Saturday, May 26, 2018

Like Son, Like Father at LCS

  Friday, my grandson Keagan and his fiance Megan came in to town for the weekend, and joined me for a night of racing at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. Keagan was my racing companion from the age of about six or seven, but Megan had only attended two races previously.  Ironically, those two races were at tracks we have not been to, Double XX Speedway in California, Missouri, and the Missouri State Fairgrounds Speedway in Sedalia. Both had been sprint car shows, so she was somewhat on familiar ground, as the Sprint Invaders joined five weekly classes on Friday night.
  A solid total of 84 cars checked in, led by 19 of the sprinters.
  Following 13 heat races, the Invaders Shake Up Dash, and a brief intermission, it was time to go feature racing.
  The 18 lap main event for the IMCA sport mods lined up first. While I believe we had only one yellow flag in the preliminary races, the sport mod main turned into a caution fest. Much improved Ron Kibbe took off from the outside pole to lead the opening lap, with Kibbe and Austen Becerra swapping sliders in turn four. As lap two was scored, Brandon Lennox charged from row four to the runner up spot to battle with Kibbe.  Following a lap four caution, Lennox was in command, and now it was Lennox and Becerra exchanging slide jobs. Eighth starting Adam Birck and Brandon Dale made it a four car battle for second by lap six, joining Kibbe and Becerra. Kibbe went spinning on lap eight, and was tagged by Adam Niekamp. Back under green, Becerra again tried a slide move in turns three and four, this time making contact with the leader, gaining the advantage. But Lennox returned the favor in turn two, retaking the lead. Another pair of cautions, and Dale charged to the runner up position. Another caution with five laps to go, and the field was now realligned single file. Dale was moving around the track, looking for a way to the front. Lennox was able to open a lead before a final caution on the final circuit set up a green, white, checkers finish. Lennox held on for the win, with Dale in the second spot. Birck grabbed third, Becerra fourth, and Tyler Burton completed the top five.
  The 15 IMCA stock cars came up next for 20 laps. Ray Raker came from row two to the first lap lead, a nose ahead of Dean Kratzer. Kratzer edged ahead on lap two before the yellow waved. Racing again, Jeremy Pundt took second, while John Oliver Jr. shot to third after a row four start. Pundt took over the lead on lap four, and Oliver moved to second one lap later. Oliver began to pressure Pundt, using the high line to take first in turn three on lap seven. Abe Huls now came to third, and at the halfway mark, Jason Cook joined Pundt and Huls in the battle for second. Cook charged to second on lap twelve, but could not mount a serious challenge to Oliver, as the two took the checkers in that order. Huls held off Pundt and Raker to round out the top five.
  Levi Smith used a pole position start to lead lap one of the 14 car modified feature, with Kelly Buckalew bringing out the caution on lap two. When racing resumed, ninth starting Bill Roberts Jr., the nights' sponsor, used the high line to move to third, while Jeff Waterman took fourth running the bottom groove. Roberts challenged Smith on lap four, taking the lead on lap five. Following a lap six restart, Waterman took second, and twelfth starting Larry Herring entered the top five. Herring gained fourth on lap seven, then took third following a yellow for early contender Austin Emry. Contact between Emry and Smith ended the night for Levi. Waterman ran a low line in turns one and two, high in three and four, but could never get close enough to Roberts to make a serious challenge. Herring scored third, with Carter Vandenbergh fourth, while Logan Anderson rebounded from early troubles to run fifth.
  To the delight of the large crowd, the female phenom McKenna Haase ran off with her heat and the dash, but she pulled a five on the redraw, lining up in row three for the 25 lap main event, and was never a factor. Jon Agan held the early lead before a lap two yellow. John Schulz charged to the lead on the restart, with Agan fighting back. Hasse brought out a lap six caution, heading for the hot pit, then the trailer. After a lap eight caution, it became a two car battle between Agan and Schulz. Schulz used a slider on lap ten, taking the lead for good in turn two. From there, the veteran in the Jimmy Davies ride stayed in command. Bill Balog took second on lap 21 as Agan fell back. The only red of the night came with three laps to go, as Agan took an easy roll in turn two. Schulz pulled away for the win, Balog came from row nine to second. Jamie Ball ran third, young Mason Daniel took fourth, and Brayden Gaylord completed the top five.
  Jake Dietrich held the lead early in the IMCA sport compact 14 lapper. On the third circuit, Mike Reu took second, with Kimberly Abbott following in third. As Reu and Abbott ran side by side, Dietrich opened a large lead, before slowing on lap five, pulling to the infield. Abbott was now in front, with Brandon Reu taking second. Point leader Barry Taft spent the early laps trying to move through traffic, and he took third on lap eight. He then ran side by side with Reu, moving to the runner up spot on lap ten. He was able to cut into Abbotts lead, but Kimberly stayed in control to break Tafts victory string. Barry ran second ahead of Brandon Reu, Mike Reu, and Craig Bangert in the #04.
  The final event of the night was the 20 lap crate late model feature. Last weeks winner, Gunner Frank, was a no show, as he had contact with Dalton Lynch in their heat race. But Dad Todd Frank took off from outside row one to the lead, taking Lynch along in second. The caution waved on lap two when Brandon Queen spun in turn two, collecting Darin Weisinger Jr. Jeff Guengerich took up the chase as racing resumed., but Sam Halstead slipped around Guengerich one lap later. Tommy Elston started eighth, moving to third on lap five. Todd Frank built a sizable advantage as Elston worked to overtake Halstead by the halfway point. With just a pair of laps remaining, Elston powered to second in turn four, but the elder Frank continued to hit his marks over the final laps, joining his son while becoming the fifth different feature winner in five nights of racing. Elston came home in the runner up spot, with Halstead third. Heat two winner Ron Boyse ran fourth, and Guengerich was fifth. Lynch, Brandon Savage, Weisinger Jr., and Queen completed the running order.
