Saturday, August 27, 2011

Johnny Scott Takes Tipton USMTS Trophy

The United States Modified Touring Series rolled into the Cedar County Raceway in Tipton for the first time Friday night and, even though it was the first full night of high school football, a large crowd of race fans filled the bleachers and grandstand to watch. And with a nice mix of travelers and locals the field of forty did not disappoint.

Five qualifying heats set the stage for the finale with the first three being won by drivers (Donovan Lodge, Richie Gustin & Dan Bohr) who neither follow the series regularly, or race at Tipton every Friday night. The Tour regulars dominated heat four with Zack VanderBeek, Johnny Scott and Jon Tesch going one-two-three and the fifth heat would set the crowd abuzz with a couple of incidents involving the USMTS Hunt point leader Ryan Gustin. "The Reaper" had started sixth, charged toward the front and was battling Jason Hughes for second with three laps remaining when Gustin spun in turn three to cause a caution. On the restart Gustin tried to get back to the front squeezing through a small opening and when that didn't work he tangled with local favorite Ryan Dolan with the two beating and banging with each other coming to the white flag. Gustin was able to separate himself and run the final lap while Dolan limped to the pits, but officials scored Dolan ahead of Gustin on the official finish. Dolan would later come back to transfer out of the second B-Main in fifth while Gustin rode around in the back knowing that he had a provisional start in his back pocket.

When the twenty-six car field thundered to the start of the forty-lap main event it was Ryan's older brother, Richie Gustin, who would lead them back to lap one before pole-starter Johnny Scott drove under him for the advantage on lap two. The driver from Las Cruces, New Mexico, Scott was coming off a win the night before in Winston, Missouri, and he looked strong here as well while drivers raced three and four wide behind him. Much of that action was in the back third of the field where drivers such as Ryan Dolan, Ryan Gustin and Noah Coppes were picking their way to the front after all starting 22nd or deeper.

The first caution waved on lap eleven as Dan Bohr and Kevin Pittman tangled in turn three and following the restart it was Jon Tesch who went to work on Scott. Using a little higher line than the pace-setter, Tesch was able to power by Scott for the lead on lap fourteen only to have the caution appear again two laps later as Brad Dierks slowed on the back stretch. On this restart Zack VanderBeek came to life and drove by Tesch to the lead before the caution waved again for Donovan Lodge on lap eighteen. VanderBeek maintained control following the restart while most watched to see if Ryan Gustin could continue his run to the front as he was now approaching the top five after starting 25th. The caution last waved on on lap twenty-seven when Minnesota teenage speedster Lucas Schott spun to a halt in turn one.

Once back to green VanderBeek continued to lead before Scott found his stride once again and drove around Zack for the lead with nine trips around the quick quarter mile remaining. Nobody but his own friends and family picked him to win tonight, but there was no keeping Johnny Scott from taking the big money for the second night in a row as he held off VanderBeek for the win. Jason Hughes was solid for third, Ryan Gustin's run to the front leveled out in fourth and Jon Tesch completed the top five. Kelly Shryock moved from row seven to sixth, Dereck Ramirez moved from the ninth row to seventh, Al Hejna came from an eighth row start to finish eighth, Rodney Sanders started next to Hejna and finished ninth while Dustin Boney completed the top ten. Noah Coppes made the most of his track provisional to come from 26th to 11th.

With the large crowd, the solid car count and the great racing I would say that it is a pretty good bet that The Hunt for the USMTS Championship will pass through Tipton once again in 2012.

In support class action Darrin Plett went from green to checkers to win the B-Mod main event. A weekly competitor in the track's A-Mod division, Plett made the changes necessary to be "B-Mod legal" tonight, drew the front row and then cruised to the non-stop fifteen-lap victory. Troy Hovey who was the last car to arrive at the track after making the pull down from Decorah, drove from the seventh row to pass Roy Pestka on the final lap to take second while Brian Wendel took fourth. The Legend cars had some good racing action and a couple of scary moments when cars were engulfed in flames, but fortunately both drivers escaped without serious injuries. Eric Barth would take the victory while Adam Bell recovered from an early mishap that almost put him a lap down to take second.

Bruce Yoerger and Ben Carpenter raced side-by-side early in the Hobby Stock feature with Yoerger prevailing for the win in a race that also went flag-to-flag with no cautions. Carpenter was the runner-up followed by Josh Neal, Gene Ehlers and Jamie Chappell. And in the Four Cylinders Jacob Ellithorpe and Mitch Bielenberg waged a good battle mid-race with Bielenberg taking over the point, then holding off a fast-closing Steve Miedke to take the win. Miedke took second after starting at the back, Ellithorpe picked up third followed by Bob Lake and Duayne Herb.

This made three trips to Tipton for me this year and on all three visits I have seen fantastic racing. Plus, I started off each night with a stop at Bart Montgomery's Happy Joe's location for a great pizza before the show. I will look forward to the release of the 2012 schedule for the Cedar County Raceway so that I can target my next visit to this fine facility.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Brown and Lasoski Thrill A Huge Missouri State Fair Crowd

With three premier divisions, the ASCS Warrior Region Sprints, the MLRA Late Models and Modifieds, the annual Missouri State Fair race in Sedalia is always one that I try to work into my schedule and for the first time in a few years I was able to do that Sunday night. The big half-mile is not a high-speed track like Knoxville and on this warm and sunny evening it was even "slower" than usual, but the dry-slick surface never locked down and the 98 drivers on hand were able to work one of three grooves around the speedway.

Heat race action went off pretty well with only a couple of minor incidents although the Sprint Car drivers who started on the outside of the back rows absolutely abused the flagman. With no chalk line off turn four and since not one single start was called back on the night, several drivers channeled the chorus of this 1984 hit from Van Halen. It was so bad that on the fourth and final heat the driver starting outside of row four was side-by-side with the pole-sitter as the field entered the front stretch.

The Modified feature was first on the card and it turned into a forty minute drama with several story lines across nine cautions. Jason Bodenhammer was the leader at the drop of the green with Jim Moody challenging early using the high line through the corners. The first caution waved on lap five and on the double file restart Moody was shuffled back with Richard Foster now picking up the challenge before a caution on lap ten waved for debris. From there, things got a little wild. Foster and Jason Thompson made contact off turn two following the restart and after Foster showed his displeasure on the track the extra curricular activities between the two continued in the pits. Back to the racing Terry Schultz was now Bodenhammer's challenger only to have his right front tire go flat entering turn one on lap sixteen and when Schultz slowed the caution appeared. The hometown favorite changed the tire and returned to the back of the field for the restart where he picked off about five cars on the first lap before the caution waved again on lap seventeen.

