Tuesday, September 6, 2011

If It's Monday, This Must Be...

When the vacation schedule goes up at my workplace, I make sure to be first in line so i make sure I have the Friday of the 34 Raceway Pepsi USA late model nationals off. In the 20 years of the nationals, I have missed a total of three nights - all due to work - and so I guess this is truly my " can't miss " event. With the Sprint Invaders joining the regular classes Sunday night at Quincy Raceways, I was looking at a three race weekend. Good thing Monday was an R and R day - or so I thought! Friday went pretty much as planned, good, though hot weather, and a nice field of IMCA late models looking to qualify for a shot at the $10,000 top prize on Saturday. The car count was down a bit this year, but that seems to be a common thread with the late model specials of all sanctions. Still 45 cars signed in, and someone wisely asked who was not there that had a chance to win!?!
Ray Guss Jr. continued his amazing two year run by setting quick time, then coming out of the four car invert to grab his 12 lap heat race to earn the pole for the 99 lap finale. Yes, this is normally a 100 lap race, but it was shortened to 99 this season to honor the former owner of 34, ole # 99, Johnny Johnson. Up and coming Tyler Bruening, track regular Tom Goble, and the father and son team of Lonnie and Matt Bailey also grabbed heat wins. The 14 car Iron Man Feature for those with perfect attendance to this point in the Summer Series season ran as the finale of the night, with Oskaloosa driver TJ Criss taking the checkers in the 20 lap $750 to win race for the second consecutive year. Mike Garland nabbed second ahead of Jay Johnson, Matt Strassheim, and Terry Neal. We headed home knowing there was a chance of rain Saturday, but things looked good at the time, and still looked that way Saturday morning. Fred and Darryl were on their way to pick up Keagan and I when I got an ominous text picture showing an ugly grey cloud hovering over the track. Minutes later word came that the finals were postponed to Sunday night, in direct competition with Quincy Raceways. But first things first, I had three race fans in my living room expecting me to make a plan. Well a couple of internet clicks told us that I-55 raceway in Pevely,Mo. was still racing their UMP weekly show. With about 45 minutes to spare, we jumped in Freds van and headed south. A couple of showers as we neared St Louis caused us to call the track, but we were assured all was well. Arriving at the track, we found a solid field of 94 cars in four classes, including 22 UMP late models and 22 UMP modifieds. The street stocks had been added to the card for a special, but only three showed up, so they were given the option to run with the AARA sportsmen.
It just happened to be 1/2 price fan appreciation night, and the place was rocking! I-55 does a great job of running the premier classes first, a good thing for weary travelers like us. It also helps traffic control, as there it but one way in and out of the track co owned by Ken Schrader. The absolute only downer on the night was the 45 minute intermission to stage a nickel dash for the kids - where is Lynn Richard when you need him? When the cars got back on the track, the late models ran first, 25 laps of ground pounding action on the 1/3 mile banked track. " King Kong " Randy Korte started outside row two, followed Dave Jumper for one lap, then checked out on the field. Several cautions bunched things up, but each time the
# 00was equal to the task. Michael Kloos found his way around Jumper late in the race and tried to close the gap on Korte, but it was not to be. Korte sat out all of 2010 after back surgery, but looks to be as strong as ever. He also picked up the win Friday night at Tri City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Il. Quincy driver Rickey Frankel came home fourth, followed by Mark Miner and late model rookie Bobby Bittle.
The UMP mods ran their 20 lapper next, and with Quincian Michael Long in the house, we had a rooting interest. Michael had also won the night previous at Tri City, and was working on an eight straight feature win streak, vaulting him to second in national points. Now however, it was Mark Miner, doing double duty, who took off from row one to lead the pack. " Big Block " Tim Hancock soon moved to the second spot, and Long flew to third in a couple of laps. Once again, a spate of cautions kept the front runners from getting their momentum going, but when it was clean and green, Hancock on top and Long on the bottom put on a shoe behind Miner. As the laps wound down, Miner faded a bit, and on the final set of turns Hancock made his move. Miner led for 19 and 7/8 laps, but it was Hancock when it counted. Long settled for third. With two features still to run, with headed for the parking lot at 10:30, with a 2 hour 45 minute drive home ahead of us.
During the intermission, Michael Long talked to Darryl and advised him that Quincy Raceways had moved their race to Monday night. Good news that I could go back to 34, bad news that I had non racing plans for Monday.
