Friday, October 28, 2011

Just A Thought

When I was young, and I mean really young, I recall going to the Mississippi Valley Speedway Club (MVSC) races at West Liberty, Columbus Junction and even a night or two in Mount Pleasant. If my memory serves me right, the location of the race events were staggered from week to week in that one week we would go to West Liberty and the following week the races were run at Columbus Junction. I'm not sure why the shows were run like that, or even if this is just something that I dreamed up since I no longer have my grandparents around to confirm it (they were the ones that took me each week), but this memory was running through my head as I drove home from Memphis last Saturday night.

The Pepsi Doc 360 Fall Nationals were a success under first-time promoter Brandon Savage and I have not heard whether or not he is interested in pursuing the role of promoter on a weekly basis there in 2012. I see that Bloomfield is actively seeking proposals from parties who may be interested in promoting there next season. And in Eldon, it appears that the fairboard may have settled in to running four or five nights a year under its own direction. It is my hope that all three of these facilities find a promoter and return to having regular successful programs. However, if all three find themselves still looking for a new promoter come January, I wonder if a format similar to the old MVSC might just work?

It is obvious that each of the three fairboards have people on them who love and support dirt track racing. The question is, can these three fairboards come together in a manner that would allow for racers and fans to have one "weekly" show that would fit the budget of the many racers and fans in the region? No more spreading cars, and fans, out across two of these tracks on the same night. No more stretching the budgets of those same drivers and fans by having two nights of racing on the same weekend. Can something like this work?

- Each of the three fairboards will have two members on a race committee

- The race committee will come to an agreement on a standard set of rules for each class across all three tracks. They will also establish a standard weekly purse as well as admission prices and pit pass costs that will be in effect at all three tracks.

- The race committee will establish a schedule that will rotate from week to week beginning in early April and running through September. The schedule will basically say that on this week running from Monday to Sunday, this facility will host the race event for that week on its chosen night. (This way Bloomfield could still run its shows on Friday nights if it chooses while the other two would likely stick with Saturday). The "Monday through Sunday" designation allows the track to pick a different night in case there is another event in the area that they do not want to bump up against, or to fit the best night for its entertainment lineup for the county fair. Of course the schedule would be set in a fashion that each county fair has the racing event for that week.

- The race committee hires a Races Director that will oversee each event, no matter the location, to make sure that all rules and procedures are applied consistently across all tracks. Otherwise, each track is responsible for the remainder of the crew at its facility (announcer, flagman, officials, etc.)

- The race committee hires a publicist who will be responsible for a common website for all three tracks, pre-race publicity and efficient post-event reporting of stories and results to area media.

- The race committee pursues one "title sponsor" for each of the divisions that will race at all events with all of that money to be designated as the point fund for that division. This will be the only money that will be "pooled" between the three tracks. Points will be earned at each and every race event regardless of the race night or the facility.

- For each event, all revenues and expenses (including the cost of the Race Director and Publicist), are self-contained within each fairboard. After the title sponsors for each division are "sold", each track can work on their own to sell sign sponsors, night sponsors, etc. There will be no "pooling" of funds between the three facilities.

- All three facilities will cross-promote their events. For example, during a race night at Eldon, there will be flyers up promoting the upcoming events at Memphis and Bloomfield and the announcer will do the same.

So there are the basics, obviously there are a bunch of other details and challenges that would need to be worked out, but in my mind at least, I think that it just might work for these three facilities if something else is not worked out. This same scenario just might work up in northeast Iowa as well perhaps at Cresco and West Union. TB, what do you think?

Feel free to drop me a comment or additional suggestions, but as always I want to know who it is coming from. Nothing will likely ever come of it, but you never know, we just might be on to something! It was just a thought while driving home from a great night of racing in Memphis.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Decision Has Been Made In Quincy

As a follow-up to "A Decision To Be Made In Quincy" today I received the following press release from the track regarding the change to ULMA as the sanctioning body for the track's Late Model division in 2012.

Quincy Raceways to Sanction Late Models with ULMA for 2012 Season

Quincy Raceways owners and promoters Tony Rhinberger and Paul Holtschlag have announced that the Late Model Division at Quincy Raceways will be sanctioned by the ULMA for the 2012 season.

Rhinberger says “that in an effort to maintain the great late model tradition at Quincy Raceways a change in sanctioning bodies was needed to present the opportunity for other late model competitors in the area to compete at Quincy Raceways”. The current IMCA Late Models who have competed at Quincy Raceways will be legal to race under the ULMA banner with only minor changes such as adding weight and using different tires. The change will also allow all the IMCA Late Models who race at Quincy to be able to run IMCA Sanctioned events as well as Deery Brothers Summer Series races at other tracks with only minor changes

The 2012 payoff for the ULMA Late Models will be the same as was used in previous years at Quincy Raceways with the winner receiving $700 and paying $125 to start the main event. There is a distinct possibility that there will be a few increased payoff special events as well for the ULMA Late models at Quincy during the 2012 season. There will be more details released as they become available. Visit the ULMA website at or the Quincy Raceways website at for more information on rules and scheduling.

