The stars lined up well on Friday night, as I was able to get out of work on time, so I picked up Keagan and Fred, and we hot footed it up the road to CJ Speedway in Columbus Junction, arriving just as the late models wound up the hot lap sessions. It was my second trip this season to the 1/10 mile Louisa County Fairgrounds facility, and for Keagan it was another " new " track, his 25th.
It was also the last of four visits by the IMCA rules late models. When Darryl and I visited in May, Colby Springsteen led every lap of the late model feature. On Friday, the young man duplicated the feat. This time around, the # 38 came home third in the lone heat race, but redrew the outside pole for the finale. Muscatine driver Chad Holladay, who only recently made his return to late model racing, took off from the pole, but Colby took the lead down the backstretch, and was never headed. One of the race co sponsors, Tommy Elston, challenged early from his row two starting slot, but could not make a pass. The only caution came on lap 12 for a slowing Jonathon Brauns. At the same time, Tom Bowling Jr. retired to the pits, while Brauns rejoined the field as the green waved again. On the restart, local ace Jason Utter, who had been running fourth, did a slingshot move around Holladay. Five laps later, Utter, who had won the heat, powered around Elston in turn four for second. He closed the gap a bit on the # 38, but with no further cautions, Springsteen cruised the win. Utter, Elston,Holladay, Matt Strassheim, Sam Halstead, and Ron Boyse came across in that order, with Brauns pulling out in the closing laps.
The features had kicked off with the stock cars running what was the best race of the night. All twelve cars took the green for the 15 laps, with Travis Finke taking the early lead. Kirk Kinsley climbed the bank on the backstretch, but recovered, and moved to the runnerup spot. Nathan Wood had advanced to third when he suddenly veered off the track in turn four. Restarting on the tail, Wood was back to seventh when he again left the racing surface in turn two on lap seven with apparent steering issues ending his night. A four car battle insued up front with Finke and Kinsley hotly pursued by Brandon Jay and Sky Griffith. As the laps would down, Griffith used the inside groove to make his move, and he powered by Finke at the flagstand as the white flag waved.. He then held on for his second win in a row. He was very complimentary towards Finke in his post race interview. Kinsley held on for third ahead of Jay.
Eight of the nine modifieds on hand started the twelve lap finale, with Dustin Fenton a scratch in both the heat and feature. I don't know if he broke before we arrived, as we never caught a glimpse of the # 3D. Rod Statts led lap one, but Steve Stewart cam from row two to take over on lap two, and began to open a comfortable lead. Wade Leee took over second on lap four, but could not run down the # 17. The yellow waved on lap nine when Clayton Jensen slowed, but on the restart, Stewart again opened a big lead. Lee held on to second , followed by Dave Imming and Mitch Morris.
The mod lites had nine cars take the green, with Paul Hallet a no show. The first yellow came on lap two, with Rob Conklin out front. On the restart, heat two winner Evan Epperson took the point, with heat one winner Troy Philpott quickly moving to second. On lap six, Philpott put his # 11 out front. the yellow waved for a second and final time on lap eight, but " Stinky " was not to be denied. He led Epperson to the checkers, with Jonathon Huston and Rob Guss in tow.
Seven of the eight registered 4 cylinders ran a caution free main event, with Tyler Whalen taking the win over Bill Whalen Jr., Corey Sheetz, and Kody Bass.
The final checkers waved about 9:45, making for a quick, well run program.
Although I had experinced the same thing on my first visit, I was still amazed at the low turn out of late models for the $1,000 top prize. The payout down was not bad, and with Davenport not running on Friday, it just seems more cars should have come to CJ for a draw, redraw show. Most racers like to say they prefer purse over points, but their actions do not show it. The track on Friday was smooth and fast, with 2 grooves in turns one and two, and three in three and four, and the folks at the speedway are as nice as you will find. I hope they find a way to run the late models again in 2012 and that a few more drivers will support the program.
It was fun to visit with former racers Brian Hetzler, now the flagman at CJ, and John Richardson, who was a fan in the stands. Also a thank you to the track announcer, whose name I do not know, for the plug for this blog, and Thanks to Dianna Winkel for tipping him off!
Tonight it is back to Quincy Raceways for UMP late models. Check back tomorrow for more on that.