Monday, January 2, 2017

Random Thoughts

With 2016 in the rear view mirror, it's time to take a look back and a look ahead. In 2016, I attended 49 nights of racing, my highest total in several years, thanks mainly to the addition of the fledging late model class at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson,Iowa, a 40 minutes driver from my front door. In total, I visited eleven tracks this season - Quincy and Pontoon Beach in Illinois, Pevely, Moberly, and Memphis in Missouri, and in Iowa in addition to Donnellson, West Burlington, West Liberty, Tipton, Knoxville, and one new venue, the Dubuque Fairgrounds in Dubuque. The 3/8 mile Sunday night track has been on my list of places to go for many years, but the distance from home coupled with their running the same night as Quincy has always been an issue. My first visit was well worth the trip, and in fact so enjoyable that I made the trip again a month later! I did not, however, take in the racing at the Dome in St Louis in December, so I am more than ready for the 2017 season to begin. There are always some changes made in the off season, and it would seem this year is no exception. While I would consider the first year of the crate late model class a success in Donnellson as far as car counts and competition, promoter Mike VanGenderen has decided to sanction the class on Friday nights for 2017 with the UMP Pro late model division. During 2016 there were a couple cars from Illinois based tracks that made the trek west to race in Donnellson, and LCS track champion Tommy Elston journeyed to Spoon River Speedway in Banner,Il and picked up a win. So we will see what effect the sanctioning will have in the coming year. If I understand correctly, the IMCA late models will again be able to run at Lee County in what is considered phase in season. There were several IMCA cars that competed in 2016. At the same time, Quincy Raceways has announced that they will be adding the UMP Pro late models to the weekly Sunday night card about nine times in 2017. The UMP super lates will be in action about 15 times, so on certain nights, both classes of late models will be racing. It has been stated that on those nights, the top finishing crate cars will have the option of also running the open feature. We will have to see how this plays out, and as of now, promoter Ken Dobson has not indicated which classes will race on which nights. He has however released a tentative schedule which has the track taking a few nights off during the season, including every other week during July and August. So I would encourage everyone to check the schedule ahead of time. Dobson also has the Pro lates several times at the Jacksonville,Il track during the season. While I try to be a solid supporter of weekly racing, I get as excited as anyone over special events. In 2017, the MLRA late models will again make a pair of visits to Donnellson, on Thursday, May 4 and Friday, June 2. The series will follow up in May with races in Davenport, Iowa on Friday, and Independence, Iowa on Saturday. June 1 still shows as a to be announced date, but Saturday, June 3 will mark a return trip to Randolph,Co Raceway in Moberly. Last seasons events in Donnellson and Moberly had strong car counts, 37 and 35 in Donnellson, and 31 in Moberly, and strong competition. The MLRA is among the best regional series, my only gripe is that the are billed by the series owners as Lucas Oil late models. This is a bit deceiving, most likely done on purpose, creating confusion with the Lucas Oil late model national touring series. The World of Outlaw visit to Quincy Raceways has been dropped from the schedule after two seasons, but the always popular UMP Summernationals will come to town on Monday, July 3 following weekend stops in Pevely,Mo and Lincoln,Il. Also, Dobson is trying to put together another high paying late model special mat a time to be determined. In my neck of the woods, racing is set to kick off the weekend of March 17 and 18 at the Scotland Co. Speedway in Memphis, classes and times not yet announced. The following Friday and Saturday is on the card in Donnellson. Quincy Raceways will spring into action on Sunday, April 2. And of course the biggest show in this area falls on Saturday, April 15 at 34 Raceway in West Burlington with the ninth annual Slocum 50. Co sanctioned by UMP, MARS, and The Cornbelt Clash Series, the 50 lap feature will again pay a whopping $10,555 to win. 33 cars signed in in 2016, with Bobby Pierce cashing the big check. The silly season is now in full swing, but we will hold off on rumors and half truths. Schedules and driver plans should be getting firmed up in the next few weeks, and then we can make plans to meet each other as we prepare to go Racin' Down the Road.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

2016 Season Wrap at Shiverfest

My 2016 racing season likely came to an end Saturday with night number 49 at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa. It was the annual Shiverfest extravaganza, as 169 cars in seven divisions competed in what is billed as the final race in Iowa for the season. The format has been expanded to include some festivities on Friday night, but for us things kicked off on a breezy and unusually warm Saturday evening. Following hay rack rides, on track trick or treating with over 100 cars and drivers coming to the track apron and box car races for the youngsters, hot laps kicked off somewhere around 5:30. 