With temperatures slated to hit the 100 mark on Saturday, buddy Fred and I were having a hard time getting motivated to go racin.' Then I got an e-mail from another friend, Lane Evans - not the politician - asking if perhaps we were going to the UMP Summernationals race at I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. When Lane said he had never been to the Ken Schrader and Ray Marlar owned facility, I could not pass up the opportunity to show off one of my favorite venues. So minus Darryl, who will be out of commission for a while, and Keagan, who was camping, we headed down the road. It is about a 2 hour 45 minute trip from our meeting point, but Lane had over an hour on the road before meeting up with us! After a small, but unexpected issue with the Sonota, which took all three of us to remedy, we were on our way! Several tracks to our east and south simply cancelled races due to the heat, but I-55 moved their start times back one hour, so we knew it would be a late night. The crowd was somewhat better than I expected, and the car count was solid, with 34 UMP late models, 31 UMP modifieds, 20 AARA sportsman, and 22 " Pro 4s", all racing for extra money. Indeed the late model winners check would be for $10,000, while the Summit modifieds were dueling for $1,000.
The modifieds time trialed, four at a time during their hot laps, with track regular Mark Miner, who also races late models weekly, setting the pace at 13.920 around the 1/3 mile high banked oval. Late model qualifying was next, and Shannon Babb saw his night get off on the wrong foot as he clipped the wall in turn four, then jumped the turn one cushion, doing a slow roll in his # 18. Ohio driver Jon Henry set fast time at 12.632.
The first race hit the speedway at 8:57, with 13 heat races followed by B- mains for the mods and lates. The fourth late model heat had everyone on the edge of their seat, as the field ran four wide! All four late model heat winners came from the front row, with Henry, Brian Shirley, Billy Moyer, and " Rocket Shepp " Brandon Sheppard scoring wins. Popular local Randy Korte loaded his # 00 after time trials, but Brant Kehrer turned over his # 92Kto the veteran. Randy did not transfer through his heat, but made adjustments to capture the B-main ahead of Babb, who showed no ill effects of his earlier rollover.
The only " downer " off the night was the 10:45 intermission, but shortly after 11:00 24 modifieds came to the track. Quincy ace Michael Long started on the pole by virtue of his heat win, and he took off on the start. Matt Mevert, who had been in victory lane the night before in Paducah, came from row two to take up the charge. Long led through a lap 3 caution, but jumped the turn one cushion on lap 11, letting Mevert by. The two encountered lapped traffic two circuits later, and what a show they put on, running side by side, Mevert high and Long low. On lap 19, Michael had a slight lead when Matt got a run off turn four. Unfortunately, a lapped car appeared, and the # 22 had no where to go, turning down into Long. Michael was able to drive on, but Matt connected with the front stretch wall, ending his run. On the second and final restart, Long went to the bottom and held off Ray Walsh for the big win.
The promoters made most everyone happy by then bringing the 24 car late model field out next. Billy Moyer took off from his pole position, and led all 40 laps for the win, but there was plenty to watch behind him. The caution waved on lap four,
then the leaders hit lapped traffic on lap 15. A lap 17 yellow ended the night for Billy Moyer Jr.,and by then Brian Birkhofer, who started eleventh, had moved to fifth, 16th starting Jason Feger to seventh, and B-mainers Korte and Babb to the top ten. Shirley took second on the restart, and as the laps clicked off, Babb was the man on the move. Following a lap 27 yellow, Babb moved to fourth, and the caution waved again on lap 33 when Henry slammed the backstretch concrete, ending his run. Nothing could slow the veteran Moyer, who outlasted Shirly, Birkhofer, Sheppard, and Babb. The second five included Feger, Korte, Kevin Cole, Dennis Erb, Jr, and 24th starting Frank Heckanast Jr.
With the clock nearing midnight, we headed home with two features still to be run.