and sixth overall championship as he won three consecutive AIP titles in 1989, 1990 and 1991. Another defending champ leads the Modified standings with Ryan Dolan leading Mark Schulte and Randy Havlik by ten points. Remember that Schulte is a two-time champion from 2006 and 2007. Jesse Sobbing is threatening to run away with the Limited Modified title as he has already built a 33 point lead over Danny Dvorak. In the Stock Cars Timmy Current is trying to bring the title back to the eastern third of the state for the first time since 1989 when Marty Beckler of Tiffin was the champion. Derek Green and Randy Killen are chasing Current while two-time Hobby Stock champion Donavon Smith lurks in fourth. The winners of the last three AIP Hobby Stock rank first and second right now with defending champ Devin Smith on top and 2008/2009 titlist Shannon Anderson in second. Michael Murphy and John Watson are not far behind though. Brad Chandler holds an 11 point advantage in the Four Cylinder race right now while its close for second between Andrew Lokenvitz, Jacob Ellithorpe, Merv Chandler and Nathan Chandler.

Danny Lasoski leads the way in the 410 Sprints as he looks for his sixth state championship, but his first since 1993. In the 360's defening co-champion Jack Dover holds a 5 point edge over Brian Brown while the driver that Dover shared the title with last year, Eric Lutz ranks third. And it is Jayson Ditsworth leading the way in the 305 division ahead of Ryan Jamison and Jamie Ball.

That's it for now, filter out the AWP's on the message boards and head out for your favorite track tonight!!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Murphy Outruns Fast Company For First Deery Win

He had two of the best in the business right now running behind him making the accomplishment even sweeter as Mike Murphy Jr. earned his first career Deery Brothers Summer Series victory Tuesday night on the half-mile oval at the Farley Speedway. Mark Schulte and Timmy Current were also winners on a hot and windy night that literally stripped the moisture out of the track surface.

Murphy served notice that he would be a contender when he walked away from the field in the second Late Model heat race though most in the house likely felt that he would be chasing defending series champion Ray Guss Jr. when the two drew the front row for the forty-lap main event. With Guss on the pole and Murphy to his outside the two ran most of the first lap wheel-to-wheel until Murphy connected with some of the remaining moisture coming off the high side of turn for to edge out Guss at the stripe for the lead. Murphy then closed the door into turn one and began to slowly put some distance on Guss with each lap. The lead had grown to a full straightaway by lap fourteen and Murphy was going to soon have to deal with lap traffic all running in the preferred low groove, but that changed suddenly when Jason Rauen slowed in turn two to produce the only caution of the race.

On the double-file restart Guss poked his nose under Murphy as the green flag waved and the resulting contact was what Andy Eckrich needed to move past Guss into second. Once again Murphy drove away from his stout contenders and by the time the checkers flew they were way back in turn three leaving no doubt who was the best on this night. Eckrich would notch the runner-up finish ahead of Guss, Joel Callahan was solid all night taking fourth and Tyler Bruening finished where he started in fifth. Sixth through tenth were Brian Harris, Nate Beuseling, Dan Shelliam, Terry Neal and Todd Cooney, an impressive run for Shelliam who started the race inside of row eleven as the Hard Charger provisional. Darrell DeFrance edged out Tom Darbyshire, who came into the night as the series point leader, for the eleventh spot. With his runner-up finish coming on the heels of two straight wins, Andy Eckrich left Farley now on top of the point standings.

After watching Shelliam kick up a huge rooster tail while trying to run the high side during the second Late Model B-Main, promoter Keith Simmons sent the track crew out to water and pack the top two thirds of the speedway in an effort to try to keep up with Mother Nature’s drying attack. The extra effort did payoff giving the drivers another racing groove for the features, especially during the Stock Car and Modified main events.

The new moisture actually caused a problem for Timmy Current as the ten-car Stock Car finale took the green. Starting outside of row one Current slipped too high coming to the green and was spinning his tires as the rest of the field motored by him before turn one. Jerry Miles came from the third row to take the lead on that first circuit as Current gathered himself and began to focus on coming back to the front. By mid-race Current was locked in a three car battle for the second spot with Austin Heacock and Chip Kohl and when they tried to go three wide into turn one contact flattened the right front tire on Current’s #12. A quick tire change by his crew allowed him to restart as the last of the eight remaining cars and once again he worked his way toward the front. With two laps remaining, Current used the same high line into the new moisture that had set him back at the beginning, only this time the traction was there and he drove past Miles for the lead and the eventual victory for the driver that currently leads the All Iowa Points in this division. Kohl also slipped by Miles late to take second while Jarret Franzen and Tyler Soppe finished behind Miles in fourth and fifth.

