Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Guss and Vanderbeek Collect Winner's Checks at West Liberty

Simmons Promotions served up two premier classes only for a "Tornado Tuesday" night of action at the West Liberty Raceway with Ray Guss Jr. taking the win in the Deery Brothers Summer Series IMCA Late Models and Zack Vanderbeek collecting top dollars in the SPI Open Modified division.

A solid field of thirty-six Late Models were in attendance tonight and come feature time everybody was chasing the two-time defending series champion for the thirty-five laps. Ray Guss Jr. drew the pole position for the main event and rocketed to the lead at the drop of the green. By the end of the second lap Guss had already built up a half-straightaway advantage over second running Andy Eckrich and that lead continued to grow with each lap with Guss catching the back of the field by the ninth time around the half-mile. Nick Marolf debuted a new Victory chassis tonight and it was fast off the trailer as he moved up from sixth to pass Eckrich for the second spot on lap eleven. With Guss working traffic, Marolf was able to cut into the lead and by lap twenty he had it back down to just a half-straightway. From there though Guss started adding back to his advantage and it looked like it would be an easy win for the Dirt Late Model Hall of Famer until the caution waved with just nine laps remaining for Gary Webb. The 63-year-old veteran who just won a feature a couple weeks back in Maquoketa had been nursing a sick motor all night and now smoke was billowing out the back of his car as he slowed down the front stretch.

With the field tightened up for the restart we would now see if Marolf had anything for the leader and, just before the caution Jay Johnson had a run on Andy Eckrich for third so that battle for position would get back to action. When the green returned Guss answered the question in regard to Marolf as Ray again quickly pulled away from the rest of the field and it was Jeff Aikey who made a big move using the high side to get up to fourth behind Eckrich. There would be no stopping Guss on this night as "The River City Hustler" cruised on in for the $2,000 top prize while Marolf had to be pretty happy with the new ride coming home in second. Andy Eckrich would finish in the third spot while Johnson fought his way back to fourth at the checkers ahead of Aikey. Denny Eckrich came from the seventh row to finish in the sixth position, the Series "Ironman" Darrel DeFrance was seventh, Kurt Kile who did double duty tonight finished in the eighth position, series point leader Mike Murphy Jr. was ninth and Jason Utter filled out the top ten.

WL LM Notes........Spins on the first two attempts to start the first heat race allowed Jeff Aikey to move from the ninth starting position up to sixth and he would end up finishing second to Marolf who was lightning fast in his new Victory.....Tyler Bruening passed Tommy Elston off of turn four coming to the checkers for the third and final transfer out of heat number three.....Brian Harris was behind the wheel of a black with orange trim #5J tonight that I saw Joe Zrostlik drive earlier in the year. Harris was very fast in hot laps actually putting on quite a show with Ray Guss Jr. during practice and after a couple of laps in his heat race he slowed suddenly bringing out the caution. Harris pulled to the front stretch to have one of the officials put the window net back into place and he then charged around the track to catch the back of the pack for the restart. Perhaps blinded by the setting sun Harris ran right into the back of Chad Holladay's #32C car that was out for the first time tonight and it took two wreckers to tow the #5J back to the pits. The crew was able to make repairs though and Harris came back to qualify out of the second B-Main, but he was an early exit out of the feature after advancing a few positions......The fourth and final heat ended in dramatic fashion as Kyle Hinrichs and Jay Chenoweth tangled while racing for fifth to the checkers. The two cars slid toward the infield at the end of the front stretch and when they reached the rising berm going into turn one Hinrichs' car flipped over onto its top. After confirming that the driver was okay, safety crews had to turn the car back over so that Kyle could finally make his exit.....Chris Simpson drove Mike Klinkkammer's #45K tonight and was running third early in the second B-Main before jumping the cushion and slapping the wall in turn one. Simpson dropped back to sixth for a few laps before pulling to the infield and ending his evening......Two teenagers Jonathan Brauns and Spencer Diercks were racing for the fourth and final transfer out of the first B-Main early on until Diercks slowed with issues on the right front of his car. And, after the restart, Brauns could not hang on as Justin Kay raced his way into fourth while Brauns ended up in sixth......Dave Stichter drew the ninth and final starting position in the fourth heat race and he again started near the back of his B-Main and, if I recall correctly, he did not pass a car on the track in either event. However, due to attrition and the resulting differences between his starting spot and finishing spot in each of those two events, Stichter earned the "Hard Charger" provisional to start the main event......Webb, Doug Yates and Sam Halstead were the three points provisionals......Series regular Nate Beuseling was absent this evening.....We could have assembled a pretty good "legends" race from now-retired drivers that I spotted in the stands tonight. Who would have won between Tom Hearst, Roger Dolan, Rollie Frink, Lynn Richard and Ron Pallister?......The Deery Brothers Summer Series moves on to the I-35 Speedway in Mason City on Wednesday night. Then, this Sunday July 15th, the Deery Series will be under the bright lights at the Dubuque Speedway for some "Havoc on the Highbanks" as announcer Jerry Mackey likes to describe the racy facility.

Nineteen Open Modifieds checked in for action tonight although we lost two of them, Nick Nevins and Mike Zogg to mechanical woes during hot laps. Kurt Kile started from the pole position and he looked like he would be a runaway winner during the early stages. But on lap six Kile slowed suddenly in turn two causing a caution and then ducked behind the wall to his pit area outside the track to perhaps replace a flat tire as he returned to the track just in time for the restart. Scott Dickey picked up the lead from there and opened things up a bit over a second running Zack Vanderbeek until the mid-race mark when Zack started to close the gap. The two cars passed under the flagstand in a virtual dead heat with five laps remaining and when it looked like Vanderbeek would take the lead using the low line in turns one and two, Dickey thrilled the crowd with a high-to-low move to fly by him again going down the back stretch. Dickey would lead with four to go only to have Vanderbeek again drive past him on the inside entering turn three. Dickey tried the same move on the opposite end of the speedway, but when Vanderbeek hugged the bottom line out of four Dickey spun his car exiting the turn causing the caution with four to go. On the restart Bruce Hanford made a couple of good runs at the leader, but there was no phasing Vanderbeek who held on to collect the $1,000 top prize. Hanford had a nice run from ninth to finish in second, Kile made an amazing run from the back to finish in third, Noah Coppes would come from the sixth row to finish fourth while the veteran Brad Dubil took fifth.

It was nice to visit with promoter Keith Simmons and several of his talented crew including Doug Haack, Kevin Feller, Jerry Mackey, Larry Bontz and Carey Feller and we thank them for the hospitality that they not only show all of us at Positively Racing, but to other hard working writers and photographers as well. Make sure to check in with Ryan Clark "In Staging" for his views on the evening and take a peek at Barry Johnson's "Running The High Side" as he will likely have photos and some thoughts as well on the fun Tuesday night of racing in West Liberty.

Work commitments will keep me away from the track for the remainder of this week and wouldn't you know it there are some great events to be seen in my area including the return of 410 Sprint Cars to the Lee County Fair in Donnellson Wednesday night. Check the events calendar and find your next race! (Update.....Dave Beck with the Sprint Invaders called this morning and, after confirming some start times, I will be providing the call for their event at the Cedar County Fair in Tipton Thursday night. Hope to see you there!)

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