Monday, April 9, 2012

Cool Temps, Hot Racin'

The weekend started off on an ominous note, with overcast conditions and a light but persistent drizzle as Keagan and I arrived at 34 Raceway Saturday night for the 4th annual Slocum 50 Summer Series event. Despite the contrary conditions, the race is a " can't miss " event for us, as Brent was a good friend of our family, and seeing his family and friends together makes this a special occasion.
As it turned out, the raindrops may have been a blessing, as it helped create as fast and racy a track as I have seen at 34 since I can't remember when. And despite some grumbling about the new policy of not allowing spectators to make trips to the parking lot, we simply hauled in a nights worth of blankets and coats, and we were good to go!
There are already several accounts of the racing action already posted at Positively Racing, as we came as close to a blogger reunion as has happened in my time with the website. So I will just say congratulations to Mike Murphy Jr on a dominating run, and send out a thank you to all the other racers who took a chance by coming out in less than promising conditions to put on a show, and also offer up a few random thoughts about the night of racing.
Last week on our trip to I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo., Jeff Broeg and I discussed the likely car count for this race. Jeff was a bit more optomistic about the late model numbers than I was. With Quincy Raceways switching to UMP late model rules this season, I knew there would be a loss of 5-8 cars no longer legal by IMCA rules. Indeed, there were still a handful of Quincy competitors, as Joey Gower, and the father and son team of Lonnie and Matt Bailey are still IMCA legal and will be racing weekly at 34. Also, Mark Burgtorf in the Lynn Richard #15 was on hand, as they will be running both rules packages in 2012. In fact, Gower and Matt Bailey have begun the year racing at both tracks with their IMCA legal engines. All but Lonnie Bailey made the show on Saturday. With several drivers staying home, or like Denny Eckrich, changing plans due to the weather, it is safe to say that Jeffs prediction would have likely beat mine with a better forecast. In the four years the race has been held, late model counts have been 66,64,47 and 37.
I was looking forward to seeing Ray Raker in a late model for the first time, but his night ended at the start of his heat race as his # 07 - one of two in the field - went up in smoke. There were three cars in the field that were totally unfamiliar to me, and I had to depend on Broeg to provide names and hometowns. Tim Simpson #17, Kyle Hinrich #15H, and Karl Getzschman # 28 forced me to admit to my seat mates I had no idea who they were!
Although I usually try not to offer up suggestions to promoters, I would like to single out two things that in my opinion would have definitely improved what was never the less a very good program. First of all, while the redraw procedure on the front stretch was entertaining, I did kept hoping the late model B -mains would be lined up and ready to go when the festivities ended instead of be called to staging at the conclusion of the redraw. Secondly, running the late model headliner earlier in the program - perhaps holding the mod lites until the end - would no doubt have generated some good will among the hearty folks, many of whom seemed to be feeling the chill in a big way. No doubt we would have stayed until the final checkers, but I know some in the good sized crowd were anticipating the warmth of their car heater. And with 34 being one of those tracks with traffic congestion after the races, switching the order would help that problem. Quincy Raceways adopted this idea a few seasons back, and it has helped empty the parking lot in a timely fashion.
Still no real complaints after a great night of racing, and thanks to 34 Raceway as well as Brad Stevens and his posse for making this race a " must see " event!
Early church, Easter dinner in southeast Iowa, and once again Keagan and I were off, this time to Quincy Raceways for week two of the 2012 season.
The car count was down eight cars from opening night, something we attributed to the Easter holiday, but still 83 race teams crowded into the pit area. The UMP late models and UMP modifields led the way with 17 cars in each class, with a lot of the buzz created by the appearance of 15 year second generation phenom Bobby Pierce and his # 32 late model.
The gremlins that plagued opening night were mostly a distant memory, and the show clicked off in timely fashion, with the modified and late model features concluded before dark, and the final checkers waving before 9:00.
Dave Weitholder led every lap of the mod 25 lapper, but Michael Long was on him like an ugly sweater for a good part of the race. As the two exited turn four on the final lap, the crowd came to its collective feet as Dave held on for a .56 second win. The win wrapped up a good one for Weitholder, who took the Friday night checkers at Fulton, Mo. As has been the case too often, the IMCA stock car class was short on numbers, but defending track champ Aaron Brocksieck put on a clinic early and held off Terry Houston late for the win. Week one winner Abe Huls loaded up early after his poer plant locked up in the heat race.
The UMP late models ran third with 16 starters. Rickey Frankel was already on the trailer with a broken push rod. First heat and dash winner, Dustin Griffin, the defending UMP national crate champion led the first 16 laps of the 30 lapper before the caution waved. On the restart, Pierce and eighth starting Matt Bailey got by. While Pierce powered around the middle groove on the dry slick track, Bailey edged ever closer on the bottom groove. With traffic coming in to play, Bailey grabbed the lead with a high side pass on lap 27. One lap later, Pierce put a major league slide job on the # 52 to regain the lead. Then on the final lap, Matt used a bump and run move to retake the top spot and put his IMCA spec engine in victory lane.
Peirce held second ahead of Griffin, week one winner Justin Reed and Brandon Sheppard.
For the second consecutive week, the IMCA sport mods had a tough time getting started, but what looked like a shootout between Tony Dunker and Jim Gillenwater ended when Jim had mid race problems. Dunker cruised to his second win of the young season. Tony is planning to be a two class racer, but his UMP mod engine is still not home from the shop.
Brian Hoener led every lap of a quick hobby stock main event, leaving the IMCA sport compacts to close ou the night. The 16 car field may have been the largest ever for the 4 cylinder class, although only 11 were around to take the feature green. Still the 12 lapper was one of the best races of the night, with cars going three wide around the track. Mike Hornung Jr led early, before high school senior Kimberly Abbott took over the top spot. Kim picked up her first win of 2012.
Race season kicks into high gear this weekend, with many more tracks opening. We will be watching the weather and making plans accordingly. The one definite is the first visit of the UMP Northern All Star late models at Quincy Raceway this Sunday for a $2,000 to win prize. The stock cars and sport mods will have the week off, leaving us with a tidy four class program. Hot laps start at 4:45 and racing at 5:30. so come check out the 700 horsepower late models.
See you somewhere Racin' Down the Road!

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