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!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Brown's Misfortune Leads To Lasoski Victory At 34 Raceway

Contact with a lapped car brought an early end to Brian Brown's night and Danny Lasoski took full advantage as the MOWA 410 Sprint Cars made a Sunday night visit to 34 Raceway near Burlington.

The twenty-seven car field had been whittled down to twenty through qualifying events with Lasoski earning the pole position by winning the Dash. The defending MOWA champion, and the winner the night before in Pevely, Missouri, Jerrod Hull started next to Lasoski on the front row for the 30-lap finale, but it was third-starting Brian Brown who would charge around the top groove to lead the opening lap.

Brown and Lasoski waged an interesting battle early on as they separated themselves from the rest of the field running opposite grooves on both ends of the 3/8-mile oval. The leader Brown would run the cushion through three and four and then dive to the bottom to enter turn one and stay low through turn two. Lasoski would do just the opposite running the top in one and two and his familiar bottom groove in three and four, and he was able to stay within five car-lengths of the leader as they entered lapped traffic.

That traffic was heavy and with the leaders switching grooves on each set of turns it was inevitable that somebody was going to get in the way, and soon. On lap nine as Brown came down the front stretch with Lasoski in hot pursuit, he drove around the outside of Jeremy Standridge and then aimed for his low entry into run one. But Standridge was still there and might have even been looking to head to the cushion in turn one and in the crossover Brown's left rear wheel hopped over the right front of Standridge. The crowd gasped as Brown's car rose up into the air although he was somehow able to keep it on all fours. Standridge was not as fortunate though as his #10S turned sideways and took a couple of barrel rolls before ending up near the top of turn one.

Under red flag conditions Standridge emerged from his car unhurt while Brown sat in turn two with a flat left rear tire. According to MOWA rules though he would not be allowed to return to the track after pitting to change the tire, so his night was finished.

Only thirteen cars remained for the restart and Lasoski drove away from Hull. With the traffic level now reduced the veteran did not have to tap into his extensive skills at working the lappers and he cruised the remaining distance to win his second career MOWA feature here at 34 Raceway. Hull increased his early season point lead with a runner-up finish while last week's winner at Jacksonville, A. J. Bruns finished third. Jim Moughan Jr. was fourth and Ryan Bunton was the big mover in the top five coming from row six to take fifth.

MOWA @ 34 Notes......The hot, dry, windy conditions sucked the moisture out of the surface, but Jeff Laue and his crew did everything that they could to produce a wide and racy track by taking the time to do some re-work both during the intermission and before the Sprint Car feature......Justin Springer's night ended during qualifying when he made hard contact with the front stretch wall on his second lap.....Jordan Goldesberry behind the wheel of the Plath Motorsports #14P had an interesting evening. In the first heat race he was challenging Danny Lasoski for third before spinning and having to restart at the rear. He was able to race his way back up to the fifth and final transfer spot though putting him into the Dash where he retired to the pits after the first few laps. His feature race ended too soon as well when he and heat race winner Brett Tripplet tangled in turn two on the second lap.....Ian Madsen made his MOWA debut tonight and was the fourth fastest qualifier. But while racing one spot out of a transfer in the first heat, he pushed it a little too hard off turn four and slammed the wall tearing the right rear wheel off of his #55. The crew was able to make repairs and Madsen returned to run the B-Main where he held off 15-year-old Paul Nieheiser for the fifth and final transfer position.....Matt Harms made a final turn pass for fifth in the second heat sending local favorite Ryan Jamison to the B-Main.....Former Knoxville Nationals Rookie-of-the-Year Geoff Dodge experienced radiator problems so he waited until after the parade laps to push off for the feature and ran just a lap before collecting his start pay.....The MOWA cars and stars return to action on Friday June 15th in Lincoln, Illinois, and they will be back at 34 Raceway on Saturday September 22nd.

Three divisions ran in support of the sprint cars with the Mod Lites pulling in from all over to build a 24-car field. Greg Rossell would lead early before fifth starting Mike Morrill swept past on lap three. Joel Huggins had started next to Morrill on that third row and following a mid-race caution he found his speed driving under Morrill for the lead with four laps remaining and he then held off one more challenge from him to score the win. Morrill was right behind in second, with Rossell next in third while Randy Bryant came home fourth.