Seven Repeaters and Two New Faces Are All Iowa Points Champs for 2011

Seven of the nine All Iowa Points divisions saw repeat champions in 2011 while the other two had drivers winning their first ever title. This was the highest percentage of “repeat champions” since the points have been compiled back to the 1967 racing season with the previous high being six of eight in 2002.

Newly inducted Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame member Ray Guss Jr. is once again the All Iowa Points Late Model champion in 2011 for the third year in a row. “The River City Hustler” now has six AIP titles on his resume’ with the other three also coming in succession twenty years ago in 1989, 1990 and 1991. As the compiler of these points, I was very proud to have seen the All Iowa Points titles listed on Ray’s profile that was released to voting members of the Hall of Fame last spring and I congratulate him on his honor. Guss was once again dominant posting 18 wins and 52 top five finishes on AIP tracks essentially clinching the title in early August as he finished seventy-two points ahead of runner-up Todd Cooney. It was the second runner-up finish for Cooney in the state points as he was second to champion Brian Harris in 2008. The 2005 Late Model champion, and last year’s runner-up Terry Neal finished in the third spot this season while Andy Eckrich and Billy Leighton posted their best ever finishes in fourth and fifth respectively.

Last season Ryan Dolan had to rally late to earn his first All Iowa Points Modified championship by a slim ten point margin. In 2011, Dolan established himself as the man to catch early on and nobody could as he cruised to his second straight championship on the strength of 50 “top fives” and 20 feature wins. This propelled the second-generation driver, whose father Roger Dolan was a two-time AIP Late Model champ in 1985 and 1987, to a fifty-point edge over his nearest competitor. Two-time champion Mark Schulte (2006 & 2007) was that nearest competitor in second while central Iowa driver Randy Havlik finished in third. Steven DeLonjay and J.J. Wise both enjoyed their best seasons so far finishing fourth and fifth. It should also be pointed out that after winning three straight All Iowa Points Stock Car titles, Dustin Smith made a successful move to the Modified division where he finished in a tie for 11th out of the 495 drivers who earned points this year.

The highest point total of any driver this year came in the Limited Modified division where Jesse Sobbing roared to his second straight AIP championship. The Glenwood based driver posted an amazing 45 feature wins on points-paying tracks and more than fifty overall, numbers that few drivers will ever achieve in a career let alone one season. Behind him was another driver who had an amazing season, but still finished 80 points behind the champion. Young Cayden Carter had 31 feature wins on his scoresheet and 209 points that, in most years, would have been more than enough to earn him his first championship. Another of the fantastic racing Smith family out of Lake City, Doug Smith finished in the third position with Brandon Hare fourth and Tyler Droste, grandson of the 1967 Late Model champion Red Droste and son of the 1996 Modified champion Steve Droste, in fifth.

The Stock Car division saw a new name at the top of the list as Timmy Current outdistanced Damon Murty and Derek Green even though those two drivers had nine and ten more top five finishes respectively than did the champion. Twenty-seven of Current’s thirty-four “top fives” were feature wins and that was enough to keep Murty, one of the top Stock Car drivers throughout the past several years, from grabbing his first AIP championship. The Minnesota driver, Green posted his best finish yet in third while fellow Minnesotan Dustin Larson was fourth. Two-time Hobby Stock titlist Donavon Smith (2004 and 2006) finished in fifth.

Devin Smith kept the tradition of All Iowa Points championships in the family alive and well by taking his second straight Hobby Stock title in dominating fashion posting forty feature wins on the season. This marks the ninth All Iowa Points championship for the brothers out of Lake City. Michael Murphy edged out two-time champion Shannon Anderson (2008 & 2009) by three markers for second while Shane Klaassen and John Watson completed the top five.

It was a family feud for the 2011 All Iowa Points Four Cylinder honors as two-time AIP Modified Champion Merv Chandler (19845 & 1985) and two of his sons, Nathan and Brad, swept the top three positions with Nathan Chandler emerging as the champion. With twenty-one feature wins Nathan scored ten more points than did Brad Chandler who scored fifteen wins himself. With Merv taking eight wins and a division leading 56 top-five finishes there is no doubt who the “First Family” of Four Cylinder racing is in the state of Iowa for 2011. Jacob Ellithorpe enjoyed a solid season as well with fourteen wins to rank fourth in the final standings while Tyler Whalen nosed past Megan Lappegard by a single point to finish fifth.

Moving to the winged sprint car divisions, a strong second half of the season that included his best-ver performance at the Knoxville Nationals propelled Mark Dobmeier past early leader Danny Lasoski for his second straight and fifth overall All Iowa Points championship in the 410 division. Dobmeier, whose previous titles cam in consecutive fashion in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and then of course last year, recorded nine feature wins on during AIP events this year. Ten-time champion Terry McCarl (1994, 1996, 1998 – 2004 and 2009) rallied to finish in the second position while the five-time champ Lasoski (1986, 1987, 1990, 1992 and 1993) ranked third. Native Australian Lynton Jeffrey was fourth while Gregg Bakker was fifth. Dobmeier and McCarl have now won thirteen of the last fourteen AIP 410 Sprint championships with Wayne Johnson taking the other one in 2005.

