Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Scoring a Hat Trick

With apologies to the stick and puck crowd, I quite unexpectedly enjoyed my first three race weekend of this very wet season. Things started off on Saturday, when Darryl, Fred and I made a last minute decision to venture north to the West Liberty, Iowa Raceway, a gamble considering it was the closest track that had not canceled by afternoon. The skies looked threatening as we headed out, but as we ventured north, the clouds began to scatter, and gave way to a pleasant if cool evening. We arrived just as hot laps were beginning. 81 cars in five classes checked in to do battle on the big 1/2 mile, with 23 open modifieds the largest class. The heat races were caution plagued, but the action picked up come feature time. The IMCA type modifieds ran the first main event, and they had a bit of a struggle with four early cautions before going caution free the rest of the way. Todd Hansen was the early leader before breaking a steering box. Veteran Larry Herring is doing double duty in the mods 2011, and he picked up the win over Mark Schulte. During this race, announcer Jerry Mackey mentioned that the Simmons Promotions tracks of Farley, West Liberty, and Dubuque have rule this season that each caution after the fourth results in the race being shortened by one lap. This is an interesting variation on the time limit concept. Fortunately, the rule did not come in to play on Saturday.
Nate Chandler topped the 16 car IMCA Sport Compact feature, which provided unneeded drama. Steve Miedke was attempting a pass for the lead entering turn one when he broke a wheel. The car dug in, and began a series of five or so violent flips, as he was a good 15 feet or so in the air. One report said Steve suffered a broken hand in the wreck.
David Brandies was the early leader in the 12 car stock car feature, with Matt Greiner in close pursuit. Following a lap eight caution, Blaine Doplar shot from third to first, and held off Greiner and Brandies for the win. Incredibly, the youngster said it was his first ever visit to West Liberty as a driver or fan!
20 cars started the open mod 20 lap finale, with Noah Coppes the man to beat. By the time the yellow flew on lap seven, Steve Stewart had charged from 12th to second, but Coppes was hooked up and took the win.
All 15 IMCA late models started the 25 lapper, with Tommy Elston taking the early lead. Lap five saw Andy Eckrich overtake Elston, and five laps later Brian Harris took the second spot. Harris then got by Eckrich following a lpa 15 yellow, and kept his # 21H out front to the checkers. Eckrich stayed close to nab second, with Colby Springsteen getting past Elston for third. A pair of 34 Raceway visitors, Tom Goble and Sam Halstead took the next two spots. Dale Stolte also made his first appearance of the season at the track, and had stock car ace Wayne Hora in another car from his stable.
We left the fairgrounds about 10:45 not sure there would be any more weekend racing given the forecast.
Sunday morning looked good until I walked out of church to dark skies. Although Quincy Raceways crew spent several hours trying to get the pits dried out, it was not to be, and the decision was made to postpone the holiday show featuring the Sprint Invaders to Monday evening. As things turned out, racing became an unexpected possibility on Sunday, and grandson Keagan and I tagged along with Fred and Darryl for a quick trip to Kevin Gundakers Tri City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Il. The program featured UMP late models racing for a $10,000 top prize, along with $1,000 to win UMP modifieds ans UMP crates for $750 to win. With several cars venturing north from the Show Me 100, 47 late models signed in, along with 60 modifieds and 27 crates. Late model group qualifying saw Brian Shirley set quick overall time at 15.536 seconds on the 3/8 mile. Like most midwest tracks, Tri City has had lots of rain this spring, and a stubborn hole developed in turn one. Track crews worked hard to keep the track smooth, and along with the huge car count, the evening ran a bit long. Late model heat wins went to Shirley, Billy Moyer, Eric Jacobsen, Scott James, and Mark Burgtorf. Defending track champion Craig Smith nabbed the C-main, and Kevin Cole outran Billy Moyer Jr, in the B-main. To keep the show moving, the dash was canceled, and the 50 lap feature would start straight up. Although the crate heats ran first, the late model main was moved up to the first of the finales, and Shirley jumped to a big early lead. As the field duked it out behind, the " Highside Hustler " Jason Feger found the sweet spot on the oval, and began a charge from his ninth starting spot. Once the popular Feger grabbed the lead, he was in command, although James stayed close as the two negotiated lapped traffic. Moyer was never a threat to win, but held on for third, while Dale McDowell charged from 18th to fourth. Jacobsen rebounded late to take fifth from Shirley, and the rest of the top ten included defending UMP national champ Rusty Schlenk, Shannon Babb, Burgtorf, the final car on the lead lap, and Dan Schleiper.
As it was past 11:30, we took our leave before the final features. NASCAR veteran Ken Schrader grabbed the mod win after Quincy ace Michael Long had some bad luck, while leading, and Quincian Dustin Griffin topped the crates. The Gundaker family has went to considerable expense building new rest room and concession areas behind the grandstands, as they turn this popular venue into a top notch facility in the St Louis metro east area.
Arriving home at 2:30, Monday morning came early, as I had agreed to a Monday barbeque, thinking I would not be going racing. So I was a bit late to Quincy Raceways, and I was immediately pleased as I entered the pit area. Moving the show to the holiday on short notice - added to the fact that IMCA points could not be given to late models and stock cars on the off night - left me not knowing what to expect, car count wise. In fact, the count was up in most classes, led by the 23 360 sprint cars. a season high 12 stock cars signed in, and for the first time, the feature went to someone other than Aaron Brocksieck. Aaron had an early flat tire, and things went down hill from there. Kevin Tomlinson finally got his #49 on track, taking a hard fought win over Abe Huls. Abe also paid an early visit to the hot pit, then worked his way back to second, but could not overcome Tomlinson.
The Sprint Invaders ran feature number two, and after a couple of mid race cautions, Jim Moughan dialed up the heat with his # 1M, leading Kaley Gharst to the checkers.
Bobby Anders picked up his fourth hobby stock win in four tries, topping a 14 car field.
The late models were up next, and as it was not a points night, 12 year old Jake Griffin was allowed to strap some IMCA tires on his crate late model and join the fray, making him the only two class racer for the night. Lonnie Bailey took the early lead from his pole start on a track that had become rather slick after the sprint feature. Third starting Denny Woodworth began to work on Bailey, taking the lead before lap ten, and running mistake free for the win. Lonnie held off Joey Gower for third, and Griffin came from eighth to fourth in the 15 car event.
Visiting Bill Michel from Farmington, Iowa took top honors over 12
4 cylinder Wild Things.
All but one of the 18 UMP modifieds took the green flag, and they had some trouble early on the slick track, losing six cars in one crash, before ripping off 15 or so green flag laps. Then Vance Wilson, fresh off a fourth place run the previous night at Tri City, smacked the front stretch wall, ans was hit hard by Travis Griffith. Travis was momentarily dazed, and when he finally exited his car, it was obvious both cars had heavy damage. Throughout, early leader Shawn Deering, and hard charging Steven Delonjay waged a good battle, finishing in that order.
It was a late night at QR, but the action was good and the racing fast, a solid finish to a long holiday weekend. I was able spend some time at QR visiting with 34 Raceway owners Amy and Jeff Laue. Unfortunately, 34 lost two nights of racing plus a post race concert over the weekend, as over four inches of rain pounded the speedway during the week. The West Burlington track has been fortunate to get in several nights in 2011, and they have a full calender over the next four months. Quincy Raceway has announced that popular NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace will be in action with his modified on mid season championship night, June 26.
As for me, a lot of weekend activities are on the June schedule that do not involve racing, so that made this "3 fer " all the more fun! See you at the races.

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