Friday, September 30, 2011

Owens Scores On Opening Night Of Knoxville Late Model Nationals

Sixty-four cars blew into Knoxville, literally, Thursday for the opening night of the 8th Annual Lucas Oil Late Model Nationals at the fabled half-mile oval. With the passing of a cold front earlier in the day, sustained winds out of the northwest howled between thirty and forty miles per hour early in the evening before “calming" to fifteen to twenty after the sun went down. The winds were so strong that at least two vehicles suffered minor damage in the parking lot behind the grandstand when a tree limb was blown down. Thankfully the temperatures were still in the sixties and despite the windy conditions the racetrack held its moisture and the action was intense until the final ten laps of the main event as Jimmy Owens pulled away for the opening night victory.

As the second car out for qualifying Scott Bloomquist established the quick time and then shocked this scribe when he was the first car to report to staging for the first heat race. If you have watched “Black Sunshine” over the years you will know how unusual this is! He obviously knew that he had the setup dialed in as he steadily picked his way to the front after starting tenth and passed Chris Simpson with two laps remaining to take an impressive win. Chad Simpson followed his brother in for third while Brad Neat transferred to the A-main in fourth.

The second heat got off to rough start when Bub McCool and John Duty made contact in turn two sending McCool sideways in the middle of the track in front of the entire field. Matt Furman drilled McCool in the right-side door and nearly rolled him over while four other cars made contact as well bringing out the red flag. None of the drivers were injured with McCool, Furman and Mike Marlar unable to restart. As the second fastest qualifier for the evening Brian Birkhofer originally started tenth, but found himself outside of row two when the green flag waved again and by the time the field exited turn two Birky was in the lead. There was no catching Birkhofer as he cruised to the win while Will Vaught chased down and passed Shannon Babb for second late in the twelve-lap distance. Eric Wells qualified in fourth.

Late Model fans here in the Midwest have perhaps heard a lot about nineteen-year-old Austin Hubbard, and he introduced himself in fine fashion here in the third heat race when the youngster from Delaware passed Billy Moyer on the final lap to take the win. Hubbard was the third fastest qualifier and was slated to start tenth, but slid up a row when Billy Moyer Jr. did not make the call. The driver who swept all three nights here last year, Moyer finished second followed by Scott James and Jimmy Owens.

The fourth heat race saw the quickest qualifier on the grid Steve Francis drive from his fifth row start to go past John Blankenship late to take the win. Former Nationals winner Brian Shirley qualified in third with Dan Schlieper taking fourth.

The trend of the fastest qualifier in each heat racing his way to victory came to a screeching halt early in the fifth heat when Don O’Neal suffered front-end damage during an accordion effect incident in turn two ending his evening. The battle for the lead was a good one between Jason Utter and Jimmy Mars, but when Mars passed Utter down the front stretch, Jason went into turn one too hard and drilled the outside guardrail. The red flag waved as Utter’s #31 required a rollback to be returned to the pit area and despite a sore arm the driver was uninjured. Once back to green Mars drove away for the win followed by Dale McDowell, Darrell Lanigan and Jason Rauen. Lanigan was behind the wheel of the #1 car normally wheeled by Josh Richards as the young phenom is competing in a NASCAR Truck Series race this weekend.

The scheduled lineup for the C-Main was stacked, but several drivers either couldn’t make repairs in time, or just decided to wait until Friday to take another shot at posting a good point total as a big shuffle had to be made before turning the field loose. With four cars poised to transfer to the back of the B-Main, this was a good one with a great battle up front including some lapped traffic for extra excitement. Ray Cook looked as though he would run away with this one only to have Jack Sullivan close in on him late. Then, with laps winding down, Chris Spieker came out of nowhere to make it a three-car battle for the lead. Spieker was leading the first heat earlier in the night before he slapped the turn four guardrail and he found his speed once again here making a great pass of Cook and Sullivan in traffic to take the lead and the eventual win. Sullivan would put the GRT house car in second with Cook finishing third, and it was Dave Eckrich edging out Mike Fryer at the line to take fourth.