On this restart the crowd went wild as the leader Bodenhammer was tagged by Shad Badder in turn one spinning Bodee and bringing out another caution. Some cheered and some booed as Bodenhammer tried to return to the front of the realignment, but he was sent to the rear while Badder retired to the pits likely disappointed in himself for his involvement in the incident. Kyle Westerhold picked up the point from there but a lap later Bodenhammer was sliding sideways down the front stretch after being pinched into the wall and that ended his evening. On the restart Moody got a nice restart and drove under Westerhold coming to the green and while Westerhold gave it his best to take that lead back over the final six laps he could not get the job done as Moody took the win. Westerhold was second followed by Curt Potter, Mark Hoover and Schultz.

John Anderson had only one moment of concern in the 30-lap Late Model feature and that was when the lapped car of Bob Cummings spun right in front of him entering turn one on lap eighteen. Other than that Anderson made this one a bit of a yawner going flag-to-flag from the pole position, a starting spot that he earned by racing from sixth to first in his qualifying heat earlier in the night. Al Purkey prevailed in the battle for second with David Turner while Brantlee Gotschall and Alan Vaughn completed the top five.

The stage was now set for the 25-lap Sprint Car main that through the first half of the race looked as though it would be a walkaway for Danny Lasoski. The Dude started fourth and came across the start-finish line in a dead heat with Brad Loyet on lap one before establishing himself as the leader into turn one. Lasoski enjoyed nearly a straightway lead over Loyet and Brian Brown when on lap thirteen he got into the back push bar of Dakota Carroll coming off turn four turning her nearly sideways on the frontstretch and the caution waved when Carroll coasted to a halt in front of the judges stand. On the restart Brown used the high line off turn two to take the lead from Lasoski with the two touching going down the back stretch bringing back memories of their famous tussle at Knoxville several years ago. Lasoski fought back and put a slider on Brown in turn two to regain the lead on lap nineteen and as the laps wound down the two approached slower traffic. Coming off of turn four to the white flag Lasoski chose the high line and Brown took the very bottom around a lapped car and Brown's line was the better choice as he took the lead from Lasoski and then held him off over the final lap for the win. Randy Martin came home third ahead of Tony Bruce Jr. while the Warrior Region point leader Loyet settled for fifth.

It was great to be in a grandstand full of race fans and even though the track conditions were on the dry side, the racing was definitely worth the trip!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

End Of An Era In Donnellson

Terry and Jenni Hoenig announced last night that they will not return as the promoters of the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson for 2012. The Hoenigs were young and excited when they took over the lease on the facility fourteen years ago and I have had the pleasure to get to know them very well during their tenure at the 3/8-mile D-shaped track nestled into the southeast corner of Iowa. To me they are still young and while the past couple of seasons have been a challenge for them, they have not lost that excitement about putting on the best show possible for the drivers and fans who support the facility.

Terry has taken a full-time position in the area as the comfort of a steady paycheck and a different type of daily challenges was just too much to pass up for this father of two lovely daughters who will now be able to see all of those dance recitals and softball games that he has had to miss fairly regularly in the past. On a much smaller scale I completely understand, as that was the reason why I stopped announcing races weekly leaving Knoxville in 1998.

I had the pleasure of getting to know these two working with them on Shiverfest each year and that partnership on one race a year grew into a full-time friendship very quickly. Terry and Jenni love racing, they love the fans and most of all they love the racers. After all, Terry was a racer himself having been a track champion in the Hobby Stock ranks while Jenni is the daughter of car owner Leonard Carlson who fielded a Pro Stock numbered 75 that several drivers drove to victory lane back in the 1980's and 90's. While many drivers feel that promoters are only in it for the money (a notion that is wrong 99% of the time), I am pretty confident that the drivers who made the effort to actually know Terry and Jenni would have never made that accusation of these two. Were they always right? Heck no, and they were humble enough to admit when they made a rare mistake and usually it was because they were asking me for advice! Thank goodness they were smart enough to not always follow it. They would always try to do what was best for all involved and unfortunately over the past few years, what was best for racing was not what was best for their family and being the truly good people that they are, they made the decision that was announced to all last night at the speedway.

So what now becomes of the Lee County Speedway? I believe that there are nine years remaining on the current lease held by the Hoenigs and while the weekly program here is not as vibrant as it was a few years ago, it is definitely not broken. There is a solid following of drivers, fans and sponsors who will no doubt be looking to support anybody who would want to step in, purchase the lease, and continue to hold weekly racing at this fine fairgrounds facility. Another possibility would be to see what we just witnessed up in Webster City this season where the fairboard steps in, hires a race director and either runs a weekly schedule or, in this case perhaps a "specials" schedule. Or this fine facility could sit idle until somebody else decides to step in. I'd hate to see that, but let's face it, the possibility is there.

Terry and Jenni, I know that I speak for many when I say "thank you" for all of the great nights of racing that you have brought to everybody in Donnellson, as racetrack promoters you will be sorely missed. Now, as a friend though, I look forward to having you hop in the car with me much more often to go enjoy the efforts of another of the many hard working promoters out there, wherever that track may be.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Look Back At The 51st Annual Knoxville Nationals

On this day after the conclusion of this spectacular four-day event, following are my thoughts without the use of a notebook (left in the car all week as I said I would earlier) and without a single visit to the press room since the luncheon has now apparently been moved permanently to Thursdays when I still have to work.

After a wet spring and a scorching summer we couldn't have asked for better weather during this four-day run. Even a 60% chance of rain for Friday night never materialized and the temperatures and humidity were comfortable throughout.

If not for a an engine going south over the final two laps in 2010 this would have been the sixth straight Nationals win for Donny Schatz who was lightning fast all week, except of course when his powerplant went up in flames during Wednesday's feature. That little hurdle put him in row seven for the finale and it only took him fifteen laps to get to the front. Another driver to be discussed next will be remembered, for awhile at least, for all the cars that he passed this week, but Schatz passed all that he needed to, and fast, on his way to his fifth Knoxville Nationals crown. Love him or hate him, you still have to respect his accomplishment.

