Friday night was the start of what I hope will be a three night racing weekend. Checking out of work early, I headed north to the Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa, for the late model special held in conjunction with the Lee County Fair. Driving most of the way through pesky sprinkles, I was not at all convinced the show would go on, but about 6:15, as I stoood on pit road chatting with drivers and crews, the drizzle stopped. So along with my sidekicks, we wandered to the grandstand side to plunk down our $15.00 and make our way to our usual seats. The weather and resultant track conditions caused the 3/8 mile to need some extra packing, but hot laps still began about 6:55, just 15 minutes past the announced start time. Six classes were in action, with two of the usual classes, hobby stocks and 4 cylinders, getting the night off, and mod lites, midgets, and late models added to the card. The car count was a bit low in a few classes, but where I was hoping for 15-18 late models, 22 signed in! UMP and IMCA rules were both in effect for the late models, with a $2500 check going to the 40 lap feature winner, and a $500 bonus offered up to the highest finishing IMCA legal car.
The IMCA sport mod class had 11 entries, and in a rare but welcomed move, only one heat race was run. Most times, 2 heats are run in this case, but 5 car heats on 3/8 mile tracks are not something most folks care to see. Only 4 mod lites showed, I am curious what has happened to this class, as the past few seasons it seemed to be growing steadily.
The only real delay in the program came as the first midget heat was trying to get to the track. Several cars did not want to fire, and track officials showed extreme patience in waiting for everyone to get on track, which did not happen. With some not making the call, I am not sure if the total count in the 2 heat division was 12 or 13.
13 IMCA stock cars checked in for 2 heats, and then it was late model time.
The first 10 lapper saw Denny Eckrich jump out front from the outside pole, but after leading one lap, his # 50 stalled on the backstretch. Clint Kirkham then assumed the lead, and picked up the win, with Justin Reed in second. Todd Frank, who formerly lived in Wisconsin, but is now listed as living in Montrose, Iowa, had a good battle with Dustin Griffin for third before Griffin slowed on the final lap, turning fourth over to Denny Woodworth.
Jason Perry took the win in heat 2, followed by sixth starting Spencer Diercks, and a pair of # 58s, Dave Eckrich, and Ray Guss Jr. Second running Jason Utter suffered a flat right front tire on the final circuit. Chris Simpson charged from row 3 to second.in heat 3, while seventh starting Jason Rauen powered his way to fourth before spinning on lap 7. On the Delaware restart, Simpson picked off leader Skip Frey, and coming from the tail again, Rauen hustled his way back to finish third behind Frey. Mark Burgtorf came home fourth.
Passing points were used to determine the feature lineup, and Simpson would have the pole alongside Diercks.
Only 9 IMCA modifieds signed in, and ran one heat. Dennis Laviene, reportedly debuting a new power plant, led lap one before pulling to the infield, done for the night.
Next up came another example of why I enjoy Lee County Speedway = a 10 minute intermission!
The feature races ran in the same order as the heats, with the 15 lap sport mod main up first. Jacob Smith led the first 4 trips around before Jim Gillenwater used the low line to grab the lead. The veteran, from Keokuk,Iowa, in his final year of racing stayed out front in the non stop event to pick up another win on his home track. I apologize for not having the name of the runnerup - # 33 - but the 2 track announcers could not be heard over the engines from my vantage point. Tony Dunker and Aaron Brocksieck had a great back and forth battle, first for the fourth spot, then as both moved past Smith, they continued their side by side duel for third, with Dunker finally gaing the advantage. Smith completed the top five. Former track late model regular Kevin Cale was wheeling a # 11R in the sport mod class.
Only 3 mod lites answered the call for a 12 lap feature, but as the announcer had said earlier, you only need 2 cars to have a race! Dan Keltner led the first 11 laps, with young Devin Rouse pulling alongside as the white flag waved. Rouse the pulled ahead to take the win.
The midgets then took to the track for 15 laps, with 9 cars taking the green. The third caution free feature saw Aaron Shuck(?) grab the win
Jake Wenig shot to the lead in the 13 car , 20 lap IMCA stock car feature, with the first feature caution waving on lap 5 for a spinning car. Follwing the restart, John Oliver Jr, who had been hounding Wenig, grabbed the lead, holding it to the checkers. Jason Cook, with a light trail of smoke coming from his # 27J, grabbed the runner up spot on lap 16, as Wenig began to fade. Veteran Louis Lynch came home third. Abe Huls strated in row 3 , fell back early, then climbed back to fourth at the checkers ahead of Wenig.
All 22 late models hit the grid for 30 laps of action on what could best be described as a " hammer down " track. To the surprise of no one sitting around us, Simpson shot to the lead, and was catching the tail of the field in only a handful of laps. Rauen started sixth and moved to second on lap 12 , slipping around Diercks. The yellow came out on lap 15 for Frey, and by now several cars were on the move - Guss from tenth to fifth, Utter from twentieth to tenth, and Denny Eckrich from last to eleventh.
The seven lapped cars still on the track were all given " lucky dog " passes back to the lead lap! On the restart, Guss jumped to fourth, the one lap later to third around Perry, as Diercks began to fade. The yellow flew again on lap 21 for Dave Eckrich, and on the restart a car got into Brian Harris, sending him around with no laps scored. With 10 circuits left, we stayed green, and Denny Eckrich was now on the move. A great battle ensued for third between Guss and Perry, with Perry eventually regaining the spot. My results are completely unofficial, as cars were tightly bunched at the line. For sure, Simpson scored the win, followed by Rauen and Perry. I had Guss in fourth, just nosing out Reed. The second five I agin could be slightly off, as I had Jay Johnson, Denny Eckrich, all the way from row 11, Utter from row 10, Woodworth, and Diercks. Tommy Elston picked up the IMCA bonus, finishing I believe, thirteenth behind Robby Warner, and Kirkham, who started fourth, but lost brakes in his # 28.
The IMCA mods closed out the card, with Smith again grabbing the early lead. Bill Roberts took over on lap 3, and the race was then a battle for second between Smith and Jeff Waterman. The caution waved for debris from the Smith car on lap 13 after he tagged the turn 3 guardrail. On lap 16, Jeff Mueller found a groove down low, and vaulted to the second spot. Roberts cruised to win, Mueller held second, Waterman came home third, Brandon Banks fourth, and Smith completed the top five.
The final checkers waved about 10:10, way to go Lee County Speedway!
Although there was a good crowd on hand, it was not as big as the one for the MLRA late models - sorry LCS announcers, but calling them Lucas Oil late models is just wrong, even if Lucas Oil owns the MLRA - but no doubt the weather was a factor, as well as the true Lucas Oil late models being 3 1/2 hours south in Pontoon Beach,Il. and sketchy advertising, at best. I can only hope that the late models are a part of the 2015 season at one of the best venues in the midwest, Lee County Speedway!
And by the way, the pork loin sandwiches were excellent!
Time to put this missive in the can and head for 34 Raceway in West Burlington for the UMP Summernationals race this evening. Hope to see you there!