Luke McLaughlin started in the second row, but was the leader on lap one of the 15-lap Hobby Stock headliner. Josh Tripp had started next to Luke and found the low groove to his liking making a pass for the lead on lap eight. The caution waved a lap later though when the two cars battling for the fourth position, Dane Fenton and Jake Wenig, got hooked together exiting turn four and they stopped on the front stretch. The delay to separate the two cars was not good for Tripp as on the restart McLaughlin got back around him and then eased away over the final five laps for the win. John Oliver Jr. passed Tripp late for second as the former leader fought off some rear suspension issues to salvage third. Matt Gavin and Vic Hastings completed the top five.

The Four Cylinders were wild and woolly tonight with plenty of three-wide action and a little rough driving as well. Daytona Fenton paced the first lap before Casey Mahaffey and Brian Mahaffey became the lead duo. Brian took over the lead on lap eight and was under heavy pressure from Nick Wilkerson before the caution waved for Fenton who had been spun out on the back stretch with just two laps to go..The restart was a wild one with drivers running all over the racetrack and Brian Mahaffey stayed ahead of the scramble to pick up the win. Billy Stanford muscled his way up to second at the checkers with Wilkerson taking third. John Whalen and Michael Grossman completed the top five.

Arriving a bit later than normal I only had a chance to say a quick "hi" to Kenny Dixon, Rich Adams and Jason Goble and as always the 34 Raceway crew headed up by Jeff and Amy Laue did a fine job of presenting a race program. I look forward to retuning to this fine facility again soon!

It is Memorial Day Monday night and it looks like this morning rain should be out of here in plenty of time for racing action tonight in Boone, Mason City and Bloomfield. Keep our fallen heroes in your heart as you enjoy the day and here's hoping that you are able to catch some racing action this evening.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Smooth Night At West Liberty

On this weekend where we all need to take some time to remember the men and women who have fought for this country, and especially those who made the ultimate sacrifice in doing so, I decided to visit two of the three tracks that make up most of my racing memories from the past forty-five years.

The West Liberty Raceway is where I spent most of my summer Saturday nights from age four to nineteen and, while it is still just a fifty-five mile trip from my front door, I just don't get back up to the historic half-mile on the Muscatine County fairgrounds as often as I should anymore. As we waited in line at the ticket booth I told my son Morgan how the memories come rushing back as I approach that old wooden grandstand and how it made me sad that I never really gave him that one track that he could call "home" as he was growing up and going to races. After all, it is truly a special feeling to go back home.

With a couple of area tracks taking the night off, and a couple of others cancelled due to rain to the north, a few visitors boosted the car count on this night and the sweeping half-mile was prepared to perfection. It started the evening fast and tacky and by feature time it was wide, slick, smooth and mutli-grooved. I'm not sure who Larry is, but as the gentleman in charge of track prep here, the man deserved a standing ovation on this night.

The Stock Cars were the first of five features on the card and despite being a little short on cars with eleven, they had delivered two entertaining heat races to start off the evening. Andrew Burk moved quickly from his third starting spot to take the lead before the caution waved on lap number three when pole-sitter Josh Woods spun in turn two. On the restart with Burk out front and the other ten paired up behind him, the leader got sideways in turn one and the scramble was on. Four of the top contenders suffered damage including Burk, Shane Paris, Lane Kauffman and current point leader John Hemsted with all but Kauffman, who returned to the race at least a lap down, eliminated for the evening. Once back to green the two leaders made this one of the best six-car races you'll ever see as David Brandies and Tom Cannon ran the remaining twelve laps never more than two car-lengths apart. And, for much of the time they were door handle to door handle with Brandies leading through lap seven, Cannon had the advantage on lap eight, Brandies came back to lead the next four circuits before Cannon took the lead for good with just two laps remaining. For Cannon, the former Late Model competitor who had been out of racing for several years before buying this car late in 2011, it was a triumphant return to victory lane and he praised Brandies for racing him hard and clean along the way. Jason Hartman would finish a ways back in third while Cody Harris and Chris Hinrichs rounded out the top five.