Shane Stewart once again made a ten-day visit to Knoxville look like he should be contending for a World of Outlaws title rather than racing 360's full time. But then again, I think that works just fine for Stewart and car owner Paul Silva. Last Saturday night Stewart captured his second straight 360 Nationals title starting from the pole and then holding back a late charge from Tim Shaffer on a night when drivers like Shaffer and many others also raced in the 410 division. Not Stewart though. In 2010 Shane found himself on the podium for the 410 Nationals as well charging up to a third-place finish and this week he even caught the attention of people who just attend for the social aspect (my wife) with his thrilling runs from back to front. On Wednesday night he started 24th and finished 4th in the A-Main. The fact that Stewart even made the A on Wednesday was the result of one of the gutsiest moves of the week when he pulled off a slider on Bronson Masechen in the final laps to get that last transfer out of the B-Main. During Friday's show the grudge draw placed Stewart in 17th for the start of the Race of Champions and he was closing fast in second when pole-sitter Tim Shaffer took the checkers. Then in the World Challenge race Shane started 13th and ran out of laps before he could catch front row starter Lucas Wolfe who took the win. Everybody was pumped to watch the Rockstar do it again in Saturday's headliner and he did not disappoint closing to within five car lengths of Schatz at the checkers. And to think, it was the second heat race on Wednesday night, when Stewart started fifth but had both Donny Schatz and Austin McCarl go blowing past him dropping him back to sixth, two positions out of a transfer, that put him in "catch up mode" in the first place. Look for Stewart to now go on and close out another ASCS National Tour Championship here in 2011.

At fifty-seven years old Sammy Swindell may be running out of legitimate chances to back up his 1983 Knoxville Nationals title and I think I heard that in his voice during his podium interview Saturday night. Sammy racked up the most points through the qualifying events and started from the pole position, but a bobble early off the berm in turn three allowed Brad Sweet to lead and then late, when it looked as though Sammy was closing in for the kill on Schatz, that same berm bit him again. With four laps remaining Swindell went into turn three just a smidge too low making contact with the berm and kicking him out into the middle of the track. Sammy said that it felt like he had parked there for lunch, and for his fans like me it was an agonizing split second as his momentum was now lost, and Schatz was gone. Stewart pounced as well to take over the second spot and Sammy recovered for third which is still better than how he ended his run last year upside down in turn four. As a Swindell fan I do hope that he continues to be a contender for years to come, but I have a harder time driving home each year at age 48, so I can't even imagine the effect that each passing year has on someone in a winged missile touring a half-mile oval in 15 seconds.

The only way to live up to winning last year's Knoxville Nationals for Tim Shaffer was to do it again, but the "Steel City Outlaw" has to be pretty happy with how his Southern Iowa Sprint Week went. Last Saturday he was the runner-up to Shane Stewart in the 360 Nationals and finished fourth on the same night in the All Stars sanctioned 410 show. Shaffer had a good night going on Wednesday before his motor went south in the feature, but with a grudge draw gift from Danny Holtgraver (the pole position) he won the Race of Champions on Friday night, then came from 19th to fourth in the Championship race on Saturday. It is safe to say that Shaffer has Knoxville dialed in right now.

Daryn Pittman was pretty quiet all week until he made a run at Schatz for the lead following the mid-race caution. His fifth-place finish was a nice finish to the week.

Four-time All Iowa Points champion Mark Dobmeier established himself as a contender by disposing of Danny Lasoski late in the first heat race and then prevailed through some thrilling sliders with Brian Brown and Jason Meyers to take Thursday night's feature win. Dobmeier started seventh and was never a threat to win the finale on Saturday, but posted a solid sixth-place finish for one of the upper Midwest's best drivers.

Speaking of Lasoski, after he was passed by Dobmeier for the final transfer spot in Thursday's first heat the week went downhill from there mercifully coming to an end with a fifth-place finish in Saturday's D-Main. "The Dude" has been solid here all season only finishing outside of the top-five twice all year. He now needs to regroup to see if he can hold back Dusty Zomer for the Knoxville season points championship. And speaking of Zomer, his week ended just one position ahead of Lasoski in that D-Main, an event he dropped to when his left rear tire exploded while leading the first Semi-Main on Friday night.

Brian Brown had a solid Nationals finishing in seventh-place, but you can bet that he won't want to repeat his "training method" to get to it as he was very sore following a hard crash the week before in the 360 Nationals.

Brad Sweet subbed for the injured Joey Saldana in the Kasey Kahne racing #9 and earned a front row start for the Championship race on Saturday night. I knew he was screwed though when he told Mike Roberts during pre-race introductions that "this one is for Joey" as Saldana NEVER has any luck during the Nationals. Sweet finished eighth.

If not for young Rager Phillips running out of fuel on the final lap of the B-Main, Lance Dewease would have been watching the championship race from the infield. But he made the most of his opportunity and came from 24th to 9th. It was an incredible heart breaker for Phillips who has been maligned for his involvement in accidents here the past year or so. Tonight the kid was a stud driving past big name drivers to apparently make the big show only to come up a half a lap short in the end. Brady Bacon also suffered B-Main heartbreak when his right rear tire went flat just before a late restart forcing him to pit while sitting in second.

Craig Dollansky, one of my two pre-event picks finished tenth while the other one, Jason Meyers was 22nd. That's why nobody should listen to me when I try to pick a winner.

I hated to see eighteen-year-old Austin McCarl crash hard on the first lap of his first National Championship race. Austin is exactly what this sport and this track needs to get the young crowd hooked on the sport as many of his Southeast Polk high school class mates come to Knoxville each week to cheer him on. I understand that Austin will be playing basketball for Grand View College this winter?

Morgan tells me that Cody Darrah has been taking a lot of heat on the forums for tearing up Kasey Kahne's equipment on the World of Outlaws trail this season. The youngster set quick time on Thursday night, but could not make the A that night even after starting on the pole of the B-Main. Then on Saturday night he stuffed the #91 in the turn three fence on the opening lap of the B-Main, so I'm sure that didn't help the situation.

Speaking of the forum boards, I noticed one thread where some AWP tried to make the case that the Knoxville Raceway did not care about Sprint Car fans when there was no way that he could watch Saturday's show live except for actually being at the track. Then, to top it off, he asked sarcastically how attendance had been for the week so far. Well, I'll be the first to admit that the Wednesday and Thursday night crowds were as small as I have seen them since the back stretch stands were added many years back and while the crowd picked up a bit on Friday, it still was light in comparison to recent years. Now it is my understanding that all three of these nights could be watched live online, while Saturday night you had to buy a ticket and be there to see it live. Saturday night's crowd was pretty darn good, so I wonder if there is any correlation there? I came darn close to missing the first three nights due to a work commitment, and if I had been stuck in a hotel on the east coast I would have loved to had the opportunity to watch the show live online. However, it is my opinion that the Knoxville Raceway needs to do what it has to do in order to put more butts in the stands and if that means no "live" telecast of the event on any night, then so be it. Sorry AWP, but you made yourself look like a jerk with that argument.

