Our 2013 racing season began on Friday night with a first ever visit to the Belle Clair Speedway on the St Clair County Fairgrounds in Belleville,Il. We had attempted to take in a show at the 1/5 mile facility last summer, but heavy rains ended our journey 40 miles from the track. Although the weather has been anything but agreeable this month, I kept my vacation day and was rewarded with a warm but cloudy day. Taking the long way around to miss bridge construction and minimize rush hour traffic, we still arrived an hour or so before hot laps, plenty early to catch up with friends Bob and Reta Litton, who had made the long trip down from Iowa City. Bob said they planned to stay over and catch the companion Saturday night show at Highland,Il Speedway. Unfortunately, the Saturday night show was rained out and will be run next Saturday night, the same fate that befell Highland in 2012, as we drove down for both nights.
On Friday however, the rain stayed away, and the track was in pretty good shape considering all the moisture we have had. The car count was a bit lower than expected, but still produced a solid count of 22 UMP late models, 23 UMP modifieds, 9 AARA sportsman cars, and 9 pure stocks. even though it was opening night, the program began right on time, and we decided that must be an every week thing, as the large crowd arrived early, especially for a Friday night. The late models ran second on the card, with 3 ten lap heat races. Michael Kloos took the first late model checkers of the season, besting Scott Schmitt. Greg Kimmons the held off Shannon Babb in heat 2, while Brandon Sheppard wheeled his # B5 home ahead of John Beck in the final 10 lapper. Unfortunately, Beck was unable to make the call for the dash, captured by Kloos over Kimmons, and Beck was also a no show come feature time. A consy was also run, which turned out to be a position dash, with Kevin Weaver outrunning Steve Lach to the checkers. Only 4 cars made the call for the modified dash, so track officials waved off the race, awarding starting spots to all 4. The 11 preliminary events took just over a hour, and the track crew then went to work to repair a hole that had developed in turn one on the still tacky surface.
The intermission was not a long one, and the pure stocks rolled out for a 12 lap main event. Gili in the # G1 and Randy Dietzel started side by side in row one and ran that way for 2 laps before a caution reset the field single file. That was the advantage Gili needed, as he outdistanced Dietzel the rest of the way. I apologize for not having first names on some of the support class drivers I was unfamiliar with, but the track announcer spoke a bit too softly, and had a habit of using only last names.
Next up was the 40 lap late model Shamrock 40 headliner paying $1500 to win.Kloos and Kimmons had the front row, with Sheppard and Babb in row 2. Kloos took off at the drop of the green, looking to sweep the night in his # 6K machine. On lap 7 Babb got by Kimmons for second, and three laps later, he grabbed the lead. At this point, however, Sheppard appearded to have the fastest car on the track, as he overtook Kloos and set his sights on Babb. As the caution waved a couple laps later, Sheppard ducked to the pits with a flat right rear tire. The field was quickly reset, and although Brandon rejoined the tail, he completed only one more circuit before heading back to the infield. From that point on, the only challenge for Babb was negotiating slower traffic, and he did have some tense moments, including nearly getting hooked together with Lach. The race stayed green the rest of the way, and although he was slowed somewhat while trying to put last years winner Weaver a lap down, his lead was never in jeopardy. Kyle Logue made a late move to slip by Kloos for a runnerup finish, while Brent Kreke adavanced from row 4 to grab fourth. Mark Voight also advanced 6 spots to round out the top five, the second five was headed up by Schmitt, ahead of Kimmons, Daryn Klein, Mike Hammerle and Mike Schulte. With most of the 20 car starting field around at the finish, no scoreboard, and only one caution period, I soon had to be in midseason form with the pen and notebook - I think I did more writing than watching! Have 4 # 10 cars in the field also made things interesting. Besides Schmitt and Klein, of whom I was familiar, veteran Rick Standridge was wheeling a # 10 instead of his usual # 12, and a 19 year old driver I had never seen, Jacob Magee made the long haul from Caney, Kansas with, yep, a # 10!
It was good to see " King Kong " Randy Korte behind the wheel of his # 00. Randy continues to struggle with serious health problems, and continues to amaze with his ability to still race competitively. He moved from row 7 into the top ten before finishing 11th, the last car on the lead lap. Pre season hype said Korte would be driving a # 81 car for Riggs Racing, taking over for Scott James, so I am not sure what the story was with him in # 00.
Although it was just past 9:00, Darryl had an early call on Saturday, so we headed for the car as the modified feature rolled out. The results I recieved said Dean Hoffman outdueled Jason Ketrow for the $ 750 top prize, while the # 10 of Homan topped the sportsman finale.
Kudos to Don Hoener and his crew for making our first visit to Belleville, and our first race of 2013 a good time!
This weekend is also the Quincy Raceways mall show. Approximately 37 good looking machines filled the mall area, lead by around 20 modifieds, UMP open, and IMCA sportmods combined. 8 IMCA sport compacts were also on hand, as well as 4 IMCA stock cars and a light field of 4 UMP late models. We were at the mall early, and there were not a lot of drivers on hand to visit with. This was a day we needed to spend working on the house as we continue to settle in, so it was a quick walk through. There were 2 new UMP late models on hand, with second generation driver Jared Schlipman showing off his # 42 as he moves up from the mods, and former crate late model driver Cliff Powell had his # 6 on display. The QR season opener will be Sunday, April 14, with the tri sanctioned ALMS-MARS-Cornbelt $3,000 to win show the following Sunday, April 21.
The weather forecast does not look too promising for next weekend, indeed, the Scotland County, Mo spring special has already been cancelled, so we will probably stay close to home and continue to work on getting settled in while preparing our former home to sell. The first race has us wanting more however, so I guess we had better work faster!
Hope to see you down the road.