The IMCA Modifieds were running for track points tonight and, while Farley has been averaging over twenty cars a night so far this season in the division, drivers either didn’t like the Tuesday scheduling, the fact that the event was being run on the half-mile, or a combination of the two as only ten cars showed with one of them being A.J. Fike pulling all the way in from Galesburg, Illinois. If you don’t have quantity it is good to have quality and that was the case tonight as most every driver in the field could have ended up in victory lane, although for most of the race it was veteran Ron Barker who was disproving that notion by driving away to a huge lead. Barker had started sixth and used that high groove to fly to the front to pass Jed Freiburger for the lead on the second lap. From there he was literally gone only to have the caution fly with two laps remaining when Zach Less backed his car into the turn one wall. On the restart Mark Schulte had a run on Barker to the high side exiting turn two but Barker moved up to shut the door going down the back stretch. On the final lap though Schulte again tried the same move off turn two and was able to get the nose of car up to the door of his future father-in-law and the two ran wheel-to-wheel hard into turn three. Both pitched it sideways to scrub off the extra speed and it was Schulte who found the bite that he needed to take the lead and the win in a thrilling fashion while Barker would now have to accept the runner-up position after being so dominant throughout the twenty-lap event. Matt Stagman was very impressive tonight finishing in the third spot while Freiburger and Patrick Flannagan completed the top five. (Note: I learned on Wednesday that Stagman had been disqualified in post-race tech)

A big thanks to Keith Simmons and his entire crew for the hospitality and for their efforts in fighting the hot, dry, windy weather to provide a racing surface that allowed for any passing at all as it was far from an ideal night for dirt track racing. With the stiff south wind I left the track without a spec of dirt on me, however I am confident that it was the completely opposite situation for everybody in the infield and for those who chose to watch from the back stretch. I will look forward to returning to Farley again this season, especially for the Yankee Dirt Track Classic in September.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Late Pass Gives Simpson Corn Belt Clash Win At Tipton (But Which Simpson?)

A "near miss" involving the two leaders nearly a full straightaway ahead of him was exactly what Chris Simpson needed to erase that gap and make a late pass for victory in race number two of the 2011 Corn Belt Clash Late Model series Wednesday night. Brad Dierks and Brett Diercks were also winners on an absolutely perfect night for racing at the Cedar County Raceway in Tipton.

The Simpson brothers, Chad and Chris, earned the front row starting spots for the thirty-five-lap Late Model headliner and, after running the first lap side-by-side, Chad established himself as the leader and began to pull away. As the defending champion of the Corn Belt Clash, and having done so in a dominant fashion including a victory at this track last August, Chad appeared well on his way to victory when the caution waved on lap fourteen for Jason Jaggers who had slipped off the top side of the track. Despite there being twenty-one laps remaining I noted several people gathering up their stuff and heading for the exits as the field was realigned, a decision that those folks will regret if they read this or any other account of what Paul Harvey would call "the rest of the story".

On the restart Chad would again open up a lead, but it was now Denny Eckrich who was giving chase in second and he kept the leader well within striking distance. Ten laps into the run Eckrich began to close the gap and by lap twenty-six he was ready to make his challenge for the lead. Jaggers, a UMP Late Model winner already this season from Wyanet, Illinois, would again figure into the outcome as he ran just ahead of the leaders as they went side-by-side out of turn two. With Jaggers moving to the very bottom groove into three, neither Eckrich or Simpson wanted to give up ground so they both stayed in the throttle longer than usual running door-to-door as they flew around Jaggers to the outside. As the two contenders now pitched their rides sideways to scrub off that extra speed Eckrich, in the lower line, got all the way sideways and made an amazing save to keep from stalling his car while Simpson recovered nicely as well and tried to get back up to speed as quickly as possible. Chris Simpson was running third and was just exiting turn two when this sequence of events started to unfold and by the time he came off of turn four he was now in second and closing in quickly on brother Chad.