After sharing the 360 honors last year with Eric Lutz, Jack Dover repeated as the champion in 2011 on the strength of five feature wins and eighteen top-five finishes. The 2009 champion Mike Boston was this year’s runner-up followed by the 2002 champ Clint Garner in third. Stuart Snyder posted a fourth-place ranking while Gregg Bakker also found himself in fifth in this division.

A new champion was crowned in the 305 division as Bill Boles rode nine feature wins and five second-place runs to his first AIP title. 2006 champion Bruce Anderson was not far behind in second followed by Ryan Jamison, Jayson Dittsworth and Jordan Nordstrom.

A full listing of each division of the All Iowa Points can be found on the Points page at

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Nice Way To Close Out The 2011 Season

I didn't realize last year when I went to the second night of the Fall Nationals at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, that it would be my final race of the 2010 season as rainy weather the following week wiped out Shiverfest. Last night, as I made the relatively short trip to the south and west, I did know that it would be my final racing adventure for 2011 and that made a quality night of action even sweeter under perfect October weather conditions.

As track announcer Andy Middleton said at one point during the evening, this season has been a weird one in Memphis as the weekly Saturday night program, like so many other tracks in this region, fought Mother Nature to even get a show in the books during the spring and by late summer the racing faded away as track promoter Rick Girard and the fairboard here went different ways. The annual Fall Nationals looked like they would not happen this year until Keokuk IMCA Modified driver Brandon Savage decided to take on the role of promoter for the first time and, with the support of the local Pepsi bottling company and many other fine sponsors, the show went on.

Friday night's action would set the first three rows in each feature event while heat races, plus a B-Main in the Stock Cars, would set the field for each of five divisions for the Pepsi Doc360 Fall Nationals at the Scotland County Speedway.

SportMods would be first up with twenty-five cars taking the track for an 18-lap distance. Outside front row starter Scott VanBuskirk would take the lead at the drop of the green with Friday's winner Chris Larson in hot pursuit. Jim Gillenwater moved up quickly from his fourth row start to make it a three-car race for the point before the red flag waved on the fourth circuit. Tommy Lathrop and Rick Paulson had tangled on the back stretch with Paulson reportedly rolling his car three times before coming to rest on his top. The large crowd on hand waited in silence until the report came from Middleton a few moments later that the driver had emerged from the wreckage without injury.

On the restart Gillenwater got sideways in turn one and ended up driving through the infield to recover, but he had dropped to the back of the field before returning to the track on the back straightaway. Local favorite Brandon Dale slipped by Larson into second and started to give VanBuskirk some heat for the lead before the caution waved again at the mid-race point for a spinout in turn four. On this double-file restart Gillenwater had a much better outcome as he passed several cars and quickly found himself in the top six and looking for more. Dale kept the pressure on the leader the remainder of the race, but could not make the pass as Scott VanBuskirk picked up the first trophy of the night. Dale got a nice round of applause for his runner-up finish with Larson taking third. Gillenwater had actually passed Larson for that position late in the race, but when he got a bit loose in turn three with two laps remaining he faded to fifth behind Curtis VanDerWal.

The Four Cylinders were up next for 12-laps with Friday's feature winner Nick Wilkerson grabbing the lead at the drop of the green. With Wilkerson building an advantage the race for second was a good one between a pack of five cars before the caution waved for a car that had broken down in turn two on lap six. On the restart Michael Grossman went to work on Wilkerson pulling alongside the leader on two occasions while the third-place car of Adam Gates searched for racing room. What looked like would be a thrilling three-car battle to the checkers came to a spectacular end though as, while racing down the front stretch to the white flag, Gates" #007 car burst into flames at full speed giving all of us in the grandstand a bit of warmth before the fire blew out as he coasted into the infield. Following a lengthy cleanup of the fluids on the track Grossman made one last run at Wilkerson, but he couldn't make it stick and Nick settled into victory lane for the second night in a row. Craig Bangert was third behind Grossman while Kimberly Abbott and William Michel rounded out the top five.

With the first two features each only having two interruptions I was excited to see if the Stock Car division, that at least in my experience has the knack for being the "cleanest" division around, could go twenty laps non-stop around this perfectly prepared (great job guys!) race track. The opening lap saw the twenty-four-car field go five-wide through turns one and two with Todd Reitzler coming from his third starting spot to take the lead by a nose at the stripe, but the first caution waved just after the rest of the field cleared the scoring tower as Derek Kirkland spun in turn one. A six-car pile up in turn four was the result of the first restart and on the second try to get back to action Lonnie Greiner and Kirkland spun in turn one. The third restart did give us a couple of racing laps before Aaron Brocksieck stopped on the front stretch in turn four with a flat tire and once back to green, the battle up front was good before the fourth-place car of Abe Huls spun on lap seven. Come on Stock Cars, don't let me down like this!!