The IMCA-type Modifieds were next up and after a couple failed attempts to get a start it was Mark Verbeck who moved from row two to the front once the green flag could remain waving. Brad Dierks was the man on the move in this one as he methodically picked his way to the front after starting in the fifth row and on lap six Dierks powered past Verbeck for the lead. The advantage was a big one by lap eleven when it was wiped away by a caution for Shelly Kirkpatrick who had blown a right rear tire and was coasting down the back stretch. Kirkpatrick had run the first half of the race in the top three after starting from the pole position, but had faded a bit before the tire let go. With the field now on his tail for the restart and four laps remaining, Dierks did not let it faze him one bit as he again pulled away to a comfortable lead and the win ahead of Ryan Dolan, Steve Stewart, Verbeck and unofficially I had Larry Herring at the line by inches for fifth over Dakota Hayden.

Fourteen Sport Compacts would take the green next and the four cylinders were flying. For those of you who feel that the appearance of this division makes for a good time to visit the concession stand you may want to reconsider that based upon what I saw here tonight. Not only did they look fast, but they were racing three and four wide with even a little rubbing thrown in for good measure. And, as they do more often than not, the Sport Compacts ran their ten lap distance caution free. Young Ryan Walker who graduated from Wilton High School this weekend made the Beaver Nation proud by holding off the persistent challenges from defending All Iowa Points champion Nathan Chandler to take his second win of the season here. Cody Thompson, the one from Ainsworth not Sioux City as I erroneously reported from an event at Osky earlier this season, finished in the third spot followed by Jordan Walker and Aaron Hitt. Thirteen people joined Walker for photos in victory lane and later he, and several of his friends sat near us in the stands and impressed this old codger with their personalities. While most other high school seniors prefer to celebrate in other manners, these kids chose to be at a racetrack on their graduation weekend. Just like I remembered.

The SPI Open Modifieds had the largest count of the night at eighteen and they, along with the Late Models, would honor our heroes on Memorial Day weekend with a four-wide salute each carrying the stars and stripes. Veteran driver Brad Dubil raced to the early lead, but Ryan Dolan was on the fly working the high line to perfection on the opening lap to come from eighth to second. Dubil was able to hold him off for another lap before Dolan used that same groove through one and two to take the lead on lap three. Kurt Kile who had started behind Dolan in tenth was also on the move, just not as fast as the now leader of the event, but it wasn't long before Kile had Dolan in his sights. On lap twelve Kile powered past Dolan for the lead and then drove away for the convincing victory. Zack Vanderbeek who may have been checking the radar for southeast Minnesota and decided to come here instead of going to Deer Creek where the USMTS was in action drove a steady race from his sixth row start and passed Dolan for second with two laps remaining. Dan Brockert was solid in fourth and Todd Hansen completed the top five.

Seventeen IMCA Late Models would round out the evening with their 25-lap main event with second generation driver Mike Klinkkammer starting from the pole alongside the youngster Spencer Diercks. These two drivers obviously took a liking to the surface and pulled out to a nice lead over the rest of the field as we watched pre-race favorites Andy Eckrich and Ray Guss Jr. try to work their way to the front. Eckrich was having better luck than Guss and by mid-race was up to fourth, but he had a long way to go to catch Klinkkammer, Diercks and Kyle Hinrichs. As the laps wound down it was actually Hinrichs who appeared to be the fastest on the track as he moved past Diercks for second with four to go and he was tracking down the leader, but ran out of laps as Klinkkammer delivered the flag-to-flag performance in fine fashion. Hinrichs was second, followed by Diercks, Eckrich and Nick Marolf while Guss would collect sixth-place money.

