Sunday, July 25, 2010

Friday Night Thunder- Followed By Rain

The weekend started off on a good note as Darryl, Fred and I made our way to the Lee County Speedway for Friday Night Thunder in the Heartland. With most of the tracks north of Donnellson rained out, we thought the pit area might be extra full, but the threatening weather may have kept some of the travelers at home. Still, 98 cars in six classes was more than enough to offer up a quality show in front of a nice crowd. We arrived at the track about 7:10, and the third division of cars was just getting ready to hot lap. In fact, by my watch it was 7:23, seven minutes early, when the first heat race came to the speedway. Terry Hoenig seems to be the one promoter who has figured out how to run a fast paced, on time program. In fact, 14 heat races were needed to set the feature fields, and it was 8:29 when those 14 heats were completed! With lightning flashing in the northern sky, no intermission was taken, and the 18 car sportmod feature came to the track. After a couple of lead changes, young Mitch Higdon put his black # 45 out front for the win. 14 of the 15 hobby stocks made the feature call, with veteran Dean Kratzer leading the distance for the victory. As is usually the case at Donnellson, the IMCA late models ran third in the order, with 21 entrants vying for the $ 1,000 top prize. Only 20 of those cars took the green, as Tommy Elston was loaded up and gone from the speedway before the heat races were run. Tommy Had been scheduled to be one of three # 45 cars in the seven car first heat along with the nights sponsor, Denny Woodworth, and visitor Curt Martin. Another regular sporting # 45, Tony Fraise, was absent on Friday. Polesitter Jay Chenoweth took the early lead, with fourth starting TJ Criss soon grabbing the top spot. The caution flag was displayed several times during the 25 lapper, twice for cars hitting a developing hole in turn one and shooting into the guard rail. Justin Reed was the first of those casualties, and his # 1st needed the wrecker to get him to the pit area. When fourth running Rob Toland met a similar fate, Hoenig st0pped the action long enough to bring out the tractor and make a few passes to smooth things out. In this season of rain, Lee County has had for the most part a superior racing surface excepting the troublesome turn one soft spot. Hoenig has stated he will probably need to tear up the track in the off season to correct the problem. Meanwhile, seventh starting Jeff Aikey took the lead on lap 11, as he made a bid to become the first repeat winner in the six nights of late model action. The veteran from Cedar Falls had stretched out to a comfortable lead until a caution with eight laps to go bunched the field and put point leader Mark Burgtorf on his back bumper. As Aikey stated in the post race interview, he knew Mark would go to the top side of the 3/8 mile, so on the restart, Jeff went to the cushion. Burgtorf matched him lap for lap, and took a couple of shots at the low side, but could not overtake the
# 77. Woodworth made a charge to third after the caution, holding the spot ahead of Boone McLaughlin. Former feature winner Jeff Guengerich slipped past Tom Goble coming to the checkers to nab fifth. Matt Bailey, Superman Sam Halstead, Andy Eckrich, and eighteenth starting Keith Pratt rounded out the top ten. Eckrich had actually pulled off the track, but was able to return to the track after the long caution without losing a lap. 13 of the 20 starters took the checkered flag. Dirt track rookie Justin Jennings, the 2009 rookie of the year on the asphalt at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids was rained out Friday, so he had his dirt car hauled to Donnellson where he turned his first laps at the fairgrounds track. The teenager is a regular this season at Quincy Raceways in his black # 56. The 13 car IMCA stock car feature followed, with Cory Strothman picking up his second win of 2010. the Michael Long destroyed the field in the 14 car IMCA modified main event. One of Michaels chief competitors, point leader Josh Foster is sidelined, apparently for several weeks, with a broken foot. Jerry Ostby took home honors in the 17 car Wild Thing finale although we headed for the car at 10:11 with the 4 cylinder machines were heading to the track, ending another entertaining evening in Donnellson.
Saturday was spent in oppressive heat at Six Flags in St Louis with wife, daughter and two grandsons, and we were about 60 miles from home when we began to notice the black clouds to the north. 20 miles from home, the rain was coming in sheets, and it was then that I began to suspect my racing might be done for the weekend. Sure enough, somewhere between two and four inches of rain fell between home and Quincy Raceways, and although promoter Tony Rhinberger took a shot at getting the grounds race ready today, it was a losing proposition from the start. By my very unofficial count, QR has hosted nine nights of racing in 2010 and endured eight cancellations. And don't look now, but August is nearly here!
If I can work it out, the Iowa River behaves, and the rain takes a break, I hope to take in the Corn Belt Clash Thursday at the Louisa County Fairgrounds in Columbus Junction. If you see me there, say " Hi. "

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