The caution for Huls would be the final one of the event and thank goodness for that as the race for the lead in this one will go down in memory as one of the best that I have seen. Todd Reitzler and Matt Greiner were never separated by more than a car-length over the final thirteen laps as they jockeyed back in forth for position. And this wasn't a case where one guy was running the cushion and the other was working way down low so there was always a lot of room between them. No, they were both working the lower line of the speedway and even though they were often looking for the same piece of real estate, I don't recall them ever even making contact once! Unofficially I had Greiner leading by the flagstand on laps twelve and thirteen with Reitzler back out front on lap fourteen. Greiner had the edge again the following two laps before Reitzler nosed ahead on lap seventeen. It was a virtual dead heat with two laps remaining while Greiner had the edge at the white flag and as they raced side-by-side into turn three for one last time, Greiner found the bite that he needed to win it by a car-length over Reitzler. In this day and age where it seems like some will do whatever it takes in order to get that win, both drivers should get a big pat on the back for racing hard and clean all the way to the checkers. Terry Houston had to be entertained with the show as well as he was close enough to pounce on a mistake in third while Beau Taylor and Mike Harward completed the top five. Harward had started the race from outside of row ten.

That was an impossible act to follow, but the Hobby Stocks put on a nice show as well after getting past a couple of early cautions. Clayton Crump had the early lead before third-starting Bobby Anders made the move on lap seven to take the lead and the eventual victory. Crump would hold on for the second spot ahead of Friday's winner Brandon Symmonds. Andrew Hustead took fourth and Council Bluffs traveler David Orr finished fifth.

A solid field of Modifieds would close out the evening with a 25-lap finale and it was pole-sitter J.D. Auringer who took the lead at the drop of the green. Steven DeLonjay was the primary challenger while many in the crowd watched the progress of Michael Long who had started ninth. Running way up high in turn one and then shooting low off turn two, Long moved steadily toward the front passing DeLonjay for second on lap nine, but Steven fought back regaining the position on lap thirteen. A caution for Robert Thompson with nine laps remaining slowed the field and during that break DeLonjay pulled to the infield with an apparent flat tire. Once back to green Auringer surprised the crowd a bit by pulling away from Long, but the many-time feature winner here searched for the best line around the speedway and reeled in the leader as the laps wound down. With a lap and a half to go Long had a big run going down the back stretch and drove hard into turn three, but Auringer's car was in the same groove and the two collided with Long's right front tire going up and over Auringer's left rear. The two cars were stuck together briefly before Long broke loose and spun to the infield. Despite the damage Auringer was able to race on and with Long now out of it the question was whether or not Auringer's left rear tire would hold up for the final circuit. It did and the checkered flag waved for the final time in 2011 here with J.D. Auringer taking the win ahead of Bruce Hanford, David Wietholder, Steve Stewart and Jeff Waterman.

Congratulations and a big thanks to Brandon Savage for stepping up and putting on a great show here this weekend. A successful Fall Nationals last year lead to Girard signing on as the weekly promoter in 2011. Will we see the same situation with Savage for 2012? That remains to be seen. If not, I have a suggestion for Memphis and a couple of other area tracks that I will share in a blog entry here soon.

My 2011 season is over, but there is still some racing to be found here in the upper Midwest so hopefully you can get out and enjoy some more late season action.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Two Down (Maybe), But Still Too Many More To Go

I was pleased to see the official announcement made last evening that Dave and Yvonne Sapp have reached an agreement to purchase the racing operations of the Lee County Speedway from Terry and Jenni Hoenig. For the full press release click here. I know that they would have liked to have made the announcement during last week's Shiverfest event at the speedway, but it was better to make sure that all of the details were worked out prior to making an announcement.

Former Lee County Speedway owner Terry Hoenig (left) congratulates new LCS owner Dave Sapp after the pair reached a deal for the sale of the racetrack Thursday evening - Photo provided to the Back Stretch by Terry Hoenig

I was also pleased to learn that Dewain Hulett has been tabbed by the Sapps to be the Promoter/Race Director at the speedway. Dewain has been the voice of the Lee County Speedway for the past four years and has experience with just about every other position at a speedway as he has worked at several, and in several roles throughout the years. His association with the Hoenigs and his familiarity with the drivers, pit crews, and track workers will make for a smooth transition into the new ownership. Now that we know that there will be weekly racing at Donnellson in 2012, we can sit back, relax and wait on the new management team to let us know their plans.

So that takes care of Donnellson. The message boards have indicated that Gary Jacobson will take over as the new promoter at the Fairmont Raceway, however a Google search does not show any official announcement of that so far. Other tracks such as Maquoketa, Oskaloosa, Bloomfield and Eldon are still without a promoter for weekly racing at this point, while a couple of others have promoters that are rumored to be on the way out. Here's hoping that something can be worked out at all facilities for a successful 2012 season.

The Back Stretch received a comment recently from an AWC stating that I practiced "shoddy journalism". If I considered myself a journalist, it might have hurt my feelings a bit, but I don't so it didn't. All comments are welcome, both positive and negative, but as I have always said throughout my years of writing during the internet era; If you believe enough in what you are saying, then make sure that people know who is saying it. Put your name to it.