The B-Main saw plenty of action as well as the final four starters in tonight’s main event would be determined here. In his first-ever appearance at Knoxville, Kent Robinson looked strong early before yielding to Jason Feger and Tim McCreadie and Iowa driver Rob Moss was running a strong fourth before the caution waved with four laps remaining. It was a tough break for Moss as before that he looked to be a lock for that final transfer spot, but on the restart both Jared Landers and Tyler Reddick went charging by. Feger would go on for the win ahead of McCreadie while the 15-year-old “California Kid” Reddick would take third. Landers was all over the track in the final two laps, but managed to hold off Robinson for fourth.

During the break it seemed like the consensus pick to win the 25-lap A-main was Darrell Lanigan who would start from the outside of row one and it was no surprise when he launched the Rocket house car to the early lead. Second row starter Jimmy Owens kept pace and following a caution for a slowing Steve Francis on lap seven, Owens drove past Lanigan for the lead. Lanigan fought back and moved to the front two laps later and on lap twelve Owens again made the move to the front. Jason Rauen spun in turn four on the following lap and as the field was set for the restart the top five were Owens, Lanigan, Austin Hubbard, Brian Birkhofer and Shannon Babb. Once back to green, and with Owens now pulling away, the field settled into the low groove for the final ten laps and that top five remained the same to the checkers with Owens taking his first career victory at Knoxville. Scott James finished in the sixth spot, Billy Moyer made a nice run up from sixteenth to seventh, Will Vaught finished eighth, Scott Bloomquist faded early and then came back to take ninth while Dale McDowell completed the top ten.

It was an entertaining opening night for the three-day event and Late Model fans headed for Knoxville should see plenty more action tonight and Saturday!

Before the show I was thrilled to have the opportunity to shake the hand of long-time Knoxville Race Director/Promoter Ralph Capitani and wish him well in his retirement. In all my years of being around racing I have never seen a promoter command the attention and respect that “Cappy” did when he entered a room, he is truly an icon in this sport who will be missed.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

McCarl Collects Four Grand at 34

The Monster Energy Drink MOWA 410 Sprint Cars returned to 34 Raceway in Burlington Saturday night and there was no stopping Terry McCarl as he cruised to a victory worth $4,000.

Twenty-nine sprinters took to the 3/8-mil oval for qualifying and it was McCarl who established a new track record for the facility that has hosted the World of Outlaws the past couple of years. Heat race action saw the top six in each of the three events inverted with four cars advancing to the A-Main and each heat race had a great battle for that fourth and final transfer position.

In the first heat McCarl moved quickly to the fourth position at the drop of the green, but on lap four who pushed up the track in turn two allowing Jeremy Standridge to slip by. McCarl recovered though and was able to get back around Standridge with two laps remaining to transfer. Heat number two was a wild one as late in the event the third place car of Jim Moughan started to sputter and slow down the backstretch. Lynton Jeffrey and Danny Smith both dove to the low line entering turn three to get under Moughan and they made heavy contact, but both drivers regained control and continued down the frontstretch. Smith, with apparent damage from that contact spun in turn two and was clipped by Dustin Selvage who thing went for a hard tumble. Selvage would climb from his wrecked car uninjured, but he would be done for the night while Smith would have to come back and transfer out of a B-Main. In the third heat it was Joey Moughan who had to make a hair-raising drive to the outside of Korey Weyant on the final lap off turn two and right up next to the concrete barriers to take the last transfer position.

After finishing one-two in the Dash, Jordan Goldesberry and Terry McCarl started on the front row of the 25-lap main event with McCarl taking off and running away after the drop of the green. It wasn't long before the leader reached lapped traffic and this allowed Goldesberry to stay within a straightaway while the show to watch was Danny Smith. One of the winningest 410 drivers in the country this year, the veteran started twelfth and was picking off cars every other lap. By lap eighteen he was up to third and still had a long way to go to catch the leaders, but his opportunity came on lap twenty-one when the caution waved for Austin Johnson. The rookie 410 driver out of Minnesota had been impressive all night running just outside of the top five before his right rear tire went flat.

