Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dauderman and Reed Late Model Winners At Quincy

The lure of two different Late Model divisions on the same night pulled me down to the Quincy Raceway as the PCRA Crate Late Models joined the full regular roster of classes at the quarter-mile on Sunday night. The Crates only pulled in a ten car field and that had to be disappointing for the folks at QR, but for me it was ten more Late Models that I had not yet seen during the 2011 season.

Those ten cars and drivers put on an entertaining 25-lap non-stop feature race with pole starter Bobby Dauderman taking the lead at the drop of the green. Mark Oller kept the pressure on while Nick Lyons worked his way forward from the middle of the pack. Lyons was definitely the man on the move as he drove past Oller into second and then applied the pressure on the leader. On lap twelve Lyons had his nose under Dauderman coming out of turn four and contact put the leader almost completely sideways. Dauderman recovered nicely, drove hard into turn one and drifted up the track to pinch off Lyons who was trying take the lead off the cushion. As the challenger checked up to avoid more contact, Oller seized the opportunity and moved back into second. For the next ten laps Lyons and Oller raced side-by-side for second with Dauderman only three car lengths ahead of them and when Lyons finally cleared Oller for second he ran out of laps to make another run at Dauderman who took the $1,000 victory. Lyons and Oller were next in line followed by Tim Ratajczyk and Dustin Griffin.

The 30-lap IMCA Late Model main saw Darin Weisinger do his best to market his #11 that was sporting a For Sale on the right rear quarter panel tonight. Weisinger was in control until a caution waved on lap ten for a track tire that had been kicked out onto the speedway. On the restart Justin Reed made his move and took the lead while Denny Woodworth soon moved to second. Those two then went at it wheel-to-wheel for several laps similar to what was just witnessed in the race for second in the Crate main and it was Reed's higher line that proved to be superior tonight as he extended his track point lead with the victory. The racing attorney Woodworth settled for second with Matt Bailey in third while Joey Gower nipped Weisinger at the line for fourth.

The UMP Modifieds had an interesting feature to start the night with Brandon Savage leading the first six laps before a caution re-aligned the field in a complete double file formation. Three attempts at restarts all saw Savage lose the lead, but they also all saw another caution before the seventh lap could be completed. The next attempt would be in single file style and Savage retained the lead into turn one only to have his left rear wheel pop off. With the field right behind him the scramble was on with Jared Schlipman making contact and losing his driveshaft while Steven DeLonjay suffered a flat tire as well. DeLonjay's crew changed the tire quickly and Steven restarted ninth on the field as Vance Wilson inherited the lead. Wilson had his own issue as his left rear tire was nearly flat, but he fought it out for the lead with Robbie Reed for the next several laps with Reed leading laps seven and eight, and Wilson nine through eleven before Reed took the lead again on lap twelve. By now DeLonjay was back in the mix and on lap 18 he drove past Reed and then cruised the rest of the way to his sixth win in a row at Quincy. Reed was second with the young speedster Jake Griffin in third. Wilson rode his three-legged horse in for fourth while Ryan Meyer wound up fifth.

Kelly Bartz was the first lap leader, Andrew Griffin paced lap two and Abe Huls tookover on lap three of the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car main event. The nine car field raced those first few laps in tight formation sometimes going four wide before they settled down with Huls going the rest of the way for the victory. Terry Houston was the runner-up with Griffin, Beau Tayor and Jerry Janssen completing the top five.

When the IMCA Late Model feature took the checkers at 9:10 p.m. I headed for home and was back in MP well before 11 making it another enjoyable evening at the Quincy Raceways.

Zomer and Garner Post Crowd Pleasing Wins At Knoxville

Late race passes in both features Saturday night sent the large crowd home abuzz as the Knoxville Raceway perfectly set the stage for the start of the Southern Iowa Sprint Speedweek. Clint Garner and Dusty Zomer did Sioux Falls proud and found themselves in victory lane on Candi's Flowers night at the famous dirt oval.

The fifteen-lap main event for the 360's was the first to be run and the initial start was waved off when fast qualifier Tasker Phillips spun in turn one on the opening lap. On the second try at a start pole-sitter Gregg Bakker jumped to a sizable lead with Dennis Moore Jr. doing his best to keep up. The caution waved again on lap three when Ryan Anderson lost a battle with the turn four guardrail and Bakker's leaded was wiped away for the restart. That didn't matter though as Bakker again opened up a big gap on the field when racing resumed. Clint Garner had started eighth and was working his way forward moving past Moore for second with less than five laps remaining. With Bakker working lapped traffic, Garner was cutting into his lead a bit but was still well back as Bakker exited turn four looking for the checkered flag. Instead he saw yellow as Jack Dover was coasting around the topside near the guardrail of turns one and two. What was to be a clear victory for Bakker with just a straightaway left to go would now have to be defended in a green-white-checkered restart.

Back to green Garner went to the middle of turns one and two and pulled even with Bakker, then in turns three and four that same groove allowed Clint to complete the pass. Bakker drove hard into turn one on the final lap trying to reclaim what had been taken away from him by the caution, but could not find the grip he needed and Garner secured the victory. Bakker had to be disappointed with second, Moore Jr. was steady in third, Billy Alley was consistent as he started fifth and finished fourth while Chad Humston took fifth after starting sixth.

360 Notes.....A nice field of forty cars were on hand for the final tune up before the Arnold Motor Supply Knoxville 360 Nationals that will run this coming Thursday, Friday and Saturday night. New visitors included Oregon's Roger Crockett who started thirteenth and finished eighth in the A-Main. Arizona transplant Calvin Landis who raced out of Knoxville in the 410 division for many years drove a team car to Glendale Arizona's Joshua Williams. Landis was second quick in qualifying and finished the feature in the same position that he started it, in eleventh. Henry Van Dam of Enumclaw Washington drove another Ingalls #91, one of Dusty Zomer's cars, and made the show as the final transfer out of the B-Main barely holding off Chad Heimbaugh. Aussie Brad Foster was also in action but did not make the main event.......Jack Dover had made a big move before his race changing caution. "The Gasman" had started sixteenth and was up to eighth before he slowed passing under the white flag......Jordan Boston made a big move around the cushion of one and two on the opening lap going from 22nd to 14th, but he did not advance any further taking 13th at the finish due to Dover's DNF.

