Tuesday, July 20, 2010

On the Road Again

Earlier than any non working person should be up on a Saturday, Keagan and I loaded up the car and made the short jaunt to the truck stop 10 miles south of town to meet up with buddy Fred, his wife Judy, Darryl and " Big " Al. From there we loaded Fred's van and headed south with the Lucas Oil Speedway in Wheatland, Mo. as our destination. As Keagan, Judy, and Al had never visited this midwest mecca of dirt track racing, we wanted to arrive early enough to be able to take them on a tour of the incredible pit area before they closed the gate to sell passes. As the Lucas Oil late models had been in action the previous night at Pontoon Beach, Il - see Jeffs blog for a recap - there were already a dozen or so cars in the pits when we arrived shortly after noon. After giving the unofficial tour and doing a bit of visiting, we headed out to find our motel and escape the already oppressive heat. We made the trip back to the 3/8 mile oval about 4:30 to ensure prime seats, then set about occupying ourselves for the three hour wait for hot laps. Fortunately, Wheatland is one of those venues where it is easy to fill the time, and the driver autograph session was one of the highlights of the evening. At 7:30 sharp, as advertised, 43 Lucas Oil and MLRA late models and 40 open modifieds began their warm up sessions. Time trials for the late models followed, and second timing Scott Bloomquist tripped the clock at 15.905 seconds. The time held until the fourth and final group, when Jimmy Owens, driving a Bloomquist chassis of his own, turned the oval at 15.812 for quick time on the night. They were the only drivers to breal the 16 second barrier. Four 10 lap heat races set the first two rows for the 50 lap $ 10,000 to win Diamond Nationals feature, with " Bloomer ", Owens, Don Oneal, and Eric Wells filling the top spots. The first heat race would have made a great mini feature, with Brian Birkhofer, Billy Moyer, and Jimmy Mars finishing behind Bloomquist, and Dale McDowell, John Anderson, Ray Cook, Jeremy Payne among those relegated to a B-main.
Cook and Terry Phillips captured the 12 lap B's which each transferred three cars, and Bub McCool made a thrilling charge after falling to ninth to come back and grab third without benefit of a caution in the final qualifier. Two provisionals from each series were added, and 14 year old Tyler Reddick used a Lucas Oil " emergency " start, setting up a 27 car starting field. Although outside polesitter Owens led every trip past the flag stand, he was challenged early and often. With Bloomquist uncharacteristically falling back, Oneal stayed glued to the # 20 early, then it was Earl Pearson Jr. taking up the charge. EPJ actually took the top spot in turn two on lap 15, but Owens regained the lead quickly. Oneal gave up his third spot and went to the trailer during a lap 16 caution. Owens had built a big lead when the caution flew for Dan Schleiper on lap 42. and one lap later Steve Casebolt lost a wheel in turn two and Al Purkey spun at the same time in turn four. After a debris caution with no laps in, the field went green. Now it seemed that Owens may have used up his tires, and Pearson went to the bottom of the track as he looked for a fourth straight Lucas win. With Jimmy trying to run the top in turns one and two and protecting the bottom in three and four, the " Intimigator, " Alligator farmer Chris Wall found something to his liking, and slipped past Pearson with four laps to go. He then closed on Owens, but could not make the pass. He trailed Owens to the flag, as EPJ held third ahead of Moyer. Brady Smith past Bloomquist late for sixth. Show Me 100 winner Ray Cook came from 17th to seventh, Mc Dowell started 19th and finished eighth. Birkhofer and Brad Neat completed the top ten.
With our hotel only a ten minute drive away, we stayed around for the modified finale, even after a multi car pileup on the start took several minutes to clean up. After the early delay, the mods clicked off the laps quickly, with area hot shoe Jesse Stovall celebrating his 30th birthday with a dominating win. Of particular interest to Keagan was the performance of Justin Boney, and Dan Charles, two of the featured drivers from the Heartland Thunder television show on Discovery Channel. With a full nigh of racing, we headed back to the room around midnight, tired but still buzzing about the best racing we have seen in our trips to the track. Wheatland, much like Knoxville and Eldora is one of those places that die hard dirt late model fans should find a way to visit at least once. From the concrete pits with the two bay car wash, a hot pit area with lights, air and water, two levels of suites, a full service bar, an air conditioned room for eating and relaxing, a reasonably priced and tasty varied menu, a jumbotron complete with 20 position scoreboard - which is always up to date - and probably some other amenities I have forgotten - of yes, if all this bores you, you can rent a go kart at the track off turn one - well, hopefully you get a picture of sorts. Now that the Show Me 100 has been moved to the track, there are a couple of good opportunities to make the trip, which from my perch near Quincy, Il is about a five hour ride with a meal break.
We were up early on Sunday, headed home as Al had to work Sunday evening, and the rest of us were hoping for a nap before heading to Quincy Raceways. We were barely on the road when the call came that a downpour had hit the Quincy area Sunday morning, and when we called the track for the noon update, we learned that once again there would be no racing. While some tracks have had pretty good seasons, QR has been bit a record number of times by Mother Nature. Oh well, the extra long nap felt pretty good!
This week plans are to stay close to home, with Friday night IMCA late model action at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, and we will try again Sunday at Quincy Raceways. See you at the races.

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