Monday, May 9, 2011

Home Cookin' This Weekend

For the last three seasons, we have been trying to take in a race at Paducah International Raceway in Paducah, Kentucky. On one of our last trips to Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway before it closed, buddy Darryl and I stopped in for a look at the 3/8 mile track co owned by Ken Schrader, Tony Stewart, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Bob Sargent. Bob had promoted several races at Quincy Raceways and happened to be there on that day, so he invited us to look around. Right then we determined to come back for a race. The problem is that they are a Friday night track, a problem for both of us. But every March, they schedule a Saturday night Lucas Oil late model show. So for three seasons, the show has been on our schedule, and the first two seasons fell to rain. Rain or not, 2011 was not to be, as the nearby Clarks River overflowed its banks in a big way, leaving several feet of water covering the track and grounds. Oh well, as the Cubs fans like to say, " Wait till next year!"
With the absolutely great weather Saturday, staying home was not an option, so Darryl, Keagan and I loaded up for the 90 minute trip to 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Ia. 90 race team signed in, including 19 IMCA late models. The 14 heat races clicked off quickly, and after a short intermission, the features started around 8:30. 20 modifieds started things off, and ran a fast paced 13 laps before the cautions took hold. It seems like cautions breed more cautions, and I know the " boss " Jeff Broeg would say the double file restarts is one of the main causes. He may be right ( but i still prefer them! ) Dean McGee kept his # H7 out front as the field mixed it up behind him, but the final restart became his downfall, as defending track champion Scott Hogan powered to the front and the checkers. Rich Smith, who had led very briefly, grabbed third. Next up came the 305 sprints, who also had some caution issues, covering 20 laps in 30 minutes or so. Chad Huston made the long trip from Jamesport,Mo. pay off with a big win. He was closely followed by Justin Parrish, Brandyn Martin, who brought along a big cheering section from Eldon, Ia., and Jayson Ditsworth, who made a great late charge before running out of laps. Things got back on track as the 18 car IMCA stock car field went flag to flag in right at eight minutes! Chris Webb led the entire distance for the win over Shane Wells. Jeff Mueller failed to qualify through his heat race, started 14th and moved up nine spots to claim fifth. All 19 late models took the green, with Jeff Guengerich and Keith Pratt on the front row. Pratt has been a loyal 34 supporter for years, but has been snake bit by the high banked 3/8 mile. So when he grabbed the lead and began to stretch it out, you had to wonder what might go wrong. And when the caution came out to bunch the field, it was " uh
oh " time. In the closing laps, eight starting Justin Reed moved up on KP's bumper, and pulled alongside at the checkers, but it was to be Pratts night.
Reed came to victory lane to congratulate Keith after a good, clean race. Rob Toland challenged early and settled for third, while Jason Frankel advanced seven spots from 11th to fourth. Matt Strassheim started along side Jason and took fifth. With the clock barely past 10:00, we hung around for the flag to flag hobby stock feature. Dean Kratzer held the lead throughout, although Ray Raker was closing fast at the checkers. Kudos to the 34 crew for a smooth race surface and a fast paced program. This was my third trip to 34 already this season and I have been impressed each time.
Sunday night was more " home cookin' " for the first time in three weeks, as Quincy Raceways was finally able to get back to racing. Both the car and crowd numbers were down a bit, not unexpected on Mothers Day. As has been the case all three race nights, the track surface was smooth and fast, with the top groove the preferred way around in the heats, while to bottom and middle were the place to be in the features. QR officials did a good job of listening to the drivers and fans, and both hot laps and the heat races actually started a few minutes before the advertised time. Good for them!
The heat races took only about 45 minutes, and again a short intermission saw the feature start about 7:30. The IMCA stock cars were out first and they offer up such good close racing at QR, if only a few more would come to race. Aaron Brocksieck in his pink and white # 40A had won the previous two nights, but he brought out a first lap caution with a flat tire. He changed it quickly and tagged the tail, as defending champion Terry Houston grabbed the lead. Brocksieck was aided by only one more caution in the 15 lapper, but was still able to find a way to the front, pulling away for win number three. Houston and Andrew Griffin crossed the stripe side by side, and only the automatic scoring chips could give Houston the edge.
The 20 lap hobby stock feature was next up, and with two time winner Bobby Anders and defending champ Steve Carlin up front, the race was decided by turn one. Keokuk,Ia driver Brandon Symmonds shadowed Carlin for third, his best finish of the young season.
15 IMCA late models took the green flag with Saturday nights one , two combo of Pratt and Reed on the front row. This was to be Justins night, and he was a flag to flag winner. Sixth starting Jason Frankel jumped the turn one cushion, collecting the cars of Joey Gower, and Robbie Warner, who was out for the first time in 2011. 2010 track champ Denny Woodworth advanced from seventh to the runner up spot ahead of Lonnie Bailey and Pratt. Jason Krigbaum purchased the Terry Gallaher late model this past week, and ran sixth in his season debut.
Only eight 4 cylinder Wild Things took the green for the 12 lap feature, but the competition was intense behind runaway winner Craig Bangert. Seith Woodruff outdueld Casey Kendrick for second.
Perhaps wisely, track officials saved the UMP modified class for the final feature. All 22 cars started the scheduled 25 lap main event. The first eight laps clicked off quickly, and by then secind row starter Michael Long had taken over the top spot. After a caution on lap nine, a nine car pile up at the start finish line stopped the action - i guess Jeff is right! - There were a couple more cautions before a lap 19 restart saw second running Rickey Frankel and third place Vance Wilson getting together in turn one, resulting in both cars spinning. Some extra-curricular activities resulted in both drivers being sent pitside. With the time limit met, a yellow at lap 20 ended the fray. Long cruised to the win ahead of Jared Schlipman and IMCA racer Adam Birck in his first visit of the season. As I fired up the Impala, the dash clock read exactly 9:00.
This coming weekend has the potential to be one of the really great racing weekends. Friday night will be the Lucas Oil late model extravaganza at 34 Raceway, and especially after missing out last weekend, I am anxious to get my first look at the traveling stars in 2011. On Sunday night, the USMTS traveling modified series is back at Quincy Raceways after a several year absence. It will be exciting to see the top national mods challenge to QR hot shoes. The IMCA late models will also be in action. What ever your taste, be sure and take in some racing this weekend!

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