Saturday night Fred, Darryl, and I headed out for what is likely our final late model race of 2013. I had every intention of penning a recap on Sunday, but events of the day kept me away for most of the day. And yesterday, the flu bug came to visit and it was not a good day! So this report is late, but I will carry on anyway.
According to announcer Jerry Mackey, the two night Liberty 100 show at West Liberty, Iowa Raceway drew 150 competitors. Among those, several drivers entered in more than one class, and it looked like a couple others may have used the same car in more than one class.
Although we make the journey only on night two, this race is one of my favorites, with the opportunity to see two late model classes in action. And with most of the preliminaries - including 22 heat races - running on Friday, the Saturday format lends itself to plenty of action ending in good time. Even with the program swelling to seven classes this year, we were done around 10:30.
The night started with pole dashes for the top six in each class, with last chance races scheduled next. As it turned out, the car counts were such that the IMCA modifieds ran a position dash to set the remainder of the starting field , as the top nine rows were already set. Only the IMCA late models ran an elimination race, with 14 cars set to take the green to fill six starting spots.
With not so much as a short break the first feature rolled out at 7:10. This marked the first appearance in the fall special for the IMCA sport mods. The 15 lap event ran with only one mid race caution, and second generation driver Andrew Schroeder took a close win over Tyler Sobbe and Janae Gustin, the up and coming female member of the Gustin clan. Reportedly the sport mods will replace the open mods at West Liberty in 2014. Not to diminish the sport mods, but I will truly miss the opens at Liberty, as they consistently stage outstanding battles on the 1/2 mile, even with less than full fields.
David Brandies swept the weekend with a win in the IMCA stock car finale. Again only one caution slowed the action. Tad Payne took second, while Matt Greiner came from last to third behind the wheel of the # 57 driven Friday night by Blaine Doplar.
Kurt Kile took the early lead in the IMCA modified feature. Following a lap three yellow, Richie Gustin used the Delaware restart to grab the lead. It took a couple of tries to get back to racing following a lap nine stoppage, and Dan Chapman took the runner up spot, as Kile fell to fourth. On lap 17, Kile regained the second spot, but Gustin held on for the win. Chapman, Steve Stewart, and Andrew Schroeder filled out the top five, with 23 of 25 starters still running at the checkers.
The ten lap feature for the 4 cylinder cars had the closest finish of the night. Nate Chandler and Cory Sheetz swapped the lead in the early laps. Bill Whelan took second on the fifth circuit, and grabbed the lead two laps later. It was a side by side finish, as Whelan edged Chandler at the line, with Sheetz taking third.
Next came the 50 lapper for the open late models, with 19 cars taking the green, as Brad Stewart did not make the call. The Simpson brothers sat on the front row, and outside polesitter Chris took the quick lead. The yellow waved on lap four, as Nick Marolf was leaking fuel. On the restart, fifth starting Jason Utter moved to second. After a lap nine caution, and a turn three pileup on the restart, Justin Kay took third, with Utter falling to fourth. On lap 12, it was Utter back to third. On lap 21 Brian Harris powered to fourth, four laps later the yellow waved for a debris caution from Harris' car, and before racing resumed, his car lost power, ending his run. On the restart Utter grabbed second and briefly challenged Simpson. As the race stayed green the rest of the way, Chris stretched his lead, taking a flag to flag win. Utter held the runnerup spot ahead of Chad Simpson, Kay, Denny Eckrich, Spencer Diercks, visiting UMP hot shoe Scott Schmitt, and Darrell Defrance, the top eight on the lead lap. Dave Eckrich, Joel Callahan, and Todd Hormel were the last cars running at the checkers.
The open mod 20 lapper was next with 17 starters. Again Kirt Kile had the pole, and led through a lap six caution, the only one of the event. On lap eight Brad Dierks powered past for the lead, holding it to the checkers. Kile held off Bruce Hanford for second, with Ryan Dolan and Chris Zogg rounding out the top five.
The night and season finale was the 24 car IMCA late model 50 lapper. Outside polesitter Jeff Aikey grab the top spot at the green, holding off Denny Eckrich until lap seven. Justin Kay was on the move early, coming from row eight to seventh by lap 15. Around lap 20 seventh starting Chad Simpson in the Diercks # 30 moved to third. The caution flew on lap 22 as Kays' ride appeared to lock up as he tried to get to the pits. As the green waved, 12th starting Andy Eckrich moved to fourth, on lap 25 he took third, and one lap later he was in second. Tommy Elston was also picking off cars, moving to eighth from his row 11 starting slot. As Andy was steadily closing on his brother, his run ended suddenly on lap 44. Denny then cruised to the win, giving him two top fives for the night. Chad Simpson mirrored that with a runnerup finish to add to his third place run. Aikey was third, while Ryan dolan finished fourth on the Dralle # 1 ride. A pair of 15s came next, Kyle Hinrichs fifth and Brian Harris sixth. Elston, Spencer Diercks, Nate Beuseling, and Joel Callahan completed the top ten. For Diercks, it was a sixth and an eighth, and a pair of tenths for Callahan.
Although I hope to get in at least one more race in 2013, if it doesn't happen, this installment of the Liberty 100 would be a fine way to wrap up the season!