  It looks like Friday night will be my only night of racing this weekend, but there is plenty of events going on this holiday weekend, so try to get to a track somewhere!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Davenport Edges Pierce in Lucas Thriller

 After a week of " should we or shouldn't we " back and forth, Darryl, Fred and I took off Saturday for a new track for all of us, the Deer Creek Speedway near Spring Valley, Minnesota. With the weather forecast for that area changing multiple times daily, it was Saturday morning before we decided to gamble and make the five plus hour drive to take in the Napa 50 featuring the Lucas Oil late models, along with USRA modifieds. It was the first ever visit by the series to the 3/8 mile high banked speed plant, as this event had fallen victim to rain in 2017. Though we traveled under sunny skies, arriving mid afternoon, by race time clouds had moved in, the steady breeze remained, and the temperature began to drop, and we " southerners " soon drug out the sweatshirts and heavy coats, as did many of the locals, who are no doubt accustomed to the night time chill. The iffy forecast did nothing to hold down the enthusiastic crowd - the vast stands may not have been full, but it was I would have to say a very solid turnout.
  The expansive pit area had more than enough room for the 30 late model teams, most of whom were already in the house when we arrived, having made the long pull from 141 Speedway near Green Bay, Wisconsin, the host of Friday night action. As we trolled the pits, the bulk of the 37 modified teams made their way in.
  After a bowl of hot chili and a meaty 1/3 pound cheeseburger - I know, I should have tried the cheese curds - we made our way into the tightly packed bleachers just off turn four in time for 6:00 hot laps.
  The program got under way on time, and as soon as hot laps ended on the smooth, racy, lightning fast surface, the late models lined up for time trials. Three at a time for two laps was the procedure, in two groups of 15. The cars entered the track off of turn two, and took the green the first time around, and  I do love such efficiency!
 Mt. Vernon, Iowa driver Chad Simpson was among the first cars to qualify, and he turned in a lap of 14.185 seconds, about .2 off the track record according to series announcer James Essex and track announcer Todd Narveson. Despite a host of drivers coming close, Chads time held up throughout. Bobby Pierce was fastest in group B, and the heat lineups were set. Only " local " driver Nick Herrick failed to qualify, as his #6 went up in smoke during hot laps. The modifieds used a top twelve passing points system instead of time trials, but they would have to wait, as the four late model heats ran first.
  Simpson held off series point leader Jonathon Davenport, Gregg Satterlee, and Dennis Erb Jr. as the transfers in heat one, earning the pole start in the 50 lap headliner. The second ten lapper  went to row two starter Jimmy Owens over front row starters Darrell Lanigan and Scott Ward, with  Alan Murray fourth. Outside pole sitter, and apparent crowd favorite Jimmy Mars outdueled Pierce to the heat three photo finish victory, followed by Josh Richards and Kyle Bronson. Earl Pearson Jr. ended a dry spell with a Friday night feature win, and he stayed hot winning heat four ahead of Scott Bloomquist, and the son, father duo of Hudson and Don Oneal.
  With the five modified heats in the books, and still no caution flags to slow the action, there was a momentary delay, and Fred and I headed to the restroom, mistakenly thinking it was intermission time. But soon the roar of engines signaled the first of two late model twelve lap B mains. So I missed the lineup on B main one, but it was Canadian Ricky Weiss taking the win over Rodney Sanders, who was doing double duty in his modified, as well, and surprise entrant Brandon Sheppard in his own #B5. Brandon is a regular on the World of Outlaw late model series driving the Rocket house car, but used a night off to come Lucas racing. The second last chance event saw Mason Zeigler hold off Tim McCreadie and Brent Larson, who used a pair of very aggressive moves to overtake Joey Moriarity. His first attempt to take the spot resulted in contact , the first caution of the night, and a trip to the back for Larson as he changed a flat tire, but he rebounded to again muscle past the #51M. Two provisionals completed the 24 car field, with the spots going to Jordon Yaggy, who lives in Rochester, about 15 miles from the track, and Nebraskan Tad Pospisil. Amazingly to us, Chris Simpson was left on the outside looking in. Chris had lined up last in heat two, finished sixth, then ran one spot out of a transfer slot in the first B main.
  A pair of mod consys came next, then it was intermission time, as the track crew did a quick " farm " job.
  To the delight of we travelers, the late model main would run first!