On the restart McCarl again put distance on the field as Smith made a run at Goldesberry, but Jordan held him off and the top three positions stayed the same to the checkers with T-Mac taking the win over the youngster from Springield, Illinois, Goldesberry and the veteran from Ohio, Danny Smith. MOWA point leader Jerrod Hull took the fourth spot while Lynton Jeffrey completed the top five. The Season Championship for the Monster Energy™ Sprint Car Series will be Friday, September 30 at the Jacksonville Speedway in Jacksonville, Illinois.

Stock Cars and Four Cylinders provided support action on the night and while both features were won by a driver leading every lap, the racing behind him was two and three wide through most of the distance. Blaine Dopler was never challenged on his way to the Stock Car win and it was Brett Timmerman who took the runner-up honors by a bumper over Ryan Cook. Matt Greiner was a close fourth and John Oliver Jr. edged out Chris Webb for fifth. Nick Wilkerson went the distance in the Four Cylinder finale with Adam Gates passing Wayne Noble on the final lap to take second. Chuck Fullenkamp and Michael Grossman completed the top five.

This event closed out the 2011 season at 34 Raceway and this fine facility remains up for sale as it has been since last Fall. With the fate of several other tracks in this area uncertain at this point, it would be a shame to see this one drop from the weekly ranks as well. Hopefully that won't happen!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What Do Hugh Hefner and Ralph Capitani Have In Common?

Catchy title, huh? The answer is pretty basic really in that they can both draw Social Security, but hang with me here for a bit and you'll see why today's Back Stretch is titled as such.

Despite my common sense telling me differently, I have found myself caught up in a few interesting threads on the Iowa Dirt Racing Forum. Some of you might say "hey, I thought you hate internet forums, so why would you be participating on them?" Without going into detail, I don't "hate" internet forums, they are for the most part a valuable source of information and can be a good place for responsible people to discuss both sides of an issue. What I do hate is when an internet poster, who is often an AWP, makes a blanket statement that makes the assumption that everybody is in agreement, or when someone posts something that is absolutely false. That's when I say to myself "aww crap" and I log in and get involved. There was one subject this week that saw an example of each.

The Knoxville Late Model Nationals is on the horizon and first of all it is amazing to me how the attitude toward this event has changed over the years. I remember back when the event started and how the chatter of the forum boards was surprisingly negative talking about how a track that focuses so much on sprint cars will never be able to put on a first class Late Model show and how the qualifying format will never work since the "big name" drivers will never want to race with full inverts. It seemed like everybody wanted to predict failure before the first green flag waved. Fast forward to present day and I am happy to see that the event has now become one that Late Model fans mark on their calendar each year and speak of very positively on the forum boards.

Over the years the Late Model Nationals have had support classes such as the Dirt Trucks and the 305 Sprints and have had nights where there was no support class. Last year, for the first time, IMCA Modifieds were included as a support class on an invitation-only basis and while I love the Modifieds, and thought that it was nice to be able to see them on the big half-mile once again last year, for this event to me they were a support class that was not necessary esepecially on the qualifying nights. And when they had a couple of lengthy cautions during the Thursday night show I started thinking that maybe it would have been nice if they had not been included since they were then making the show grow longer before my two hour drive home. So this past week when I saw a thread titled KNOXVILLE SUPPORT CLASS I just had to look.

"Does anyone know what,if any,support class will run on Thursday and Friday at Knoxville LM Nationals? IMCA type Modifieds by invitation will run on Saturday night like last year. It would be a shame not to have some support class run on Thursday and Friday---fans will feel cheated."

So there it was, a classic "blanket statement" post stating that fans will feel cheated if there is no support class on Thursday or Friday. Not "some" fans will feel cheated, not "many" fans will cheated, not even the most appropriate "I" will feel cheated, but instead the assertion that everybody feels the same way and that it would be a shame if Knoxville cheats all of the fans coming to this event by NOT having a support class on Thursday and Friday. So I, ol' melmorris32, had the honor of making the first response of "This fan won't feel cheated."