21 heat races, a C main for the sport mods and three B mains set the field for the seven feature events, with the hobby stock headliner sandwiched between the B mains. Four of the 17 hobby stockers were out of commission come feature time, but the 15 lapper was nonetheless hotly contested. Nathan Ballard journeyed from Marengo, Iowa to pick up the win over Brandon Hare, fall series champion Dustin Griffiths, and Quinton Miller. The field included Brian Bries from Norway, Iowa, who spends his Friday nights racing on the asphalt at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids. The late model feature was up next, with a dozen cars signed in to do battle for 25 laps. Heat winners Todd Frank and Sam Halstead in the Lynn Richard # 26 sat on row one. Frank jumped to the early lead, with IMCA competitor Chuck Hanna in tow. Track champion Tommy Elston started in row three and advanced to third on the fifth circuit. Elston ran his familiar low line, taking over second one lap later as Frank pounded the cushion. By lap eight Tommy had closed the gap, and he took the lead out of turn two on lap twelve only to see the caution wave for young Gunner Frank. Back under green Elston moved again to the lead, but Todd Frank stayed close as the two separated themselves from the pack. Frank was gaining ground when Tegan Evans brought out the final caution on lap 16. Over the final ten laps Elston stretched his lead, picking up his eleventh win of 2016. Frank ran a strong second ahead of Jeff Guengerich, Halstead and Hanna. Derek Liles led the second five ahead of Peoria,Il steel block racer Brian Crebo in his first visit to LCS, late model rookies Pat Gordin and Blake Woodruff,Gunner Frank, and first time rookie Chad Coyne from Orion,Il. The 13 years young female racer Evans was the only car to not complete the 25 laps. The huge 41 car sport mod field needed five heat races and a C and B main to set their 24 car feature field. Track regular Tony Dunker found himself in the unenviable position of having to come all the way from the C to make the main event, but he managed to do so despite a couple of eventful races. Early on the feature became a three car battle between Brandon Lennox, John Oliver Jr. and Brayton Carter. But with eight laps remaining, Carter had his fan puncture the radiator, dropping fluid on the track and ending his run. At this point, B main winner Austin Powell was up to fourth, while Logan Anderson held down third. A solid three car battle developed with Lennox and Oliver r4unning the high line while Anderson searched the low groove. On the final lap Oliver slowed a bit out of turn two and as watched his progress Anderson powered around Lennox to lead only one lap of the race, the one that counted. Lennox, Oliver and Powell crossed the stripe in the next three positions. The mini mod/mod lite division turned out only nine cars, with Chad Dugan of Waukon,Iowa and Don Erger swapping paint a couple of times before Dugan claimed the win. Next came the stock cars for 22 laps, with all but one of the 27 entrants taking the green. Track champion Jeff Mueller and John Oliver Jr sat in row one, and Mueller opened an early lead. With one lap scored, the yellow came out, and row three starter Mike Hughes was already up to second, followed by Todd Reitzler and Oliver. Reitzler shot to second under green, but again the caution waved. Racing once again, Johnny Spaw entered the fray in fourth, Cayden Carter took fifth and Oliver fell to sixth. Mueller and Hughes continued to battle and as the race approached the ten lap mark, Carter and a resurgent Oliver now battled side by side for third. Just past half way, Hughes grabbed the lead and Oliver followed on the high line to second as Mueller ran his usual low line. Meanwhile Carter searched around the oval, running high in turns three and four, low in one and two in the four car battle. Mueller reclaimed the lead with six to go, one lap later it was Hughes again on top. The lead was a toss up on the final circuit, but it was Hughes edging Carter for the win. Oliver Jr., Mueller, Spaw and Reitzler followed, all with solid runs. A record ( for me) 33 sport compacts checked in, I can't remember ever witnessing a 4 cylinder B-main! 24 cars took the feature green for 15 laps. The caution waved on the opening lap, with Levi Heath grabbing the lead as we went back to racing. As second running Josh Barnes fell back, Barry Taft and Brandon Reu took up the chase for the lead.On the fifth trip around, Reu grabbed the lead, and Nathan Chandler followed him, nabbing the runner up spot. Following two more quick cautions, Reu and Chandler battled until the yellow waved with three laps remaining. On the restart, a three wide battle developed for the second spot between Chandler, Heath, and Matt Macey from Delavan,Il. But on the white flag lap, Reu left an opening on the inside line and Chandler sneaked by for the lead and the win. Macey crossed in second but was DQ for an illegal part, turning the runner up slot over to Heath, followed by Reu and Taft. The final race of the night and the season was the 24 car A main for the modifieds. The field had been whittled down for 30 race teams for the 25 lapper. Eric Barnes set the early pace with Milo Veloz in second. The first caution came on lap four, three laps later Dakota Hayden moved to second . One more lap and caution waved again and when racing resumed, Cayden Carter blasted to the lead, with Hayden fading to fifth. Meanwhile Kyle Brown charged from sixth to second before another stoppage on lap ten. Now it was veteran Bruce Hanford on the move, taking over second on lap tweleve. Cater hugged the inside groove while Hanford ran the cushion, with caution again at lap 16. A final caution at lap 20 saw Brown jump to second, but Hanford rebounded quickly to grab the spot again. But there was no catching Carter, as he claimed the final checkers of the year over Hanford, Brown, Hayden, and Donavan Lodge, who hung around the top five all night. The final checkers waved just past 11:00 and considering the high number of caution periods, some rather lengthy, it was a superb job by the track officials, staging a 32 race program in just over five hours before a very large crowd, many of whom stayed around on a gorgeous fall evening. As I stated, this is likely my final race of 2016, but I will try to report the news and some of the gossip as the off season begins, and I know Jeff and my fellow bloggers will as well, so thanks for reading, check back often, and heres hoping we can spend time together on line and at the track in 2017!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