WLR Notes......As mentioned earlier the two Stock Car heats started out the evening in fine fashion as Brandies, Paris and Kauffman waged a three-car battle the entire distance of the first heat, but they were outdone by the four-car tussle for the front in heat two. Burk prevailed in that one over Woods and Hemsted though it was the three-wheeling style of Tom Cannon in fourth that would foretell the end result of the evening......With the Lafayette County Raceway in Darlington, Wisconsin, cancelled due to wet conditions Matt Crist made the trip down to West Liberty with his IMCA Modified and it look like a wasted trip when he was a victim of a back stretch pile-up on the first lap of his heat race. The crew made repairs though and Crist made a nice run from the back to seventh in the main event......Tim Murty, who has been racing at Allison on Saturday nights recently, took advantage of a night off there to come and run at West Liberty with his IMCA car......Always a contender at West Liberty, Rick Hixson had his night end early with damage to his Open Mod after he and Todd Hansen got hooked together during the first heat race......I mentioned above that Nathan Chandler was the defending All Iowa Points Champion in the Four Cylinders. We also had in action tonight the two-time defending All Iowa Points Modified Champion Ryan Dolan and the three-time defending Late Model champ Ray Guss Jr. Plus, the winner of Open Mod heat race number two was the 1995 All Iowa Points Sportsman champ Johnny Spaw......Kevin Kile was strong early on in the Late Model feature and was challenging Spencer Diercks for second before he slowed and pulled to the infield on lap eleven.....The caution for Kirkpatrick in the IMCA-type Mod feature was the final one of the night as the last three features ran fifty-five straight laps of green flag racing with the final checkers waving at 9:55 p.m.......I love seeing the smiling face of Carrie Feller when I check in at an SPI event (Kevin you are a lucky man) and it was nice to see promoter Keith Simmons relaxing a bit just before the night's action. We thank him and his entire crew for their hospitality and for always presenting a quality race program. Finally I have to recognize the talents of announcer Jerry Mackey who after thirty-one years on the microphone remains one of the best and I know that others feel the same when after he says "Hello Race Fans!", almost all of them shout out "Hello Jerry!"

Tonight it is back to the track where I spent nearly every Saturday night during the 1980's as 34 Raceway in Burlington plays host to the MOWA 410 Sprint Cars in what should be another fantastic night of racing. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eckrich Brothers Go One-Two In Deery Show at Marshalltown

Promoter Toby Kruse has established the tradition of hosting the first mid-week special of the season each May when he brings in the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models to Marshalltown on a Tuesday night. It is a tradition that, as a race fan, you should mark on your calendar as it is also your one and only opportunity each year to watch the Late Models attack the wide high-banked quarter-mile oval. I made it to the track just in time for the Late Model hot laps and it was awesome to watch the drivers "back it in" to turns one and three on the freshly prepped tacky surface and the great thing about Marshalltown is that you get a similar thrill as you watch the drivers search out the fastest line around the speedway when the track goes hard and slick come feature time.

Twenty-seven Late Models made the trip tonight with the final arrival Bryan Klein drawing the pole position for the fifty-lap main event. Andy Eckrich started next to Klein and snared the lead at the drop of the green with his older brother Denny taking up the chase in second and the brothers Eckrich pulled away as Klein tried to fight off the challenges from others. Once Jeff Aikey made his way into third, the leaders had more than a straightaway advantage over him and were already working traffic. Denny studied his brother's line as he passed the first two lappers and on lap fifteen he entered turn one on the cushion and then drove off turn two low to pull even with Andy down the backstretch. Both brothers went for the bottom groove in turn three and they ran wheel-to-wheel and door-to-door with Denny taking the lead off of turn four.

Andy stayed close to Denny as they continued to negotiate through the slower traffic while the racing for position waged on well behind them. I sensed that many in the nearly full bleachers were more interested in watching two of their local favorites rather than the lead duo as Modified ace Richie Gustin and his uncle Darrel DeFrance battled for the seventh position. Gustin had thrilled the crowd earlier in the evening when he fought off Andy Eckrich to win the third heat by half of a car length and he was holding his own nicely here in the feature as well.

Aikey was making up ground on the leaders and it looked like the first caution might wave on lap thirty-six when Todd Cooney spun sideways in turn one. The Des Moines driver recovered though and drove down into the infield to keep the race green. On the following lap Ryan Giles, who had been racing with Cooney for position mid-pack, drove off the top-side of turn three and appeared to slide sideways before disappearing from view, but he must have kept the car moving and then headed to the pit area.