I am in tough negotiations with my beautiful wife to see if I can attend the Saturday night portion of the Fall Nationals at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri. If I am successful, I'll see ya there!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Two Traditional Autumn Specials In One Weekend

Amazing! I saw 287 different race cars within a ninety-five mile trip this weekend. Yes, I know that you can see that many and more by attending the IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, but to achieve this in Iowa in mid-October is quite noteworthy.

Friday night I made the trip up to the Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa for opening night of the Musco Lighting Fall Challenge. This marked the Silver Anniversary of this event that traditionally draws in a large field of cars and with all four classes boasting $1,250-to-win and $250-to-start purses it was no surprise to see the infield packed with 165 cars. All of the work that goes in to tracking the All Iowa points each year pays off for me at an event like this as it is great to match a name to a car for those drivers that I just never get to see in action during the season, and that was definitely the case here tonight. There were also several names that I didn't recognize as drivers pulled in from all around the upper Midwest to compete this weekend. The Hobby Stock field included Minnesota drivers Guy Kimpton and Dan Eckbland, while South Dakota drivers Brock Hess, Dave Kennedy, Jeremiah Christiansen and Tyler and Tracy Johnson were on hand to do battle in the B-Mod division. After all, with $250 just to start the feature, that is what some tracks pay to win on a weekly basis for these two classes.

This night would be a full show with heats and last chance races in each division to determine eighteen-car starting fields for the main event that would serve as "qualifiers" for Saturday night's main events. Promoters Todd & Janet Staley put an interesting twist on things though when they put forth a unique format making this a "Gamblers Race". With a total of 72 cars starting the four feature races they had 72 envelopes each containing cash with amounts ranging from $700 to $50. Only two of those envelopes had the higher amount while the $50 prize was the most common. The top eight finishers in each race would then have to make a choice at the end of the night. They could either lock in their starting spot in the first four rows of Saturday's A-Main, or they could open their envelope, keep the cash and attempt to qualify again through the heats and Last Chance races on Saturday night knowing that they would start behind the drivers who chose to give back their envelopes. And the cash that was turned back in from the qualified drivers in each division would then be spread evenly across the top eight finishing spots on Saturday. Yes, it was a complicated format, but it was very unique and the turnout for the weekend showed that it was very well received.

After soaking up around two inches of rain two days earlier, the big half-mile was moist and fast allowing for some great racing, but also for some nasty accidents as drivers were very aggressive trying to get qualified for the eighteen-car main events. The show started right on time with the first of seventeen heat races taking the green at 7:30 p.m., but with the numerous incidents including a couple of rollovers that final heat race did not take the checkers until 10:10. Staley's crew, as they always do, kept things moving along at a quick pace, but they can't do anything about the number of incidents created by the drivers and it was obvious that we were headed for a conclusion after the midnight hour. With a commitment to be somewhere early in the morning and another big event to attend on Saturday night, I made the tough decision to head for home following the heat races.

Colt Mather who was flat out flying in his heat race went on to win the Modified feature, Shane Weller picked up the Stock Car win, Cayden Carter was no surprise in the B-Mods and Bill Bonnett walked away with the Hobby Stock win. For details please check out the blogs of my Positively Racing colleagues Kevin Trittien and Dick & Joyce Eisele and for the full story and results, including the details about the three drivers who gave up their starting spots to open their envelope, click here.

I want to thank Todd & Janet Staley and their entire crew for the hospitality that they have shown to this writer over the years, not only here at Oskaloosa, but throughout the Midwest at their USMTS shows. I am always confident that I am going to see a professional and well-run show when I attend one of their events and with this weekend perhaps being their last promotion at Osky I was thrilled to see the full pit area and a solid crowd in the stands on a football Friday night in Iowa. I spoke with driver Mike VanGenderen before the show as he has been rumored as a potential promoter for the facility in 2012 and Mike said that if nobody steps forward to run the track weekly in 2012 that he would not be surprised to see Staley run five or six specials here. And, with the success of this weekend, why not?

I also had a great conversation with one of my favorite Late Model drivers from days gone by, Dan Dickey, who was preparing his son Scott's Modified for the night ahead. I was pleased to learn that Dan is a regular visitor to the Back Stretch and, like him, I do hope that somebody will step in and continue the steep tradition of Wednesday night racing in 2012 at this fine facility.

After spending the day Saturday with my lovely daughter who was back in the area briefly from her studies in Edmonton, I hustled down to the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson arriving just in time for the always fun pre-race trick-or-treating session of "Shiverfest". As always the participating drivers came through in fine fashion as an amazing number of children left the frontstretch with bags full of candy and other treats. I even spotted Stock Car driver Jimmy Lynch and one of his crewmen going the extra mile by getting into costume themselves as Mario and Luigi.

The five division program had pulled in 122 cars and with bright sunshine and a steady breeze the hot lap sessions just before trick-or-treating had already sucked the moisture off the top of the surface. So following a quick spray down by promoter Terry Hoenig, the show took the green flag at a few minutes before five o'clock. The Sport Mod division ran off their three heat races in fine fashion with not a single caution flag and when I noted that fact following the conclusion of the third heat, it was a like a jinx on the rest of the evening. Actually the heats in the other four classes weren't all too bad though as each division had at least one of the three qualifiers that went flag-to-flag and the first of five features took to the track just as the sun completed its daily dive below the west horizon providing for a beautiful backdrop off of turns three and four.