132 Cars at Memphis Finale

Saturday night a big crowd and 132 race cars came through the gate at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis,Mo., as night two of the Fall Nationals wrapped up the abbreviated 2016 race schedule at the fairgrounds facility. Although temps dipped below 50 degrees as the final checkers waved just past 11:00, the action stayed hot on the track. A total of 17 heat races and four B mains set the starting field for the six feature events, which began after a brief intermission. First up, 16 of the 17 hobby stocks took the green for 15 laps. One of several double duty drivers, Mike Hughes took off from the outside pole position. He was never seriously challenged in leading the distance. Meanwhile, Dustin Griffiths won a spirited battle for the runner up spot over Clint Nelson. The sport mods turned out a whopping 40 cars, and 24 of them came to the track for their 20 lap finale. Local favorite Brandon Dale grabbed the lead on the opening lap, but soon had Curtis Vanderwal applying pressure. On lap seven, Curtis grabbed the top spot, and began to stretch his advantage. Two laps later Tim Plummer pulled ahead after a duel with Austin Powell and began to stalk Dale. As the laps wound down, Dale began to fade, with Plummer and Powell taking up the chase of Vanderwal. The lone caution period came as the white flag waved, setting up a green, white, checkers finish. Although it wiped out a commanding lead, Vanderwal picked up the win, with Plummer, Powell, and Jim Gillenwater rounding out the top four. Although Curt Marks of Dubuque, Iowa Moving and Storage came on mid week as a sponsor to bump the late model winners check to $1,000, a disappointing total of nine Lee County and IMCA late models signed in, including Marks himself. Marks and Tommy Elston started in row one for the 25 lapper, but third starting Todd Frank looped his # 21 in the first set of turns. Sam Halstead was piloting the Lynn Richard # 26, and he was forced to take evasive action, smacking the guardrail. Although he was able to drive away, he retired to the pits while Frank restarted on the tail. Back under green, Elston jumped to a big lead and was soon lapping cars. Soon his lead was 1/2 lap, and with the race now going green to the checkers, Elston lapped all but the second place finisher, Derek Liles! Gunner Frank turned in a third place finish, with Pat Gordin and Charles Vanzandt completing the top five. All 23 stock cars lined up for 20 laps, with Kurt Kinsley leading the first circuit. The caution waved as lap two was completing, as Jeff Mueller had mechanical problems in turn four, spinning his ride, then retiring to the pits. As racing resumed, Cayden Carter took over the lead, with Johnny Spaw powering to third. Lap four saw Spaw in second, with John Oliver Jr began a charge to the front from a mid pack starting spot. Oliver nabbed second on lap six, and double duty Hughes took over fourth. The yellow waved on lap seven, and following the restart, Spaw spun out of turn two sparking a five car pile up. Going green again, Hughes took second, setting up a three car scrum along with Cater and Oliver. All three leaders ran the high line until the 14th circuit, when Hughes moved to the low side as he looked for the lead. Meanwhile, Carter began entering the turns on the low side, then sliding up to the middle line on exit. One more yellow cam on lap 16, but Carter was up to the challenge. He took the win over Hughes, while Nathan Wood slipped past Oliver for third. Tom Bowling Jr. completed the top five. A dozen sport compacts checked in, and it was Kimberly Abbott with the hot hand. She jumped to the first lap lead from row two. Soon it was Brandon Reu moving to her rear bumper, and lap after lap the two ran inches apart. But Abbott never gave up the top spot, taking the 15 lap win. Reu settled for second, with Darin Smith in third. The final race of the night, weekend, and season saw the 30 modifieds whittled down to 24 starters for 25 laps. It was Cayden Carter pacing the opening circuit before a lap two caution. Michael Long had taken the green in row nine after a rare spinout in his heat relegated him to the second B main, which he won handily. With racing back underway, Long shot to fourth on lap two. It was lap seven when Long won a hard fought duel with Zack Vanderbeek to take over third. Three more trips past the flagstand saw the 18L in second, and now the leaders were in slower traffic. On lap 16, Carter and Long swapped slide jobs in turn four, but as the two entered turn one on the 17th go around, Long took over the lead. From there he stretched his lead, and with no more caution periods, Michael farly cruised to the win. Carter completed a good night in second, with Vanderbeek in third. Dakota Hayden stayed in the mix to take fourth, and veteran Bruce Hanford edged out Kurt Kile and Kelly Shryock for fifth. Promoter Mike Vangenderen and crew do an outstanding job of creating a great racing surface on a track that is used only a handful of times during the season, and Saturday night was a perfect example. With the season quickly winding down, I am hoping for one more race night, next Saturdays Shiverfest event at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa. If you have never attended Shiverfest, I do recommend it, and if you are coming, do so early, as many of the well over 100 cars come to the front stretch about 4:30 for trick or treating for the kids, and it is a good opportunity to see many of the cars and drivers up close before the night of racing. See you there?!?

