With a vacation day in hand, we headed for the West Liberty Raceway on Tuesday night for the second night of the MLRA late model mini tour through Iowa. Promoter Keith Simmons took a chance in booking the open late model series to a pair of $10,000 to win shows, Monday at Farley Speedway, and Tuesday at West Liberty. And with IMCA late models - paying $1,000 to win - as the only other class, well it would be real tough for me to miss this one!
Jeff has a detailed recap on the Backstretch, so I will just add some observations.
Not saying it was good or bad, but I don't remember ever seeing track officials have the considerable cushion in the corners completely knocked down and smoothed out before the features. I thought especially the open guys liked a pronounced cushion?
Also can't remember when I have seen so many blown or " hurt " engines in the same night. But then it is August, and the big, fast half mile can be hard on the power plants. In fact, many IMCA drivers and especially open engine guys from east of the Mississippi avoid the big tracks unless the payout is simply too high to ignore. The Illinois bullrings produce some good close racing, but the speeds attained on the big half mile is awesome from the grandstand side.
The track started out tacky, and slicked up as the night progressed. With the talent level in the pits in both divisions, caution periods were at a minimum. If my count is correct, there were only three in 80 laps of late model feature racing!
In the IMCA division, Justin Kay reminds me of Mark Burgtorf throughout the mid to late 1990s and early 2000s. It seems with Justin it is not a matter of if he will take the lead and the win, but how soon. From the stands, I find my self with one eye on the leader and one on the 15K. and if he doesn't come to the front, the discussion always gets to why not? The finish of the IMCA feature Tuesday seemed like a bad movie script. Joel Callahan leads from lap two until lap 29 and 3/4, with Kay blasting past for the win. Kay was running in third place with five circuits to go, and it was like he simply decided then it was time to go.
Billy Moyer also seemed to be saving something in the MLRA headliner. He led every lap he raced on Tuesday, heat and feature, and when Tim McCreadie closed in traffic in the early stages, Moyer turned up the wick. Following the lone caution period of the race, Chris Simpson closed briefly, but the # 21 pulled away. And in the closing laps, the veteran pulled off a dandy move in turn one in lapped traffic, building a cushion in front of the quickly closing Mike Marlar, and sealing the victory.
Most of the touring open engine drivers prefer time trials, and MLRA uses a passing points system. The difference was minimal on Tuesday because of how the draw cam out, but yours truly is a big fan of passing points. It can turn " Ho-Hum " heat races into competitive ones, especially if there are a couple of top notch cars starting towards the back. But this is 2015, and I guess race drivers are like a lot of folks, they want it and they want it easy.
48 cars in the two classes at Farley, 46 at West Liberty. 7:00 hot laps, we stayed for the post race interviews and rolled out of the fairgrounds at 10:05. For we three old timers, this was truly like the " good old days" of racing.
My next race will be Sunday night at Quincy Raceways, UMP late models and modifieds, IMCA stock cars, sport mods, and sport compacts. Maybe I will see you there!