Monday, September 3, 2012

Aikey Wows the Crowd at 34 Raceway

The owners and employees of 34 Raceway in West Burlington deserve congratulations for doing the hard work to get the 3/8 mile oval ready for the 2012 installment of the Pepsi USA late model nationals. For the first time, the race was scheduled for one night only, with the winners share set at $5,000 for a 50 lap main event. Ironically, the weather likely would have dictated this set up, even if it had remained a scheduled two day show. As it was, the original Saturday night had to be pushed to Sunday. For this writer, a scheduling conflict dissolved early, as the Quincy area received about five inches of much needed rain on Friday and Saturday, and it was obvious when I visited Quincy Raceways  on Saturday that Sunday racing would not happen. So the next order of business was to wait for the text messages from 34to see if racing would happen on the Sunday rain date. The weatherman cooperated enough to allow that to happen, and although their was some muddy areas in the pits, the high banked oval rolled in pretty well. There were some rough spots, but two inches of rain will do that, and the clay oval was multi grooved and fast.
 The car count for the 400th installment of the Summer Series was a bit disappointing, with 27 IMCA late models signing in, but threatening weather combined with three other late models shows in Iowa already scheduled for Sunday certainly had an affect. The IMCA sport mod count was also down a bit at 15, but after the Saturday rainout, 34 promoters made the night non points so as not to conflict with the potential Quincy event. With Quincy cancelled and 34 non points, a few drivers left early for the Boone, Iowa Super Nationals. The 4 cylinders came in at 18 strong, and 14 305 sprints filled out the four class program.
 Two sport mod heats were followed by three ten lap qualifiers for the late models, with Tom Bowling Jr leading flag to flag in heat one. The caution was waved on the start when Tom Darbyshire suffered suspension failure in the rearend of his # 42, sending him into the front stretch wall, ending his night. The remainder of the late models heats went off caution free, With both Andy Eckrich and Colby Springsteen winning from the front row. After three heats of 4 cylinders and two sprint heats, the top twelve heat finishers were brought to the front straightaway, where they played the card game used this season to set the first six rows of the 50 lap finale. When the card trading was done, the winner of the spring race at 34, Mike Murphy, Jr. had the pole position  and  the bonus prize of a free set of cylinder heads from Brodix. The twelve lap B- main ran next, with Mark Burgtorf coming from row two to take the win over polesitter Justin Kay.With 21 starters qualified, three high points provisional starters were added, filling out the 24 car field, and sending three cars to the trailer. With Darbyshire already scratched, only Andy Nezworski, and Willie Gammill not making the field. If you are unfamiliar with Gammill, as I was, it is because he is from Siloam Springs, Arkansas, and competes at the Monett, Missouri Speedway. the team was on their way to Boone when they found out about the 34 rescedule and diverted to West Burlington.
   After a rather lengthy intermission, the sport mods came to the track for their 15 lap main event. The lead was swapped several times, with several cautions slowing the action. With about six laps remaining, Quincy Raceways regular Bobby Anders took the lead for good in his # 20BA. Bobby held on for what became a somewhat easy victory, his first at 34. another Quincy regular, Joe Bliven took second, with Derek St Clair, Sean Wyatt and Dean Kratzer completing the top five.
   The 4 cylinder were up next, with another Quincy regular, Austen Becerra grabbing the checkers over Mike Hornung and Chuck Fullenkamp.
   The 305 sprints came next, with their feature slated to go 25 laps. The event was red flagged after 13 laps when Harold Pohren belched smoke and fire from his # 50P. At the time, Justin Parrish had the lead, but Daniel Bergquist had just charged to the runnerup spot and looked poised to run down Parrish. On the restart, however, Parrish jumped out to a big advantage, and his only real test came in traffic in the closing laps. Bergquist closed the gap, but settled for second, with Ryan Jamison, Matt Krieger, and Corey Timmerman chasing the top two to the checkers.
  We then waited patiently as the 24 late model starters came to the front straightaway, climbed from their cars and were introduced - in the case of the top twelve, reintroduced -  to the crowd. Finally it was time to race, with Murphy and Eckrich on the front row. Murphy shot off from the pole, encountering lapped traffic by lap seven. Meanwhile, eighth starting Jeff Aikey, who had proclaimed in the pre race introduction that he was " going to the front " moved to sixth on lap two, and fifth on lap four. The yellow flew on lap eight for Jay Chenoweth, and on the Delaware restart, Jay Johnson, winner of the first ever Summer Series race, which also took place at 34, moved in to second. One lap later, Aikey rolled to fourth, and on lap 13, he powered his way to third ahead of Eckrich. On lap 16, as Murphy again caught lapped traffic, bobbling slightly, but staying  in control. Aikey gained the second spot on lap 18. On lap 20, Murphy clipped the turn three wall, damaging his rear spoiler and dropping to fourth in the running order, handing the lead to Aikey. It then became a two car race between the # 77 and Johnson. A lap 32 caution for Matt Ryan bunched the field again, giving the leaders a clear track. The yellow waved fours laps later following contact between Darrell Defrance and Tom Goble, with Darrell showing his displeasure before rejoining the tail of the field. At this point, Murphy went pitside. One lap later, the final caution waved for Tyler Breuning, who suffered a flat tire. Aikey was not to be denied, however, picking up the big payday. Eckrich found his way around Johnson in the closing laps, with Matt Strassheim fourth and tenth starting Ray Guss Jr, fifth. The second five included Jason Utter, Springsteen, Joel Callahan, Goble and Defrance.
 Aikey, Johnson, and Defrance all competed in that very first Summer Series race in April of 1987, yep, I was there, and all three recorded top five runs in race
# 400. And of course, Defrance has been entered in all 400 of them!
  The final checkers waved just before 10:00.
  The forecast looks dicey again this coming weekend, but hopefully we can all get in some racing!

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