Chad Simpson and Mars lined up on row one, while Richards gave up his row five spot, lining up on the tail. No explanation was given that I heard, however I do know that if a driver changes more than his left rear tire for the feature he must start in the back, so this may have been the case. Scott Bloomquist used this tack at the series race at Tri City Speedway last month. After a false start when Lanigan may have jumped, Mars won the drag race to turn one. The first caution came on lap six for a spinning Larson. Back under green, slower traffic came into play about lap 16, and three circuits later Simpson was hounding the leader. Chad made his move on lap 21, quickly stretching his advantage. Just past the halfway mark, Pierce began to move forward, taking the fourth slot, with 16th starting Don Oneal following him in fifth. The caution waved as Zeigler slowed at the lap 29 mark. Mars failed to get up to speed on the restart as Davenport charged to second, taking along Pierce and Oneal. On lap 31, Davenport used a slide job in turn four to take the lead, but on the next lap Simpson pulled a slider of his own to retake the spot. At lap 33, however, Davenport powered to first, taking Pierce along. " Superman " Davenport opened a sizable lead, and now the focus was on Simpson, Oneal and Bloomquist, as they sliced and diced side by side, for third. With Davenport in control and Pierce comfortably in second, lapped traffic came into play again by lap 44. Now Pierce began to cut into the lead, and with three circuits to go, he was pulling even with the leader in each corner, with Davenport using the high side momentum to stay in front. As the white flag waved, Pierce let it all out, and came up just short at the line, as the now standing crowd roared their approval. Davenport scored his sixth LOLMS win of 2018, while Pierce settled for his second runnerup finish in two nights. Simpson won the hotly contested battle for third ahead of Oneal and Bloomquist. Hudson Oneal came from row six to finish sixth, besting Mars, Owens, Lanigan, and Satterlee.  The win was worth $12,000 for Davenport, plus a $1,000 bonus for carrying a NAPA sticker.
  With the temps dropping and the long drive looming, we headed for the car, heading out of the crowded lot at 9:35! Reports this morning show locals Dustin Sorensen and Lucas Schott taking the top two spots in the modified main, with Iowan Zack Vanderbeek  coming home third. The mod main event paid a cool $2,000.
  I can't say if or when I will return to Deer Creek, but only because of the distance involved. It is certainly an excellent facility, well lit, and with good sightlines to go with a well run program. The track features modifieds weekly, and will host the World of Outlaw late models for the legendary Gopher 50 on July 7.
  With company coming in and a John Michael Montgomery concert next weekend, my racing plans are up in the air, but hopefully I can fit in at least one night of action.
  Thanks for reading!

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Lee County Waits Out The Rain

 Stubborn light showers made their way through the Midwest on Friday, playing havoc with several race programs. Light sprinkles greeted me as I made my way to the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, but it was not until intermission that the rain began to come down harder. Following the candy dash the track became a shiny, glazed surface, but the officials with help from the drivers kept wheels on the track, and soon the rain stopped and we went feature racing. The track had been smooth and fast before the rain, now it was simply a hammer down 3/8 mile speed bowl.
  The IMCA sport compacts ran first, with all but one of the 16 cars signed in taking the green flag for 14 laps. Josh Barnes jumped from row three to lead the opening lap, quickly opening a big lead over David Prim and Brandon Reu. On the second circuit, Barry Taft powered to the runner up spot from his row four start. One lap later, Barnes had a nearly straightaway lead. Soon Mike Reu entered the fray, and four cars ran side by side and nose to tail for second through fifth positions. Barnes seemed to be slowing each lap off of turn two, and on lap ten his car died, with what he seemed to think was an ignition problem. Prim then took over the lead as the others raced side by side behind him. Lap twelve saw Taft take over the top spot, with Brandon Reu heading to the infield. Taft then built a sizable lead over the final two laps, picking up another win. Mike Reu won the battle for second over Prim, while Kimberly Abbott slipped past Allyssa Steele in her brand new ride to complete the top five.
   The vintage cars were on hand on this night, and they ran in an open wheel division and a " fender car " class. For the heat races, there were nine and five respectively, with one midget car joining the coupes. I don't know if several headed for home during the rain, but only four open wheel and two coupes ran their features. I apologize for not having more info, I believe the open wheel winner may have been Andy Sims, but only " car #47 " is what was passed along in the coupe class.
  A dozen IMCA sport mods took the feature green. Lap one saw fourth starting Daniel Fellows and sixth starting Austen Becerra make contact while going for the lead in turn four. Fellows won the battle, with Becerra detouring through the infield, falling to seventh. Fellows open a nice lead, but the caution waved on lap three. On the Delaware restart, Ron Kibbe jumped to second. Again Fellows stretched his lead, while Becerra rejoined the top five on lap five, moving to fourth one lap later. With four of the 18 laps remaining, Becerra appeared to slow, but at the same time the yellow flew for a pair of spinning cars on the front stretch. Becerra regained his mojo when racing resumed, but it was now Brandon Dale, sporting a new look, taking over second. However, there was no catching Fellows, as the youngster cruised to his first win at LCS in his sport mod #11. Dale came home second, Becerra overtook Kibbe for third, and Jeffrey Delonjay stayed in the hunt all race long, coming home fifth.
  A season high 13 crate late models checked in, but Todd Frank saw his night end in hot laps in a puff of smoke. Jef Guengerich had suffered a similar fate the week before, but now he charged from row three to lead lap one. Sixth starting Jay Johnson powered to second on the next lap, with the caution waving on lap four, when Brandon Queen and Aric Becker got together, with Becker coming to a stop. On the restart, Gunner Frank, who started in row two, rebounded to take second, and began to pressure Guengerich. On lap nine, Becker apparently broke a strut coming through turns three and four while running seventh, slamming the turn four guardrail, ending his night. Back under green, the front cars jammed up a bit, and seventh starting Tommy Elston was able to power to third. The top three then separated themselves a bit, Guengerich running a middle line, Frank diving down in each corner, and Elston looking for an opening. With five of twenty laps remaining, Frank was able to slide by Guengerich, with the lap scored just as the caution flag waved. Elston took second on the restart, with another pair of yellows in the closing laps, one for a tire, and one for a spin by Dayton Lynch. But Frank was able to hold on, scoring his first Lee County win after picking up I believe his first ever feature Sunday at Quincy Raceways. Elston took runnerup honors ahead of Johnson, Sam Halstead, and Guengerich, who faded in the closing laps. Vance Wilson ran sixth, with Queen and Lynch following.