The racing in the 410 division had been fantastic all night with the first two heat races featuring a battle for the lead that had the crowd to the edge of their seat through the eight-lap contests. The first heat was a shootout between Tyler Walker and Ricky Logan that saw Logan come back to snare the lead and the win away from Walker off turn four of the final lap. Little did we know at the time how this would foreshadow events later in the night. And in the second heat Robby Wofgang used every inch of the track to try to hold off Kerry Madsen only to have "The Mad Man" slip by him in the final turn to take the win.

Moving ahead to feature time, the twenty-lap headliner got of to a slow start with cautions waving for incidents at the back of the pack on the first two attempts to set the race in motion. On the third try Dusty Zomer would lead laps one and two from his pole position start only to have the caution wave again for rookie 410 competitor A.J. Moeller. That was the final caution though as the remaining 18-laps went green and an entertaining 18-laps they were. On all three starts of the race, recent King's Royal champion Tyler Walker had vaulted from sixth to third and with the restart he quickly closed in on Zomer. With Dusty working the bottom and the California kid up on the cushion, Walker's line proved better and he drove into the lead on lap seven. As it looked like Walker would drive away with this one our attention turned to what was another of the night's many stories.

On the opening lap of the first heat, Mark Dobmeier and fast qualifier Bronson Maeschen tangled in turn one with both cars going for a nasty ride that knocked down a section of a billboard above the guardrail in turn two. Dobmeier's crew went to work when the Hewitt's wrecker dropped off the messed up #13 and they had it ready to run in time for the B-Main. Not only did they have it ready to run, they had it ready to fly as Dobmeier dominated the B-Main and then on the opening lap of the feature he moved from 19th to 11th. The North Dakota driver's charge to the front continued and he was up to fifth with five laps remaining perhaps the fastest car on the track at that point and hoping for a caution to see if he could prove it. By now though, the half straightaway lead enjoyed by Tyler Walker over Dusty Zomer was starting to shrink so the attention was put back up front as "Zoom Zoom" was making one last run.

With two laps to go Zomer was in striking distance and as the white flag waved the crowd was on their feet as Zomer made a run at Walker down the back stretch. Zomer stayed glued to the bottom of turn three and found the bite that he need out of four to complete the pass and nip Walker by a little more than a car-length in the thrilling finish. Brian Brown was making up some ground on the lead duo as well, but had to settle for third after starting in the fourth row. Lynton Jeffrey, who started next to Brown, finished just behind him in fourth and Kevin Swindell got back around Dobmeier late to take fifth. Hats off to Mark Dobmeier and his crew on salvaging a sixth-place run after the hard crash to start the night. Kerry Madsen was seventh, point leader Danny Lasoski was eighth with Austin McCarl and Don Droud Jr. rounding out the top ten.

410 Notes.......Thirty-three cars were in the pits tonight as the count grows leading up to next Saturday's All Star Circuit of Champions event and then the 51st running of the Goodyear Knoxville Nationals August 10th through the 13th......The third heat saw an unusual incident after the checkered flag waved. Ian Madsen and Dusty Zomer had finished one-two with Ben Gregg a bit back in third. As the top two cars slowed down the back stretch after the checkers Gregg stayed on the gas and then tried to avoid them hitting the guardrail and rolling hard ending his night......Rookie-of-the-Year contender J.D. Johnson was running in the third transfer position in the B-Main before he blasted the turn two guardrail and rolled......Another pair of incidents in the heats led to an interesting comment during intermission and I will do my best to describe them here with facts only. The initial start of the second heat was waved off when it appeared that sixth-starting Danny Lasoski stepped out of nose-to-tail formation behind fourth starting Austin McCarl. The field was warned by starter Doug Clark and they restarted in the original order. In the fourth heat sixth-starting Terry McCarl definitely stepped out of nose-to-tail formation and the start was waved off. Clark then pulled the black flag and sent McCarl back one row to the tail of the field for the restart. During intermission McCarl was one of the drivers scheduled to come to the grandstands to sign autographs and pit announcer Mike Roberts took the opportunity to interview T-Mac about his annual stint as a promoter with the Front Row and Ultimate Challenge events coming to Oskaloosa on August 8th and 9th. At the end of the interview McCarl said "I don't know about the rest of you, but I thought that was a bogus call by Doug Clark." Roberts let it drop at that and, since both Austin and Terry had qualified out of their heats anyway, and given the fact that under tonight's qualifying procedures it didn't matter where you finished in your heat as long as you were in the top five, I thought that perhaps McCarl was just chiding Clark in a good-natured manner giving the many, many nights that they have raced and flagged together. However, as Terry walked back across the track and under the flagstand a few minutes later, that did not appear to be the case given the body language by each observed from  many yards away. Ah, nothing like a little controversy to spice up the onset of the two Nationals weeks!

As Morgan and I were walking out at the end of the night you could tell that everybody else around us felt the same way. This was a night of racing that makes you count the days until you can come back and it is now only four days away until Thursday, the opening night of the 360 Nationals at Knoxville! Bookmark us if you are looking for this type of coverage at Knoxville as we plan on being at all eight nights of racing here over the next two weeks.

Next up though will be a pair of Late Model events as the PCRA Crate Late Models join the regular program tonight (Sunday) at the Quincy Raceway, then on Tuesday night the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models returns to the Cedar County Raceway in Tipton. Hope to see you at the track soon!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

It's A Family Affair At CJ

Go Sly.....

