The forecast for Saturday was less than ideal, and unfortunately the weatherman was right on. But after all, it is October, and if Simmons Promotions was willing to go on with the Liberty 100 at the West Liberty Raceway, I was pretty sure I could find enough clothes to at least keep semi warm. So Darryl and I headed out for night two of one of my favorite events of the racing season. 50 laps of open late models and 50 laps of IMCA late models, each paying a cool $3500 to win.
On top of that, the open modifieds dueled for 25 laps, the IMCA mods and the stock cars contested 18 laps, and the IMCA sport compacts ran 12 laps on the big half mile.
The night began with the only B-mains needed to complete the field, two ten lappers for the IMCA late models, as they were the only class with more than 22 entries. B main one went to polesitter Nate Beuseling, while Nick Marolf charged for seventh to the runnerup slot. The second consy saw Brett Diercks and Doug Yates make hard contact on lap two, ending Diercks night. Third starting Spencer Diercks took the win ahead of Darrell Defrance. With four cars on the trailer following the consys, it was time for the six pole dashes. Ray Guss Jr, captured the open late model dash ahead of Chad Simpson, and Kevin Kile outran Brian Harris in the IMCA six lapper. In that race, fifth starting Denny Eckrich appeared to lose an engine, knocking him out of the big show. Denny was one of seven drivers competing in both late model classes , while 13 year old Jake Griffin entered both the open late model and open mod events. The late model drivers had to enter separate cars in each class.
The officials were committed to moving the show along, and the six features began at 7:02 as the stock cars hit the oval. David Brandies checked out on the field in a borrowed # 44 machine. One caution period mid race bunched the field, but when the green waved, Brandies again ran away from the pack. Andrew Burk and Mark Massey dueled side by side for the second spot, with Burk winning that duel.
Nate Chandler took an early lead, then held on for the win in the sport compact division, surviving the only caution in that 12 lapper.
Next up was the IMCA modifieds, and they ran a caution free 18 laps. Mark Schulte took off from the front row, and seemed to have things under control. Schulte was masterful in traffic, but with just four laps to go, Bobby Moyer powered by for the lead and the win. Ray Cox turned in a solid performance for third.
The open lates were then set for 50 laps, with Guss and Chad Simpson setting the pace. Simpson checked out early, stretching his lead following cautions on lap three and lap seven, both for Kurt Kile, who seemed to have engine woes. As Chad led brother Chris, he suddenly went pitside on lap 18. With Andy Eckrich moving to the front, our attention was focused on Jake Griffin. We had been told that the youngster had struggled on night one with a loose race car in his first visit to the big half mile. The Saturday adjustments were working however, as Jake started in row eight and used the high side of the track to charge to fourth behind Eckrich, Chris Simpson, and Dave Eckrich by lap 28, when the yellow waved again. On the restart, Guss charged to second, and Brian Harris, making his first open start in the Lynn Richard # 15R, rolled to third. Griffin faded to sixth, as his tires seemed to be going away. The yellow waved ten laps later, just after sixth running Dan Schleiper, out all of 2012, went to the trailer, and Chris simpsons third place run ended with a flat. Andy Eckrich then led the parade to the checkersm followed by Guss, Harris, 15th starting Skip Frey, and Dave Eckrich. Justin Mitchell eased by Griffin on the final lap for sixth, and Spencer Diercks, Nick Marolf, and Rob Moss completed the lead lap cars, and the top ten.
The open mods were next on the grid, and Griffin had to climb out of the late model and into the mod for another 25 laps. After a first lap caution, Dean Mahlstadt jumped to the lead from his row one start. The yellow waved on lap eleven, then again on lap 17, by which time Brad Diercks had moved from row eleven to fifth, the restarted fourth as Ryan Dolan headed to the trailer. On the restart, veteran Bruce Hanford seemed to come from nowhere to overtake the leader. Hanford saw his lead evaporate with two laps to go when the final caution flew, but he held off Mahlstadt for the win. Diercks advance 19 spots to third, Johnny spaw took fourth, and eighth starting Griffin climbed as high as fourth before crossing the stripe in fifth.
The final race of the night and of the season at West Liberty was the 50 lap IMCA late model main. Harris, in his second night in the Richard # 15R spec engine ride, took off from the outside pole, and the race was for second. The caution waved on lap 21 for Jay Chenoweth, and on the second attempt at a restart, a major pileup in turn four damaged the cars of Mike Klinhammer, Jay Johnson, Matt Ryan and Matt Strassheim. When racing resumed, Harris again checked out, but the racing for spots four through nine was thrilling to watch. A battle for second soon developed between veteran Jeff Aikey and dirt racing rookie Kyle Hinrich. Hinrich took the second spot on lap 35 , but Aikey reclaimed it for good four laps later. Harris was a happy guy in victory lane, as he led Aikey, Hinrich, Andy Eckrich, and Guss to top five finishes. Jason Utter nabbed sixth ahead of Kevin Kile,Defrance, and Beuseling, the final car on the lead lap. Jeremiah Hurst completed the top ten.
So A. Eckrich, Guss, and Harris all scored top fives in both classes.
The final checkers waved at exactly 10:00, and what I would think was a better than expected crowd all stayed until the end! Darryl said it was easily one of our best nights of racing of the season, and I had to agree. 47 late models in two divisions on a cold night in October! Thanks to SPI for a fun night at one of my favorite tracks!
Racing for 2012 is winding down quickly, and the forecast in these parts is not too promising for this weekend. However there are still races to see, and we will be looking to outfox Mother Nature one more time! So grab the hat and gloves, and let's go racin'!