Better late than never. Announcer Johnny Gibson reminded fans to stay seated when the green flag waves after the initial start where Austin McCarl flipped in turn one. Johnny is fantastic at getting the crowd fired up with his "you wanted the best, you got 'em four abreast, often imitated, never duplicated, the World of Outlaws" call during the parade lap, but his next line needs to be something along the lines of "remember race fans, this is dirt track racing loved by fans young and old, short and tall, so when everybody sits, everybody sees.....after all this ain't NASCAR!" I know that the three young fans in the row behind us would appreciate that and it would be a good lesson for the folks who seem to think that their shaky and far-off looking smartphone video is important enough to block the view of everybody behind them. If you are reading this and thinking "what a stupid thing to be writing about, you stand up because it is exciting", then you are obviously somebody who has only started going to the Nationals over the past ten years. We never had this problem before then.

I did hear that an announcement was made during Thursday's press luncheon that John McCoy would move up to the booth next year to take over Ralph Capitani's race night duties, but that the Promoter/Track Manager position was still open. McCoy is the perfect choice for making the calls from the booth and I have a had a few people tell me that I should apply for the open position remaining. But my thought is that replacing a legend is almost always a losing proposition and that replacing the person who replaced the legend has a much better success rate. I have heard a few names that are supposedly in contention and all sound like they would be a good choice, although one of them would need to learn how to take a breath while giving an interview.

The 51st Knoxville Nationals was a bittersweet one for me as it may be the last time for awhile that I get to spend all four nights, plus the 360 Nationals the week before, with my son Morgan by my side. He left today to return to the University of Tulsa to begin his senior year and we of course are hoping that he will land a good job following his graduation in May. However, unless that job is back here in southeast Iowa it is likely that a newbie will not have vacation days available to him after three months to be here for the whole week, so Saturday night's finale in 2012 will probably be the best that he can do. I went to a lot of Nationals before he even came along, but this event took on a whole different level of enjoyment once he started going. It just won't be the same to go back without him next year. I hate getting old......

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Osky's Ultimate Challenge

Yea, I’m a liar as I closed my last entry by saying that I would not be back until after the Nationals with a summary of the week. But comments made by two drivers during the intermission on-track entertainment at the Ultimate Challenge last night just had to be shared.

Morgan and I usually make a point of attending this event since it is one of only two nights where we can catch non-wing Sprint Car action close to home. Of course the other night is just two days earlier when the USAC Sprints run at Knoxville, but despite the fact that we see basically the same field of cars, the two events offer up two completely different types of shows. At Knoxville the format calls for two laps of qualifying, one set of heat races with the top four finishers advancing, a B-Main and a feature. At Oskaloosa drivers draw for starting positions in a first round of heat races and, following those heats, passing points are tabulated to run a second round of heats where the top six are inverted in each. Points from both rounds of heat races are then tallied with the top sixteen moving to the A-Main and the rest running the Last Chance race. I’m not sure how the drivers feel about it, but from a fan’s standpoint the Osky format of qualifying is fantastic!

The one thing that we don’t like about this event is that we know that it will always be a late night unless it is threatened by approaching weather. Now, while that may sound like a “slam”, let me clarify. The Osky Challenges have always been promoted as a party where a race breaks out and it caters to the thousands of sprint car fans who have flocked to the area for the Knoxville Nationals. We know that there are not many people sitting around us that will have an eighty-minute drive home following the final checkered flag and an alarm that will chime at 6:30 the next morning to start a normal day at work so it was no surprise when the advertised “Race time” of 7:15 p.m. came and went without a hint of even the track being packed in yet. And we were actually happy to be on the road for home after watching young Kyle Larson take the win just prior to 11:30. Yes, it gets us off to a weary start for the Nationals, especially since we do an “up and back” for the Wednesday show as well, but for a night of non-wing sprint action close to home we’ll catch up on our sleep later!

Last night when the first set of hot laps sent up a dust cloud around the half-mile it was a clear indication that the track was going to be a dry-slick tire eater even after the water truck tried to catch up a bit around the edges after hot laps. Given the less than ideal track conditions I was pleasantly surprised by the action that we saw during the first set of heats and there were at least three occasions where my heart jumped due to amazing moves by drivers during the second round of heats. No, it was definitely not the mud-slinging, cushion-pounding action you expect from the “traditional” sprints, but it was still entertaining. During intermission though, two drivers clearly expressed their opinion on the track prep although I am still unclear as to whether that task was the responsibility of the promoter, Terry McCarl, or the sanctioning body, USAC.

“The Madman” Robert Ballou actually got in three different swipes during his interview starting off by saying that whoever prepared this track needs to be fired. He then noted that the track condition the night before for the winged cars would have been much better for tonight’s show adding that wings are for birds. Then, when presented with a right rear Hoosier tire for winning one of the heats, he noted that it was nice to race on a tire brand that doesn’t blow up all the time. Morgan and I were happy to see Ballou get through a race night without getting upside down as maybe now our jinx is lifted (see the blog entry of August 8th). When announcer Blake Anderson made his way to Dave Darland his first comment was that somebody should have gotten McCarl out of bed this morning to come work on this track which drew some cheers and jeers from the good-sized crowd. Brady Bacon then won the foot race just ahead of a tumbling Bryan Clausen and the B-Main was soon on the track.

By feature time the top groove was pretty much gone as proven by defending race-winner Bud Kaeding who went backwards trying to work the cushion and by lap ten right rear tires were smoking as drivers did their best to save some rubber for the end. A red-flag for Dustin Morgan at the mid-point of the thirty-lap affair saw ten drivers, including the third running Ballou, make the decision to bolt on a new right rear tire and restart at the back, or in Ballou’s case ahead of the other nine guys who went with the same strategy. Kyle Larson who was in the Hoffman #69 for the first time, and Knoxville’s Sunday night winner Brady Bacon swapped the lead following the restart before Larson (The NorCal Ninja…..gotta love Blake) pulled away for the convincing win. Brady Bacon settled for second with “The People’s Champ” Dave Darland in third. Shane Cottle finished fourth while Jerry Coons Jr. posted the best finish of the ten drivers who took on new rubber in fifth.

More water on the track before hot laps would have made for a better show, but overall I’ve seen much worse and this event will still be on our “to do” list in 2012. Check back in later this week as Barry Johnson has promised that he will get some action shots from the USAC show at Knoxville to me for display here on the Back Stretch.

While I’d love to see Sammy Swindell in victory lane this Saturday night I am going to predict another first-time Nationals champion in either Jason Meyers or Craig Dollansky.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Knoxville USAC Sprints - Sunday Notebook

For the story and full results visit the Knoxville Raceway website.

Former Knoxville track announcer Blake Anderson is back in the booth tonight as he is now the regular USAC voice and he has sprung a new nickname on us for Dustin Morgan, While most nicknames are pretty obvious and shared by drivers in other divisions or regions, Morgan’s “Full Blown Chaos” moniker is truly an original.

Group qualifying for the twenty-five 305’s on hand has had its share of issues with wheels coming off, spinouts and drivers trying to race each other rather than spreading out. What should have taken ten minutes is now nearing a half hour.