It was no surprise that Papa-Mac answered in a similar manner as did a few more, but because there was another active post going on about the addition of the Sport Compacts to the event at Marshalltown this weekend, that argument spilled over to this one and the next thing you know it was twisted around where those of us who perhaps felt that a support class was not needed were all of a sudden against Modifieds in general, that Knoxville didn't care about anything but Sprinters despite the fact that they are once again presenting the highest paying Late Model show anywhere next week and then somehow it became a pissing match between the IMCA Super Nationals and the Knoxville Nationals.

Then came the absolutely false statement. "Yeah Knoxville pays out huge money at the Sprint Car Nationals...and they are going bankrupt."

I couldn't stay away from that one. But since I have responded to false statements made by this individual two times before only to have him come back with a personal attack on my announcing skills the first time, and the second time on why I reported something factual about a confrontation between a driver and a flagman in my blog (one of the known risks of an internet disagreement between someone who has identified themself and someone who has not), I decided to take a different route this time around. So I simply pulled his quote and typed "?".

The next post by Kendirt summed it up perfectly stating "Facts are not important. This is the internet after all" and was reminiscent of the old saying that "it doesn't matter if it is true as long as it is interesting!" But it didn't stop there as the poster then tried to support his position by saying "This has been discussed before on here. Several people said Knoxville has been losing a lot of money the last couple years from this event. Isn't the head guy at Knoxville stepping down? There's a reason for that."

This was disturbing to me on two counts. First is that it supports my theory that a lot of people who read these forums believe that everything that is said on them has some level of truth behind it with "this has been discussed here before." And second that this statement was being made by someone who obviously knows VERY little, or absolutely nothing about the Knoxville Raceway with "isn't the head guy at Knoxville stepping down? There's a reason for that." I just had to respond to that and again, instead of being argumentative I went with "Um, because he's in his late 70's?"

And that my friends is when the inspiration for the title of this entry of the Back Stretch was given with perhaps one of the most mind-boggling analogies that I have ever seen as his response.

"Hey look at Hugh Hefner. You don't see him retiring do you."

There ya go Cappy, if they want you to stick around for another couple of years demand that they surround you with some Playboy bunnies up in the Press Box on race night. I know that Bill W would support that demand. I will be up every night next year to help Bill check in cars, fill in for Tony when he is out doing his TV gigs or to be in charge of keeping the window from fogging over, anything to be in that Press Box!

Would this drastic piece of misinformation gone unchecked if I would have stayed out of the mix? Of course not, our old friend Speedbump would have cleaned it up with facts, but in this case the falsehood of the statement that Knoxville was going bankrupt was so obvious that it was easy to shoot it down. How much other stuff like this goes unchecked and is allowed to fester until it eventually becomes accepted as truth and damages a track's or a person's reputation? Unfortunately this happens more than many forum board users will admit, so while I will once again tell myself to stay off of them and to instead use this venue, the Back Stretch, to support the sport as best that I can, don't be surprised if I just can't help myself again soon!

While I am once again discussing antics on the forum board I need to hopefully close the book on a blog entry from a couple of weeks ago titled "The Internet Promoters Are Getting An Early Start". This one took an interesting turn as it started to become obvious that the AWP who had started the thread was perhaps a second user name for one of's most infamous users who cannot be considered an AWP since the "A" for Anonymous cannot be applied. The mysterious thread-starter made one last effort to keep the thread rolling this week only to see that he was only having a conversation with himself now. RIP dirtyskull.

Okay, enough talking about the internet, it is time to get back out to the race track and I am looking forward to doing that tonight as the MOWA 410 Sprint Cars return to the facility that kicked off their inaugural season in fine fashion back in April. The weather looks like it will be perfect for the sprints to tour the high-banks of 34 Raceway near Burlington tonight and the show will be supported by Stock Cars and Four Cylinders. If I don't see you there I do hope that it is because you are out attending another event of your choice!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Gasman Holds Off Dunker for $1,000

The Lee County Speedway in Donnellson was back in action on a cool, but pleasant Saturday night featuring the annual Steve Kirchner Memorial honoring a popular B-Mod racer from Keokuk who tragically lost his life away from the track a few years back. With the support of Steve's Muffler and Arrowhead Bowl in Keokuk the IMCA Sport Mods were racing for a $1,000 top prize tonight drawing in a nice field of twenty-eight cars. This event closed out the evening, but let's first start with the support classes.