A pair of brothers started the feature event from the front row and another pair of brothers finished first and second as the Dart Corn Belt Clash Late Models visited the Louisa County Fair and the CJ Speedway Thursday night. And, if you follow this series at all, you probably already know which set of brothers drove out of Columbus Junction with the big purse checks.

Kurt and Kevin Kile would lead the fifteen-car field to the green for the 30-lap Late Model feature with Kurt jumping out to the early lead. The Kile brothers have turned a lot of laps on this southeast Iowa oval and they hoped that experience would be enough to hold back the high flying Simpson brothers who have dominated the Clash series again in 2011. Chad Simpson had started ninth, one spot worse than his brother Chris, and on the opening lap Chad darted quickly up to sixth. When Nick Marolf would slide off the top side of turn four on the fourth lap, Chad would restart fifth and on the first lap back to racing he was up to third with Jason Utter between he and the leader. Utter had been strong in the early laps as well running the low groove to move from seventh to second, but as he entered turn one on lap seven he apparently clipped the large track tire marking the start of the corner and he coasted to a stop with front end damage.

Once back to green Kurt Kile looked ready to defend his lead from the CBC Master, but on the tenth lap Kile hopped the cushion in turn one and nearly drove off of the track allowing Chad Simpson to sweep past him into the lead. A caution for Todd Hansen two laps later bunched the field once again allowing Chris Simpson to take over the second spot on the restart. As the Simpson brothers drove away the race for third and fourth provided the action until Kurt Kile went too hard into turn one again on lap eighteen and this time he disappeared off the top of the track to bring out the final caution. The final twelve laps ran non-stop and Chris could not maintain Chad’s pace as the brothers once again finished one-two in a convincing fashion. Kevin Kile would hold down the third spot at the checkers, Wisconsin driver Tim Isenberg followed him in for fourth while Jeremiah Hurst took fifth.

CBC CJ Notes……Seventeen Late Models were on hand tonight and a light shower just before the first Late Model heat race delayed the action by about thirty minutes……As that first heat took some hot laps to get the track ready for racing, Skip Frey went sailing off of turn three and hit the retaining wall on the old half-mile ending his evening……Chad Simpson started eighth in that first heat and could only move up to fifth on the fresh track…..Jake Meier qualified for the dash, but then puffed his motor on the opening lap of that race……Clash announcer Ryan Clark did a great job as usual and provided some interesting statistics on the series during the rain delay. With the win tonight Chad Simpson has now won 16 of the 29 events ever staged by the series. Nobody else has more than two wins. Can you say dominant?......Utter and all the drivers had no problem spotting the track tires tonight as Mark and Dianna Winkel, and Lexie, painted them bright and white during the heat of the day…..I enjoyed talking with Amber Moyer who was sat in front of me in the sauna, err grandstands. Amber is the daughter of Dubuque driver Bobby Moyer and she is engaged to Late Model driver Nick Marolf. Seems like every daughter of a Dubuque racer marries another racer, but of course I only know Amber and Ron Barker’s girls so maybe that assumption is a bit of a stretch……Most of the remainder of the Corn Belt Clash 2011 schedule will be up north with events at Cedar Lake, Redwood Falls, Cresco, Chateau and Elko.

In support class action it was Steve Stewart taking advantage of a bobble by Shaune Lewis to take the lead mid-race and win the Modified main event. Lewis had second wrapped up only to slow with mechanical issues on the final lap. Alex Buffington inherited the second spot followed by Zach Less, Mark Winkel and Tim Sands. Justin Bucholz went flag-to-flag for the win in the Mod Lite feature. Troy “Stinky” Philpott raced his way up from row four to take second followed by Jonathan Huston, Rob Guss and Evan Epperson. And in the IMCA Sport Compact feature it was Tyler Whalen who went the distance from a front row start to win it. Brad Chandler inherited the second spot after his brother Nathan drove off the top side of turn one early. John Whalen finished third, James Roose was fourth and Billy Stanford took fifth.

Thanks to CBC Director Cam Granger and to the CJ Speedway promoters and crew for their hospitality tonight. Despite the rain delay the final checkers waved at 10:20 p.m.

With my son, the sprint car freak, coming home from Oklahoma for the next two weeks it is likely that we will be hitting the road for somewhere this weekend. I’m trying to push a trip to Deer Creek and even though he loves the USMTS, the winged warriors definitely take top billing this time of year. Hopefully you can beat the heat and get out and enjoy some racing action near you this weekend!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beuseling and Sobbing Dominate Night Two of the Harris Clash

Nate Beuseling and Jesse Sobbing both parlayed front row starting spots into flag-to-flag non-stop feature wins during part two of the annual Harris Clash at the Knoxville Raceway Tuesday night.

Beuseling beat fellow front row starter Todd Cooney to turn one at the start of the 35-lap main event for the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models while the field shuffled for position behind them. Third-starting Brian Harris drifted up the track in turn two allowing third and fourth row starters Mike Garland and Jay Johnson, as well as fourth starting Matt Strassheim, to charge past exiting turn two and down the straightaway. A racetrack that saw drivers using at least three grooves during the qualifying events now saw everybody scrambling for the bottom to quickly make this one a single-file affair. The top six mentioned above did not change position for the remainder of the race, but there was some movement mid-pack. Series point contenders Ray Guss Jr. and Andy Eckrich had started thirteenth and fifteenth respectively and after being a part of the parade for the first half of the event, Guss found that the next line up on the track was usable as he drove around Darrel DeFrance in turns three and four. Seeing this both Nick Marolf and Eckrich followed suit and the trio made up a full straightaway on the sixth-place car of Harris before running out of laps.

Beuseling, who led for most of the 2010 Slocum Memorial at 34 Raceway before yielding to Mark Burgtorf, nearly avoided a big mistake when he went to the cushion in turn one trying to get by the lapped car of Todd Malmstrom. This allowed Cooney to close in quickly but Nate was able to get back to the bottom before the veteran from Des Moines could take away the preferred groove. From that point on Beuseling used patience with lapped traffic and went on to take his first career Deery Series victory on the big stage that is the Knoxville Raceway. Cooney, Garland, Johnson and Strassheim completed the top five with Harris, Guss Jr., Marolf, Eckrich and Justin Reed next in line.

