Monday, April 22, 2013

Chad Simpson Shows the Way While Bad Luck Bites Brother Chris

Once again Mother Nature offered up an overwhelming challenge, but the hard working folks at 34 Raceway and Quincy Raceways were up to the task at hand. A betting man would have needed long odds on Thursday to bet on the ALMS/MARS Cornbelt Clash late model shows taking place at the two Tri State area venues this weekend, as both towns received more than three inches of rain on Wednesday and Wednesday night. But we were assured that both tracks would do whatever it took, and a peek of sun and a strong breeze aided the drying, with tracks, pits, and even parking lots were in good shape. The race drivers responded well, with 44 super late models checking in at 34, and a solid field of 33 at Quincy.  One reason I was so looking forward to these shows was the chance to see drivers compete against drivers they normally don't run with, at least on a regular basis. The 3/8 mile West Burlington oval was super fast, especially around the top side, and with my personal favorite, passing points, used for feature qualifying, the five heat races were outstanding. even so, passing points does create some oddities, especially with only the top 16 making the show. For example, the top four moved on in heats four and five, while only the top two advanced for heat two. Locals Jay Johnson and Mark Burgtorf, as well as defending MARS champion Jesse Stovall made the top six dash although they each finished third in their heat race. Two B-mains qualified four more entrants, and the only downer was the seven provisionals awarded to round out the 20 car starting field. Each sanction handed out two provisionals, and the track filled the final spot with race sponsor Denny Woodworth. Second generation ace Terry Phillips and central Illinois veteran Kevin Weaver sat on the front row of the 40 lap finale, and after a false start, Weaver took off. He held on through two caution periods before Iowan Chris Simpson took over on lap13. Two laps later, Burgtorf slowed with a blown engine, and the yellow waved again on lap 18. By now, 16 year old touring star Tyler Reddick, a native Californian now calling DuQuoin,Il home, had moved for the 26th starting spot to tenth. As the green waved, 15th starting Chad Simpson, the defending Cornbelt champ, powered to third, and then quickly took the runnerup spot. As the race stayed green, Chad was unable to close the gap on brother Chris, but as the # 32 moved down the backstretch on lap 38, Chris suddenly drove to the infield with a broken axle. Chad the walked home to collect the $4,000 top prize. Stovall filled the second spot, while UMP national and Summernational champion Brian Shirley barely held off a hard charging Reddick for third. Polesitter Phillips held on for fifth.
 The 305 sprints ran a marathon companion feature, with Donnie Steward prevailing over the 15 car field, while Michael Grossman collected the 4 cylinder win, as 29 of 30 entrants took the feature green.
Kudos to the team at 34 for giving us a place to race on a clod Saturday night.
 Not everyone followed the tour south to Quincy Raceways for the Sunday show, but Nick and Doug Herrick continued the trip from Minnesota, and Pevely, Missouri regular Ron McQuerry was on hand as well. A half dozen cars that were not at 34 added to the mix, led by Shannon Babb, who has had a great deal of success in recent years at Quincy. Group time trial qualifying was used at QR, with overall fast time going to Chad Simpson with a lap of 14.637. While the racing surface developed a couple holes at 34, the .29 mile Quincy oval stayed smooth, although the lower groove was the fast way around for much of the evening. Four ten lap heat races set the first two rows for the 40 lap $3,000 to win finale, with Simpson and Brandon Sheppard on row one, and Babb and Reddick on row two. Sheppard had completed just a handful of laps on Saturday before losing a radiator, and in marked the third time I had watched the young standout this season fail to have a top ten run. I did not mention that to him, I don't need the " bad luck " handle!
 As the green flag waved, a three car scrum ended the night for Brunson Behning, as he went pitside, came back out a failed to complete a lap. As racing got underway, it was Simpson to the lead, with Babb and Sheppard side by side for second. Jake Meier got the worst of a lap five mixup in front of him, and on the restart, Sheppard took command of the runner up spot. What followed was 35 laps of green flag racing, with Simpson encountering lapped traffic by lap 18. Unlike the week before at QR, the leader was able to negotiate the slowe cars, and took a flag to flag win to sweep the weekend. Sheppard held off Babb for second, Shirley turned in another good run in fourth, and defending QR point champ Jason Perry grabbed fifth. Stovall was challenging for that spot when he exited the track on lap 26. Again, each sanction handed out two provisionals, although the track did not give any. With 24 starters, this meant only 18 qualified on the track, but this is a by product of the multi sanctioning that makes shows like this possible. Woodworth was the only one of 33 not taking the track, as he had issues before qualifying began. Mindful of the travel time on a Sunday night, QR ran the late models first on the card, with the checkers waving before 8:30! The two support classes did not turn out good numbers on Sunday, but the 12 UMP modifieds still running ran a very entertaining feature. Fast qualifier Steven Delonjay and Michael Long sat on the front row, and Delonjay took the early lead before exiting to the infield on lap eight. From there, Long held off charges by first Robbie Reed and then Dave Weitholder for a had fought win. All but one of the 12 IMCA sport Compacts took the green in the 12 lap finale of the night. Defending champion Seith Woodruff had the pole start, but could not make the call. Gary Stephenson rolled his # 24 on lap one, but was uninjured. When things sorted out, Pat Dunker cruised to the win over Kimberly Abbott. " Skippy " as he is known, has three feature wins on the young season, one each at QR, 34, and Lee County Speedway!
  One driver expected for the weekend who did not appear was Bloomington, Il hot shoe Jason Feger. The reason became more apparent today, as we learned Feger has been suspended from UMP events pending an appeal for alleged tire doctoring in a heat race at the Illini 100 a few weeks back. Pending the appeal, Jason has been stripped of his $20,000 win, and faces other penalties. I am sure we will be hearing more on this in the coming weeks, especially since the suspension, if upheld, may dip into the Summernationals schedule. 
 Former weekly late model racer Justin Jennings was in the pits Sunday, fresh off an 18th place finish in the Saturday NASCAR Craftsman Series truck race at Kansas Speedway. The # 56J the youngster wheeled at QR is now driven by Michael Long, although repairs to the late model could not be made in time for Sunday action, after Michael lost brakes on Saturday night. 
 Despite more wind and cool temps, it was another fun night at Quincy Raceways.

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