  The IMCA stock cars turned out a disappointing count of eight cars, but what a race! Heat winner Dustin Griffith held the top spot over a tight six pack, with Jason Cook grabbing second on lap six. He than ran side by side with Griffith, finally taking command on lap eight. It was now John Oliver Jr. taking up the chase as the front duo pulled away, leaving a tight pack of four close behind. Griffith headed to the pits on lap 13, one lap later Oliver tried a slider on Cook, now they ran side by side. Oliver used another slide move to take the lead but Cook fought back, as the pair crossed the stripe side by side with five circuits remaining. Oliver held the edge at lap 16, but it was a dead heat on 17. With only two laps left, Cook took over, holding off Oliver for the win. Jeremy Pundt stayed close, coming home third, followed by Abe Huls, and Chad Krogmeier.
  The final event on the card was ten IMCA modifieds for 20 laps. Kelly Buckelew lead Mitch Boles as the first lap was scored, with Bill Roberts Jr. pushing hard. Roberts took over the top spot on lap three, with Jeff Waterman moving to second, while Boles fell out. The yellow then waved, as Jerry Reese, out with a sharp looking #2R, failed to clear the speedway. The restart quickly became a two car scrum, but with seven laps to go, Waterman suffered a flat tire, ending his attempt at back to back wins. Roberts then cruised to the win. Buckelew scored the runner up spot, Jesse Belez made the long pull from Marengo, Iowa to take third. Craig Spegal and Dakota Simmons completed the top five.
   Even with the delay, I was in my car at 10:19, another good job by the LCS crew!
   Tonight, weather permitting, we are headed to Deer Creek Speedway, Spring Valley, Mn. for the Lucas Oil late models.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Late Models Return to Quincy Raceways

 The UMP Pro Crate late models made their first appearance of 2018 at Quincy Raceways on Sunday night, heading up a six division program.
  The hot, muggy evening began with qualifying for the UMP modifieds, with Dave Weitholder pacing the nine car field with a lap of 15.07 seconds. Following ten heat races and some extra track prep, it was feature time.
  The nine car IMCA stock car field lined up for 18 laps around the .29 mile oval. Things got off to a rocky start on the opening lap when contact in turn four caused Jerry Jansen to roll his #06 Ford. Jerry then refired his ride and ran a handful of laps before retiring for the night. That would be the only caution of the race. Jesse Weggs and Jake Powers lined up on row one, and they crossed the line to score lap one in a virtual dead heat before Powers gained control the next trip around. The following circuit saw eighth starting John Oliver Jr. power to third while trying to hold off a challenge from Dean Kratzer. The pair of Iowa drivers swapped the spot over the next three laps before Oliver secured the position. On lap eight, he took second from Weggs, and one lap later pushed his #05 around Powers for the lead. It was now Powers and Kratzer stalking Oliver as they all tried to avoid a hole in turn four. As Oliver gradually built his margin, Kratzer bobbled slightly on lap 15. Oliver, who had changed directions after a rainout at the Vinton, Iowa Speedway, took the win. Powers finished second, with Kratzer in third. Michael Larsen took the fourth spot from Weggs on the final lap.
  IMCA sport mods had the biggest turnout with 16 cars, and they were next up for 18 laps. Again the caution waved on the opening circuit, and when racing got underway, Adan Birck came from row two to the front. By lap three, sixth starting Austen Becerra charged to the runner up slot, and one lap later, Brandon Lennox came from a row three start to third. Becerra was now locked in on Birck, taking the top spot on the fifth circuit. Just as Becerra encountered slower traffic on lap seven, the caution waved. Lennox took advantage of the Delaware restart to power to second, and visiting Brandon Setzer, who started in row four, took the fourth position. The Davenport, Iowa driver took third one lap later, as Austin Howes entered the top five. Howes had started in row seven after looping his car in his heat race. Lap eleven saw Howes grab fourth. Again Becerra caught slower traffic on lap 14, but a caution one lap later wiped out his big lead. Racing resumed and the leaders were heading to the checkers through turn three when the car of Brandon Niekamp stalled directly under the flag stand. The yellow flag waved, and set up a one lap shoot out. There were no position changes on that final lap, as Becerra held on to secure the win. Lennox ran second, followed by Setzer, Howes, and Birck. The next two spots were also held by a pair of Quad City drivers, Chance Huston and Mitch Strayer. An early cancellation at the Quad City Speedway afforded these two and Setzer a chance to head south, and all three turned in good performances.
  It was now late model time, with ten cars taking the green flag. Heat race winners Gunner Frank and Trevor Gundaker sat on row one. Gunner jumped to the early lead, taking along third starting Brandon Savage, with Gundaker settling in third. A four car side by side, nose to tail battle developed behind the leaders, with Tommy Elston eventually separating himself from Vance Wilson, Denny Woodworth and Todd Frank. As Savage tried to work under the younger Frank, Elston took third at the ten lap mark of the 25 lapper. By lap 17 of the non stop event, Savage was now being pressured by Elston, who was running a low line while Savage ran the faster high groove. Woodworth was now fourth, but had ground to make up on the leaders. With three laps to go, Savage and Elston had closed the gap on Gunner, but Frank hit his marks lap after lap, and the real battle was for second. Elston eased into the runner up spot on the final circuit. at the checkers it was Frank, Elston, Savage, Woodworth, and Gundaker, the rookie making his first appearance at QR. Todd Frank ran sixth after his blown engine Friday at Lee County Speedway, Wilson was seventh followed by Charles Vanzandt. Although announced as a different driver, it was late arriving Cliff Powell, no numbers (6?) on his red car, credited with ninth after dropping out mid race. Tenth place went to Melvin Linder, who made his debut piloting the Woodworth back up machine.
