For the first time in a while, the stars were aligned just right, and Darryl, Fred and I were able to take in the marquis event of the Lee County Speedway, Shiverfest. Unlike my Positively Racing colleagues, I braved the elements from the " cheap seats," but we were dressed for the conditions at hand, and an early shift in wind direction helped out.
We arrived early enough to take in all the festivities, including visiting with several drivers on the front stretch as the youngsters went trick or treating from car to car. Special thanks to a driver we had never run across, Jason Rold, from 5 hours away in Avoca, Iowa for the information, picture card, and some chocolate! It was also fun to visit with a driver from the Lynn Richard promoting days at LCS, Ned Beggs, father in law of stock car hotshoe Jason Cook., whose children were involved in the box car races, and former Hawkeye Racing News employee Kelly Underbakke Becker and her sport mod driving husband Aric, who left the Iowa Hawkeye football victory early to make it to Donnellson in time for the pre race festivities.
With all the hoopla, hot laps started only 15 minutes late, and the five classes featuring 127 cars rolled thru warmups in 25 minutes on the perfectly prepared 3/8 mile oval. I have attended dozens if not hundreds of races over the years at Donnellson and have never witnessed a better racing surface!
I will leave it to the others whose pens worked better in the warmth of the booth to do complete recaps and only say that the 23 race program featured some classic finishes. Bill Michel squeaked out a 1/2 car length win over Quincy Raceways track champion Austen Becerra in the sport compact 14 lapper after an entertaining four car battle. Dustin Griffiths continued his mastery of the hobby stock division with a win in the 15 lap affair. One time LCS late model driver Mike Hughes staged a solid run, pitting on a first lap caution, restarting 16th, and dueling side by side with Griffiths late in the race before settling for second. Red hot Curtis Vanderwal started the sport mod affair in row two, took the lead on lap three, and outdistanced Carter Vandenberg for to the checkers. B- main qualifiers Bobby Anders and Derek St Clair had moved to fourth and sixth respectively from their row nine start when the yellow waved with two laps to go. St Clair advanced one spot to fifth at the finish, while Anders got shuffled back to seventh. Jim Lynch carried the left front wheel of his # 566 off of turn two lap after lap in the stock car finale. Corey Stout led early, and made several runs at the hometown driver, but Lynch was a rocket off turn two. Twice the raced was stopped as he booted the tractor tire onto the track in turn two as he ran the low groove, but LCS does not penalize drivers for this, so he kept the top spot each time. Interestingly, Lynch ran a much higher line in turns three and four. The final race of the night, and likely my final one of 2013 was the 24 car modified headliner. And what a race it was, going non stop the entire way! When hot laps began I quickly told the guys that the # 19 would be on victory lane, and Jimmy Gustin made me look smart for once. Although he was pressured throughout by Kyle Brown and later Jeff Waterman, Gustin took the final checkers of the season, with Waterman and Brown nipping at his rear bumper.
Being an unabashed late model fan first and foremost, it had been too long since I had visited one of the tracks of my childhood but the racing and the entire program in general could not have been much better!
The rumor mill usually picks up when the season ends, but with the World of Outlaw World Finals still a week away, there is already plenty going on. Reportedly Clint Bowyer Racing is replacing one controversial pilot, Jared Landers in his # 5 machine with an equally polarizing driver in Don Oneal. The leaves the Mastersbilt house car ride held in 2013 by Oneal open - look for an announcement this coming week on who will fill that seat. Arguably the most popular late model driver in Iowa, Brian Birkhofer, has sold his two MB Customs chassis, a product he helped design, and has ordered two new Rocket chassis. Birky is also looking to downsize his hauler, with his multi car toter currently up for sale. Midwest legend Randy Korte, who continues to battle serious health issues has announced that 2014 will be his farewell season. " King Kong" has spent most of the last couple seasons in one of the # 81 rides for Riggs Motorsports, but he will return to his familiar # 00 for his final go around. And Rousch-Yates is apparently getting out of the dirt racing engine business, leaving driver such as Scott bloomquist to look elsewhere for their power plants. Those of us in northeast Missouri may have another chance to see our hometown boy Justin Jennings in another NASCAR event close to home. Gateway International Raceway near Granite City,Il will make a return to NASCAR, hosting a Camping World Truck Race the weekend of June 14 and 15, 2014. Closer to home, the new management team at Quincy Raceways is putting together a late model special to honor the 40th anniversary of the facility and its founder, the late Albert Scott. Look for the " Scotty 40" sometime in April. In the meantime, it seems like a long time until I will get to see the dirt fly, likely sometime in March, but check back throughout the offseason for facts, rumors and whatever else I can stir up.
Have a great winter!