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Gustin Doubles Up at Donnellson

Although I was on hand for both nights of action at the Fall Extravaganza at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, I must confess that I spent too much time visiting and not enough time note taking, so this column will be too short on details. But I will say that it was two amazing nights of racing even though other commitments caused me to leave early both nights. On Friday night, grandson Peyton joined me, as nearly 160 cars signed in for the action. With the added completion of the IMCA sport mod feature which was rained out with four laps in the books on August 19, 32 races were on the docket for Friday. Jim Gillenwater was the leader when that race was halted, and when action resumed, he was basically unchallenged in picking up the win. Following that, 19 heat races and four B mains events set the field for the seven regular feature races, with a micro mod/mod lite combo class a late addition to the program. Josh May was a runaway winner in the 12 car division to start off feature racing. Next up was the Lee County late model 25 lap finale. In an attempt to boost the car count, and in a continuing pledge to even the playing field, IMCA late model legal cars were allowed to run with no restrictions other than running their approved IMCA tire. Earlier attempts to blend in the spec engine cars with various restrictions had shown the IMCA guys to be at a disadvantage, however the cars were much more even this time around. A nice group of 17 cars checked in to challenge for the $1,000 top prize, and with the " silly season " in full swing," there were some driver changes throughout the weekend. Richie Gustin, who was on hand for the first night of late models in his own #19G, was behind the wheel of the Justin Kay # 15K. In a preview if 2017, Jeremiah Hurst abandoned his familiar #41 to pilot the Roberts Racing #58, replacing the now retired Ray Guss Jr. And Jay Chenoweth was driving the # 6D Doug Nigh machine. Luke Merfeld made the trip down from Dubuque, Iowa to capture the first heat win in his IMCA #21M, and he jumped to the lead over heat two winner Chad Holladay in his IMCA #32C. On the fifth lap, Merfeld suddenly veered into the turn three guardrail, ending his run with an obviously broken race car. On the Delaware restart, third running Gustin shot to the lead ahead of Holliday, track champion Tommy Elston, and Hurst. The next caution came on lap 13, as rookie late model driver Blake Woodruff # W30 nailed the turn one guardrail. But nothing would deter Gustion, who used strong speed off the corners to pick up the win. Holladay ran second ahead of Elston, Hurst, and LCS regular Todd Frank. The second five saw Sam Halstead leading the pack over second generation driver, the vastly improved Gunner Frank, Chenoweth, Charles Vanzandt and Lynn Richard in his second night back from retirement. IMCA stock car racing is always second to none at Lee County, and Friday did not disappoint. 24 cars took the green flag, and although young Cayden Carter took the win from row one, it was far from a cake walk. Mike Hughes is one of the top stock car pilots in the state of Iowa, smooth and fast, and he stalked Carter for 20 laps. The win came down to a drag race off turn four, with Hughes coming up just short at the checkers. Track champion Jeff Mueller was setting in third looking for an opening that never came. John Oliver Jr and Kirk Kinsley completed the top five. Although the show moved along nicely with only a few breaks for track prep as the crew tried to keep the tacky surface as wide as possible, it was now on the wrong side of 11:00, and Peyton and I had an early morning commitment at church, so we regretfully packed up and head for the car. We had seen 27 races, with four features still to go! Justin Lichty topped the hobby stocks, Josh Barnes edged Kimberly Abbott in the sport compacts, Michael Long topped Gustin, who competed in three classes, in the modifieds, and Jared Boumeester captured the sport mod finale. For more on these features, check out Jeff Broegs Backstretch column. For those who are wondering, my unofficial report was that the UMP modifieds of Long and David Weitholder had to add a chip to their engines to run with the mods, as UMP and USRA cars were invited to participate. Saturday nigh the action started two hours earlier, with hot laps at 5:00. I counted something close to 139 cars for night two, with temperatures about 20 degrees warmer than Friday! Only eleven micro mod\mod lites checked in, with their 15 lap main event running ahead of the IMCA mod B-mains. Again it was May with the easy win, as he swept the weekend. The late models were up next, with the car count down to 13. The only newcomer was Quad City racer Chuck Hanna in his sharp red #65. After damaging his ride on Friday, Blake Woodruff climbed in Brian Woodruffs # 1, and Brain Harris came out of retirement to pilot the #26 Richard machine. This car was one the Harris had driven for Richard, and apparently had been sold then bought back by Lynn. Richie Gustin had picked up the second hit win, drew the outside pole position for the feature, and took off from there. While Gunner Frank ducked to the infield on the parade lap, the