The Hobby Stock division was first on the list of five feature races and it was Jake Wenig who quickly moved from his row two start to the front of the fifteen-car starting field. Wenig, driving the #45 tonight normally wheeled by Matt Gavin, was unstoppable as he cruised to a flag-to-flag triumph over Ray Raker. Former track champion Doug Fenton stepped back into the car that he used to drive to finish in third, Vic Hastings moved up from a fifth row start to take fourth and Dan Wenig, who started next to Hastings was fifth. A tip of the hat to Jacob Keiser who brought his IMCA-legal car down from Marengo to do battle with the "outlaw" cars as he started fifteenth and raced his way up to seventh.

The four cylinder Wild Things were up next and Darin Smith avoided disaster as he was spun sideways in front of the eighteen-car field exiting turn two on the opening lap. Amazingly only one car made contact with him and both drivers were able to restart the race at the rear. Nick Wilkerson jetted from the inside of row three to the front on the second try at a start and he would never be challenged despite having to deal with a bunch of lapped traffic over the final two circuits in going on to victory. Chuck Fullenkamp prevailed over Michael Grossman in a good battle for second. Smith made a great run back up to fourth and pole-starter Craig Bangert came home fifth.

Damon Murty made the trip down from Chelsea and opened up a sizable lead during the early laps of the Stock Car main event. A series of cautions on lap nine though bunched the field and Murty then had his hands full with former track champion Jason Cook. Cook, who surprisingly had been shut out of victory lane here thus far in 2011, hugged the bottom line around the 3/8-mile layout and pulled ahead of Murty with four laps to go to take a satisfying victory. Murty showed why he is one of the best in this division anywhere by taking second despite the fact that he has only raced here a few times in the past, Corey Strothman was not far behind in third and John Oliver Jr. was solid in fourth. Todd Reitzler, in what I believe was his first appearance here in a Stock Car, came from a sixth row starting spot to complete the top five.

The 305 Sprint Cars had a solid field of fifteen on hand for action with Nate VanHaaften securing the lead at the drop of the green for their twenty-lap finale. Chad Huston was on the fly though and drove past VanHaaften for the lead on lap three. Huston appeared to have the event well in hand, but as he was working lapped traffic on lap twelve he drove into turn three too hard, pitched the car sideways trying to scrub off some speed in turn four and spun to a halt bringing out the caution. This handed the lead back over to VanHaaften who then was error free over the final eight laps to take the win. Dustin Clark would chase him in for second while Huston had moved all the way back up to third before a brush with the turn three guardrail allowed Mark Widmar to get back by him for the position. Josh Schneiderman returned from an unusual incident in his heat race to finish fifth from a seventh row start. In the heat Schneiderman clipped the track tire exiting turn four breaking something on the left front of his car. The momentum and the damage turned him left into the infield where the beautiful show car of Brandon Symmonds was sitting as it was being used tonight as the pace car. Thankfully pace car driver Rick Huff was okay and Josh was able to walk off a limp as he headed back to the pits to help make repairs to his #44 for the feature. The pace car will need some work!

After twenty laps of Sprint Car racing the track had changed dramatically from what the Sport Mod drivers had seen during their qualifying heats and the first seven laps were run one at a time. Once a few of the cars were eliminated due to the two spin rule things settled down and the crowd was treated to a great battle up up front culminating in a thrilling finish. Derek Coleman paced the field through the first six laps before Tony Dunker slipped by him in three-wide fashion with Cayden Carter also challenging on the high side. Carter's groove won out over Dunker's two laps later as he took over the lead and I thought that he would then pull away to an easy victory. Not so as the veteran Dunker started searching around for a different line and he found one to his liking starting high in turn one, then driving off turn two low and using the middle through three and four. This allowed the challenger to pull even with the leader entering turn three each of the final five laps of the race and on that final lap Dunker drove it into turn three just a little bit harder and edged ahead by half a car length. It would have been tempting for Dunker to put a classic slidejob on the kid, but in a classy fashion he left the top line open and Carter kicked off the cushion in turn four just right to come back and take the checkers by half a car-length. It was a fantastic finish for a race that I nearly gave up on after the sixth caution on lap seven. Thank goodness that I stayed!! Carter VanDenBerg crossed the line in third, but was apparently penalized two positions for failing to stay in a nose-to-tail fashion on the final restart as he was credited with fifth in the final rundown behind Coleman and Jim Gillenwater.