The lead went from five car lengths to four then to three as it was obvious that the rhythm and momentum that Chad had enjoyed earlier was either now gone or transferred to Chris who now had checkers on his mind. With two laps to run Chris took a peek to the outside of Chad in turns one and two, then he made his move in three and four to drive around the outside of Chad for the lead as the white flag waved. Chad made one last effort driving his #25 deep into turn one, but he could not make it stick and Chris pulled away for a thrilling victory in front of a large crowd. Chad would have to settle for second on this night, Denny Eckrich recovered nicely for third, Jason Rauen was solid in fourth and Dave Eckrich filled out the top five.

Open Modifieds provided an excellent preliminary twenty-five-lap feature race to get the crowd ready for the Late Models. Scot Fridley and Ryan Dolan started side-by-side on the front row and that is pretty much how they ran the first lap before Fridey spun to the infield in turn two the second time around. Dolan, the defending All Iowa Points champion and current Modified point leader, tried to pull away on the restart but he soon had Brad Dierks in hot pursuit. Dierks started eighth and used the low line to perfection to move to the front and on lap fourteen he eased past Dolan for the point. Ryan was not about to give in though and the track showed its versatility as Dolan's high line was fast coming off of turn two while Dierks' lower line had the bite off of turn four. Even though Dierks was scored as the leader for the next four circuits, it was Dolan who was ahead halfway down the back stretch each time and when Dierks had to step up off of the bottom to get around Jarrett Franzen, Dolan was again scored as the leader on laps eighteen and nineteen. There was no stopping Dierks though as charged right back to the front on lap twenty and he actually stayed out front all the way around the quarter-mile for the final five laps to take the win. Dolan would finish in the second spot with Mike Burbridge third, Bruce Hanford was fourth and Chris Zogg took fifth. Noah Coppes was the hard charger in this one as he started fifteenth after winning the B-Main and moved up to sixth at the checkers.

Brett Diercks passed Hal Russell mid-race to win the Legend Car feature event. Adam Bell finished second while Dominic Bates was third.

CCR CBC Notes......Thirty-one Late Models, twenty-four Modifieds and seventeen Legend cars made for a pretty full pit area.....Jason Rauen ran from eighth to second in the third Late Model heat race confirming once again that he is one of my favorite drivers to watch as he always runs "Hammer Down".....North Dakota driver Dustin Hapka came up one spot short of transferring out of the first B-Main......With names like Moss, Webb, Hansen and Klinkkammer all running in the second B-Main I couldn't help but to think back to times long passed when it was Johnny, Gary, Curt and Mike (the elder one) racing around the half-mile in West Liberty on Saturday night. Back to the present it was Rob Moss taking the win while Bobby Hansen and young Mike Klinkkammer did not finish. The eight-time All Iowa Points champion, with his first title coming thirty-one years ago in 1980, Gary Webb was edged out at the line by Minnesotan Andrew McKay for the final transfer position.....The start of the feature was later delayed for several minutes as McKay could not get his car fired. He joined the field just as the green flag was ready to be waved.....Jill George was the CBC provisional starter and when the field stacked up in front of her coming to the start she was actually stopped sideways in the middle of the back stretch when the green flag waved. With twenty-four Late Models soon to be coming her way Jill calmly refired her #22 and drove away allowing the race to stay is one of my favorite forum boards to follow as, for the most part, the conversations stay informative and positive, but a couple of posters had some deleting to do when they got home last night in order to preserve credibility as both Brian Birkhofer and twelve-year-old Jake Griffin were "strongly rumored" to be on their way to Tipton tonight......Mike Burbridge was the last car to arrive making the drive down from Delhi and he finished third in the Modified main event......Donovan Lodge put his Modified back in the trailer before hot laps.....I don't see the Legend cars often, perhaps once or twice a year, so I am not familiar with most of them however I did recognize the names of former Late Model driver Ron Boyse, former Modified driver Adam Bell and regular Four Cylinder race winner Tyler Kelley.....I spotted SPI crewmembers Jerry Mackey, Doug Haack and Larry Bontz enjoying a night off and a view from the grandstands. You can find Larry's column in the Hawkeye Racing News.....I enjoyed sitting with fellow blogger Brian Neal who was keeping his Twitter followers up-to-date on the results as the night played out. And it was great to have Ryan Clark on the mic for the Late Model potion of the show......A big thanks to Al and Kathy Dlouhy for their hospitality and to their entire crew for putting on an excellent mid-week program that wrapped up at ten minutes before ten o'clock!......The Corn Belt Clash moves to the Fayette County Speedway in West Union tonight and then on north to the Mississippi Thunder Speedway in Fountain City, Wisconsin on Friday.