first caution came on lap five. Harris had been challenging for the lead when he spun off of turn two, collecting Holladay. The night was over for Chad, while Harris rejoined the field at the tail. On the restart, Elston grabbed the runner up spot, and it quickly became a two car race. Elston on several occasions grabbed the lead coming off turn two, but Gustin had too much speed down the straightaway. The race stayed green for the rest of the 25 laps, with Gustin completing the weekend sweep. Elston added a second place run to his third on Friday, with Halstead out racing Hurst for third. Jeff Guengerich recovered for a DNF on Friday to take fifth. Hanna finished sixth in his first visit to LCS ahead of Harris, Todd Frank, Chenoweth, Woodruff, and rookie Pat Gordin. It would not be an overstatement to say that the IMCA stock car feature was the best race I have seen in 47 nights of racing in 2016. John Oliver Jr and Mike Hughes had been locked in a ferocious battle two weeks prior at Memphis,Mo. that ended with the tow drivers bringing out a caution sending both to the back. But on this night, no such bad luck occurred. The two veteran battled back and forth, swapping the lead, swapping grooves when needed, and trading paint more than once. Oliver preferred the low line, as did Hughes, but both used the high side as needed. As those two battled it out, there were at least four other cars within striking distance looking for racing room. With the crowd roaring, Oliver took the win, and he was more than excited to say the least. Hughes settled for second for the second night in a row. Johnny Spaw picked his way to third, while Cayden Carter, who actually had the lead briefly, came home fourth ahead of David Brandies and Jeff Mueller. Dustin Griffiths captured the hobby stock main event, besting an eight car field. Logan Anderson was more than excited with his win in the sport mod class, nosing up against the front stretch guardrail to treat the crowd to a dirt track burnout after holding off Oliver Jr. and Brayton Carter. Barry Taft powered his way to the win in the sport compact division. With four laps remaining, during a caution period, sprinkles began to fall. Even though it was only a little past nine, the combination of possible rain and a short night on Friday sent me towards the car. Checking the results, I see Kyle Brown topped Long for the modified win, wrapping up a great two days of racing. Next weekend, action resumes with tow complete shows at the Scotland County Fairgrounds in Memphis,Mo. Five classes will do battle on Friday, with the late models added on Saturday. Then in two weeks, the final race in Iowa for 2016 will be Shiverfest back at the Lee County Speedway on Saturday, October 29. I hope to make both Saturday shows, and I hope to see you there!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Elston Leads the Way at Memphis

Lets try this again, since last nights entry apparently wandered off in cyberspace. Saturday night I joined son Brent and his family for night number two of the Heavy Bottom Nationals at the Scotland County Speedway in Memphis,Mo. Although a light mist fell early in the evening, promoter Mike VanGenderen kept wheels on the track, and the delay, if any, was minimal. Then the 115 cars in the six classes proceeded to stage 14 heat races without one caution flag on the smooth, fast, well prepared surface. The passing points format made for plenty of action in the heats, although using a pill draw to set an invert for the features seemed a bit counter productive. The sport mods were the only class needing to eliminate cars from the feature grid with 31 entrants. So a pair of B-mains saw the yellow flag displayed only one time! A brief ten minute intermission followed, and then it was time to go feature racing. The sport compacts were up first, 13 cars for 14 laps, as Josh Barnes was unable to take his front row spot after losing an engine at the end of his heat race. Second half sensation Barry Taft jumped to the lead as the green flag waved, and it soon became a two car race as Brandon Reu stayed glued to Tafts bumper. Darin Smith joined the leaders as the laps clicked off quickly. The only caution of the race came as Taft got into the slower car of Jeffrey Delonjay as the white flag was displayed. But Taft stayed on the gas, and retained his spot at the front as the pack lined up Delaware style for a green, white, checkers restart. But no one had anything for Taft, as he led flag to flag for the win. Reu crossed the line in second, while Ron Kibbe got around Smith for third. Next up was the 20 lap stock car main event, with all but one of the 23 race teams taking the green. The caution waved for a four car pileup in turns one and two on the opening lap. When racing resumed, John Oliver Jr shot to the lead with row two starter Mike Hughes in second, and Jason Cook, Jim Mueller, and David Brandies in the top five. On the third lap, Cook moved to second, and Cayden Carter entered the top five. Oliver and Cook ran the inside line, while Hughes worked the high side. The caution waved on lap seven for Brandies, who restarted at the tail. On the restart, Hughes retook second, and went to the lower groove. Carter took third on the high side, but quickly fell back to fourth. The