Sunday, July 14, 2013

Pierce on top at 34

Saturday night it was off to 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa for another stop on the UMP Summernationals Hell Tour. When the tour begins winding down to the final stops, car counts usually begin to fall off, but 26 competitors still signed in to do battle. Tour points leader Brandon Sheppard set overall quick time early with a lap of 14.918 seconds to earn the pole for heat one, from where he took the win ahead of Bobby Pierce. As the checkers waved, Matt Furman had the drive shaft come loose in his car, and it apparently impacted the underside of his car, causing him some discomfort and a minor delay. After running a partial schedule in the Tim Lance backup car and crewing for Tim the rest of the time, Brian Shirley was back in his own # 3S and he took the early lead in heat two before slipping up the track in turn four, giving the lead and the win to Chris Simpson. Heat three went to outside polesitter Brian Birkhofer over Shannon Babb. Brian Harris had the fifth and final transfer spot locked up before slipping on the final lap, giving way to Dustin Griffin.
 The IMCA sport mods ran a 15 lap feature with 15 cars taking the green. Ames, Iowa driver Adam Shelman took a hard fought win ahead of Bobby Anders.
 The 4 cylinder class had 21 entrants, but their 12 lap main event was declared complete after two red flag periods, one involving a turn one accident that required an ambulance transport followed by a rollover crash off turn two. Austen Becerra was declared the winner.
 The late model consy went to Rickey Frankel ahead of Jason McBride and Harris, with four provisionals filling out the 22 car starting grid for the 40 lap $10,000 to win finale.
  Those still around when the late model feature hit the track saw a great main event. The three heat winners redrew for starting spots, and Birkhofer drew the outside pole, taking the early lead over Sheppard. The first caution came at lap seven, with Frank Heckenast Jr rolling to the infield as Griffin looped his ride, Heckenast retired to the pits while Griffin rejoined the race. As Birky continued to lead, fourth starting Pierce cleared Chris Simpson for third on lap nine after a side by side duel. By now the front two had opened a lead, but Pierce was on the move, catching the leaders on lap 23. Two circuits later, he used the low side to overtake Sheppard, and on lap 26 the 16 year old powered around Birkhofer for the lead. He was able to negotiate lapped traffic like a veteran, and had a comfortable lead when the checkers waved. It was his fourth win in the last two weeks on the tour, and gave him back to back $10,000 checkers, as he came out on top Friday night in Kankakee,Il.  Birkhofer held second over Sheppard, Chris Simpson and Tanner English. Mark Burgtorf ran sixth ahead of Chad Simpson, Shirley, Babb , and 14th starting Denny Eckrich. The tour moves on to Pierces " hometown" track in Danville,Il. tonight before heading east to Ohio to close things out next week.
 The promoters made the decision to add pit bikes and Quads to the card, which no doubt brought in more spectators, but did not go over well with the circle track fans, many of whom traveled considerable distance and paid the expected higher ticket price. The issue was compounded by holding the late models until the final race of the night. As I reported earlier, several weeks ago when we attended a show in Macon,Il, the promoter was at the front gate asking everyone as they left if they enjoyed the show. Let's just say that would have created quite a logjam in trying to get to the parking lot last night. Hopefully many of those vowing not to return to one of my favorite tracks have short memories.
 Tonight I will wrap up my three race weekend at Quincy Raceways for the weekly program of UMP late models and modifieds, with IMCA stock cars, sport mods, and sport compacts. Hope to see you there!

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