With eight laps remaining current series point leader Mike Murphy Jr. slipped under two-time defending champ Ray Guss Jr. for the fifth spot and two laps later the night would come to an end for Guss. Racing through traffic Murphy drifted up the track exiting turn four causing Sam Halstead to stand on the brakes leaving Guss with no place to go and no time to react as he collided with Halstead. Both drivers limped off the track on the back stretch and my attention was drawn back to the front as Andy had closed back in on Denny for the lead.

With Aikey again several car-lengths back it was obvious that this one would be settled within the family and when the white flag waved, little brother made his move. Using a line similar to the one that Denny used earlier to take the lead, Andy was able to put his nose even with Denny's door down the backstretch, but he could not make it stick in turn three as Denny captured his first series win at Marshalltown. Andy would settle for second on this night with Aikey running a consistent race in third. Tyler Bruening finished where he started in fourth while Murphy likely maintained his point lead with a strong run from twelfth to fifth. Nate Beuseling would take the sixth spot, Kurt Kile moved from the ninth row to seventh, DeFrance was eighth, Gustin finished ninth and Jay Johnson completed the top ten.

M-town Deery Notes........Bryan Klein arrived after hot laps, started ninth in his heat and raced his way up to fourth in order to even have the opportunity to draw the pole position.....Colby Springsteen had mechanical issues while running third in the third heat and even though he returned later in the evening it looked as if he was short on speed......The B-Main saw two spectacular crashes that had one driver in common. As the field came off turn four to score lap one, Curt Martin was spun sideways and broad-sided by Jeff Mitrisin. Martin's car rolled over onto its top and Mitrisin's car drove up and over Martin's upside down mount. After a few anxious moments word came that Martin was okay and the veteran driver was cheered when he finally crawled out of the still upside down #45. During the cleanup process Mitrisin went to the pits to make repairs and he returned for the restart. On lap four though it looked like something broke on the right rear as Mitrisin pounded the cushion in turn one and he was launched into a series of barrel-rolls that took him off the topside of the speedway in turn two. It was a hard wreck even for the former sprint car driver who had some bad ones in that division as well and we were all relieved when announcer Jerry VanSickel reported that the driver was out of the car and okay......IMCA Marketing Director Kevin Yoder did another great job with the re-draw process on the frontstretch and the crowd loved the opportunity to see the personalities that wheel these machines.....the Deery Series returns to action on Memorial Day Monday at the Boone Speedway.

Mike Morrill raced his way to the front for the win in a ten-car Mod Lite Main event with Andy Hennigar and Dusty Masolini next in line. Early leader Josh May coasted across the line in fourth. Twenty-one Sport Mods put on a good show with Jenae Gustin taking the lead from Andy Tiernan on the second lap of twenty. Racer Hulin had started twelfth and was picking his way through the field before the caution waved for debris with five laps remaining. Set to restart third, Hulin pulled alongside Gustin during the caution and gave her a wave to let Jenae know that he was there. Jenae waved right back to him and then tried to pull away when the green flag returned. On the final lap Hulin had a run off turn two and pulled even with Gustin entering turn three, but Gustin kept her composure and held off Hulin for the victory. Austin Kaplan started tenth and finished third with Eric Elliott and recent Grundy Center High graduate Joel Rust next in line.

You can always count on Kruse and his crew to run an efficient program and the final checkers flew at 9:21 p.m. tonight. I also want to thank announcer Jeremy Fox for his kind words about the crew at Positively Racing and the site was well represented this evening. Make sure that you check in with Ryan Clark and Joyce Eisele for their report as well as Barry Johnson who may have some photos up soon. Kevin Trittien was also on hand, but his computer is still giving him fits. Look for a summary of a lot of events from TapFan's Tours once he is back in action.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Heskin, Johnson and Ball Are Winners At Knoxville

On a night that had been uncharacteristically short on excitement, the final event of the night more than made up for it and sent a large crowd home from the Knoxville Raceway Saturday buzzing and ready for the next race night. Davey Heskin held off Brian Brown and Terry McCarl for his second career victory in the 20-lap 410 Sprint main event, a race that for the first sixteen laps had me to the edge of my seat, leaning left, leaning right and about to cover my eyes as drivers made daring moves and had near-misses as they weaved in and out of traffic battling for position.