LM Notes…..Todd Malmstrom earned his feature start by riding the cushion past T.J. Criss on the final lap of the second heat to take the third and final transfer position……Criss later inherited the fourth and final transfer out of the first B-Main when Mike Murphy Jr.’s engine belched fire on the final lap while running fourth…..None of the top four in Series points were able to transfer out of the heat races as Andy Eckrich, Ray Guss Jr., Terry Neal and Tom Darbyshire all started seventh or worse in the qualifiers. The fifth ranked driver in points, Tyler Bruening, started fourth and won the fourth heat race in a tight battle with Nate Beuseling. Neal was 14th in the main event, Bruening was 16th and Darbyshire finished 18th……Spencer Diercks raised some eyebrows as the Hard Charger provisional, but numbers don’t lie……Points provisionals were Darbyshire, rookie-of-the-year contender Eric Sanders and Joel Callahan….. Mike Murphy Jr. would have been a points provisional if not for the broken motor and Charlie McKenna turned down the opportunity to start saving his provisional (drivers are limited to three a year I believe) for another night…..Thirty-eight Late Models were in attendance including my first look this year at Drew Johnson and Dave Hubbard…..The Deery Series next moves to the quarter-mile oval at the Cedar County Raceway in Tipton on Tuesday, August 2nd.

With fifty-nine Sport Mods on hand there was plenty of talent throughout the field, but I couldn’t help to hope for a shootout between the state’s two winningest drivers in any division this year, Jesse Sobbing and Cayden Carter. That did not happen.

Sobbing started outside of row one for the twenty-lap feature and even though pole-sitter Beau Kaplan had the advantage going into turn one at the drop of the green, Sobbing powered through the middle groove and went down the backstretch with a lead that was already starting to grow. This field of twenty-four did not all decide to run the bottom after watching the Late Model feature as drivers worked the half-mile from bottom to top although that inside line still seemed to be the way around. With Sobbing on the fly, the race for second was a good one mid-race as sixth-starting Austin Kaplan closed in on Jim Gillenwater. The two battled it out for a few laps before Kaplan took the spot and then tried to run down the leader. A little further back Cayden Carter was trying to get to the front after starting in row four, but on this night it would be his cousin Carter VanDenBerg who would make the big move. The redraw loser, VanDenBerg started twelfth and gradually drove past the competition taking fifth from his cousin mid-race. VanDenBerg would later get by Beau Kaplan for fourth while Carter would fade to ninth at the checkers.

Even though Austin Kaplan was able to cut into the lead a bit, Sobbing still won by a full straightaway taking his 28th All Iowa Points paying win of 2011, and that does not count the number of times that he has won on Thursday nights in Columbus, Nebraska. Gillenwater was solid in third, VanDenBerg took fourth with Beau Kaplan fifth. Young Tyler Droste finished in sixth, Doug Smith finished where he started in seventh, while Racer Hulin moved from the seventh row up to eighth. Cayden Carter and Andy Tiernan rounded out the top ten.

Cautions were few and far between during the qualifying events and as mentioned both features went flag-to-flag so we were on our way home shortly after 10:30. A big thanks to Bob Harris for all he does with this event and we look forward to spending a lot of time at the Knoxville Raceway over the next two weeks for the Sprint Car Nationals. Next up on our schedule is the Corn Belt Clash event at the CJ Raceway this Thursday night, then with Morgan returning home from school on Saturday he has his sights on one or both of the MOWA Sprint Car events scheduled for this weekend. We’ll see what his Momma has to say about that…..

Friday, July 22, 2011

Gustin Dominates, Two Features Decided On Final Lap at Davis County Fair

When Hollywood thinks of what a county fair in Iowa would be like for a movie shoot, the Davis County Fair in Bloomfield has to be the prototype. A midway bustling with kids young and old drinking lemon shakeups or trying to get an ice cream cone down before it melts away on a hot July night. The bingo numbers are being called out to players who have filled every seat available and the aroma of the fine food being served by the Cattleman’s Association and the Pork Producers is drifting through the air. And, for race fans like us, the crowning touch is the roar of racing engines in front of the grandstand making it the absolute perfect setting for a Thursday night of fun at the Fair.

With no weekly racing this year at Bloomfield I was amazed at how perfect the track conditions were for the five division program featuring the Casey’s General Stores USMTS Modifieds. Jim Lynch, Lonnie Taylor and everybody involved with pulling this show together deserve a hearty pat on the back for their efforts and it was good to see the bleachers nearly full of race fans to watch the action.

The featured event of the night was not one that will be remembered for the competition, but rather for the dominance exhibited by young Ryan Gustin. He and Ron VerBeek started the 35-lap Modified finale on the front row, but it was the winner from the previous night in Oskaloosa Zack VanderBeek who slipped past those two to take the lead on the opening lap. It didn’t take long for Gustin to find his groove though and he drove past VanderBeek again on the third circuit of the 3/8-mile oval. A caution on lap six bunched the field together and then two more cautions on restart attempts slowed the pace, but once back to green “The Reaper” was gone! Gustin’s lead grew noticeably lap after lap and by the time the checkers waved he was more than half a lap ahead of the runner-up VanderBeek. Terry Phillips who is celebrating his 25th year of racing looked good tonight in third. Kelly Shryock who came to Bloomfield with a perfect record of five wins in five appearances is now batting .833 after finishing fourth and Corey Dripps backed up last night’s runner-up finish with a fifth-place run here at Bloomfield. Rodney Sanders was sixth and Jason Krohn seventh, the final cars running on the lead lap.

