Thursday, July 19, 2012

Strickler Closes Door To High Side; Tickled To Win $1,000 At Osky

My car’s temperature readout showed 102 degrees as I pulled into the Southern Iowa Fairgrounds in Oskaloosa on Wednesday night and with the hot weather and it being the second night in a row of racing here it seemed like everybody was just dragging along trying to stay cool. Even track announcer Tony Paris, who is always incredibly upbeat and excited when he does the pre-race show on KBOE, sounded a little less so tonight as I listened to him on the way to town. He told fans that it was hot out here, there would be no blankets or sweatshirts needed and even though hot laps were set to start at seven o’clock, race fans might want to stay in the air conditioning as long as possible as long as they were there for the first race at 7:30.

I was amazed at how good the track looked considering that it had just been used extensively the night before in similar heat, but promoter Mike VanGenderen and his crew had obviously worked their tails off to provide another good surface. Car counts were down from the night before in four of the five classes, but with a little different mix of drivers in the Modified division looking for another $1,000 top prize we knew that we were in for another entertaining night.

The Sport Compacts were the first of five features on the card and once again the people primarily responsible for the division even racing here, Whalen Racing and Autocrafters, dominated. Dallas Chandler won again followed by Bill Whalen Jr. who passed Merv Chandler late for third, John Whalen finished fourth and Duayne Herb was fifth.

Ten of the eleven Hobby Stocks in attendance took the green in their feature event with Tuesday’s winner Dustin Griffiths securing the lead from his pole position start. Shannon Anderson had started seventh and was using the low line to work his way forward and on lap six he was challenging Kevin Fee for third. As they exited turn four Anderson drifted up the track and the two made contact with Fee’s car slamming the guardrail and flattening both rear tires. Officials penalized Anderson for rough driving and he also started from the rear along with Fee who still had some damage on the right front that would keep him from contending. Griffiths would continue to lead following the restart while Anderson quickly moved back toward the front. With two laps to go Anderson drove past Mike Hughes for second and perhaps still had a shot at the leader, but some slight contact right at the flagstand with Hughes cut down Anderson’s right rear tire and he slowed into turn one before pulling to the infield. Griffiths would go on to make it two in a row here at Osky with Hughes in second for the second night in a row, Donovan Nunnikhoven finished in the third spot followed by Danny Thrasher and Bobby Greene.

The Stock Cars were up next and, as they are known to do here, they put on a 16-lap feature full of two and three-wide action. “The Administrator” Nathan Wood (sorry Nathan, but you needed a nickname) would pace the field for the first five laps before the trio of Matt Greiner, Zack Vanderbeek and Colt Mather powered past. While those three battled it out for the lead, Wood, Damon Murty, Brad Pinkerton and Alex Buffington waged their own four-car battle close behind and the sweltering crowd had plenty of action to keep them entertained. Murty slipped off the back stretch with four laps to go and the caution waved setting up a dash to the finish. On the restart Vanderbeek slipped past Greiner for the lead, but Matt would fight back pulling even with Zack twice in the next three laps. Greiner drove hard into turn three on the final lap and drifted up the track trying to pull a slider, but when he saw that it would not be a clean one he held tight as Vanderbeek did not flinch and would beat Greiner to the line by a car-length for his second win in two nights. Mather was right there at the finish for third, Pinkerton took fourth and Wood edged out Buffington by a bumper for fifth.

The Modified headliner was up next with North Carolina visitor Kyle Strickler racing to the early lead and putting some distance on the rest of the field. The caution waved on lap number four when Devon Havlik spun on the exit of turn four. The young Havlik was making his first appearance here at Osky just a few days after winning his first career Modified feature at Stuart. On the restart Jacob Murray dove low into turn one and pulled even with Strickler for the lead. As the two raced wheel-to-wheel into turn three the caution waved again as a jumble mid-pack ended up with Ryan Cook and Havlik stopped on the back stretch.

When the green flag waved again Strickler showed that he is a quick study as he took away Murray’s line into turn one to maintain his lead. But as usual Jacob was fast here at Osky and on lap seven he moved by Strickler for the lead. Murray was on the fly and he was pulling away from the field until lap twelve when smoke billowed from his car as his powerplant expired bringing out the caution once again. Strickler assumed the lead on the restart and he now had company in Josh Most who was riding the high line around the speedway. Strickler who is known as “The High Side Tickler” was using a lower groove and with three laps to go Most showed him a nose exiting turn two. Just as it looked as though Most had a run that could pull him even with leader out of turn four, Strickler wisely moved up the track to close the door and break the momentum of Most. Josh tried to regroup for the final two laps, but the Carolina driver was using all the track that the race leader has a right to and he would soon celebrate heartily with his crew in victory lane. It was an impressive win for Strickler who I came to like while listening to his interview with Paris on the pre-race radio show and he told the crowd how proud he was to win a feature here in Iowa where the absolute best of drivers compete in the IMCA Modified division. Most always seems to put on a good show and he did again tonight finishing in second, Todd Shute came from a fifth row start to take third while track regulars Brandon Banks and Andrew Schroeder completed the top five. Defending Hawkeye Dirt Tour champion Mark Elliott was sixth and the eighteen-car field also included Jeremy Frenier of Colorado, David Murray from Kansas and Joe Haresky from Apple Valley, California.

The IMCA Sport Mods would close out the evening and when I saw that Jesse Sobbing had drawn a front row start it was pretty certain that this would be a race for second. Brett Lowry was actually closing a bit on the leader near the end, but there was no catching Sobbing who added to his bulging victory total in the division. Last night’s winner Curtis VanDerWal finished third followed by Ben Kates and Eric Flander.

Some vacation time and then work travel will likely keep me away from the track for the next week or so, but here’s hoping that you can get out to your favorite track soon……and then tell me what happened when I do return!

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