The Sport Mods were up first and for the early portion of the race it looked like they might just go caution free all night, but that string was broken on lap six. The racing up front was very good as Chris Larson and Phillip Cossel slipped by early leader Aric Becker and then proceeded to swap the lead back and forth between themselves in between the numerous cautions. The 25-minute time limit (number of laps, plus five) expired and the drivers would race to the checkers or the next caution, whichever came first. Unfortunately the next caution was just a lap away and the win went to the leader at the time Chris Larson who was driving a car that was purchased a month ago from Jesse Sobbing. A fast car paired with a good driver, and it was no surprise to see Larson in victory lane.

The Hobby Stocks had a similar scenario where the racing up front was intense only to have numerous cautions and one scary red-flag incident interrupt the action all too often. The red flag appeared mid-race when two cars tangled in the middle of the track in turn one and, with nowhere to go, Ethan Thompson went nearly full throttle into the guardrail sending him into a series of wild barrel rolls. When it all ended the car had shed all of its sheet metal and was sitting upside down in a mangled steaming mess. Almost miraculously though Thompson was able to get out under his own power as the one thing that did hold up on his car was the driver compartment roll cage and the ambulance gave him a ride back to his trailer. Awhile later the ambulance was called to the pits during the Wild Things feature though and while I never did hear the details it may have been for Thompson. Once back to racing the battle up front continued with young Tanner Klingele taking on two or three different challengers during the course of the event. Rob Wilsey had raced his way to the front and passed Klingele for the lead just before another caution waved and the signal was given to the drivers that time limit had expired. They would now race to the checkers or until the next caution, whichever came first. On the restart Wilsey and Klingele again raced wheel-to-wheel with Wilsey holding the advantage on the next scored lap, but as they raced into turn one Wilsey got sideways causing the lead pack to stack up with one of the cars sliding to a halt. Wilsey saved his car from the sideways slide and never stopped even though several cars passed him in the process. When one car remained stopped in turn one though the caution waved and this announcer knew that the victory lane interview was going to be interesting. I was already sitting in the stands waiting for the conclusion of the event when all this took place and as the field circled the track a couple of more times under caution before the checkered flag was displayed, I tried to figure out how I was going to handle this unique situation. I never did hear what the official decision was, but when Wilsey was directed to go to victory lane I did my best to explain the apparent ruling. The time limit had been reached and the drivers were shown that they would be racing to either the checkers or the next caution. Since the track rules state that only the car, or cars, stopped when the caution waves are to be penalized, this meant that Wilsey would not be penalized and therefore going back to the last completed lap he would be declared the winner.

Was it right? Going by the rules, yes, this was the correct way to score the finish. Was it popular with the fans? No, not so much, and it was the first time that I can remember doing a victory lane interview where we were being drowned out by a chorus of boos and catcalls.

The four cylinder Wild Things were next up and with the solid level of talent on hand, this was quite a race to watch with two and three-wide action upfront among the top ten contenders. Only a couple of cautions, plus the red-flag period while the ambulance was called back to the pits slowed this one as Bill Whalen Jr. paced the field early before being passed by Adam Gates. Gates was looking to run away with this one, but when a lapped car decided to rub on him a bit that was the break that Todd Nelson needed to reel in the leader. Nelson was flying around the high side and pulled even with Gates, but contact between the two caused Nelson to slap the wall on the back stretch and when he exited turn four his right rear wheel broke loose. Before the caution waved a hard charging Michael Grossman caught the rolling wheel on the front stretch and it literally launched his car into the air coming back down on all fours putting on quite a thrill show for the crowd.. Once back to green Gates held off a late charge from Chuck Fullenkamp to take the win and I was thrilled to be able to conduct a more traditional victory lane interview. That came to a quick close though when one of Adam's young crew members, in his excited run from the pits, tripped over the leg of the inflatable black cat that was nearby and he went sprawling to the ground head first in front of the two of us. Thank goodness the young man sprung to his feet and though quite embarrassed and obviously a bit shaken, he stood proud with the winner for the photo session. So that was "something new" for the memory book as well. I was glad to see the youngster at a full sprint again a few minutes later as he headed back to the pit area!

The Stock Cars were up next and on a night where cautions are the norm, you can usually count on this class to run pretty clean and they came through with flying colors. With only two cautions to slow the field it was Abe Huls taking the win over a hard charging Jeremy Gustaf. For Huls, by his account, it was his first win at the Lee County Speedway since 2009. A surprise to me as it seems like he is always a contender whenever I see him at Donnellson. The Stock Car class had a unique entrant as Jeff Beggs pulled his #54 over from Putnamville, Indiana, for the chance to compete against his brother-in-law Jason Cook. Unfortunately for Beggs though, his powerplant had other ideas as it smoked early and often causing him to drop out from both his heat race and the feature.