leaders all ran low until Hughes again jumped up top on lap 12. Lap 15 saw Hughes and Cook side by side, and when Hughes fended off the # 27, he again went to the low side. On lap 17, Hughes was able to get under Oliver and take the lead, and when Oliver tried to return the favor in turns three in four on the 18th circuit, contact between the two sent Hughes spinning. Both cars were sent to the tail, turning the lead over to Cook. With time running out, Carter took to the high side , and as the leaders came to the checkers, Cook moved up to block. Running on the bottom, Mueller nearly stole the win, but it was Cook at the line, edging Mueller and Carter. A nice field of 14 Lee County late models signed in, with heat winners Tommy Elston and Jeff Guengerich on the front row. Elston jumped to a big lead before the yellow waved on lap three, when Brandon Ruffcorn spun his #11R, collecting the teenage lady racer Tegan Evans, ending her run. Back under green, Sam Halstead grabbed second on the Delaware restart, but Elston again opened a commanding lead. About lap nine, Elston was attempting to lap the damaged Ruffcorn machine, and he made contact with the nose of his #45 machine. Fortunately for Tommy, he sustained no visible damage and kept his ride going forward. Elston then cruised to his ninth win of 2016, followed by Halstead, Guengerich, Derek Liles, and newcomer John Vandenberg in a sharp looking # 7M. The modified feature was up next, but with three races to go, my ride was heading for home. It had been too long since my last visit to Memphis, and despite the few shortcomings such as not being able to see the flagman, it is always a fun time at the historic fairgrounds. There is still plenty of racing in this month of October, so take advantage and head to the track while the good weather holds. I will be at Quincy Raceways this Sunday for their season finale. Where else, I am not sure.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Racing Home and Away

Saturday afternoon, Darryl, Fred and I loaded up and headed for night number three of Mod Mania at Tri City Speedway in Granite City,Il. Over the past twelve years, this has become a premier event in the Midwest, and the Saturday  finale drew a whopping 74 UMP modifieds and 38 UMP late models, with the mods racing for a $5,000 top prize and the late models vying for a $3,000 check. Amazingly Saturday was not even the highest car counts, as the mods had 80 cars sign in on Friday, while the late models saw 43 teams on Thursday, with all three nights stand alone shows with increasing purses.
 Bobby Pierce was looking for a three night sweep as he paced qualifying for the lates with a lap of 15.094 seconds around the 3/8 mile, while Chad Kinder led the mods with a lap of 16.312. Following eight mod  heats, only the winners were qualified for the position dash and the 40 lap feature. A pair of C-mains and two B- mains rounded out the A- main lineup. For the late models, it was four ten lap heats and two twelve lap B-mains, plus a pair of provisionals setting the 22 car 30 lap finale.
 The mod heat winners drew for their starting spots in the dash, with Trent Young and Mike Harrison setting on row one. On the opening lap, UMP national point leader Michael Long made it three wide in turn three, and he came out on the short end with a flat tire. Young took the win followed by Harrison. 
 In the first mod B-main, Jeremy Payne spun while running in a transfer position, and Shannon Babb claimed the final spot in B-main two coming out of turn four to the checkers.
 In the first late model B. Jeff Herzog was shuffled out of a transfer spot following a caution, and in the second twelve lapper, Kolby Vandenbergh had the same problem, however he was able to rebound to claim a spot.
  As the modified main took the green, Harrison pounded the turn two wall, falling back several spots. However, the caution waved for debris, and the 24H was able to restart outside row one. Back to racing, Young paced the opening lap with Lucas Lee in second. After babying his ride for a few laps, Harrison jumped to the high line, overtaking Lee on lap six, and Young one lap later. As he stretched his lead, Long entered the top five before a lap eight caution. on the Delaware restart, Long moved to fourth, but all eyes were on Babb, who was flying through the field. By the mid point, Long began to fade, and traffic became an issue on lap 25. The caution waved again on lap 28, and Babb, now seventh after starting 21st, looped his ride, and retired to the pits. On lap 30, fifth running Nick Hoffman smacked the turn four wall., ending his charge. It was now local favorite Josh Russell on the move. He had started alongside Babb, and was flirting with the top five following a lap 36 restart.  But the race belonged to Harrison, who celebrated his birthday with his second win of the three night show, closing within three points of Long in the national title chase. Lee took the second spot, followed by Young, who is third in national points, Kenny Wallace, Brent Mullins, and Russell.
 The modifieds move on to Eldora next weekend to settle the championship, with a $20,000 top prize on the line.
  Next up was a  ten lap non qualifiers event won by Steve Mulenberg, leaving only the late model feature to go.