While the Modified feature was a blowout, the two USRA Ironman Series events saw last-lap passes for the win. In the Stock Cars it looked as though Mike VanGenderen would make it two in a row after winning the night before in Oskaloosa as he paced the strong field from his pole position start until a caution waved with four laps remaining. With the double-file restart the action over these final four laps was beyond intense. (Yes, I will admit that in this case the double-file restart was awesome!) Justin Temeyer emerged from a three-wide battle to take the lead with numerous contenders scrambling for racing room behind him. Jeff Joldersma emerged from that pack and went to work on Temeyer pulling even with him as the white flag waved. The western Iowa driver Joldersma had his #66 hooked up on the bottom groove and he found the bite there over the final lap to ease ahead and take the victory. He then made one young man in the crowd very happy by handing over the beautiful trophy that will now likely sit proudly on his dresser here in Davis County. VanGenderen, who had been shuffled back to fifth as the lead pack took the white flag, clawed his way back to second nipping Temeyer by inches at the stripe. Shane Weller finished fourth and Tom Schmitt took fifth in this thriller.

That Stock Car feature came right after the B-Mod feature that saw Mark Mundell pass race-long leader Jared Timmerman on the final lap to take a popular victory. The early portion of the scheduled twenty-lapper was plagued with cautions that saw nearly half the field eliminated before three laps were completed and it was decided at that point that the race would be cut to fifteen laps. That was just enough for the veteran driver from nearby Ottumwa to work the bottom groove to perfection in the final two corners to edge Timmerman by half a car-length at the checkers. Ironman Challenge point leader Matt Lettow finished third, Carter VanDenBerg recovered from an early incident to take fourth and Mike Shelton had sheet metal flopping all over the place but still managed to bring his damaged ride in for fifth.

Dustin Griffiths continued his hot streak by going flag-to-flag to win the Hobby Stock feature over Derek Kirkland, Mike Hughes, Craig Brown and Jason McDaniel while Cassidy Kirkpatrick took the win in the Four Cylinder feature that was slowed by several cautions. Devin Still fought off the winner’s father Kevin Kirkpatrick to finish second, Larry Hopkins was fourth and Mike Fisher in the Arkansas Bow Hunters sponsored #191 was fifth.

It was nice to catch up a bit with Wayne Hale as I signed in at the pit gate. Wayne was always one of my favorite competitors when he raced in the Hobby Stock division a decade or so ago as he always seemed to have a smile on his face win, lose or draw. And I enjoyed sitting next to Kirksville area race fan Gary Lee who knows a heck of a lot more about what is going on with racing than I do these days. I’m still trying to convince him that a blog on would suit him well!

Needless to say I had a great time at the Davis County Fair and if you are in the area you can check it out tonight (Friday July 22nd) for more racing action with the Ideal Ready Mix Sprint Invader 360 c.i. Sprints along with the 305 Sprinters.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Three Way Thriller for USMTS At Osky

He was far enough ahead going down the back stretch on the first lap that the engraver could have started to work on the trophy plate. And when he enjoyed a full straightaway lead on lap ten of the thirty-lap distance that engraver would have already had the “R”, the “y”, the “a” and the “n” completed and it would have been pretty safe to start on the last name with a capital “G”. But a pair of drivers had other plans and the final eleven laps of Wednesday night’s USMTS Modified feature at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa will go down as one of the best we’ll probably see this season.

Ryan Gustin has been the man to beat on the series for the past year and a half and that is even more the case when “The Reaper” takes to the “Mahaska County Monster” half-mile, so when he drew the pole position for the main event it was a pretty good assumption that tonight’s race to watch would be for second. At the drop of the green on the 30-lap finale Gustin powered into turn one and as he came out of turn two and aimed the Gressel Racing #19R down the back straightaway he already enjoyed a ten car-length advantage over the talented field of eighteen. On lap ten Gustin had a full straightaway on Zack VanderBeek who was now in second, but over the next several laps that gap slowly shrank. With Gustin running the cushion and “The Z-Man” working down low, VanderBeek had closed it down to two car lengths before the caution waved on lap nineteen for Shane DeMay who had coasted to a halt in turn three.

As the cars were aligned for a double-file restart Gustin’s crew must have signaled to their driver that he was soon to be challenged on the bottom as that is where the leader headed when the green flag waved once again. With Gustin throwing the block on VanderBeek down low, Corey Dripps rode the cushion and passed both drivers to take the lead on lap twenty. From that point on the crowd was on the edge of their seats as Gustin tried to fight back on the bottom pulling even with Dripps in the corners only to have Corey pull back ahead going down the straightaways and all along you had VanderBeek riding right behind Gustin waiting for his opportunity. With three laps remaining Gustin tried a little higher line in his challenge on Dripps and VanderBeek charged past Gustin into second. Dripps was able to fight off the first charge by his new challenger on lap 28, but as the white flag waved VanderBeek pulled even with Dripps entering turn one and he took the lead in turn two. Dripps hit the cushion hard one last time in turn three and he had a great run out of turn four pulling back to within one car-length as VanderBeek scored a thriller on his home track. Gustin was not far back at the checkers in third, Colt Mather finished in the fourth spot and Kelly Shryock took fifth.

The USRA Iron Man Series for the Stock Cars and B-Mods pulled in a variety of drivers in each division, but it was two track regulars who ended up in victory lane. The Stock Cars went five-wide down the back stretch on lap one racing for the third spot as Jason Minnehan established the early pace. Justin Temeyer was part of that early shuffle and he moved from sixth to the lead on lap four, but when the steam started coming from under the hood he pulled his #56 to the infield two laps later. Mike VanGenderen who had started seventh was now in line to inherit the lead and he was solid the rest of the way to earn his second victory here in the past nine days. Minnehan was second followed by last Tuesday night’s Shootout winner Kevin Donlan in third. The next few spots were a scramble as contact on the front stretch racing for the checkers sent Matt Greiner hard into the guard rail cutting down his right rear and he dropped back to seventh behind Jeff Joldersma, Nathan Wood and Tom Schmitt. Wood had raced his way back to the front after contact with a track tire required his front end sheet metal to be removed in the work area. Schmitt raced his way up from a tenth row start.