The Modifieds were set to round out the show and once again the racing up front was intense early on as James Leffew, Jeff Waterman and Tyler Cale did battle much to the delight of the crowd, the majority of which had stuck around to the final event. The preferred groove was down low and as all three leaders entered turn one they all went for the same general piece of property and contact was made sending Leffew for a spin. Other cars had nowhere to go and the scramble was on with several drivers, including Leffew stopped on the track when the caution waved. No cars were seriously damaged and most were able to drive away under their own power, but as the one or two remaining were being attended to Leffew drove into Cale's car on the back stretch just in front of the pit entrance, then back up and entered the pits where he was promptly met by several agitated Cale fans and crew members. The fight was on and it took a few minutes for the track officials and security personnel to get it under control. It was at that point where I was finally comfortable with the decision that I made nearly a year ago when I told Terry and Jenni that I would no longer be directly involved with this event, as otherwise I would have felt obligated to be over there right in the middle of things trying to restore peace. From what I heard over the radio, I was glad that I was not and I regret that race officials are sometimes put into this position.

Wyatt Lantz inherited the lead once racing resumed and he was being challenged by Ray Cox Jr. who had made the trip down from Maquoketa. Cox was working a higher groove than Lantz and on each restart it appeared that he had a run on the leader only to have Lantz establish himself once again on the bottom. After the fight it seemed like whatever could go wrong would in this one as cautions appeared for parts flying off of cars, a mine tire being punted on to the racing surface and other minor spins. Once again the time limit was reached and following the final restart, with three laps remaining of the scheduled twenty-five, the final caution waved along with the checkers to bring the 2011 racing season at the Lee County Speedway, and likely the tenure of long-time promoters Terry and Jenni Hoenig to a close with Wyatt Lantz taking the win. It was now ten o'clock and as the remaining crowd headed for the gates I thought to myself that while this thirteenth year of Shiverfest may have been frustrating, it was definitely interesting!

Whether or not this will be the last Shiverfest now depends on what happens with the leadership of the track, but once again kids and drivers alike had fun with trick-or-treating, fans saw an interesting mix of local drivers and visitors, and some money was raised to help the individuals and families who are battling kidney disease at the Southeast Renal Dialysis locations in the area. I for one hope that this is an event that lives on somehow, somewhere!

One more weekend of racing to be had in this neck of the woods as Modified driver Brandon Savage sets aside the helmet and puts on the Promoter hat for the Doc 360 Pepsi Nationals at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, next Friday and Saturday October 21st and 22nd. Here's hoping that this nice autumn weather holds up for at least one more week and that I see you down there!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Decision To Be Made In Quincy

Racing friend Gary Lee this week called to my attention a story written by “Stevie Dirt” in regard to the possibility that the Quincy Raceways may drop the IMCA sanctioning for Late Models in 2012. One of the reasons for considering the possibility is the uncertainty of the situation at the two IMCA Late Model tracks to the north of Quincy as both 34 Raceway and the racing operations of the Lee County Speedway are currently up for sale. As the southern most sanctioned track, Quincy could find itself completely separated from the rest of the IMCA tracks if neither Burlington or Donnellson run late models on a regular basis in 2012. Alternate sanctioning bodies being considered at Quincy are the UMP and the ULMA with the ULMA currently being thought of as the front-runner if a change is to be made. The ULMA Late Models are very similar to the IMCA rules package and the track could potentially then draw in cars that compete weekly on Friday nights at Callaway Raceway in Fulton, Missouri.

A message from the promoters of 34 Raceway on the track’s website indicates that if the track is not sold by December that they plan to see everybody once again in the spring of 2012. And as potentially one of the very few weekly shows in the area next year given the uncertainties in Donnellson, Columbus Junction, Eldon, Bloomfield, Memphis and even Oskaloosa, the prospects would look pretty good there, except in the Late Model division if a change is made in Quincy. Seven of the top fifteen in the 2011 Late Model point standings at 34 Raceway would consider Quincy as there home track, so if those drivers convert to another sanction they would likely be no shows at 34 on Saturday nights making a significant dent in a car count that started out at 22 on the opening night of points this season and faded to as low as 11 on a Saturday night in July.

I completely understand why Quincy is considering their options as despite a combination points package with 34 this past season, they saw little if any support from the drivers based to the north so they cannot assume that those drivers will decide to race at Quincy in 2012 if their options are further limited. If they think that there will not be weekly IMCA Late Model racing at 34 in 2012, then a switch to the ULMA would appear to be the most reasonable choice, however Quincy will not know that piece of the puzzle until at least December.

So let’s take this to the next step and assume that Quincy announces the change to the ULMA. Does 34 Raceway, whomever runs the track in 2012, consider the same move in order to keep nearly 50% of their car count from this past season? If so this combination of events would be a very significant blow to the IMCA Late Model division as it would lose several licensed drivers as well as two of its premier events on the Summer Series schedule with the Slocum 50 and the Pepsi USA Nationals.

This will definitely be a story to watch over the next couple of months.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Two All Iowa Points Titles Still Up For Grabs, But.......