  The late models started straight up, with heat winners Jason Feger and Tanner English in row one, with double duty Babb and Pierce in row two. Feger paced the opening lap, but Babb was making a move when the yellow waved. Shannon elected for the outside line on the restart, but Pierce used the low line to grab the second position. Pierce stayed on the inside line, with Feger one groove higher. Pierce was ahead slightly as lap four was scored, but the front pair continued to run side by side lap after lap. Feger was out front at lap seven, and it was Pierce again on lap eight. With slower traffic coming into play on lap ten, Pierce began to build a lead. Meanwhile Feger worked the barlet there cushion, making contact with the concrete wall, damaging his rear spoiler. By the 16th circuit, Frank Heckenast Jr. was putting pressure on Feger for second. By now, the leaders were all running the low line, and after Heckenast took second, Babb found a way around Feger on lap 27. At the checkers, it was Pierce sweeping the weekend, followed by Heckenast, Babb, Feger, and Jim Shereck.
 Although the show moved right along, it was past the midnight hour when the checkers waved, and this old head hit the pillow just after 03:00!
 A bit more than twelve hours later, I was pulling into Quincy Raceways for championship night. Abe Huls had already wrapped up the IMCA stock car title, and Denny Woodworth was well on his way to the UMP late model title despite not winning a feature all season. With Michael Long absent, Dave Weitholder had his first UMP modified title in hand, and when only five IMCA sport mods checked in, Kimberly Abbott had another championship. But the IMCA sport mod title was wide open, however it would be the final race of the night before that would be decided.
  The night began with qualifying, and McKay Wenger with a now smaller cast on his broken arm, set quick time for the late models at 13.543 seconds. Weitholder paced the mods at 15.132 ticks of the clock. Following heat race action, Rudy Zaragoza jumped to a big lead, with Dean Kratzer grabbing second on lap two. Soon a three car battle for second developed , with Huls taking the spot on lap six. A lap eleven yellow saw Huls challenge for the lead before looping his ride. Back under green, Brian Hoener and Michael Larsen took up the chase, but no one could catch Zaragoza, who picked up his first win of 2016. Larsen took the runnerup honors ahead of Hoener, Kratzer and Huls.
 First heat winner Wenger sat on the pole for the late model 25 lapper. To his outside was Michigan driver Eric Spangler making his first ever visit to QR , as he looked for national points in his # 27.
McKay jumped to the lead running the low line. On lap nine, Wenger made contact with a slower car, bringing out the caution, however he kept going and was restarted out front. As the green waved, Mark Burgtorf jumped to the high line, moving to second. Meanwhile, Alan Westling in the Jim Moon backup car charged from his row four starting spot to third on lap twelve, and even edged ahead of Burgtorf on lap 14 running the low line. Lap 20 saw Burgtorf regain second and he was closing on the leader when the caution came out just as the white flag was about to be displayed. It was now a green, white checkers finish, and again it was Wenger and Westling running the low line and Burgtorf up top. As the leaders came to the checkers, Wenger moved to block the on coming Burgtorf, earning his third win of 2016 at QR, gaining enough points to move into second in the national title chase. Burgtorf crossed the line in second, with Westling in a QR career best third. Spangler came home fourth, with Clint Kirkham fifth in the Vanzandt # 21V. Woodworth wrapped up the track title in sixth ahead of Trace Westling, Terry Wilson, Trent Grotz, and Charles Vanzandt.
 Darin Weisinger Jr. led the early laps in the sport compact 15 lapper, but Brandon Lambert took over the top spot, racing to the win. But he fell short in the title chase to Abbott, who took the checkers in second ahead of Weisinger Jr. and Darin Weisinger Sr.
 Weitholder sat on the pole of the modified main, and he soon opened a commanding lead. Shaun Deering and Frankie Wellman staged an entertaining duel for second as Weitholder  soon led by a straightaway. The race ran caution free, with Wellman winning the battle for second over Deering, Gary Bentley, Joey Gower, and first time visitor Dugan Thye.
  A solid field of 17 sport mods took the green flag for 18 laps of action. Nathan Bringer held a slim point lead over second half sensation Brandon Lennox. Justin Bartz led lap one, with a caution waving on lap two. Justin Ebbing grabbed the lead following the restart, with Austen Becerra taking second on the fifth circuit. Bringer nabbed fourth on lap 8 as traffic came in to play. Lennox entered the top five on lap eleven. One circuit later, Lennox moved to fourth and Bringer fell to sixth. Following another restart, Lennox took third, but Tony Dunker was on the move on the high side. Lennox lost one spot, as Bringer was shuffled back mid pack. Again the caution flew as the white was ready to be shown, creating another green, with checkers finish. It was Dunker moving to the front and picking up the win, with Ebbing in the runnerup position. Todd Reed scored a third, Becerra ran fourth, and the fifth place run for Lennox secured the track title for Bringer.
  Promoter Ken Dobson has announced one more race night at Quincy, Sunday, October 9, running in conjunction with a Saturday night show at Jacksonville,Il Speedway. as of now, classes running are late models, modifieds, sport mods and stock cars. There is still plenty of racing to be had, and the weather forecast will help us decide where we will land this weekend.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Schlenk On Top at Quincy

 Quincy Raceways enjoyed a near perfect night weather wise on Sunday, the next to final night of weekly racing. A solid field of 65 race teams signed in, led by 21 UMP modifieds and 15 UMP late models, with both classes seeing some out of town drivers in search of national points. Noticeably absent was modified national point leader Michael Long, who suffered extensive damage to his # 18L on Saturday night in Peoria,Il.