But first things first, and Sunday afternoon, we were back on the road for West Burlington, and Keagans first ever three race weekend. With the day off in between and Sunday night late model races in East Moline and Dubuque, only 18 of the 30 non qualified cars came back. Still we would have two B-mains taking the top three from each, and five provisionals, filling out the 26 car starting grid. B- main number one went to Jeff Guengerich over Nate Beuseling and Criss, with Darin Duffy suffering a heartbreaking engine failure three laps from a win. Duffy was pilorting Brian Harris # 21H, as Harris had wheeled the # 27H on Friday, then went modified racing on Sunday. The second 20 lapper saw a similar fate for Tom Bowling Jr., as he lost a transfer spot in the # 3D normally driven by Jason Cook. Terry Neal captured B-main two over Jay Chenoweth and Darrell Defrance. Boone McLaughlin came up short as he jumped the berm going for third. Three time race winner Mark Burgtorf had mechanical issues on Friday, finishing eighth in his heat. Mark finished fourth in the first consy, and that was good enough to give him the hard charger provisional.
Guss Jr. and Bruening took off from the front row of the 99 lapper, and Bruening set the pace for most of the first 22 laps. As the two frontrunners entered traffic, there was what appeared to be inadvertent contact that sent Bruening in to a spin. On the restart, Guss took off, and the race was his for 30 green flag laps. A handful of cautions bunched to field, but Guss was in charge. By lap 64, Burgtorf had moved for 23rd to seventh, but a broken body brace caused a tire to go down, and after one trip to the pits, he eventually went to the trailer. By lap 74, Andy Eckrich was making his move, and he and Guss raced side by side for a few laps. On lap 92, traffic again came into play, and this time it was Guss in the wrong place. The # 58 was forced to check up slightly, and that was all Eckrich needed to make the winning pass. Five laps later contact between third running 34 track champion Denny Woodworth and Quincy track champion fourth running Justin Reed sent Denny spinning, bringing out the final caution. Andy held on for the $10,000 win, with Guss settling for second. Reed finished third, with Johnson, Goble, and Colby Springsteen next in line. The final checkers waved before 10:00.
Thanks to Amy, Jeff and their crew for keeping this tradition going strong!
As I said, Monday was family time, but when we arrived back home at 5:00 with the sun shining, I could hear Quincy Raceways calling. Arriving later than usual, I caught up to speed quickly. A good field of 19 Sprint Invaders checked in, and the UMP mod count was a healthy 18. Unfortunately, the late model experiment of adding crate cars to the IMCA machines and allowing tire modifications seemed to backfire, with only seven total cars, and veteran Terry Gallaher having the only crate on hand.
Still, we witnessed three outstanding feature finishes. After Tanner Klingele grabbed his third feature win in the hobby stocks, the sprinters came to the track. Ryan Jamison jumped to the lead before breaking a gear on a lap two restart. Jimmy Davies then took over, with Joey Moughan moving to the top spot about mid way through the 25 lapper. Joey looked to be in control before Ben Waggoner made an unbelievable last lap charge, closing a nearly one second gap to take the win over Moughan. Korey Weyant, Jim Moughan, and Bobby Mincer completed the first five.
The late models ran next, and us " old timers " enjoyed a special treat, as Terry Schlipman dug out his fire suit and wheeled Keith Pratts # 33 for the night While Schlip ran a strong third, the race was ahead of him, as Denny Woodworth charged past Jason Perry on a lap two restart. The two ran side by side nearly the entire 24 remaining laps. with DW high and Perry low. Jason had the spot at the white flag, but Denny powered back, and crossed the line less than a quarter second ahead of Jason. Jake Griffin ran fourth, with Sam Halstead, Lonnie Bailey, and Gallaher rounding things out.
Kimberly Abbott used a late race pass to nab her second Wild Thing feature in the 12 lap finale.
Last on the card came the UMP modifieds. Michael Long was looking to make it five in a row at QR, but he suffered a set back in his heat race. After leading six laps, He gave up the lead to Mark Burgtorf, the also lost second to Steven Delonjay, knocking him out of the top six redraw. When Burgtorfs car owner drew a two, we knew we would have race. Mark checked out on the field before Michael could get through traffic. One thing about mods, especially at QR, patience is a virtue, because there are usually enough cautions to allow you to advance through the pack, and the side by side restarts helps even more. As the race wore on, both point leader Delonjay and runner up Jared Schlipman retired to the trailer with damage, and it quickly became a two car race. Burgtorf ran the low side, Long the top. Michael had the advantage out of turn two, Mark down the front stretch. A couple of late cations seemed to break Burgtorfs momentum just a bit, and Long grabbed his first lead at the end of lap 23. Burgtorf took the white flag first, but Longs final lap charge gave him win number five in a row by .026 seconds - thank goodness for transponders! Shawn Deering eased past Donavon Lodge late for third, with Jim Roach and Dave Weitholder completing the top six.
I don't know when I last did four nights of racing in a row, and I'm feeling it now, but what an awesome racing weekend. This weekend looks like a double, weather permitting, with my first trip of 2011 to Davenport Speedway for the Summer Series race on the big half mile as the opening act. If you see me there, stop by and visit!

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