It was another great night of racing at the Lee County Speedway presented by the promotional duo of Terry and Jenni Hoenig and their entire crew. It is hard to believe that they are down to the final race of their tenure after announcing that the 2011 season will be their last a few weeks back. Make sure that you mark Saturday October 15th on your calendar for "Shiverfest" to not only catch a great afternoon and evening of racing, but also to send these two off in fine fashion.

Next up for me will be the MOWA 410 Sprint season championship event at 34 Raceway in Burlington this coming Saturday night September 24th. If you missed the MOWA opener at 34 back in April, you missed one of the best nights of racing that I have seen this year and I have been looking forward to their return to the classy high-banked 3/8-mile oval ever since. Should be a strong field of cars and I hope to see you there!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Bruening, Ellithorpe Take Big $$$ at Dubuque's "Race for the Lights"

The Dubuque County Fair Board along with a bunch of great volunteers and sponsors presented “The Race for the Lights” Sunday evening as a fundraiser to put in Musco lighting at the high-banked 3/8-mile oval. And, with it being one of my favorite tracks and since I have not yet been to Dubuque in 2011, I made the trip up for an entertaining night of action.

IMCA-type Late Models were the headliners and with $1,600 on the line for the winner the show would have probably drawn thirty cars if not for a couple of stray rain showers in Davenport Friday evening that washed away the Deery show that was then rescheduled for the same night as this event. Still it was a solid field of sixteen that took the green for the 35-lap finale with pole-sitter Ron Klein getting the early advantage. Veteran driver Greg Kastli blew past Klein on a lap three restart only to have Luke Goedert drive by him for the lead on lap five. Kastli came charging back on the outside to regain the lead on lap eight while Goedert kept the heat on the veteran by working the extreme bottom line. As that battle for the lead continued Tyler Bruening was the man on the move after starting eighth on the grid. As one of the drivers with perfect attendance on the Deery series through Labor Day I was a bit surprised to see Bruening here, but his choice of events would seem to payoff from a cash flow standpoint as he took the lead from Kastli on lap seventeen and then drove away for the convincing victory. Goedert would prevail for the runner-up spot, Dan Shelliam moved from a fifth row start to take third followed by Kastli and Joel Callahan. Prior to the start of this event the Late Model drivers did a four-wide parade lap each carrying a small flag of the United States in recognition of the tenth anniversary of 9/11. And as the parade lap went by the flagstand announcer Doug Collins pointed out the amazing coincidence that the time on the scoreboard clock was exactly 9:11 p.m.

Late Model drivers worked four different lines around the speedway during the final race of the night and, in the race just before them, the Modifieds also reminded me why Dubuque is one of my favorites as the three-wide race for second over the final laps had me on the edge of my seat. No surprise that Ron Barker rocketed from a row two start to the lead at the drop of the green for the twenty-lap main event, but it was a surprise when Barker’s #37B faltered after a lap eight restart as he faded back into the pack and eventually dropped out on lap fourteen. Matt Crist had put on quite a show earlier in the night using the high line to come from the back to the front in his heat race and in the feature that same line was working for him again as he snared the lead from Barker at the mid-race point. With Crist setting a torrid pace, the battle for second was the one to watch as Mike Burbridge and Mark Schulte raced side-by-side for several laps. With four laps remaining J.D. Auringer made that a three-car battle as he continued his march from back to front after dropping out of his heat race. Auringer used the extreme top of the speedway to his advantage and he moved to second with two laps remaining and Crist still half a straightaway ahead of him. On the final lap Auringer pulled to within two car lengths entering turn three, but Crist did not falter and held off Auringer for the win. Burbridge edged out Schulte for third while pole-sitter Brian Webb completed the top five.