 Modified qualifying was paced by Kevin Blackburn with a lap of 15.235 seconds, while Rickey Frankel topped the late models at 14.365 ticks of the clock.
  Following heat race action, the first feature was for the ten IMCA stock cars. Rudy Zaragoza jumped out to a big lead before a lap eight caution. On the restart, point leader Abe Huls grabbed the lead ahead of a lap nine yellow for heat one winner and fourth running Jerry Jansen. On the restart, Huls was deemed to have tried to decoy the field with a " jack rabbit " start, and he was penalized one position, putting Zaragoza back out front. Back to racing, Michael Larsen used the high line to move to third. Five laps from the end of the 18 lapper, Zaragoza pushed just a bit up from his low line, and Huls was able to regain the lead. It was now a four car battle, with Abe and Brian Hoener running the bottom, Zaragoza and Larsen up top. Rudy switched lines, looking to find a way by Huls, but to no avail. At the checkers, it was Huls, Zaragoza, Larsen, and Hoener.
  The late model 25 lapper was up next. The four car invert put point leader Denny Woodworth and Justin Reed on row one, with heat winners Rusty Schlenk and Frankel in row two. Reed jumped to the lead, followed by Woodworth, Frankel, Schlenk, and Mark Burgtorf. On lap eleven, Schlenk cleared Frankel for third, now Reed and Schlenk ran the high line, with Woodworth hugging the bottom groove. Denny then found his way to the lead in traffic on lap 19, and the first yellow waved one lap later for Jamie Wilson. By now, McKay Wenger, who failed to qualify when he broke a break caliper  and started in row seven, had charged to fifth. At the same time, Dewayne Kiefer, who cracked an oil cooler in hot laps and also started last, had advanced to seventh. On the Delaware restart, Reed elected the outside line , forcing Schlenk to the inside. However the caution waved for Terry Wilson before a lap was scored, and this time, Reed took the inside line. Still Schlenk grabbed the second spot on the restart, and on lap 21 the Jackson, Michigan traveler grabbed the lead. At the same time, Reed headed to the trailer, and Wenger moved to third. Schlenk kept his # 91 out front for his first QR win of the season, with Woodworth in second. Frankel got back around Wenger for third. and Kiefer finished off his strong run in fifth. Clint Kirkham wowed everyone by running sixth with the Lee County rules crate engine Vanzandt # 21V, ahead of Burgtorf, Jamie Wilson, Trace Westling, and Terry Wilson.
  The IMCA sport compact class turned out only six cars. Darin Weisinger Jr paced lap one, giving way to Brandon Lambert. along with point leader Kimberly Abbott, and Craig Bangert, a four car battle soon developed. Abbott moved to second on lap four, and grabbed the top spot one lap later. As the sixth lap was scored, Bangert was second, and the front two pulled away, running side by side. At the checkers, Kimberly prevailed for the win over Bangert. Lambert edged Weisinger by a bumper for third.
  Robards, Kentucky pilot David Mitchell was unable to make the feature call, leaving 20 UMP modifieds to take the green. Wentzville,Mo. ace Rick Conoyer jumped to the front from his pole position start, with Dave Weitholder in second. The first yellow came on lap two. Back to racing, the front two were joined by Blackburn in a three car battle, with Weitholder putting pressure on the leader on lap six. Conoyer was riding the middle and high lines, while Weitholder moved between the low and middle lines looking for a way to the front. Traffic came into play by lap ten, when the caution waved. Back to racing, action on the backstretch saw Weitholder spinning and Blackburn into his rear quarter. I cannot say for sure what happened, but both cars were sent to the tail. Ray Bollinger also stopped to avoid Weitholder, but he was able to keep his spot, and he was now fourth, with Shaun Deering and Crofton,Kentucky hot dog Trent Young restarting behind Conoyer. It was now a three wide battle for second behind Conoyer, with two more cautions on laps 13 and 14. Following the lap 14 restart, a pile up slowed the action, with Blackburn heading to the trailer. Back under green, Deering secured the runnerup spot, as Conoyer opened up a lead. As  the checkers flew, Conoyer had his second QR win of the season, followed by Deering, Bollinger, and Young. Weitholder recovered to take fifth, and unofficially took over the point lead with one night of racing remaining.
  It was now time to head to the car, and I had to miss Tony Dunker grabbing a win in the 18 lap IMCA sport mod finale, over Austin Howes, Kevin Tomlinson, and Brandon Lennox.
  There is still plenty of racing ahead as the season winds down, so get to the track somewhere and maybe the Positively Racing crew will see you there!