Has the Wild West Shootout now pulled even with Speedweeks in Florida? Saturday night's opener in Tucson Arizona drew 69 Late Models and 57 Modifieds with plenty of marquee names sprinkled throughout. That car count for the Late Models just might be the highest you'll see in January and February this year especially with the Lucas Oil Late Model series and the World of Outlaws going head-to-head at East Bay and Bubba Raceway Park in Florida.
Billy Moyer parlayed a pole position start to take the Late Model victory followed by Will Vaught, Shannon Babb, Jimmy Mars and Tim McCreadie. Iowa drivers Chris Simpson and Justin Kay started on the front row of the sixth heat race, but Simpson was bumped from behind by another driver on the opening lap and had to restart from the rear. Kay then paced the field for the first few laps before Moyer muscled past him for the win and while Kay finished second his passing points put him into one of three B-Mains. Simpson fought his way back to fifth and he came from tenth to fifth in the third B to just miss the finale. Kay's third-place finish in the first B-Main started him 19th on the grid for the main event and he finished 11th in what I believe is his first venture to the south during Iowa's traditional offseason. Kay put on one of the best performances that I witnessed in 2011 when he rode the cushion from the back toward the front at Tipton and I am sure that he was thrilled with running so well on the first night in Tucson. Hopefully that will continue during this trip to Arizona and he can use this jump on the season to tally some wins back here in Iowa in 2012.
Terry Phillips made his debut in a Bloomquist chassis Saturday night, transferred from a B-Main, started 20th and finished 17th.
Keep an eye out for Morgan Bagley this year. The youngster out of Texas had a stellar rookie year in a Late Model in 2011 and he appears to be headed for bigger and better things quickly. Last night he finished eighth in the feature event.
Brad Diercks towed his Modified down to Arizona as well for the Shootout and he did not have a good opening night finishing 18th in the first B-Main. The Modified feature was won by Jason Hughes followed by Stormy Scott and Rodney Sanders. There are five more nights of action here on the schedule through Sunday January 22nd and if you would like to watch it live on pay per view visit http://www.dirtondirt.com/
The Swindell family did it again at the Chili Bowl finishing one-two for the second straight year, an absolutely amazing accomplishment given that there were more than 260 entrants in Tulsa. Kevin Swindell was the first ever back-to-back winner when he edged out his papa Sammy last year and he made it three wins in a row last night when he went flag to flag for the victory. Kevin's streak of three in a row will be difficult for any driver to match in the future, but even less likely will be the streak of a son and his father finishing first and second two years in a row. That one, I predict, will never be matched.
The California phenom Kyle Larson was considered to be the only driver capable of beating the Swindells as he started next to Kevin in the front row, but the "NorCal Ninja" had to settle for third on this night. NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Sprint Cup champ Tony Stewart both returned to their open wheel dirt track racing roots finishing ninth and tenth respectively. A.J. Fike of Galesburg Illinois who wheeled an IMCA Modified around the local tracks in southeast Iowa in 2011 made the show and finished 23rd.
The Chili Bowl feature was changed from 50-laps to 55 in honor of driver Donnie Ray Crawford. A preliminary night feature winner in 2011 from nearby Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, Crawford was in competition again this week but was murdered by his grandfather on Saturday morning. His car number was 55.
I made the trip up to Cedar Rapids Saturday morning for the Simmons Promotions Racer's Auction and Trade Show and enjoyed catching up with some old friends and making a few new ones. We have had a bunch of people checking out the old racing photos that we have posted on the PositivelyRacing Facebook page this offseason, but if you want to check out a fantastic collection of old photos you need to visit with Doug Haack and or check out his website. It was also nice to see Kyle Ealy again who was thumbing through those photos with great interest as he does a spectacular job of keeping the history of our sport alive with his Midwest Racing Archives.
Four cylinder drivers and hobby stock drivers don't forget that you could be racing in just four more weeks on February 11th at the Lee County Speedway's "Break Ice, Not Hearts 50". Get your entries in early and you diehard race fans need to gather up your winter gear and get ready to tally that first race on your 2012 list!