Brady Bacon establishes the quick time for the USAC Sprints while Levi Jones blows a right rear tire on his second lap.

USAC 1st heat – Daron Clayton hooks the cushion in turn one on the opening lap and takes a tumble. On the second start Hunter Schuerenberg bicycles in the same spot, brings it back down on all fours, bounces off the wall and continues on but will be headed to the B-Main after finishing seventh. Bacon backs up his fast time with the heat race victory.

USAC 2nd heat – I am thinking that I am a jinx for Robert Ballou as I swear that whenever I see him race he ends up flipping. That trend continues tonight as Ballou jumps the cushion in turn four and flips while leading this one. “The Wild Man” would return to start the A-Main at the back and work his way up to 11th at the finish. I’ll test the jinx theory again on Tuesday at Oskaloosa.

USAC 3rd heat – Justin Grant gets by Damion Gardner on the final lap to take the fourth and final transfer spot in a race won by Californian Keith Bloom Jr.

USAC 4th heat – It’s Full Blown Chaos as Dustin Morgan takes the win.

305 A-Main – Current All Iowa Points leader for the division Bill Boles is scheduled to start third, but does not make the call. Former IMCA Modified competitor down at Missouri’s I-35 Speedway and the now defunct Jamesport Speedway, Chad Huston starts from the pole and dominates the twelve-lap affair for his first career win at the Knoxville Raceway. Jamie Ball chases him all the way and finishes second, 2010 All Iowa Champ in the 305’s Casey Friedrichsen comes from sixth to third while the race to watch was for fourth as Matt Stephenson and Carson McCarl traded sliders over the final laps with Stephenson prevailing.

USAC A-Main – Jon Stanbrough jets to the lead working the bottom line on both ends of the half-mile. The red flag flies on lap two when veteran Dave Darland gets upside down in turn one. On lap eight defending race winner Bud Kaeding sweeps by Stanbrough on the cushion to take the lead and a lap later Brady Bacon follows Kaeding into second. Bacon stays close, but Kaeding looks in control until his car hops the cushion in turn two on lap thirteen and spins to a stop with a flat left rear tire. Bacon assumes the lead on the restart with Chris Windom now challenging on the bottom. Windom takes the lead going down the back stretch on lap fifteen only to have Bacon drive right back around him on the topside of turn four. Brady then drives to the low groove entering turn one to cut off Windom’s momentum and the moves works great as Windom is now fifteen car lengths back down the back stretch. Lapped traffic allows Windom to cut into that gap and on on the final lap he makes one last run into turn three, but he cannot hold it on the bottom and Bacon completes the clean sweep with the feature win. Jerry Coons Jr. comes from rown four to finish third, Stanbrough holds down fourth and Bryan Clauson comes from a tenth row start to take fifth.

Our tickets are purchased and we are looking forward to spending the week with our friends in Section I rows 19, 20 and 21, so there will not likely be daily updates from the Knoxville Nationals here this week as I will leave the notebook in the car. Plus, with the Press Luncheon now moved to Thursday each year I no longer have the opportunity to report on that. Check back in next week and hopefully I’ll have a summary of the week for you.

Enjoy the Nationals or the racing event that you choose to attend this week!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

21st Annual Arnold Motor Supply 360 Knoxville Nationals - Saturday Notebook

For story and full results visit the Knoxville Raceway website.

410 1st heat - Fast qualifier Daryn Pittman got a very nice start. Ian Madsen gave up the lead to Sammy Swindell and then came back to pass him back for the victory. Then, after the checkers, Madsen's motor blew up on the back stretch ending his night.

410 2nd heat - On the initial attempt at the start pole-sitter Mark Dobmeier got on the gas too early and was penalized one row for jumping the start. On the second try David Gravel got a very nice start, but it was defending Knoxville Nationals champ Tim Shaffer who took the win.

410 3rd heat - Lynton Jeffrey had a very good start. Rookie A.J. Moeller started outside of row one and spun sideways exiting turn two sending the field scrambling. Johnny Herrera could not avoid Moeller and both cars went for a tumble. Brian Brown goes on to win this one, a very impressive feat considering that he spent most of Friday night at the hospital getting x-rays.

410 C Main - Jessica Zemken was running second when her right front tire came off as she raced down the back stretch.

410 Dash - The six-car field fanned out four wide as they hit the chalk line for the start. Tyler Walker went on to win while Terry McCarl took an extra lap to perhaps express his thoughts on the start.

360 C Main - Ronnie Blair tagged the turn one guardrail on lap two. Henry Van Dam was impressive coming from the fifth row to take the win. The final transfer out of the D-Main Brady Bacon charged through the field to finish fifth, just one spot out of moving up to the B-Main.

360 B Main - The final lap of this one was a thriller as Daryn Pittman, who started ninth, passed leader Clint Garner in turns one and two. Racing into turn three Pittman was forced to the cushion as he tried get around Larry Ball Jr. so Garner hugged the berm and the two raced wheel-to-wheel off of four with Garner taking the win by an eyelash, or 0.032 seconds.

410 A Main - Brian Brown avoided disaster when he hopped a wheel on Jason Johnson's #41 as the two raced full speed down the back stretch on lap one. Fortunately Brian was able to keep it on all fours as another hard ride could have been very serious. Kevin Swindell came from a row two start to take the lead on the opening lap and when his father Sammy spun as he was trying to pull to the infield in turn two on lap nine his margin was wiped away. Once back to racing Tyler Walker riding the high line was able to stay within six car-lengths of Swindell who was working the low line around the half-mile. With five laps remaining the leader was closing quickly on Robby Wolfgang and Bud Kaeding who were racing up in Walker's line, but when Kaeding drove to the bottom into turn one Swindell had to turn his car nearly sideways to keep from hitting Kaeding. Kevin recovered nicely and stayed ahead of Walker over the remaining laps to take the win. Walker was the runner-up for the second week in a row here followed by fifth row starters Danny Lasoski and Tim Shaffer. For the second week in a row Mark Dobmeier made a big run coming from row ten to take fifth.

360 A-Main - With lightning flashing to the west the field took the green and then went to red as Dustin Selvage bicycled and then went end over end sending his tail tank vaulting over the wall in turn two. The race went red again on lap three as Derek Hagar hopped the berm and then went for a tumble in turn one. Once back to green Sammy Swindell drove past Randy Hannagan for second and then set his sights on leader Shane Stewart. Swindell had erased the lead and was ready to pounce on Stewart when the caution flag waved on lap eleven for Clint Garner who was sitting next to the guardrail in turn one. On the restart Stewart hit the button perfectly and pulled out to a big margin over Swindell. The lightning was getting very close as Swindell cut back into that lead and with lapped traffic again coming into play it looked like Sammy was ready to make another run at lead until he jumped the cushion in turn one with five laps remaining. That was exactly what Stewart needed to pull away for his second straight 360 Nationals Championship while Sammy's bobble allowed Tim Shaffer to slip by him for second. Bill Alley followed Swindell in fourth while Davey Heskin completed the top five.