Thirty Sport Compacts signed in to do battle for the $1,000 top prize in the John Flury Memorial race and it was Jacob Ellithorpe who went flag-to-flag virtually unchallenged for the win. The action was furious behind him though with plenty of door banging action as drivers raced three-wide several times for the second spot. Brian Klein prevailed in that battle as he was the runner-up with Joe Zrostlik coming from a ninth row starting spot to take third. Brannon Bechen was part of that three-wide battle mid-race before cutting a tire, but he returned from the back of the pack to take fourth while Gary Peiffer finished in fifth. Brad Chandler was part of that battle for second until he cut a tire with two laps remaining and faded to the back.

The Street Stock feature started off on a sour note as Jerry Miles and Joe Bonney tangled exiting turn two racing for the lead on the first lap and both drivers were sent to the rear for the restart. Contact between the two again caused a caution on lap two and during the realignment the two sat side-by-side and, hopefully, agreed that enough was enough and they would now go racing. Back up front it was Terry Rittmer who was leading the pack before Current All Iowa Points leader Timmy Current drove past him on lap five. Current held his line through a series of restarts and when the sixth caution of the race came out following the white flag the event was called complete with Current taking the win. Rittmer would take the second-place money with Chip Kohl in third, while the truce worked out well for Bonney and Miles as they came back to finish fourth and fifth.

Brannon Bechen went flag-to-flag to take an apparent win in the Hobby Stock feature, but it was later announced that he had been disqualified putting Jeremy Campbell on top of the final rundown. Kile Vohringer was second, Vince Bucholz third and Bill Bonnett was credited with fourth.

The Sport Mod main started off the list of six features and it was a good one featuring four lead changes over the twelve-lap distance. Hope Schmerbach led lap one before Nick Marolf flew by her on the second circuit. Yes, you read that right, Late Model driver Nick Marolf was driving the #25 SportMod usually driven by Austin Moyer who I am guessing will soon be Nick’s brother-in-law and he moved to the lead on lap two with Josh Sherbon in hot pursuit. When Marolf pushed up the track in turn four, Sherbon drove under him to lead lap six and seven before Nick came back to the front on lap eight, but when Marolf pushed again in turn four on lap nine that was all that Sherbon needed to take the lead and the win just ahead of Marolf. Kyle Hoffman finished in the third spot, Hope Schmerbach was fourth and Matt Miller completed the top five.

The fair board and all of its volunteers should be thanked for all of their efforts as this was a well-presented show featuring just under 100 race cars on an absolutely perfect night weather wise. The crowd was solid, but not as big as I honestly expected given the level of community involvement. Hopefully they did raise some good money to go towards the lights as it is definitely VERY dark in turn two and on down the back straightaway. If you are going to have three and four-wide racing, you want to make darn sure that all of the fans get a great view of it under those bright Musco lights!

It was a gorgeous night for racing in Dubuque

It is easy to see why this event was needed. See how dark it is in turn two?

It struck me that there seemed to be a lot of former All Iowa Points champions in action tonight and looking back in the records today, my hunch was right. Eight former champions raced tonight including Mark Schulte, Ron Barker, Greg Kastli, Brannon Bechen, Joe Zrostlik, Jim Brokus, Scott Welsh and Dan Shelliam. Plus, if they hold on over the next six weeks you can add Timmy Current and either Nathan Chandler or Brad Chandler to that list. I now wonder if I have attended a race night that had as many or more AIP champs in action on the same night?

The Yankee Dirt Track Classic in Farley takes center stage this week and there are several other specials around the Midwest as well. Get on out and support the track of your choice!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Internet Promoters Are Getting An Early Start

It happens every year, but usually it waits until the current season is over. Not this year. Forum posters are already making "suggestions" to promoters on how to make their shows more driver and fan friendly and it always makes me cringe a bit when I see an AWP say something to the effect of" let's tell promoters how to put more butts in their seats and more cars in their pits." Really?