The half-mile surface was wide and a bit dry with a steady north breeze making the dirt fly, so finding a grip around the bottom groove in both sets of corners was not an easy thing to do. And, when the track is like this, a slide-job is the way to go and it seemed like there was one being thrown just about every lap. Third-starting Davey Heskin blew past pole-sitter Bronson Maeschen in three and four to take the lead on the opening circuit and as those two drivers pulled away, the race to watch was definitely the one for third. A pack of six including Lynton Jeffrey, Mark Dobmeir, Ian Madsen, Terry McCarl, Ryan Bunton and Brian Brown were throwing sliders at each other and shuffling positions back and forth in a high speed fashion that is every sprint car fan's dream.

The action was amazing and all drivers showed their talent and professionalism as they narrowly missed each other, but still gave each other enough room to do so. With all of the position swapping going on nobody was making up any ground on the leaders as McCarl and Brown emerged from the pack. That changed though when Heskin encountered the back of the field who was doing their own version of two and three wide racing and as he had to show some patience to find some racing room, Maeschen, McCarl and Brown closed in fast. McCarl moved to second with Brown following and the crowd cheered as those two then swapped slide-jobs for the second spot. With five laps to go Brown was now in second and had Heskin in his sights with plenty of lapped traffic still in play, but the caution waved a lap later when Bunton tangled with the lapped car of Wayne Modjeski in turn two.

The crowd now had a chance to catch its breath as did Heskin who even though he had both Brown and McCarl restarting right behind him, now had open track in front of him with only four laps to go. The green flag waved and Heskin drove to the bottom of turn one to make sure that there would be no slide-job coming at him. His #56 stuck to the bottom and he pulled away down the back stretch to go unchallenged over the final two miles for the win. Brown would take runner-up money with McCarl third, Jeffrey fourth and Madsen fifth at the checkers.

Jon Agan was in control of the 360 main event until lap ten when Matt Covington pulled to the topside of turn two and slowed to a stop. Agan was coming out of turn four as the caution waved, got a little loose, over-corrected a bit and then slapped the frontstretch guardrail with his right rear breaking both the birdcage and the shock, ending his night. Wayne Johnson assumed the lead for the restart and there was no stopping the ASCS National Series point leader who cruised the final eight laps for the victory. Ironically Johnson won the 410 feature here a week before and the only reason that he was back tonight was because the ASCS event at I-30 Speedway in Little Rock had been rained out overnight on Friday. Clint Garner had started right behind Johnson in sixth and he would finish second while pole-starter Tony Shilling had perhaps his best career finish in third. Matt Moro came from eighth to fourth while Randy Martin pulled a slider on Joe Beaver in the final turns to take fifth. The 360 field was extra stout tonight due to the ASCS rainout as Covington and Logan Forler also made the trip north.

Larry Ball Jr. started on the pole of the 305 main event and was never challenged en route to victory. Matthew Stelzer moved from the outside of row four to finish in the second spot, mid-Missouri driver J Kinder took third followed by last week's winner Steve Breazeale and tenth-starting Alan Ambers.

For a full rundown of the results and to check the schedule for when you can next visit "The Dirt Racin' Capital of the World" take a look at the Knoxville Raceway website.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Great Mid-Week Action at Vinton and Oskaloosa

Life for me has been a whirlwind for the past week, but with Morgan home and anxious to get some good ol’ Iowa racing in before he heads back down to Tulsa for the summer he has chauffeured me to two good nights of racing that I would have otherwise passed up due to exhaustion. My busy schedule continues today, but I wanted to log a quick report now and perhaps follow up with more detail later.

Tuesday night we headed to Vinton for the opener of the 2012 Hawkeye Dirt Tour for the IMCA Modifieds and the birthplace of the division delivered in fine fashion. The 38-car field was stacked from the top of the draw sheet to the bottom and literally every driver that qualified for the 24-car feature field was capable of taking the win. The quarter-mile oval was prepped to perfection and Morgan commented how nice it was to be back at a track with good black soil.

