The fifth annual Slocum 50 has been on the front burner virtually all off season long, and with that much hype, disappointment over the race itself could be areal possibility. But anyone who left 34 Raceway on Saturday night not thinking they had seen one of the best ever late model features in recent memory wasn't paying attention!
46 IMCA late models checked - Keagan won our personal guessing pool with a guess of 45 - to compete for the $5,555 winners check. By most accounts, the five heat races and two consys, which went nearly caution free, featured a bit of a " follow the leader " format. But a renegade rain shower with some hail mixed in which began late in consolation race number one dumped some extra moisture on the super smooth racing surface, and track personnel kept wheels moving around the 3/8 mile high banked oval until the stars came back out. The end result was a lightning fast surface that produced outstanding multi groove action in the 50 lap headliner.
The 4 cylinder feature was first on the three card program, and became something of a marathon event. Even as the checkers flew, the running order was not decided, as the top two cars did not pass post race inspection, giving the win to the third car across the line, Nicholas Hemurt. The class saw a total of 26 cars check in.
Next up was the headliner for the IMCA Sport Mods and the 15 car field ran a non stop 15 lap event. Chris Larson started up front is his # 67L, checked out early, and held on for the win.
It was then time for the Slocum 50, with Andy Eckrich and Tom Goble pacing the 24 car field following a near perfect " missing man " parade lap. The youngest of the Eckrich brothers jumped to an early lead, with the yellow waving on lap four, as Darrell Defrance and Luke Goedert got together. Andy continued to set a torrid pace, as brother Denny tried to chase him down. On lap 17, Andy contacted the back stretch wall, and seemed to lose just a bit of his speed, allowing Denny to close in. The two brothers ran side by side for several laps, with two caution periods slowing the action as the pack neared the halfway point of the race. By the lap 24 restart, Tom Darbyshire had advanced to fifth from his tenth row starting spot. as action resumed, Darb slipped past 12th starting Jeff Aikey for fourth. The Eckrich boys swapped the lead one more time, with Denny taking over for good on lap 30. Three laps later, Darbyshire made hard contact with the backstretch wall, going up on two wheels, and coming to a stop on the top side of turn three. It was a disappointing end to a dramatic run by one of the late Slocums closest friends. On the restart, Aikey edged by third running Jason Utter, the the defending series champ drove around Andy on lap 40 for second. With the race staying green, he was unable to close the gap on a jubilant Denny Eckrich, who pumped his fist around his window net as he took the checkered flag. Follwing Aikey, was Brian Harris in the Richard Realty # 15R, who charged from the 21st starting spot to third, collecting the $555 hard charger bonus. Andy Eckrich held off Utter to round out the top five. Colby Springsteen rolled home sixth, and his $538 sponsored " Honus Bonus, " honoring his late crewman Jeremy Wagner, went to Denny Eckrich, who led lap 38. Jeremiah Hurst, 24th starting Justin Kay, who earned the only provisional, the hard charger award for most cars passed in his heat and consy combined without otherwise qualifying, Goble, and Joel Callahan completed the top ten.
Eckrich became the fifth different winner of the race in the five years it has been held. Attesting to the quality of the field was the all star list of drivers not making the show, including Ray Guss Jr, previous winner Matt Ryan, Curt Martin, Jay Johnsonm Rob Toland and many others. Thanks to Promoters Amy and Jeff Laue, and Slocum 50 front man Brad Stevens for a special night of racing. The Deery Brothers Series moves to the West Libery Raceway next Saturday night. As for our group, our plans are up in the air, but weather permitting, we will hopefully see you all somewhere Down the Road.