In the B-Mod feature young Ben Kates from the Kansas City area would lead lap one, then the “Kool-Aid Kid” Andrew Schroeder would take the point on lap two only to have Cayden Carter go sweeping past him a lap later. Carter has been phenomenal this year and his drive from a fourth row start to the front in three laps is now almost expected and he went the rest of the distance unchallenged to take his 20th win overall in 2011. His cousin Carter VanDenBerg chased him in for second, Schroeder would take home the third-place check, the father of the runner-up John VanDenBerg would finish fourth and Curtis VanderWal was fifth. Despite his dominance Cayden is still chasing Jesse Sobbing who is also putting up huge numbers this year in the current All Iowa Points standings for Limited Modifieds.

Only nine Hobby Stocks started the feature race and five of them were side-by-side racing for second in turn one of the opening lap. Dustin Griffiths went from the outside of row three to the front on that first lap and he was never headed over the 7.5 mile distance taking another Southern Iowa Speedway victory. Donovan Nunnikhoven was the runner-up followed by Todd Reitzler, Steve Allen and Kris Walker.

Announcers Tony Paris and Lon Oelke kept the evening lively with their banter and as always did a great job of keeping all of the fans informed of who was driving each car, where they were from, qualifying procedures, etc. All of us at appreciated the mention they made of our work as well. Thanks guys!

The USMTS and USRA Iron Man action moves to Bloomfield tonight for the Davis County Fair and I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Veloz, Lodge and Ellithorpe Sweat It Out In Victory Lane At QCS

After two weeks of no racing I was not about to let the heat keep me from attending the first of two nights of Fair racing at the Quad City Speedway Tuesday. I could use one of those worn out phrases like “The action on the track was as hot as the weather”, or “The heat was on in East Moline Tuesday night, especially on the speedway”, but instead I will just say this. I have never sweated so much while sitting still in my life as I did Tuesday night, so thank goodness the racing was pretty good or I would have been MISERABLE!

The track’s two Modified divisions were on display tonight with each drawing nineteen cars while nine Four Cylinders were also on hand to fill out the card. The “A” Mods were up first for their $750-to-win 25-lap feature with 2010 Track Champion John Bull drawing the pole position. It was Jason Pershy though who got the jump at the drop of the green leading the first three laps before the first caution. On the restart Bull chose the outside position on the first double row and once back to action Matt Werner shuffled him back to the third spot. That was where the fade ended though as Bull charged back into second on lap five and then drove under Pershy to take the lead on lap seven. Donovan Lodge followed Bull into second applying the pressure to the leader while the big move of the night was being made by Ray Bollinger. The Kewanee driver started 15th and had moved up to fourth when Werner smacked the turn one wall on lap fourteen. On the restart Lodge continued to work on Bull up front while Pershy, Bollinger, Brandon Durbin and Ryan Dolan waged an entertaining battle for third not far behind the lead duo. With the laps winding down Bull managed to put a few car-lengths on Lodge to take the checkers in style while Bollinger prevailed in that four-car tussle for third. Pershy and Durbin completed the top five while Dolan settled for the sixth spot.

The IMCA Modifieds were the featured class of the night and I was a bit surprised that a few more non-regulars did not brave the heat to shoot for the $1,000 top prize. Of course if any track has drivers who enjoy a “home track advantage” when it comes to a special event, I would have to say that it is this high-banked quarter-mile bullring where it is probably like flying jets in a gymnasium. (Yes, I stole that from an old Rusty Wallace interview about Bristol, but hey it is a great analogy!)

Craig Crawford made the move from a second row start to snare the lead exiting turn four on lap one and he then fought off the challenges of Thad Wilson until lap six when Wilson took over the point. Milo Veloz has won a bunch of “Open” Modified features here and around the area, but his transition into the IMCA ranks has been a bit of a disappointment by his own standards until recently. Veloz won here on Sunday night and on this blistering hot evening he was charging toward the front again after starting in row five. Wilson and Veloz staged a pretty good race for a few laps swapping lines through the corners from one end to the other until Veloz finally got a nose under Wilson going into the preferred low groove in turn three and the pass was complete. Veloz then cruised the final thirteen laps to the big money win while John Ahlers came from the back after being involved in a lap one caution to pass Wilson late for second. Crawford finished in the fourth spot while Mitch Morris took home fifth place money.

As much of the crowd shuffled out to see what was going on at the Fair or to get the air conditioning going on their car, we stuck around for the 15-lap Four Cylinder feature that saw Jacob Ellithorpe fight off a late challenge from Mitch Bielenberg to take the win. Bielenberg had started shotgun on the field after suffering damage during the heat race. Former All Iowa Points Champion Brannon Bechen finished in the third spot with Zach Dahl fourth and Mike Wisdom fifth.

I had noticed on the QCS website that Kansas driver Danny Charles of “Heartland Thunder” fame was going to be in action tonight so I was not surprised to see his father Tom in action as well. To say they had a tough night might be an understatement though. Tom ran in the A Mod class only and it was contact from him that sent Ray Bollinger sliding into the infield during the heat race putting Bollinger back in the eighth row for the main event. Danny ran both classes and in the A Mod feature they were 13th and 14th respectively, the last two cars on the track at the checkers. In the IMCA main event Danny was making progress through the field and was up to fifth after starting 15th, but he apparently (I did not actually see it) made contact with another driver during a caution and was sent to the pits. These are two very good Modified drivers, perhaps proving my notion above about the home track advantage here.