  All but one of the nine UMP mods took the green flag, including Ben Huff in the backup Weitholder ride. Going for the sweep, Dave Weitholder jumped from the pole position to the lead, and from then on the race was for second. Josh Newman held the spot with pressure from Steve Grotz and Dugan Thye. Grotz got a little too high on the track on lap six, turning third over to Thye. Dugan grabbed the second spot on lap nine, but by now Weitholder was working in another time zone. The only caution of the race came on lap 19, as Shaun Deering, piloting the Spencer Havermale #733 and Joey Gower got together. The engine on Thyes' #11 had been backfiring and spewing flames for several laps, and he now headed to the trailer, giving up his solid second place run. Racing resumed, and again Weitholder checked out to pick up the win. Gower charged back to the runner up finish, Newman, Deering and Grotz completing the top five.
   Only five IMCA sport compacts checked in for the night. Darin Weisinger Jr. put his #11 out front at the start, and there he would stay. Barry Taft came from row two to second, pushing Weisinger the entire 15 laps. As laps eight and nine were scored, Taft put his #57 under Darin at the flagstand, but could not complete the pass. Kimberly Abbott worked around David Primm for third on lap ten. Taft made a last lap dive in turns one and two, but Weisinger held his line, picking up the win. Taft, Abbott, Primm, and Burlington, Iowa driver Robert Sturms crossed the finish line in that order.
  Quincy Raceways committed to a potential revival of the two person cruiser class for 2018, but the results have been less than encouraging, with a count between one and four thus far. Sunday night only two cars signed in, with former bomber/hobby stock five time track champion Steve Carlin and wife Lisa sweeping the heat and feature.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Close Finishes at Lee County

 Friday night, grandson Peyton joined me for our first trip of the 2018 season to the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa. The 3/8 mile fairgrounds oval has a solid reputation for offering up a smooth, fast racing surface, however the late winter addition of some new dirt in turns one and two coupled with less than desirable weather following created some less than ideal track conditions for the opening race of the season. However, that was a distant memory tonight, as the track was smooth and tacky, making for super fast action.
  A total of 69 cars checked in to do battle in six classes, with the IMCA stock cars leading the way with 20 entries. Fellow Positively Racing blogger Brian Neal added money to the feature payout in four of the weekly classes as an added bonus.
  The eleven heat races clicked off in good time, followed by a late model meet and greet on the front straightaway, with all drivers signing autographs in front of their cars. Unfortunately that was the highlight of the night for Jeff Guengerich, as he saw his #15R Lynn Richard ride go up in smoke during hot laps.
  The first feature of the night was for the IMCA sport compacts. All but one of eleven made the call. Mike Hornung Jr. had to watch his heat race from the infield when he came to the track without his racing gloves, but he was properly attired for the feature behind the wheel of the #35 normally driver by Jeffrey Delonjay. Jake Dietrich gave up his front row start, lining up at the tail of the field and making only one lap before heading to the pits. Mike Reu jumped to the early lead over Barry Taft, as the front five separated themselves from the rest of the pack. With those five running in close formation, Taft grabbed the lead on lap six, and Kimberly Abbott cleared Brandon Reu and Chuck Fullenkamp for third. The only caution came on lap eight when Ashton Blain lost a wheel in turn four. On the Delaware restart Abbott took over the second spot, with Mike Reu dropping to fourth. Kimberly then set her sights on Taft, but her last lap charge fell just short in a photo finish. It was the third win at LCS in 2018 for Taft. Brandon Reu came home third ahead of Mike Reu and Fullenkamp.
  The crate late models were next to the grid. Ten cars took the green flag for 20 laps. Gunner Frank had checked out in the first heat, but the second ten lapper had been a three car battle, with Jay Johnson leading early before Brandon Savage took over. Then on the final circuit, Jay and Tommy Elston slipped around Savage. The feature redraw found the son-father duo of Gunner and Todd Frank on the front row. Todd had told me during the meet and greet that his car was not quite right, but he was working on it. Well, there was not much wrong with it early on. The Franks stayed close early, with Todd leading. The caution waved on lap six for Brandon Queen, and on the restart Sam Halstead took the third spot from Johnson. Halstead and the younger Frank swapped the runner up spot on laps nine and ten, while Todd opened a commanding lead. But disaster struck with six laps to go, as the #21 dropped fluid on the track and rolled to a stop in turn two. Gunner inherited the top spot, and Halstead chose the inside line for the restart, then powered to the lead as the next lap was scored. He then opened a nice lead as Johnson rallied to challenge for second. Jay grabbed the spot as the white flag waved, and veteran Ron Boyse followed him through to take third. Gunner settled for fourth, with Tommy Elston completing the top five. Aric Becker made his season debut in sixth, ahead of Savage. Darin Weisinger Jr. made his late model debut in eighth, just ahead of Queen. In victory lane, Halstead reiterated what he had told me earlier, that the track was a little too tacky for his liking, but it all worked out in his favor.
