Sunday, April 13, 2014

Springsteen First at West Liberty, Rain Tops Quincy

With spring like temps and a bright sunshine,  Darryl, Fred and I headed out Saturday afternoon for what we hoped would be night one of our first doubleheader race weekend of 2014. After looking at the forecast of a 50 percent chance of rain by 9:00 we had spent considerable time discussing alternate plans, but decided to go with our first choice, the Deery Brothers IMCA Summer Series show on the big West Liberty half mile. After a 41 car turnout in what was the series opener the night before in Davenport, the late model count dropped by ten on Saturday, but it was a stout field none the less. The two companion classes were a bit short of cars as well, but with the forecast that was perhaps not a totally bad thing. As with my first two events of the season, their was what looked to be a very good crowd in the grandstands. It would seem the long harsh winter has everyone more than ready to see some racing.
 The IMCA Northern Sport Mods started off the program, with Austin Moyer cruising to the heat race win in the caution plagued six lapper.  However, he was light at the scales, forcing him out of the redraw and a ninth place start for the 15 lap main event.
 The four late model heats ticked off with only one caution, with Kyle Hinrichs, Spencer Diercks, Denny Eckrich, and Ryan Dolan in the Rick Dralle owned machine picked up wins. Of the four, only Eckrich did not come from the front row. Track regular Jonathon Brauns was the only driver unable to make the heat race action, scratching after hot laps with engine trouble.
 Following two IMCA stock cars qualifiers, and the late model redraw, two ten lap B mains ran next. Only the top three from the heats had qualified, leaving the top six from each semi headed for the 40 lap feature. 2013 series champion Brian Harris took an easy win in the first consy, and Tommy Elston outdistanced Justin Kay in the final qualifier. The real drama in that race involved the final transfer spot. Veteran Jay Chenoweth used a last lap pass of Jeremy Grady to get to the big show. Grady, from Story City, was a  previous top competitor in the IMCA late models, but has been absent for several seasons. It was neat to see # 43 back on the track.
 As track officials kept the show moving, the sport mods came to the track for their 15 lapper. Moyer quickly began a charge to the front, aided by a couple of mid race cautions. He was able to run down early leader Cory VanZandt and take the lead on lap ten. VanZandt was out front as the next lap was scored, but Moyer took over for good on lap twelve, holding off VanZandt for the win.
 The stock cars were up next, ten cars scheduled for 20 laps, although only eight took the green flag.
David Brandies, no stranger to West Liberty Raceway, started in row two, and emerged from a three wide duel in turns three and four to lead lap one. From there, he fairly cruised to the victory. Lane Kaufman was running second on lap six when a skirmish on the backstretch sent him spinning. Todd Reitzler took up the chase from there, crossing the stripe in the runner up spot.
 As those around us checked the radar on their cell phones, the 24 car late model feature came to the track to do battle for 40 laps and a $3,000 top prize. Harris fell to the tail for the start, having obviously found issues with the # 15R following his dominate B-main performance. As outside polesitter Nick Marolf took the early lead, Harris made one lap and retired to the infield. Marolf held the top spot for the first ten circuits, but polesitter Colby Springsteen stayed close, and as they came upon a slower car, Colby shot to the lead. One lap later, the first yellow waved for third running Diercks, who had slowed. He may a couple of trips around the 1/2 mile under caution before going pitside. Another yellow one lap later found sixth starting Jeff Aikey moving to third. He was then able to slip by Marolf briefly for second, as ninth starting Jason Rauen charged to fourth. With Aikey now third and Rauen fourth, those familiar with the dustup between the two the night before watched the battle closely, but no hijinks developed. Meanwhile, Denny Eckrich and Dolan were locked in a great battle, first for fourth, then fifth after Rauen cleared the pair. They swapped the spot back and forth on laps 23 and 23. Aikey began pull away from Rauen and close on Marolf, and on lap 32 it was again a lapped car that got the best of Nick, as Aikey took the second spot. As the race stayed green to the end, it was 2013 series points runnerup and weekly national champion Justin Kay on the move. The newlywed started outside row eight, and as the white flag waved, he pulled a dandy move around both Eckrich and Rauen to claim the forth spot and probably the early points lead. At the checkers, it was Springsteen, on top, followed by Aikey, Marolf, Kay, and Rauen. The second five saw Eckrich leading Dolan, Ray Guss Jr., Tyler Bruening, and Elston. Friday night winner Andy Eckrich, the defending West Liberty track champion, started tenth and finished eleventh. My cell phone clock showed 9:30 as the checkers waved! Thanks to SPI for a smooth, fast track and a well run show!
 Despite a terrible forecast and intermittent showers in the area, the new promotion team at Quincy Raceways did not want to cancel opening night two weeks in a row, so they decided to try to get the show in tonight, April 13. The plan was to start two hours early, at 4:00 this week only , to have a cushion against possible showers and an expected drop in temperatures. Family commitments took precedence today, but I was still able to arrive at the track around 4:30, as UMP modified time trials were in progress. I checked in with my seat saver buddies, then headed pitside to make the rounds and watch UMP late model time trials. As might be expected, the car count was a bit light, as I am sure many thought a rainout was immanent. As soon as quick qualifiers Dave Weitholder in the mods and Clint Kirkham in the late models did the Mark Twain Casino crapshoot dice roll to set the dash invert, the IMCA stock car heat came to the track, and I headed to the grandstands. Before I could get across pit road , the sprinkles turned in to a steady shower, and it was only minutes before the Ciltrack promotion team pulled the plug on the show.
 Coming up next weekend is the 5th annual Slocum 50 at 34 Raceway in West Burlington on Saturday, a huge show honoring a very special friend. For the first time, the race will not be an IMCA Summer Series show. Instead, it will be an open engine sanctioned by the MARS  and ALMS groups, with many well known UMP and regional stars expected, including Brian Birkhofer, competing in the 50 lap main event for a top prize of $10,555. Even more impressive is the generous paydown through the field, something that would have made Slocum proud. This will be followed by a salute to another legend, with many of the same cars headed to Quincy Raceways for the $2,000 to win Scottie 40, honering Albert Scott the founder and long time owner of the facility now in its 40th year of operation. Come on sunshine!

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