A big thanks to Shane Davis and the entire QCS crew for putting on a fine night of racing under tough conditions. Don’t forget that they are back at it tonight (July 20th) for the first Hershel Roberts Memorial featuring the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models and admission is only ten bucks!! That should be a great show, but I’ll be headed northwest instead for the USMTS Mods at Osky. Yes, it is HOT out, but so is the racing! (Man, that sounds so lame…….)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Random Thoughts While Sitting In an Airport

Business travel and a family reunion has and will keep me away from the tracks for a bit and it looks like I missed a good one in West Liberty last night. It is really cool to check a forum and have someone describe how exciting it was having a crowd rise to their feet for a last lap pass to win a feature. When you read something like that, it just makes you count the days until the next time that you can attend a race and hope for that same kind of thrill.

Then you scan down the page and somebody is bitching about having to pay $30 for a World of Outlaw Late Model show, or someone is saying that they are not going to attend a race because the track is too cheap to have fireworks afterwards. Really? Way to help out the cause, and next year those same people will probably be making a post wondering why the Outlaws don't return to Iowa or why there are no races to be found on the Fourth of July. I stayed home from a race that I wanted to attend on the 3rd of July because my wife loves fireworks and if I wanted to announce the UMP Summer Nationals event the next night, and sleep in the same bed with her when I got home, I needed to take her somewhere for fireworks on Sunday. As it turned out, with an efficiently run program at 34 Raceway on Monday, race fans still had plenty of time to get in to West Burlington for their fireworks display and I enjoyed watching the show in Mount Pleasant as I drove into town at ten o'clock.

I know that it probably does no good to bring this up here, because I doubt that the people who make such posts stop by here for a visit. But on the off chance that as a Back Stretch reader you are ever tempted to make a negative forum post, please think twice before you do. The sport that we love is in a bit of trouble right now and the fewer pot shots that it has to take, the better.

Speaking of that, if you read my Harris Clash entry below, that first paragraph might lead you to believe that I was filing a negative report. Not so! Tuesday was an EXCELLENT night of racing, just not the best Harris Clash that I have seen and I have been to quite a few over the years. The racing was fantastic and there seemed to be some sort of drama in every race. However, there were way too many cautions and way too much equipment that needed to be repaired the following day.

Back to the UMP race at Burlington, the car count of 26 has been a topic of conversation from race night on through the week. Actually that was right about what I expected based upon the counts that the Tour has drawn in past events at 34. The difference was that this year that 26 did not include drivers who in the past made the trip to Burlington as a thank you for their J&J Steel sponsorship (Moyer, Wallace, Bloomquist, etc.) and it did not include as many of the Iowa based drivers. This was actually a UMP show that featured 14 of the top 17 in Hell Tour points, plus drivers such as Scott Schmitt and Jerry Lierly who decided to pull across the river and compete at 34. If 26 is not considered to be enough, perhaps it is time to try a dual sanctioned MLRA and Corn Belt Clash event?

Do me a favor, go out to the races this weekend and next week and enjoy them! I wish I could :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dailey Inherits Harris Clash Crown at Knoxville

With eight cautions, including a "planned" one with a five minute mid-race break, and a disqualification of the apparent winner, the 2011 version of the Harris Clash will not go down as one of the best that I have seen from this event. But as always, the entire night of racing featuring just the IMCA Modifieds, was both interesting and entertaining making this one of the few events that I circle on the calendar each year.

Defending Clash champ Richie Gustin created the first caution of the thirty-lap feature when he smacked the guardrail in turn three on the opening lap and on the second try at a start Michael Long dove past front row starters Ken Schrader and Randy Havlik to take the lead. Nobody could stay with Long as he would pull away on each and every restart, but there was plenty of shuffling going on behind him on a perfectly prepped track where drivers could run the top, bottom and pretty much everywhere in between. Josh Foster was running a strong second when he broke on lap ten and then it looked like Jordan Grabouski might be able to make a run at Long after starting eleventh. Following the mid-race break it was Eric Dailey who  established himself as a contender coming up to fourth from his ninth row start. On a restart with eight laps remaining Dailey drove under Schrader and Grabouski into turn one to take over second only to have another caution wipe that move out. The same scenario played out on the next restart with Dailey going to second and a caution before the lap could be completed sent him back to fourth again.

Schrader didn't enjoy the career that he has had without using his noggin so on the third try at a lap 22 restart he stayed glued to the bottom and kept Dailey behind him. That lasted for two laps as the driver from Armstrong, Iowa, was definitely the second fastest car on the track tonight and he chased Long the remaining six laps to the checkers. Grabouski crossed the line in third, Schrader fourth and Mike VanGenderen edged out Todd Shute for an apparent fifth-place finish. But after passing over the scale three times, Long was disqualified for not making the minimum weight and Eric Dailey was elevated to the victory. It is never pleasant to watch a race and then have the apparent winner disqualified, but at least on this night the guy next in line definitely earned the right to step up the podium one more tier by passing fifteen top notch cars to get there.

The six heat races and three B-Mains definitely had their share of drama with almost every one of them having a driver come from deep in the pack to snare a qualifying spot. In heat one Wisconsin driver Dan Ratajczak started thirteenth and was up into the top three transfer positions only to drop back to fourth at the checkers when Bill Davis Jr. powered by him. Ratajczak would come back to win the first B-Main. Josh Foster started ninth and Jeremy Mills twelfth in heat two and they finished second and third behind pole-sitter Jay Noteboom. Long raced from row four to blow past Richie Gustin and win the third heat, obviously making weight on this one, while Jake Durbin took third after starting twelfth. In the fourth heat Grabouski came from twelfth to second behind winner Mark Elliott. Kansas driver John Allen won the fifth heat from the pole while Schrader and Dailey came from ninth and eighth respectively to get qualified and in heat six it was Todd Shute who came from deep in the pack to transfer in third.

Luke Wanninger had to earn the "Hard Luck Award" of the night as he was caught up in an incident in his heat race and then started sixteenth in the first B-Main. He moved quickly to the front and was up to second before contact from another car put him sideways in turn two and he executed a sharp snap roll landing on all four wheels. The damage was too much for him to continue though and perhaps one of the fastest cars of the night was eliminated. In the second B former event winner Clayton Christensen started at the back after not running his heat race and he had worked his way up to third before his motor let go coming to the white flag. And in the final laps of the third and final B it was veteran driver Tom Charles getting by Dan Mueller for the final transfer position.