  The IMCA sport mod count was down a bit, with a few competitors in both mod classes heading north for the high dollar show in Farley, Iowa. Ten cars took the green, with Austen Becerra on the pole. He took off to a nice lead ahead of Brandon Dale, Brandon Lennox, and Sean Wyatt. Following a caution period with 14 laps to go, Dale and Lennox found their way around the leader. Three circuits later, Lennox crossed the line inches ahead of Dale. As the laps clicked off and slower traffic came into play, Dale again challenged for the lead using the low line around the track. Lennox used the traffic to open some breathing room, and with three laps remaining, Becerra was stalking Dale. As the white flag was displayed, Becerra slid in front of Dale for second, but Brandon returned the favor in turns one and two. At the finish, it was Lennox, Dale, Becerra, and Wyatt.
  Only five hobby stocks signed in, but they staged a three car side by side, nose to tail battle early. With eight laps to go, Brok Hopwood suffered a flat tire, ending his run. It was then a two car duel between Nathan Ballard and Aaron Martin. With four laps left, Ballard, who pulled a nifty slider two laps earlier, also suffered a flat. When the checkers waved, it was Martin in victory lane. Gene Nicklas claimed second.
  It took the IMCA stock cars a while to find their rhythm, with four yellow flags in the first three laps. From there, it was an edge of your seat affair. Jeremy Pundt had been involved in a great battle with Dean Kratzer and David Brandies in his heat race, and he used his pole position to jump to the feature lead. Meanwhile, John Oliver Jr. and Jason Cook ran side by side for second. Pundt and Cook ran the inside line, while Oliver worked a high groove. Just before halfway through the 20 lapper, Oliver charged to second, and Brandies took the inside line to third, while Abe Huls grabbed fourth. At the ten lap mark, Oliver took the lead, Pundt, Brandies, and Huls ran three wide for second, and Cook and Todd Reitzler made it a six car pack. Two laps later Brandies moved to second, on the next circuit, Oliver, Brandies, and Huls ran side by side. One more lap saw Reitzler nose ahead, then it was Huls on top as they ran side by side. Abe ran a low line, while Reitzler searched the middle of the track. With two laps left, Reitzler used a high to low diamond move, but came up short. Huls sounded thrilled but out of breath as he did the winners interview, praising his fellow competitors. Reitzler, Oliver, Pundt, Cook, and Brandies crossed the line in that order.
  It would have been hard to top the stock cars, and the modified finale was a snoozer in comparison. All 12 cars took the green flag, with front row starters Blake Woodruff and Craig Spegal setting the pace early. After a lap three yellow, seventh starting Jeff Waterman charged to third, and one more lap found him in second. On the fifth trip around, the veteran from Quincy,Il. grabbed the lead, quickly opening a sizable advantage. Meanwhile, Spegal had distance between himself and Woodruff, who was doing battle with Dakota Simmons. Bill Roberts began his drive to the front, gaining fourth on lap eleven, then closing on Woodruff. He took over the third spot at the flagstand with a pair of laps remaining, but ran out of time, settling for third behind Waterman and Spegal, and ahead of Woodruff and Simmons.
  We were on the road home at 9:56, another outstanding night of racing in the books.
  Next up for me will be a Mothers Day Sunday night visit to Quincy Raceways, where the UMP Pro Crate late models will make their season debut.
   Thanks for reading!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Kay Stays Perfect in Deery Action

 Yogi Berras' " It ain't over 'till it's over! " was never more true than Sunday night at the Quad City Speedway in East Moline, Illinois. The three ten lap heat races for the 25 Deery Brothers Summer Series late models went caution free - as did the seven heats for the support classes - but they were hardly drama free.
  After winning the first two outings on the series schedule, Justin Kay came in as the favorite, and his row two starting spot in heat number one put him in good position for a feature starting spot near the front. But a flat tire on the second lap sent him to the pits, saddled with the 25th starting spot in the 50 lap headliner. Curt Martin led the distance for the win.
  When the second heat came to the track, Ryan Dolan was absent from the lineup, but when heat three came out, Ryan came to the track. He had been announced in the second ten lapper, so he was sent to the infield for the final heat, which saw Cayden Carter grab the win and Joe Zrotlik collect a DNF. Heat two went to Nick Marolf, with Matt Ryan and Todd Cooney exchanging slide jobs behind him.
  Darryl and I happened to be sitting in front of Roger Dolan, and he called his sons' pit to see what had happened. He said Ryan was told he was scheduled in heat three, then told he had missed his spot in heat two, so anyway...
  Following a lengthy intermission in which we were treated to a host of Rogers' tales of the past, the 16 car sport mod feature lined up for 15 laps. Justin Veloz jumped to a big lead from row one, when " yellow fever " began on lap four. Following a lap five restart, Veloz clipped the tractor tire in turn four, kicking it out on the track to bring out another yellow. Curiously, he was allowed to stay out front on the restart. That proved to be the only break he needed, as he survived three more cautions to pick up the win. Jared Waterman and Brandon Setzer staged a spirited battle for second, both survived late contact and crossed the line in that order. Dustin Schram and Gage Neal completed the top five.
 The ten lap 15 car sport compact feature was up next. Nick Proehl stayed out front until lap six, when Brandon Forbes took the spot. Proehl had faded to mid pack, but as the white flag flew, he apparently made contact with the #20 of Lisa Benningfield, who went into a series of hard rolls in turn two. As she climbed from her car, the race was called complete, with Forbes the victor. Rob Harding Jr., who had been pressuring the leader was second.  Proehl was apparently later disqualified and even suspended for his contact with Benningfield.