If anybody was wondering what effect the Nationwide Series race at Newton would have on tonight's crowd, the answer is apparently "none" as the front stretch grandstand was as full as you would usually see for a Wednesday night at the 410 Nationals. Reports are that the Iowa Speedway was packed tight as well to see a thrilling finish with former sprint car phenom Ricky Stenhouse Jr. being shoved across the line by Carl Edwards. Two big crowds within thirty miles of each other shows that Iowa truly is the heartland of racing.

We didn't stick around to see the scramble to get 135 sprint cars loaded up and out of the pits before a line of strong thunderstorms swept through with high winds and heavy rain. The weather is supposed to clear for Sunday night's USAC non-wing sprint show here supported by the 305's.

21st Annual Knoxville 360 Nationals - Friday Notebook

For full results visit the Knoxville Raceway website

With the rainout of Thursday night's qualifier the two nights were combined and, in essence, it was a typical two "division" program. The only difference was that both of those "divisions" (Thursday and Friday) each had on lap of qualifying and the heat races were staggered.

The next time anybody tries to make a case about how the Knoxville Raceway doesn't care about the fans keep this in mind. The large crowd here tonight paid the same ticket price $20 as they would have for a normal qualifying night. That also means that the track lost out on between $60,000 and $100,000 in revenue by not having the Thursday show as a stand-alone event.

A total of 97 cars filled the pits with 49 cars for Thursday and 48 for Friday, however during hot laps it looked like we might lose several of them due to engine issues. Smokers included J.D. Johnson, Alan Ambers, Jeff Swindell, Austin Alumbaugh, Brooke Tatnell, Danny Lasoski, Tim Crawley, Cody Baker and Brian Brown. Garry Lee Maier add a nice fireball to his smoke and while Brown was the only one to leave the track to change a motor, all drivers came back to compete.

Also during hot laps Seth Bergman had his left top wing panel break away and rookie driver Tyler Groenendyk had his entire left rear wheel and axle pull out from the center section exiting turn four sending on piece of equipment floating through the air and landing safely in front of the grandstand. Groenendyk was the B-Modified track champion last year at the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa.

Tonight's show was delayed by rain that fell between 4:30 and 6:00 p.m. Qualifying started at 8:55 p.m. and was complete at 9:45.

Thursday 1st Heat - Dylan Peterson was running a strong third before his nose wing shifted and he faded to ninth. Dave Hall had the race locked up before the last place car of Cody Ambers smacked the guardrail exiting turn two and rolled with two laps remaining. Fast qualifier Zach Chappell used the restart to pass Hall on the final lap as he continued his quest for a perfect score in qualifying night points.

Friday 1st Heat - Fast qualifier Danny Lasoski was running one spot out of a transfer in fifth mid-race before his motor let go ending his evening. The report from pit announcer Mike Roberts was a burnt piston.

Thursday Heat 2 - Florida native R.J. Johnson was a bit of a surprise as the second fastest qualifier and he backed it up by qualifying for the main event taking fourth in this heat.

Thursday Heat 3 - After changing motors earlier Brian Brown was only able to post the 43rd fastest time putting him in row five for this heat. On the start contact between Tyler Groenendyk and Alan Zoutte sent Zoutte up the track and into Brown in turn one. Both Zoutte and Brown went for a series of hard flips including contact with the guardrail and the Goodyear billboard high above the track. After a couple of tense moments Zoutte emerged from his mangled ride unscathed and a few minutes later Brown gingerly walked from his car to the ambulance that would take him in for x-rays.

Friday Heat 3 - Tony Shilling gets faster every time we see him and in this one he stayed well ahead of one the best 360 racers in the country, Shane Stewart, to take the win.

Thursday Heat 4 - After setting quick time last Saturday night young Tasker Phillips did not punch the clock as fast tonight ranking 29th, but nobody could catch him during this heat race even when his right rear tire went flat coming off turn four. Two favorites, Travis Rilat and Terry McCarl, could not crack the top four and would have to run the B-Main.

Thursday Heat 5 - This was the Lone Star heat as Texas drivers Kolt Walker, Eric Baldaccini, John Carney II, Sam Hafertepe Jr. and Aaron Reutzel finished first, second, third, fifth and eighth respectively.

Friday Heat 5 - Tim Shaffer finished fourth in this one and Morgan noted that this was probably the first time ever that the defending 410 Knoxville Nationals Champion was in competition at the 360 Nationals. Bill W., can you confirm that?

B-Mains - Not much drama to speak of in either one of these as the drivers who started in the top four finished in the top four in both to transfer on to their respective features.

Thursday A-Main - Dave Hall went for a cartwheel after jumping the cushion in turn one on the start. On the restart third-starting Jeff Swindell did not come up to speed at the chalk line and Chad Humston had his front end pointed to to sky after driving over Swindell's right rear. When Humston hit the gas the front end of his ride rose up again and by the time he was back in control he had dropped to the rear of the field. The green satyed on and pole-sitter Lee Grosz shot to the lead with Davey Heskin in hot pursuit. The red flag waved again on lap six when Matt Covington went for a tumble coming out of turn two. Zach Chappell spun in turn two with three laps to go and on the restart Jon Agan and R.J. Johnson both flipped in turn two collecting Kolt Walker. There was no catching Grosz over the final three laps as he picked up his first career win at the famed Knoxville oval. Heskin, Jason Johnson and Jeff Swindell each finished where they started in second, third and fourth. Billy Alley was the big mover here coming from the twelfth row to finish fifth, Derek Hagar was sixth and Dustin Elvage was seventh. Sam Hafertepe Jr. came from row eleven to take eighth.

Friday A-Main - After taking the final transfer in the B-Main Jack Dover sat in the staging area with his hood off as the field took the green flag. Wayne Johnson paced the field early while Ryan Anderson and Sammy Swindell swapped sliders just behind him. The only caution of the race came on lap two when Larry Ball Jr. coasted to a halt in turn four. On the restart the race for second continued to entertain as the budget racer Anderson did his best to fight off the legend Swindell, before Sammy took the spot for good on lap eight. Next Swindell went after Johnson and on lap twelve Sammy drove under Wayne for the lead in turn four. There was no catching the new leader over the final eight laps as Swindell posted the win with Wayne Johnson second. Shane Stewart worked his way forward from a fourth row start to take third and post the highest point total of the night to earn the pole position for Saturday's championship event. Randy Hannagan will start next to Stewart after finishing fourth in this one and kudos to Ryan Anderson for a solid fifth-place run. Tennessee driver Justin Carver was impressive in sixth followed by 410 regulars David Gravel, Tim Shaffer and Daryn Pittman. Pittman started this race in row ten.