Quincy, Illinois, driver Jeff Waterman will go down in the stat book as leading each and every lap from his pole position start, but he definitely did not go unchallenged on his way to victory. Richie Gustin tried to squeeze under Waterman on two occasions, but did not succeed and once J.D. Auringer worked his way into second late in the race he was able to put a nose under Waterman on the final lap. There is something magic about the Hawkeye Dirt Tour for Jeff Waterman as his only two feature wins anywhere during the past three seasons have been on the tour against the best that the division has to offer in Cresco in 2010 and now at Vinton during the 2012 opener. Auringer finished second after starting ninth, Richie Gustin took third holding off a hard charging Mitch Morris who had started in the tenth row and Mark Schulte came from twelfth to fifth. Obviously there was plenty of passing to watch during this one! One driver who was really on the move was Jay Noteboom who had come from 15th up to fifth, but on lap seventeen drove it too hard into turn three and went over the top of the banking. He flew back up and onto the track in Joie Chitwood style and recovered to finish what had to be a disappointing 12th for the northwest Iowa star.

Support class action was also entertaining as Scott Pippert continued to dominate here going flag-to-flag to win the Hobby Stock main event. Current All Iowa Points leader John Watson made a rare visit to Vinton and finished in the second spot. Veteran Merv Chandler, another All Iowa Points leader, cruised to victory in the Sport Compact main event and a 17-car field of IMCA Sport Mods gave us a nice preview of what was to follow with some good racing of their own. Carter VanDenBerg was the early leader and was being chased by Jim Gillenwater who was making his first appearance in Vinton after pulling up from Keokuk. The veteran driver was getting faster with each lap as he figured out the racy quarter-mile and he drove by VanDenBerg on lap six for the lead. There was no touching Gillenwater as he cruised the remaining laps to victory in his first visit. Racer Hulin, who is now the lucky guy married to a beautiful young lady from racing family, had a good night on the track as well moving from tenth to second at the checkers while Scott Davis and Carter VanDenBerg took third and fourth when Austin Kaplan slowed suddenly in turn four on the final lap. He coasted across the line in fifth.

A big thanks to Mick Trier, Dana Benning and Ryan Clark’s lovely mother who has little or no gray hair for their hospitality and kudos to the entire crew for putting on a perfect Tuesday night show.

I went to Des Moines and back for business on Wednesday, chased some e-mails, changed clothes and Morgan had me headed right back toward Oskaloosa by 5:30 for more racing on a perfect spring evening weather-wise. Not only do I enjoy the treat of regular Wednesday night racing at Osky, but I also love to opportunity to sit with fellow Positively Racing bloggers Dick and Joyce Eisele.

Some more new cars took advantage of the “first time driver at Osky $10 pit pass” deal and we also wondered where some of the regulars had been. The Sport Mods were down to 19 tonight and it is becoming a situation where it is “let’s see if anybody can beat Jesse Sobbing tonight.” I did not get to see more than one or two of Sobbing’s amazing 55 wins in 2011, but after watching him here the past few weeks I can see how he did it. It has been a long time since I have ever seen anyone be so consistently fast night after night and the only way that he can be beat is if the race goes green-to-checkers and somebody else who is fast starts up front. That was the case a few weeks ago when Jason McDaniel took the win and, on this night, it was Bryon Weyer who had built up enough of an advantage to survive the run being made by Sobbing from the fifth row. Bill Gibson is fast, but not even he could fight off Sobbing and if the race would have been two laps longer Weyer would have had his hands full. Kudos to young Brayton Carter who finished in the fourth spot making grandpa Jimmy proud and Tony Johnson had a nice run in fifth.

The Sport Compact field swelled to eight this week , but there was no stopping Bill Whalen Jr. who ran away for the win. Merv Chandler faded early and then raced his back up to second at the finish ahead of Kassidy Kirkpatrick, Cody Thompson and Kevin Kirkpatrick. If we can get the Compacts up over ten with an inverted start they should be a great new addition to the SIS program.

Only nine of the eleven IMCA Modifieds on hand were able to start the feature, but what a race it was as Mark Widmar had both Cayden Cater and Brandon Banks breathing down his neck. With three laps remaining Carter drove deep into turn three, got a bit sideways and slid up in front of Widmar who could not avoid contact and both drivers went for a spin. Jacob Murray, making his first appearance here in 2012, assumed the lead on the restart on outran Banks to checkers with Shane Weller and the Streeters, Jeff and Stephen rounding out the top five.