Two division titles remain up for grabs as the All Iowa Points season enters its final two weeks for 2011, however it appears that the drama factor may be minimal in each. Two race nights at Oskaloosa and one at Donnellson are on the card for this coming weekend, while two points-paying nights at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Missouri, on October 21st and 22nd will close out the season.

In the Stock Car division Timmy Current holds a narrow nine-point edge over Damon Murty. Current, who races at the eastern Iowa tracks where the Stock Car rules are a bit more “loose” than the IMCA or USRA rules, will not be legal at any of the remaining events unless he borrows a car from someone else, but if history holds true he will not have to go to that effort. In the recent past Murty has ended his racing season once the IMCA points season concludes at the end of September, so it is likely that the #99D that has closed the gap quite a bit over the past month is now parked in the garage for the off-season. But if not, then things could get interesting as both drivers look for their first All Iowa Points title.

The other title that remains up for grabs is in the Four Cylinder division where three drivers are still in contention for the championship over the three remaining race nights. (There are no four cylinders at Osky). But some of the “drama” is removed by the fact that all three contenders have the same last name. Nathan Chandler leads his brother Brad by ten points while their father Merv Chandler, the 1984 and 1985 All Iowa Points Modified champion, is in third and fourteen points from the top. It is a good possibility that all three will be in action this Saturday at Lee County Speedway’s annual “Shiverfest” and that event will either clinch the championship for Nathan, or send it to the final weekend in Memphis.

The championships in the remaining seven divisions have all been clinched with six of them being repeats from 2010. For a full rundown of all divisions of the All Iowa Points, visit the Points page at Our webmistress should have the latest update uploaded soon.

The weather is looking good for racing action at both Oskaloosa and Donnellson this weekend and I hope to see you at both!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

First "New Track" Of the Season

The need to catch a flight out of St. Louis early on Sunday in a way brought me to the St. Francois County Raceway near Farmington, Missouri, Saturday night and it was that same reason that forced me to leave before the final checkered flag waved on the track's annual finale, the Queen's Royale.

This is a neat little quarter-mile with long straights and tight turns located about an hour south of the St. Louis metro area and one of the few tracks in the Midwest that still runs a weekly show featuring the 410 winged sprint cars. Twenty-six winged warriors were on hand tonight with no surprises and it was nice to finally see drivers that I have only read about previously in stories and results. The one thing that did catch me off guard a bit was that the Alan Barton owned #7AB formerly driven by Brandon Wimmer and by Billy Alley at the Knoxville Nationals, had local favorite Tommy Worley Jr. at the controls. The track was quick, wide and racy during the qualifying events with plenty of action and wheelstands and it was Joey Boyd who set the quick time with a lap of 11.448.

While the sprints are the headliners here at SFCR, it was obvious that the fans love the A-Mods as well especially when Rusty Griffaw and Billy Smith waged a barn burner during the dash to determine that front half of the starting lineup for the main event. Much of the nearly full grandstand were on the edge of their seat, or up off of it as Griffaw picked up the win in this one.

All of the qualifying for the four divisions wrapped up right at 9 p.m. and the announcer told the Pure Streets that their feature would hit the track in fifteen minutes. The sixteen car field took the green at 9:16 p.m. and things went really bad from there. This had to be one of the most agonizing forty-five minutes that I have ever spent at a race track as not only was the race stopped by several cautions, but the leader Dusty Homan was never even challenged when the race was green. Even when it looked like it would be over, it wasn't as a backmarker spun in turn four as the leader was racing down the back stretch for what we thought would be the final time. The flagman started the field one more time waving both the green and the white and, of course a driver, spun out in turn one. The corner flagman in turn one started waving his caution flag, but the chief starter kept the green light on and threw the checkers even though the car that had spun in turn one started driving back toward the field heading for the exit off turn one. The frustration of the starter showed as he spiked both the checker flag and his headset as the race finally came to an end and those in the crowd who saw him do that gave him a round of applause as they too shared that frustration. My suggestion for next year would be to have either a time limit, or a number of cautions limit so that something like this does not happen again.

The twenty-lap feature for the A-Mods was up next and even though it was littered with cautions too, at least the race for the lead was very entertaining as Griffaw and Smith resumed their battle from the dash. With five laps remaining Matt Eaton made it a three-car scramble for the point and when Smith went into turn three too hard, he drove up the wall and rolled his #14 over once in turn four bringing out the red flag with three laps remaining. The crowd gave Smith quite an ovation as he was definitely putting on a show before this incident. On the restart Eaton hugged the bottom line and edged ahead of Griffaw by a nose as the two took the white flag. Griffaw had a run on Eaton down the back stretch on the final lap and he tried to slam the door on that bottom groove going into turn three, but Eaton was not to be stopped and he pulled ahead of Griffaw exiting turn four to take the win by just less than a car length at the stripe.

That was a good one and with the clock now showing 10:30 p.m. and the B-Modified feature up next I made the tough decision to hit the road for my hotel so that I could salvage five hours of sleep before doing the airport routine. I would have loved to have seen the Sprint Car feature, won from the front row by Tim Montgomery, but the order of events and the Pure Street marathon didn't allow it. Still, I will mark this facility as one that I will definitely want to visit again!