The lineups for Saturday's Championship night are here and the 360's will be joined by a full show for the 410's sanctioned by the All Stars.

Friday, August 5, 2011

All Iowa Points Chase Starting Home Stretch

I thought that I would be writing about the opening night of the Arnold Motor Supply Knoxville 360 Nationals this morning, but with the steady light rain that fell on the track for three hours that show will be combined with Friday’s qualifier to make for one very full night of racing this evening. So instead let’s take a look at the All Iowa Points as they stand through the end of July.

With the Webmistress on vacation right now we still have the July 27th update up on the Points page right now, so you can go there to find where your favorite driver ranks a week ago compared to the top drivers that we’ll talk about here as we enter the final month of the “weekly racing” season. If a driver needs to make a move, August is the month to do it not only in the weekly shows, but with the weeknight special events as well.

In the Late Models it appears that Ray Guss Jr. is well on his way to his third straight All Iowa Points title and as his sixth championship overall as he holds a firm 41-point lead over both Terry Neal and Todd Cooney. Ray’s other three championships also came in succession in 1989, 1990 and 1991. Nothing like doing something amazing all over again a full twenty years later!

Ryan Dolan made a big move in August last year to take the 2010 Modified championship and this year he enters the month with a 15-point advantage over Randy Havlik. Two-time champ Mark Schulte (2006 & 2007) is still within striking distance 29 points back in third while J.J. Wise and Steven DeLonjay are some new faces gracing the top five.

Timmy Current enjoys a 30-point lead right now in the Stock Car division as he tries to nail down his first All Iowa Points championship. Drivers are stacked up behind him as Damon Murty, David Smith and Derek Green are all tied for second and two-time Hobby Stock champ Donovan Smith (2004 & 2006) is one point behind them in fifth.

The two most dominant drivers in 2011 reside in the Limited Modified division where both Jesse Sobbing and Cayden Carter are on their way to more than 30 wins this season. Sobbing is already at that plateau and holds a 62-point lead on Carter as both look for their first All Iowa Points championship. Brandon Hare and Doug Smith are both having great seasons as well, but are a distant third and fourth.

Devin Smith is looking like he will defend his 2010 AIP Hobby Stock title as he has a 48-point cushion over 2008 and 2009 champ Shannon Anderson. If Devin wins it will be the eighth time in the last nine years that at least one of the Smith brothers from Lake City have won an All Iowa title. Michael Murphy and John Watson are both enjoying fine seasons and are ranked third and fourth with more than 100 points each.

The Chandler family is in control of the Four Cylinder standings at this point with Nathan leading his father Merv by just two points and his brother Brad by twenty-four. Megan Lappegard, Jacob Ellithorpe and Tyler Whalen are looking to beak up the family though and crack the top three.

The three Sprint Car divisions sometimes see a bit of a shake up near the top during Knoxville Nationals time, especially if any of the “regulars” are able to crack the top five on a qualifying night or in the finale. Going into August five-time champ Danny Lasoski (1986, 1987, 1990, 1992 & 1993) holds a five point lead over four-time titlist Mark Dobmeier (2006, 2007, 2008 & 2010) in the 410 division with Gregg Bakker and ten-time champ Terry McCarl (1994, 1996, 1998-2004 & 2009) tied for third only 11-points out of the lead. Jack Dover shared the 2010 360 Sprint title with Eric Lutz and it looks like he might win it on his own this year as “The Gasman” enjoys an 18-point cushion over 2009 champ Mike Boston. And in the 305’s it is Bill Boles leading 2006 champ in what appears to be a two horse race at this point.

On to another subject……if you are regular here you likely know that I have a “love/hate” relationship with the forum boards associated with our sport. I love to use them to obtain information that I otherwise wouldn’t find, or know to look for, and much to the chagrin of at least two AWPs, I love to use the forums to make sure that people who are looking for more complete coverage of an event know where they can find that coverage provided by myself or other Positively Racing bloggers. On a side note, apparently those people who raise a fuss about this practice must think that we are all getting rich off of this hobby of ours, or something, as I cannot understand why they would be so against people who are actually promoting the sport that they also claim to love.

I hate the forums when posts are made that do nothing but damage the sport either by tearing down a track, a promoter, an event, a driver, an official, etc., etc. And 95% of the time those posts are made by what long-time Sunset Speedway promoter Craig Kelley called Anonymous Weasel Posters or AWPs. They shroud themselves in the “freedom of speech” mantra even though our founding fathers would have never envisioned a medium where one’s speech did not have to be backed up by at least a little bit of fact (Doesn’t matter if what you are posting is true, it just has to be interesting), or to have the speaker’s opinion backed up by the reputation of the individual voicing the opinion (not possible because they are anonymous, so you have no idea of their motive or bias)……but I digress.

I guess I went through all of that above to let you know that even though the forums drive me crazy, I’m still addicted to them, and on one them right now there is a thread that caught my eye titled “what should Supernationals 2012 purse be?” The thread was started by our buddy “fasttrackfan” who I don’t always agree with, but who I completely respect because he goes to a ton of races and obviously loves the sport. The post is based upon the assumption that drivers will stay away “in protest of this years race” and as a result they will have 200 cars less than they had in 2010, so I guess we should first see if this assumption actually turns out to be true or not. The thread is up to four pages now and of course the common theme is that an event that draws so many cars and so many fans each year should be paying a MUCH larger purse and my question is “why”?

The annual Ice Bowl at the Talladega Short Track in Alabama has a similar discussion on the forum boards each year as people say that an event that draws 80 Super Late Models each year should be paying a lot more than $5,000-to-win. “The promoters are making a killing, it’s unfair!” Of course nobody ever seems to take a step back and say, if the current purse structure draws 80 Super Late Models, why mess with it? If 240 IMCA Modified drivers pull in from all over North America for $2,000-to-win plus contingencies, why does someone think that the system is broken? In the thread people try to “make a point” by stating what other events pay to win……but those other high-paying events don’t come close to the same car counts.

Could it be that the comparatively low purse is actually a reason why the car counts are so high? Raise the Ice Bowl purse to $10,000 or $15,000 to win and watch the car count drop to around 40 Super Late Models. Why? Because, those five “big name” drivers that will now grace the event with their presence will now chase away 45 other drivers who no longer feel they are capable of making the show, or even taking the victory. The “big names” of IMCA are already at the SuperNationals but here’s a random thought. Make it $10,000-to-win and perhaps you take a lot of the fun out of it and make it a much more serious affair? Does that result in a decline in car count instead of what most would think would be an increase? We may never know, but I do know this. When a promoter or sanctioning body has built up an event over time that becomes a “signature event”, they deserve to make a nice profit on it.