First of all, forum board posters need to learn that few if any promoters EVER look at a forum board because most of the time it is just too painful. So even if you do have a good suggestion it will more than likely go unnoticed if you only post it on the internet. If you really want to make a difference at your favorite track, then go introduce yourself to the promoter and talk to them. Put a name and a face to your thoughts as a race promoter is much more likely to consider advice from somebody that they talk to in person rather than somebody known only as "dirtyskull" or "eventhater".

Second, suggestions like "pay more money because the sport is expensive" and, or "charge less money to get in" probably make a lot of sense to someone who has a car or who buys a ticket, but to a promoter who is looking at his P&L statement for 2011 it is probably the last thing that they would want to consider right now. So if you are prone to post "suggestions" to promoters on how to make a race program better, make sure that you consider all three entities (drivers, fans and promoters) because whether you like it or not, the promoter needs to make money for their efforts. Otherwise they will leave and you will have no race track to attend, or to coach from your keyboard.

I was very happy to see that my friends Ron McKeever and Warren Busse share one of my thoughts right now in that we have too many classes at several race tracks. Do you want to "raise" the purse for the drivers? Do it by keeping your total purse the same, or slightly lower, but eliminate two or three divisions. When a "back gate" division that used to draw fifteen or twenty cars is now only drawing six to ten then perhaps it is time to put that class on the shelf. It appears that the economy has had even more of an effect on the divisions that require lower budgets because those drivers had lower budgets to start with. And, if having that division is not helping you sell tickets to general fans, then it is no longer a profitable division for the track.

The same thing can be said about the premier division. If your top class is only drawing five, six, seven or eight cars a week, then it is likely that they are costing you money rather than helping you present a successful weekly program. The general fan that used to buy a ticket to watch this class when it had enough cars for two or three full heats, and a feature that would still have more than ten cars in action when the checkers flew, are likely not buying that ticket to your weekly show anymore. They are either staying home and waiting for a special event, or they are driving down the road to another track where the featured division has a full field. As an example, if a weekly track has six Modifieds and twenty-two Sport Mods on average in 2011, that track needs to provide some sort of incentive to move at least six of those Sport Mods to Mods in 2012, or it needs to drop the Modifieds and spread that $1,000 that it was paying to those six drivers across the remaining divisions. In the early 1980's, the thought of a track running an IMCA Modified as the premier division for its weekly show was scoffed at, but soon there were several tracks thriving with exactly that concept. The Sport Mods of today are faster and more competitive than what those Modifieds were thirty years ago. Who will be the first promoter to take the risk and run the Sport Mods as the "featured" division during their weekly show?

So there. First I tell you that if you want to give a promoter some advice, you should do it face-to-face. Then I turn around and offer up general advice on the internet. Oh well, at least if a promoter stumbles across this he or she will know who said it!

And by the way, your comments and feedback are always welcome here, but for them to be published you will need to provide your name and hometown. Unless of course you completely agree with me, then you can remain an ANP (Anonymous Nice Poster).

I look forward to being at night one of the annual Pepsi USA Late Model Nationals at 34 Raceway near Burlington Friday night and hopefully I can steal the microphone away from Rich Adams for a race or two. I got a chuckle from the Facebook post regarding the discussion with the Hobby Stock drivers at 34 about rules for next year and the prospect of going to the 9:1 compression motors or all the way to the IMCA rules for the division. What do you suppose the outcome would be if you asked twenty guys who were racing equipment that would basically have to be totally replaced in order to go to IMCA, if they wanted to go IMCA? There was probably a couple of drivers who felt that it would be good for the future of the division, but speaking up for IMCA would have been the same as saying "I say we let him go" in that crowd. Oh well, nothing like having a race car that you can only race weekly at one track.

Other commitments including a wedding will keep me away from the tracks for the rest of the Labor Day weekend, but here's hoping that you catch as much racing as possible at a track near you. And let's be careful out there!