  Eight mod lites had checked in, with seven starting the feature. Clint Morehouse was scheduled for the pole position, but elected to start on the tail, retiring after one lap. The race stayed green following a false start. with Jon Padilla leading until the final circuit, when Guy Morse muscled past for the win.
  All 15 IMCA modifieds took the feature green, 20 laps the scheduled distance. Eric Barnes jumped to the lead from the outside pole, but a yellow flag negated the start, with Milo Veloz being sent to the tail. The next try saw Doug Crampton go for a spin, and on the third attempt, Barnes again grabbed the lead. A lap seven caution involving Rob Toland slowed the action, and Veloz was now back to seventh. One lap later, Veloz entered the top five, and on lap nine he moved to fourth. As Toland came back to the top five, Barnes began to trail a smoke screen in the final five laps. But his #1 held together, and he took the checkered flag. Brandon Durbin and Matt Werner hung around to finish second and third, with Veloz and Toland completing the top five.
  Now it was time for the headliner, with all 25 cars making the call. As heat winners, Marolf, Carter, and Martin had went through a complicated redraw process to set the top three spots, and they lined up in that order. In a departure from the past, the rest of the field lined up by passing points. QCS does not have a scoreboard, and watching the full track action, taking notes, and counting laps was more than full time work for yours truly, so my notes, while extensive, may be less than accurate, so ...
  Carter jumped to the early lead, as Marolf was shuffled outside the top five. With Martin pushing Carter for the lead, the caution waved on lap four for Chuck Hanna. Dolan had started in row eleven, and was now 16th, Kay had come from last to 19th. A caution on the restart sent Jeremiah Hurst to the tail, and Andy Nezworski used the Delaware restart to take second. Another pair of cautions kept the field bunched, and on lap nine, Dolan entered the top ten. One circuit later, Carter exited with a flat tire, Dolan was eighth, Kay 14th. Rob Toland took over the top spot and appeared to be in control as the pack battled for position behind him.  Soon it was Martin who would take a trip to the back, as he spun to avoid a stalled car, and Kay now ducked to the work area in the pits for a tire change. As the laps clicked off, tenth starting Terry Neal moved to third behind Toland and Chad Holladay, Nezworski called it a night, and Dolan entered the top five. Toland opened a commanding lead, and one lap past halfway, Dolan charged to third. A couple circuits later, Kay was now on the move, joining the top ten. When the caution waved for Eric Sanders, Neal gave up the runner up spot, heading pitside. Dolan grabbed second on the restart, Kay took eighth, and Toland was now basically on three wheels, as his left front began to wobble. A caution involving Matt Ryan made it obvious to all that Toland was in trouble, Kay was now in the top five, with Dolan lurking in second. Back to green, Toland got a bit crossed up in turn two and was tagged by Holladay. Rob was done, and Chad took his turn at the back of the pack. Dolan had now completed his journey to the lead, but Kay was lined up in second. The two leaders traded high and low lines at each end of the high banked 1/4 mile before Kay powered to the lead on the top side. He began to stretch his lead as one more yellow slowed the marathon. In the closing laps, Dolan began to fade a bit, as Hurst saw his come from the back stop in second, and Zrostlik, who had started in row twelve, took third. Dolan settled in fourth, with Marolf charging back to fifth. Todd Cooney was scored sixth, Martin edged Holladay for seventh, and Sam Halstead and Gary Webb somehow avoided the carnage to complete the top ten. There were still 14 cars running at the checkers, and with all the cautions, I think only rookie David Norton was not on the lead lap. It was the first time we had seen Norton race, and we applaud him for not impeding the leaders as he stayed out of trouble while making his laps.
  Despite the carnage and the drawn out intermission, we were still on the road before 9:30. Thanks to K&S Promotions for their hospitality, and to scorer Kevin Feller for the warm welcome.
  I am looking forward next week to finally spending a Friday night closer to home at the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa, then at Quincy, Illinois Raceways Sunday as the UMP Pro Crate late models make their first appearance of 2018. Thanks for reading!


Saturday, May 5, 2018

More MLRA, Equals More Simpson

 In the last two seasons, I have been able to cover six Midwest Late Model Racing Association shows, and five of those found one of the Simpson brothers in victory lane. The only misfire was the recent Slocum 50 at 34 Raceway, where Shannon Babb edged out the brothers, who finished second and third that night.
 Friday night it was a second 2018 visit to the Davenport Speedway, with the action this time on the 1/4 mile inside oval, which is used for weekly racing at the fairgrounds facility. While the predicted mid week monsoons had pretty much skirted my home base, the Quad City area was dumped upon, particularly on Wednesday night, with around three inches of rain leaving us somewhat skeptical that racing would take place Friday. MLRA race director Ernie Leftwich described the issues his team faced in trying to bury a scoring loop sensor on the front stretch Friday, hoping that the extensive work done by track crews with the grader and " whatever else they used out there " to prepare the racing surface had not dislodged the transmitter, which would have forced some old school hand scoring!
  Although there was an inside wall of mud, the racing action actually produced a fair amount of dust throughout the evening.
  I found it somewhat ironic that many drivers had indicated that they would have preferred to race on the 1/4 mile during the event two weeks prior, yet there were ten less cars racing on this night, with several series " regulars " missing from the field. Perhaps a somewhat smaller payout had something to do with it?