Speaking of which, times up and I’m headed to Knoxville. Check in here regularly for updates over the next nine days from Sprint Car heaven. And if you have a moment, here is an interesting point of view on the Brickyard 400 by one of my favorite bloggers Mark Titus. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cedar County Raceway Delivers Once Again

It is not often that I leave a race track after a driver goes flag-to-flag to win the forty-lap main event thinking "wow, that was a heck of a show", but that was the case Tuesday night as the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models returned to the Cedar County Raceway in Tipton. Of course it didn't hurt that the support class feature saw eight lead changes between four drivers in its thirty-five-lap feature, but more on that later.

The Deery Series had not been to this quarter-mile oval for fourteen years and please put me down as voting for only a nine to twelve month absence this time around. Nate Beuseling, who just dominated a week ago at Knoxville to win his first career series race, drew the pole position for the main event here tonight and since I have already given away the fact that somebody led every lap I might as well just tell you now that he made it two in a row here this evening. First though, the young driver from Silvis, Illinois, had to earn his way to the re-draw opportunity after starting in the last row of the third heat race. Beuseling patiently picked his way through the field and on the final lap he muscled his way past T.J. Criss on the inside of turn four to take the third and final transfer spot. He then drew the "one" during intermission and, well you know the rest as far as Nate is concerned, win number two in convincing fashion.

Defending series champion Ray Guss Jr. started right behind Beuseling in third and after the race's second caution on lap four, Guss went to work on the leader. Ray tried to work the next groove up from the low-riding Beuseling and was able to draw even a couple of times on laps five and six before Beuseling shook off the challenge and pulled away. The focus now was on the young man from nearby Wheatland, Justin Kay. Kay had already thrilled his fans, especially Brenda (I'm pretty sure that's his Mother) who stood in front of us during most of the first B-Main, as he rode the extreme topside of the speedway to come from the back of the pack to run second to winner Justin Reed. She apologized and said that now that he was safely in the feature she would just sit and watch that one. But we told her that once he got into the top five, we expected and encouraged her to be standing! Starting on the inside of row eight Kay raced those first four laps down low just like most everybody else, but following the restart he went back up to that high side and magic happened once again.

Lap by lap he started to move forward and even though the leader Beuseling was nearly half a lap ahead of him at the mid-race mark, with lapped traffic starting to come into play you just knew that Kay might just have a chance. He was ninth, then eighth, then seventh, then he passed Reed who was also coming toward the front for sixth and being a smart driver himself, Reed moved up the track a bit as well and maintained Kay's quick pace. Brenda moved down a few rows in the bleachers just before Justin took over the fifth spot because there was absolutely no way that she was going to stay seated now. Andy Eckrich had now replaced Guss in the second spot and with the traffic heavy he was closing in on the leader as well. Kay drove past Guss for third with about five laps to go while Reed stayed right with him and as the white flag waved Kay was even with Eckrich for second with Beuseling about five car lengths ahead picking his way through traffic. As the pack went down the back stretch Kay's bite off two was phenomenal once again and he edged ahead of Eckrich for second, but there were lapped cars involved as well and it was mad scramble through the final two turns. Beuseling was smooth and hugged the bottom to take the checkers first while Kay slipped his right rear wheel off the top side of turn four.

That slightest of bobbles was enough to let both Eckrich and Reed drive by him for second and third and it appeared that Guss also edged out Kay by inches for the fourth spot. With the final checkers flying at 9:20 p.m. I took a moment to cross the track to see if I could get the official finish and I was told that the scorers were still trying to sort things out. So the top five as I give it to you here is completely unofficial, but I will update it with the proper finish if this is wrong. Yes folks, it was that wild of a finish and if they had a finish line camera system they might still be looking at it to determine the actual finish.

Late Model Notes......Thirty-six drivers checked in although only thirty-three ran in the heat races. Jeff Aikey's trailer had issues on the trip down from Cedar Falls and the #77 car never did make it to Tipton. Bart Miller had to be disappointed that he did not get to compete on the track that he has raced at so often in a Modified as he scratched after hot laps as did Rookie-of-the-Year leader Eric Sanders......T.J. Criss had a tough night as not only did Beuseling beat him on the final turn for the last transfer out of the heat race, Chad Patch did the same thing to Criss on the final lap of the second B-Main. Fortunately for T.J. he was in line for one of the points provisionals tonight so he ran the A-Main......Terry Neal turned up light at the scales after winning the second heat and then raced his way into the feature by running fourth in the first B-Main......Mark Burgtorf drove the Richard Realty & Auction #15 tonight and used one of his points provisionals to start the feature. He retired to the pits early......We are going to have to stop talking to Amber Moyer, as for the second time in a row her fiance' Nick Marolf was caught up in an early incident and did not get a chance to participate in this thriller.......The next stop for the Summer Series will be Monday, August 15th at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines.

I have been to three Late Model specials here at Tipton over the last eleven months and each time the A-Modified division has set the table nicely by providing excellent racing action during their portion of the show, and tonight's feature may just have been the best. Johnny Spaw used the top shelf to snare the early lead, but when he slipped off the top of turn two on lap nine Noah Coppes was right there to take advantage and grab the lead. A caution on lap twelve bunched the field and Dan Chapman, who had started eleventh, would now restart in second. Once back to green Brad Dierks made his presence known and on lap sixteen it was Chapman, Coppes and Dierks three-wide for the lead much to the delight of the fans around us. Coppes and Dierks made contact going for that top groove in turn one with both recovering to chase Chapman before the final caution of the race waved on lap eighteen.

On this restart it was Dierks who blew by Chapman to take the lead and a lap later Coppes moved into second and went back to work down on the low line. With Coppes down low and Dierks up high, the race lead was pretty much up for grabs at the start-finish line each lap and from my vantage point down toward turn four a bit, I had 'em like this: Dierks 19-22, Coppes 23-24, Dierks 25, Coppes 26, Dierks 27-29 and on lap thirty Coppes went ahead to stay. Dierks nearly got back by him two laps later, but over those final three circuits Noah took away the need for a camera at the line winning this one by about five car lengths. Dierks was second, Chapman took third, Tom Pestka finished fourth and Nick Nevins was fifth.

A big thanks to promoters Al & Kathy Dlouhy and their entire crew for their hospitality and for once again putting on a fantastic mid-week program that concluded before 9:30 p.m. Racing continues here on Friday nights and their next special event is set for Friday August 26th as the USMTS brings their Hunt for a Championship to the Cedar County Raceway. I'm hoping to be back for that one as well!