Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rain Arrives A Little Later Than I Actually Expected At Osky

It was an absolutely perfect day weather-wise in southeast Iowa on Wednesday and with the forecast not calling for rain until overnight I proceeded through a busy day at work with the plan to head up to Oskaloosa for a night of racing. A couple of glances at the radar during the day showed a big blob of rain out in Nebraska that was slowly advancing east, but it appeared to be moving slow enough that it would not be a problem until late as predicted.

When five o'clock rolled around I checked the radar again and that leading edge of rain was now two counties into Iowa, and even more disturbing was that it seemed to be advancing at a rate of about two counties per hour. Counting counties over to Mahaska that would indicate that the rain would be in Oskaloosa between 7:30 and 8:00 p.m., not a good scenario for dirt track racing scheduled to start at 7:30.

One of the things that I love about going to Osky is that not only do I get to see some good racing on a Wednesday night, something that is so rare for race fans in this country that it must be appreciated by those who can enjoy it, but I also enjoy the people that I sit with and around whenever I go there. Fasttrackfan Craig, Nick, Kevin Babcock, Bob, Warren and his wife, Martin and many more all gather here most race nights and it is always entertaining and informative to hear about where they have been recently and what their thoughts are on the racing that they have seen. Of course we all miss the mentor of that group Gary Storey who was the definition of the term "Super Fan" and who now watches any race he wants from the best seat in the house, but his friends and acquaintances carry on his memory in fine fashion. Craig was in Gary's seat last night, very fitting since Gary often sat with Craig's father Max at the many tracks that they both visited, but I digress.

I called my colleagues Dick and Joyce Eisele to get their opinion on what they were seeing on the radar and when they agreed with what I was seeing I told them to not save me a seat in my favorite section since it looked like a rainout was imminent. As true race fans though Joyce said that they were going to make the trip anyway because you never know what might happen with the weather and, if it did rain out early, they would then go to Taso's (one of the track's sign sponsors) to have dinner in appreciation of the restaurant's support of the Southern Iowa Speedway. After hanging up with Joyce I considered my alternatives for the evening knowing that my wife had other plans and it didn't take long for me to decide that spending some time in the stands with my racing friends and either a full night of racing, or a partial night that ended with a dinner with two of my favorite people was my best option. So I called Joyce back and told her to save that seat.

Promoter Mike VanGenderen had several "extra" activities planned for the evening, but knowing that rain was a possibility he announced at the driver's meeting that one would be put off until next week and another would take place following the end of tonight's program "if we get there". He then told the drivers to get ready for hot laps because he wanted to start early if at all possible. The first heat race of the night took the green just before 7:25 and all heat races were completed by 8:10. Another look at the radar showed that the blob had broken into two, but the northern tip of the southern line was getting agonizingly close to our dot on the map. The candy dash for the kids was conducted quickly in the grass between the fence and the grandstand as the track packers rolled in the cushion and the Sport Compact feature hit the track soon after. Merv Chandler passed Bill Whalen Jr. with three laps to go to pick up another feature win with John Whalen taking third.

A depleted field of ten Sport Mods were quickly brought to the track for their feature as a couple of sprinkles started to fall missing top contenders Brett Lowery and Jason McDaniel who scratched before heat races, and Brayton Carter and Bill Gibson who were caught up in a heat race snafu. Bryon Weyer must be a feast or famine guy when it comes to Osky as his average point total was still low enough to place him on the front row of the main event and, as I saw him do a few weeks back, he bolted to a big early lead. Jesse Sobbing charged from the inside of row four up to third exiting turn two on the opening lap and when the caution waved for a Brandon Green spin on lap three it appeared that we would be in four quite a duel. Not to be though as Weyer was fast enough to keep Sobbing from even mounting a challenge over the remaining laps. Did you catch that western Iowa/eastern Nebraska readers who regularly watch Sobbing drive from tenth or twelfth to first? It was the second time this season that I have witnessed a one-two finish for Weyer and Sobbing at Osky, but on the first one if you would have given Jesse three more laps he would would have passed Bryon. Tonight you could could have given him another thirty circuits and he still would have been ten car-lengths back as Weyer looked solid in victory. Point leader Curtis VanDerWal started eighth and was actually closing the gap a bit on the leaders as he finished third with Eric Flander and Carter VanDenBerg next in line.

The IMCA Hobby Stock feature was up next as the sky continued to threaten and the field came back to the green for lap one racing two-by-two-by-two up front with Justin Hook officially scored as the leader. Shannon Anderson had started ninth, but exiting turn two on this second lap he pulled even with Hook and Bobby Greene to go three-wide for the lead racing down the back stretch. But before the field could get to turn three the rain started to fall harder causing flagman Ryan Bergeson to quickly threw on the caution lights and through the Raceceivers the drivers were told to slow quickly. After all, as tight as this pack was you did not want them still racing into a rain-slickened turns three and four! The rain was light but steady and, after a check of the radar, the night was called complete with double features for the Hobby Stocks, Stock Cars and Modifieds all on tap for next Wednesday June 6th along with the scheduled $400-to-win special event for the Hobby Stocks. As a preview, the thirteen-car Modified field tonight included the first appearance of Bill Davis Jr. while local favorite Brad Pinkerton made his debut this night in the Stock Cars that sported sixteen cars.

It was now 8:40 p.m. and even though I had challenged the weather earlier by going ahead and eating a race burger, something that I do on every visit to Oskaloosa, I met Dick and Joyce for a great dish of baked ravioli at Taso's before heading for home. Yes, I knew that it was going to rain, but sometimes the enjoyment of a night at the races includes much more than just the races!

Plenty of action coming up this weekend including the re-scheduled $2,000-to-win IMCA Modified show at Davenport on Friday night, plus all of the great weekly shows in our region. I am hoping to make it up to Knoxville on Sunday for the re-re-re-scheduled Shootout featuring Modifieds, Stock Cars, Sport Mods and Hobby Stocks and then back to Osky for double features next Wednesday. Get on out and support the track of your choice soon, and make some friends while you are there!

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