Tuesday July 3rd, 2012, will be a night that Sprint Car driver Josh Schneiderman will always remember. And it likely won't be for what he accomplished on the high-banked 3/8-mile oval of 34 Raceway near his hometown of Burlington, Iowa, although that would be a good memory as well.
The Brockway Mechanical & Roofing Sprint Invaders had a big night scheduled to kick off the Independence Day holiday as they first had to complete the show that was halted by rain here back on April 14th and then run a full program that would be topped off by a 34-lap main event paying $2,012 to win. The show started with a single-file restart of the April B-Main with two laps already in scorebook and the top four finishers to advance to the make-up feature. After heat races for a couple of the night's support classes the first of two Sprint Car main events was brought to the track with this one set for 25-laps.
Des Moines area drivers Josh Higday and John Greenwood would lead the field to the green flag with Higday quickly opening up a sizeable advantage as Greenwood fought off several challengers for second. The caution waved on lap seven when B-Main winner Bret Tripplett slid of the top side of turn two, a tough break for a driver that had moved quickly up from fourteenth to sixth in those first seven laps. Two laps after the restart the red flag was needed when Andy Huston took a tumble entering turn three and he was soon out of his car and inspecting the damage.
Jordan Goldesberry in the Plath #14P was now in second and, once back to racing, Goldesberry did not let Higday get away. The two drivers were thrilling the sun-baked crowd as they raced hard for the lead and just as lapped traffic began to add to the excitement the caution waved again on lap sixteen as Greenwood slowed on the frontstretch. When the green flag returned the race for the lead between Higday and Goldesberry resumed, but not for long as Jordan spun in turn two just two laps later taking him out of contention.
Bobby Mincer was now in the second position as the green waved for the final seven laps, but the Burlington driver could not maintain the pace being set by Higday as Josh powered away to a convincing win in the opener. Mincer would finish in the second spot while southeast Wisconsin driver Scotty Thiel was impressive coming from tenth to third. Dustin Selvage started one position behind Thiel and finished the same taking fourth while Ben Wagoner filled out the top five.
During the caution periods series announcer Rusty Rogerson mentioned that the number had been drawn for a Mystery position and at the conclusion of the race that position would be announced and the driver who finished there would receive some nice items from 34 Raceway. As Higday pulled into victory lane to accept his hardware for the win, the "mystery" position was 7 and therefore local favorite Josh Schneiderman was asked to return to the frontstretch for the presentation. Promoter Amy Laue encouraged Josh's friends and family to join him down front for a group picture and as I was watching this unfold I suspected that there must be something more to it. Josh climbed the ladder and joined Laue on the gravel in front of the grandstand and she presented him with a marble plaque and then asked him how the car felt and what he thought his chances were for the full program that was yet to be run.
Always a good interview, Josh answered her questions, thanked his sponsors and crew and then thanked the fans for coming out on such a warm night. Amy then aked "is there anything else that you want to say" before handing him the microphone and stepping out of the way. Josh took the microphone and walked toward his girlfriend Brittany Griffith, got down on one knee and asked her to marry him. Completely surprised by the perfect setup (she confirmed this to me later in the night), Brittany of course said "yes" and the young driver who had just run twenty-five hard laps of racing in ninety degree heat under a brutal July sun suddenly had a spring in his step once again as he placed the ring on her finger, hugged his bride-to-be and then bounded back down the ladder to head for the pits in preparation for a full night of racing. Congratulations to everyone who had a hand in the setup and especially congratulations to Josh and Brittany, two children of racers who spent many a Saturday night here at 34 Raceway.
With a stellar field of thirty-two cars in attendance, just getting qualified for the second feature of the night was a chore and several top contenders found themselves in the sixteen-car B-Main where only the top four would transfer. Defending series champion and last week's winner in Donnellson Matt Sutton was one of those drivers as he lined up in row five for the 12-lap Last Chance event, but his run would end quickly as a mad scramble ensued on the back stretch of the opening lap. Both Sutton and Jimmy Davies would get upside down in the incident and, while both drivers would walk away, both were finished for the evening. Justin Parrish would lead throughout the event with Jayson Dittsworth not far behind in second, but with just two laps remaining Dittsworth would end up in the wall exiting turn four with his right front wheel rolling down the front stretch. The final two laps would see some position changes in the final transfer spots as John Schulz, who earlier in the night spun on the final lap of his heat race while running second, recovered nicely to finish third behind Parrish and Tony Shilling while Florida native R.J. Johnson edged out the fourteen-year-old Chris Martin for the fourth and final transfer position.
