Saturday, May 15, 2010

Racin' Down the Road

Friday night we were treated to two things that have been in short supply this spring, that being a beautiful sunset and some great racing. As did more than one of the P.R. bloggers, I made my way to the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson Friday night for the first night of IMCA late model action in the
" Drive for Five " series. I must admit that I was somewhat surprised when my wife called with the news that the E-mail had come Friday morning that the races were still on. Considering the seemingly continuous deluge of rain this week, I just did not think the pits or parking lot could be made race ready. After talking to promoter Terry Hoenig, it was pretty obvious that he had planned to go the extra mile and then some to put on a show, and fans and drivers alike appreciated the efforts of his employees and volunteers. You can find a recap of the races elsewhere here at P.R., so I will add dome random thoughts about the evening. Although I have lived in Missouri for over 30 years, a trip to Donnellson is still like " going home " , as the fairgrounds was one of the tracks of my childhood, teen , and early married years. There are many old friends whom I see all to seldom but for a trip through the concrete bleachers at Donnellson. Last night I got to spend time visiting with one of those good friends, former racer Larry Larson, who I spent several seasons helping in the pits. With Larry on this night was another former racer from Keokuk, Jack Evans, who I have also known for most of my life. Jack says he is in the long process of putting together a Sport Mod, so we will see where that goes. I also had a chance to visit with another former racer from my hometown Joe Shuman. Joe is the point man for the upcoming third edition of the Keokuk Racers Reunion to be held at the Keokuk Mall on Fathers Day weekend, Saturday, June 19. Joe tells me the Plymouth Superbird club will be on hand, including the " Bird " that local legend Ramo Stott raced from the pole position at Daytona in the mid seventies. Also on display will be a Dodge Charger raced by Ernie Derr, a USAC car campaigned by Don White, and some local race cars from the 1970s. Joe also said he had a Benny Parsons car scheduled to appear. In addition, several of the local drivers are planned to bring their current race cars to the show. Health permitting, the aforementioned drivers should be on hand, and their will be lots of memorabilia, as well. This event has been held twice in the last few years, and should be on the calender of any current or long time race fan withing driving distance of Keokuk.
I also did some bench racing with buddy Bob Litton and his wife, from Iowa City. Bob is a true super fan, and keeps me up to speed on the goings on around that part of the state. I was fortunate to bump into the daughter of Deo Loney, who passed away during the off season. Linda was employed at Lee County at the same time as my son, and it was good to catch up with her. She told me the Ottumwa newspaper had a tribute article to her father which I need to find a copy of. Before the races, Terry Hoenig asked for a moment of silence for three race friends we lost over the off season, Deo
his great friend Keith Allen, and Missouri racer Art Jeffries.
Bench racing aside, there was plenty of good on track action on a track which understandably got a bit rougher than the normal Donnellson track.
The finish to the IMCA modified feature, with Michael Long stalking Josh Foster, and Brandon Rothzen waiting in the wings was a classic made up for a few too many caution flags. As a Quincy Raceways regular, I expected Michael to find a way to the front, but Foster is one tough cookie, and took home a well deserved win. As for Brandon, he came from deep in the pack and picked off Long for a runner up finish. Along with fourth finishing Wyatt Lantz, these young guns represent the good in area modified racing
The same could be said on this night for the IMCA stock cars, as Jeff Mueller and Jason Cook ran an edge of your seat final couple of laps. Again,when Mueeler goes to the front At QR, he stays there, but on the LCS oval, Jason found an opening and snatched the win from the # 77m. Congratulations also to Jason and his wife, former racer Christina (Beggs ), and to grandpa Ned on the arrival of their new baby.
The racing universe returned to normal for me and my companions as the IMCA late models rolled out for what was scheduled to be a star studded 26 car feature field. Mark Burgtorf, who already has a handful of feature wins in 2010, including three in the Summer Series , was set to roll off from the sixth starting slot. However, Gary Russell pulled to the infield on the parade lap, moving # 7B to the second row. Following one false start, Burgtorf shot past the front row of Colby Springsteen and Denny Woodworth and was never headed. Denny made an early run for the top spot, but found himself just enough out of shape to allow surprise visitor Rob Toland to slide in to second from his seventh starting spot. " Rocket Rob looked to be on the move for a few laps, but Burgtorf had his Pierce chassis hooked up perfectly, and he eventually lapped up through ninth place, finishing in a different time zone than his nearest challengers, Toland, Woodworth, Springsteen, and Jay Johnson.
Pat of the fun of the trip to LCS with friends is debating who might show up for the late model shows, which run about ten nights during the season. Although Jeff aikey made our list, Andy Eckrich did not. Andy is splitting his season between IMCA racing and his more familiar time on the Simmons promoted tracks in Farley, West Liberty and Dubuque. I think this was the youngest of the racing Eckrich brothers first trip to Donnellson, and after not making the redraw, he went to work and climbed to seventh in the finishing order after starting fourteenth. Meanwhile Aikey managed to turn a bad heat race experience around, starting eighteenth and finishing eighth. Jeff Guengerich made his return to racing in the Richard Realty # 15, looking strong early before fading late in the 25 lapper, while at the same time, Tommy Elston was back on familiar turf in his Elston Automotive # 45. A total of eleven Quincy Raceways regulars made the trip north, including Vance Wilson, all the way from Frankford, Mo. in his # B1, and Keith Pratt, who has been making the weekly pull to the Davenport Speedway the last few seasons.
A former Quincy Raceways hot shoe, who hung up his helmet at his
" home " track to take a job there as an official, Joe Bliven was impressive in the Sport Mod main event, chasing second generation driver Derek Coleman to the checkers, with defending track champion Rodger Dresden lurking in third.
Although there were two features still to run, one of our group had to be to work bright and early, so we headed home as the hobby stocks rolled to the track. Our next planned trip to LCS comes in two weeks, when the late models make their next appearance. As I write this on Saturday afternoon, it is a cloudy, drizzly day, and I have my fingers crossed that I will have some news to report from night number four at Quincy Raceways on Sunday. See you down the road.

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