  But the Simpsons and 23 other super late models checked in do battle in the 40 lap headliner. Leftwich stated during the drivers meeting that 25 or more cars would add a B-main qualifier to the three heat races, but come feature time, 24 starters were listed on the lineup, with only Luke Goedert absent. The former IMCA hotshoe did indeed join the line up, but went pitside following the parade lap. Once again, drivers drew for their heat race starting spot, with a  passing points system used  to set the feature lineup. Chad Simpson came from the fourth starting spot in an absolutely loaded first heat to take the win over polesitter Jonathon Brauns, earning the pole for the headliner. A resurgent JC Wyman advanced four positions in heat two, finishing second to polesitter Payton Looney, earning an inside row two starting slot, flanked by Looney. Tony Jackson JR. charged from outside row one to capture the final ten lapper ahead of third starting Will Vaught, giving Jackson the outside pole spot for the feature.
  Chad Simpson seemed a good bet from his pole position in the main event, but Wyman got the jump on the front row, crossing the stripe first on the opening lap ahead of a multi car mess in turn four. Local racer Matt Ryan and tour regular Jeff Roth saw their night end early as a result. If I heard correctly in the drivers meeting, Leftwich announced that if the first five cars crossed the start finish line, then a lap would be scored, and this was apparently the case, as the field was realigned in the Delaware format, with Wyman and his #4 out front. Back under green, Chad began to get some heat in his fresh tires, and he was beginning to challenge from the third spot when on lap three, Jordon Yaggy looped his ride in turn one. Jeremy Grady, who had pulled out of his heat with heavy smoke coming from his car, and Billy Drake, both retired at this point. Back to racing, Simpson found has way to the front by way of the high side on lap four, and he and Wyman began to put some distance on the pack. Slower traffic became a factor on lap ten, but Simpson was up to the task. With Will Vaught running a strong third, he suddenly slowed on lap 13, and he headed to the work area as the caution waved. He remained off the track as racing finally resumed and that turned out to be the final yellow of the 40 lapper. Wisconsin driver Mitch McGrath, who fired off seventh, slipped by Wyman on lap 15, as Simpson opened a sizable lead. Wyman retook the runner up spot two laps later. Now most of the field was using a low groove around the track, with McGrath and Justin Kay searching a higher line. Traffic again came into play on the 22nd circuit, but Simpson handled it with ease. Brother Chris Simpson had fallen to fourth in that loaded first heat after lining up third, leaving him in row seven on the feature grid. But he picked his way forward, grabbing the fourth position with ten laps to go. The winner from two weeks ago then made a run at McGrath before settling in to fourth. At the checkers, it was Chad out front to split the pair of Davenport shows with his brother. Wyman ran a season best second ahead of McGrath, Chris Simpson, and Looney. Jackson headed the second five in front of Kay, Brauns, Tyler Bruening, and Dave Eckrich. It was the second series win for Chad, who took the checkers one week before in Oklahoma.
  The late models had been third on the feature card, with the weekly street stock class leading things off. The starting field had numbered 14 for 15 laps, with apparently late arriving Jeremy Gustaf tagging the tail. Numerous lead changes and a host of caution periods dominated the first half of the race, with Jesse Owen grabbing the top spot on lap nine. With three laps remaining, three cars raced three wide for the second spot, with Gustaf being one of those, but he suddenly exited the speedway. As the white flag waved, with Jeff Struck Jr. out front, the caution came out one last time, setting up a two lap finish. Struck held on for the win, with Owen in second. Gene Ehlers came home third ahead of Kevin Goben.
  The IMCA sport mods, also a weekly class at Davenport, showed a strong 22 car field, with all but one taking the green for 15 laps. A multi car pile up in turn one on lap three took out visiting hot shoe Tyler Soppe, and forced top contender Tony Olson to the tail. Following a lengthy delay as the mess was cleaned up, racing resumed, but unfortunately it was only the first of several lap three caution periods. But with field whittled down to about 14, the rest of the event went caution free. Keith Blum was impressive in leading flag to flag. Jared Waterman took runner up honors over Joe Nemitz and Brandon Setzer.
  The final race of the night was another weekly points class, the IMCA modifieds. Again a nice 23 car field was on hand, with 20 laps scheduled to complete the program. A lap one crash took out Rob Toland, who along with Kay was one of the two drivers doing double duty. When the first lap was scored, one of a host of former late model drivers, Stephan Kammerer was on top. As he was stalked by Bob Dominacki, the #77 began to build a comfortable lead. Doug Crampton battled his way to the second spot on lap seven, but one circuit later, Kay, who started deep in the field took over the runner up spot. A pair of yellow flags slowed the action, and Chris Zogg charged to third. With Kammerer out front, a three wide scramble for second highlighted lap ten, with Crampton, Kay, and Zogg in the hunt. Kay eventually cleared the others, and began to chase down the leader. On lap 13, Kay took the top spot, but a multi car caution put him back in the runner up spot. It was at this point that we headed for the car for the long trip home. Reports this morning indicate that Kay did pick up the win, with Kurt Kile claiming second. Bryce Garnhart and Eric Barnes came next, as Crampton, who apparently had an issue after we left, came back to fifth.
  A big thanks to Bob Wagener and crew for going above and beyond to overcome rough conditions and put on an entertaining show, and special thanks to  Carrie Rouse for her hospitality. Davenport Speedway is a leader in weekly racing, and with it being 10:00 sharp when we left the facility, it is a recommended racing destination.
  Next up if the weather man cooperates is another Quad Cities adventure, with a Sunday visit to the Quad City Speedway across the river in East Moline,Illinois for our first Deery Brothers IMCA late model Summer Series show of 2018. Spring is finally here, so enjoy the action whenever and wherever you can!