It was a beautiful sunset in Knoxville tonight

It was a rough and tumble night and many of the 73 cars will need to have some body parts straightened out before their next race night, but as always the Harris Clash for IMCA Modifieds delivered an entertaining program at the world's premier dirt track. Don't forget that the second night of the Harris Clash featuring the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models plus the Sport Mods will be on Tuesday night July 26th. Hope to see you there!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Tribute To Grandpa and A Night at Donnellson

This has been a tough week for me after my grandfather Paul Swanson passed away on Sunday afternoon. He was 95 years old and up until his last four days he was able to get around enough on his own to be a part of an Assisted Living community here in my hometown. So while our family was brought together this week in a time of mourning, we also looked at it as a celebration of a life well lived.

Grandpa Swanson played a pivotal role in getting me hooked on two things early in life. One is my love of going to the gym and watching basketball. He himself is responsible for this one because it was Grandpa who would always make sure that our Thanksgiving Day dinner was wrapped up just in time for us to drive across Burlington for game one of the annual Blackhawk Turkey Tournament. Now known as the Southeastern Community College or SCC Blackhawks, the school has more Junior College basketball wins than any other school in the country and each year, beginning on Thanksgiving afternoon, seven other teams would roll into town for a three-day tournament that would feature two games during an afternoon session and two games at night. And even though the Blackhawks first round game was always scheduled for 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Grandpa would want to make sure that we were in the bleachers in time for the tip-off of game one even though the two schools playing were likely from far away. Going to those games with Grandpa when I was five, six, seven, eight years old and so on taught me how to watch the game and enjoy it even if I didn’t have a specific team that I was cheering for. But much more than that, it gave me all of that time with my Grandpa! To this day I enjoy going to watch the game of basketball whether it is a pair of area high school teams, Iowa Wesleyan College, the Iowa Hawkeyes or even the SCC Blackhawks and at each game I still get that same special feeling inside, that memory that comes to life every time I step into a gymnasium of the times that I spent with my Grandpa at the annual Turkey Tourneys in Burlington.

The other thing that he hooked me on was dirt track racing. In this though he had a willing accomplice in my Grandma Velma as the two of them would work things out with my parents so that on every summer Saturday night they would take me to the Mississippi Valley Speedway Club events at West Liberty and Columbus Junction. When I was a kid I couldn’t wait for Saturdays! We would get to the track early and eat a beefburger while watching the cars tow in to the pits. I even loved watching the mud clods fly high as they were packing the track and Grandma and Grandpa confirmed that seldom if ever would I fall asleep before the final checkers fell even though some nights went quite late. Mel Morris was my hero as he raced against Pokey West, Johnny Moss, Del Abney, Ron Perdock, Ed Mellecker, Ron Prymek, Ralphie Ericson and so many more. I wrote about this in greater detail when my grandmother passed away nine years ago and if I can find it on my hard drive, I will link it here. But everybody in my family knows who were to blame for turning me into the racing fan that I am today and I am forever grateful to Paul and Velma Swanson for that and for so much more. I love you Grandpa, rest in peace.

After spending Wednesday night with family and then laying Grandpa to rest Thursday morning I could think of nothing that he would like better for me to do than to announce a race that evening so I was glad that Bucky Doren and Terry Hoenig had invited me to work the microphone at the Hawkeye Dirt Tour event at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. A solid field of thirty-one IMCA Modifieds assembled for the $1,000-to-win event and the heat races showed that the track would offer up three grooves tonight. This proved out at feature time as leader Ronn Lauritzen saw Tyler Cale challenging him on the inside while Michael Long made a run at him on the outside with Long taking over the lead around lap ten of the 30-lap event. Cale tried to keep pace with Long, even pulling up alongside him in turns one and two, but Michael pulled away and cruised to a straightaway edge before taking the victory. Wyatt Lantz had a miserable start to the 2011 season but his performances here over the past two weeks prove that he has turned things around as he finished third tonight while Josh Foster put on quite a show to take fourth. Early in the race Foster spun sideways coming off turn four and ran over a large mine tire marking the inside of the track. The car almost tipped over, but Josh gathered it up and headed to the pits under caution to make sure that all was well. He restarted 24th and then charged all the way back to fourth at the finish. Muscatine driver Todd Hansen took fifth.

Twenty-six Stock Cars provided plenty of action including an incident in the feature that saw two cars leave “all fours”. Blaine Dopler was already executing a rollover in turn three when he collected Derek St. Clair whose #101 ended up resting on its side. Both drivers escaped injury and in fact St. Clair strapped back into his car and finished the race in 17th position. Shane Weller and Damon Murty swapped the lead back and forth over the final five circuits with Weller coming back to pass Murty with two to go for the win. Abe Huls, Matt Geiner and Justin Temeyer were next in line while brothers Jason and Ryan Cook followed. Wisconsin drivers Devin Snellenberger and Larry Karcz finished 11th and 13th respectively.

Grandpa Jimmy’s boys continue to impress in the Sport Mod division as Cayden Carter slipped by New Franken, Wisconsin’s Brad Lautenbach late to take the feature win with his cousin Carter VanDenBerg coming in for third. Lautenbach was looking to make it two in a row after winning the night before in Independence. Lucas Lundry finished fourth, Rodger Dresden was the best of the track’s regulars on this night in fifth and Ray Lundry was two spots back from his son in sixth.

The Lee County Speedway is back in action again tonight featuring IMCA Late Models, 305 Sprints, IMCA Modifieds, Hobby Stocks and Wild Things.

My next action will come on Monday night July 4th when the UMP Summer Nationals rolls into 34 Raceway near Burlington. Hope to see you there!