Another driver making his season debut won the Stock Car feature as Colt Mather picked his way up from eleventh to squeeze past Kyle Harwood in the final laps for the win. Nathan Wood made a big move late to pass three cars at once for the runner-up honors while Harwood settled for third. (Note: A couple of hours after writing this I learned that more stud girdles were found at Osky, so Mather was disqualified and Nathan Wood was the official winner)

The IMCA Hobby Stock field at Osky continues to be stocked with talent and it was Donovan Nunnikhoven who prevailed tonight for his second win of the season. Craig Brown finished second, John Watson passed Kevin Fee on the final lap for third and Bill Bonnett was fifth. Shannon Anderson restarted from the back after a flat tire on lap four and raced his way back up to seventh at the checkers.

If you haven’t been to Oskaloosa yet this year, make it a point to come on out for some entertaining Wednesday night action!

District track tonight and then who knows where we’ll end up this weekend. Support the track of your choice!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Suggested Reading

I encourage all of you to read Ryan Clark's recent entry to In Staging. Not only will you get a great description of the racing action on Sunday night at Vinton, including some nice photos from Scott Tjabring, but make sure that you read beyond the results for a message that all race fans should digest.

I am confident that, for most of our readers, this will be like preaching to the choir. But for at least a couple that I know of who stop by here once in awhile, I do hope that you will take a moment, read what Ryan has to say, and then truly consider the message and how it might apply to you.

Racing faces a lot of hurdles right now and that last one that needs to be added is the negativity of its "so-called-fans."

Hope to see you at a track soon!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Bergman Continues Hot Streak With Sooner Win At Creek

My son Morgan graduates from the University of Tulsa today and, after a fun afternoon with the traditional bell ringing ceremony on Friday, his choice to celebrate the weekend was to make the short trip west to the Creek County Speedway in Kellyville for a night of ASCS Sooner Region sprint car action. The egg-shaped quarter-mile where turns three and four are broader than one and two stayed tacky all night long and, while passing is not easy on the narrow surface, the action was definitely entertaining.

The 29-car Sooner Region field was whittled down to twenty-one for the 25-lap feature with Seth Bergman starting on the outside of row one. The Snohomish, Washington, native was coming off a National Tour win last Saturday night at "the ditch" in West Memphis and he was also the winner the last time that the Sooner Region had visited Creek County. Bergman shot to the lead at the drop of the green and it wasn't long before he had another Snohomish driver Gary Taylor in pursuit. Taylor had started sixth and was on the move, but when he hopped the cushion in turn four he faded back to the fourth spot.

Rookie-of-the-year contender Shane Sellers was now the chaser as Bergman negotiated heavy traffic and it didn't take long for Taylor to get back into contention as well. It was an interesting race to watch as the leaders used great patience to pick their way through traffic and on several occasions it looked like Bergman might have chosen the wrong line, but he maintained the lead until the mid-race mark when the red flag flew for a Brandon Hahn flip in turn three.

On the restart it didn't take long for Taylor to get back to second and it didn't take long to catch the traffic on this tacky short-track either. Over the final five laps it looked like Taylor had a run on the leader coming off the high side of turn four, but on the final lap a slower car was in that line so Taylor had no choice but to follow Bergman through three and four to the checkers. Sellers would tighten his grip on the RotY points race with a third-place finish and Jonathan Beason nipped Sean McClelland at the line for fourth.

The track races every Friday night with just three classes, something that I am waiting for one of our Iowa area tracks to try, and on this night the Dwarf Cars took the night off as 27 Champ or Limited Sprints and 19 USRA Modifieds ran in support. A huge crowd was on hand with overflow parking required for us late arrivals and I think that all of them will agree that the wheelie that Kyle Bellm executed while trying to catch leader Jesse Frazier in the first heat race was well worth the price admission in itself. Darian Roberts made a nifty move around the outside of Kevin Cummins early to runaway with the Champ Sprint feature and in the Modified main event Chad Davis started tenth and passed Ho Dean (now there is a great racing name) with three laps remaining to win his third straight feature here in 2012.

Short and sweet this morning as I now get to experience one of the proudest moments of my lifetime. Congratulations Morgan, your father is so proud of you!