The format for the 34-lap feature would include a twelve minute break at lap nineteen where crews could do anything that they wanted to on the cars that would be parked in front of the crowd on the front straightaway. Bret Tripplett who had won earlier in the year at Peoria would go from the pole in this one with Russ Hall starting to his outside. Hall would gain the early advantage with Tripplett in hot pursuit while my eyes were drawn to Scotty Thiel who was again showing strength moving from fifth to third. On the eighth lap Tripplett had a nice run coming off of turn two and attempted to pass Hall going down the back stretch. Contact between the two sent Tripplett's #22 for a spin and with not enough time to react Thiel could not avoid him and he was collected as well. Neither car got upside down in the high speed incident, but Tripplett quickly climbed from his car and marched down the track ready to go after Hall who was still moving under the caution. A Series official headed off the confrontation and while Tripplett's car was towed back to the pits, Thiel would restart at the rear of the field.
Hall raced to a comfortable lead once back to green, but that lead started to shrink visibly as Bobby Mincer found the low-line around the speedway to his liking. Josh Schneiderman was chasing Mincer as well and both drivers were closing quickly on the leader drawing to within a car length before the pre-planned caution waved for the twelve minute break. The crews were waved to the front stretch and the work began as drivers were interviewed, fans threw frisbees, bikes were given away and music played in a chaotic atmosphere that made twelve minutes go by pretty quickly.
Soon after the restart Schneiderman found the high groove to his liking and he moved to second past Mincer. Then on lap twenty-four "The Professor" used that same line to sweep around Hall to take the lead out of turn four. As Hall, Mincer and Dustin Selvage engaged in battle for the second position, Schneiderman pulled away over the final ten laps to establish what would be his second best memory of this night; a win worth $2,012. Selvage would eventually prevail in the battle for second with Mincer finishing in third making it a pretty darn good night for him as well. Josh Higday would rally for the fourth spot while Hall faded to fifth at the checkers.
In support class action hometown driver Dustin Ravelin fought off the challenges of first-time visitor to the track Ryan Walker to take the win in the I-Wireless Four Cylinder main event. Daytona Fenton would finish in the third spot, Anthony Cassat was fourth and Mike Hornung completed the top five. The first lap of the Mod Lite feature saw a hard rollover by Gary Snyder in turn two. It took several minutes for safety crews to figure out how to best allow Snyder to get of the car as the escape hatch had been damaged, but once they did Snyder walked away under his own power. Speaking of power, Mike Morrill showed plenty of it as he raced to a half-lap victory over Jonathan Huston, Evan Epperson and Todd Kramer. The Burlington Pepsi Hobby Stocks saw a tight battle up front as Jake Wenig applied heavy pressure to race-long leader Victor Hastings over the closing laps, but Hastings was up to the challenge as he held on for the win. Wenig who was spun out on the opening lap and restarted eighth would finish in the second spot followed by Matt Gavin, Dugan Thye and Dane Fenton.
For the second night in a row this race fan was treated to a racing surface that was fast and multi-grooved due to the extra efforts put forth by the track crew in trying weather conditions. Yes, there was some dust tonight, but no more than what is usually expected when you turn loose more than thirty sprint cars for four heats, two B-Mains and 59 laps of feature racing. At the end of the night there were still three grooves to choose from and there was a nice cushion on both ends of the speedway. Jeff Laue, you and your track prep crew should take a bow!
The Sprint Invaders have been drawing a fantastic field of cars this season and you can catch them at their next event on Thursday July 12th during the Cedar County Fair in Tipton. The Invaders then return to 34 Raceway on Saturday August 18th for a night that will again include two feature races on the "Night of the Twins".
I'm taking my lovely bride to see the fireworks tonight and then on Friday night the plan is to catch up with The Hell Tour once again as the UMP Summer Nationals returns to the Quincy Raceways. Then hopefully I can make it to the Hogan Memorial at the Benton County Speedway in Vinton on Sunday night followed by the Deery Brothers Summer Series at West Liberty on Tuesday July 10th. Get out and visit the track of your choice soon and maybe I'll see you there on the Back Stretch.