Kevin and Tammy Gundakers Tri City Speedway in Pontoon Beach,Il was our racing destination Friday night. It was night number one of the St Louis Showdown, paying $5,000 to win the 40 lap UMP late model feature.
98 cars packed the pits, including 32 late models, 32 UMP modifieds, and 34 UMP B mods.
With the potential for rain in the area, Kevin and Tammy promid=sed a quickly run show, and they delivered. Only the late models qualified, with Bobby Pierce setting quick time at 14.38 seconds. The second generation ace then rolled a four for heat race lineup inverts. The first ten lapper would have seen Gordy Gundaker on the outside pole alongside Alan Murray, but this second generation pilot smacked the turn four wall on his second qualifying lap, ending his night. This moved the fast timer from heat one, Jeff Herzog to the outside pole, but when he was unable to answer the bell, third row starter Mark Burgtorf found himself at the front. Mark the led the distance, with Brian Shirley, Murray, and Jim Shereck rounding out the top four. It was my first time to see Tennessee hot shoe Ashley Newman race, and he led the distance in heat two ahead of Pierce, Shannon Babb, and Darrell Moser.
Michael Kloos took heat three from outside row one, besting Billy Laycock, Tanner English, and Cody Conner. The fourth ten lapper went to Jason Feger, followed by the father and son Moyers, and late model rookie Rusty Griffaw. Kevin Cole, who unloaded his # 33, but never made it to the track was a scratch in the final heat.
One B-main went to Tim Manville, leading the distance ahead of Brian Diveley, who took second at the checkers as Kolby Vandenberghs # 15 suddenly slowed. Austin Rettig ran fourth, Chris Fisher fifth, and Claude Walker edged Caleb Ashby on the last lap for the final qualifying spot. Scott Henseler and Herzog were awarded provisional starting spots for the feature, and the B-main drama became moot when Ashby was given a spot when Vandenbergh scratched.
With no intermission and little fan fare, and a few sprinkles falling, the late model headliner ran first. The caution waved on the start, and English and Shereck both went pitside, Shereck on the hook, ending their night early. On the restart, Newman shot to the lead from outside row one, with Burgtorf and Feger in tow. Feger cleared Burgtorf on the second circuit, and by lap eight, the leaders had caught the back of the pack. With a battle for first shaping up, the caution flew for a spinning Ashby one lap later. The restart again saw the caution wave as the middle of the pack became bottled up. Back to green with a Delaware start, tenth starting Babb charged to fourth, as Feger grabbed the lead. Pierce powered to second on lap 13 as Feger began to distance himself from the field. Two laps later, Babb cleared Newman for third. Traffic again came in to play on lap 22, and Pierce began to close on Feger. The 25th pass by the flagstand saw the front two side by side, and it was Pierce in front on lap 27. I was beginning to write down the finish as the white flag waved, but Griffaw looped his ride in turn three bringing out the yellow and setting up a single file two lap shootout. We could see thatr the tow was off on the Pierce machine, and the youngster admitted in the post race interview that he could tell his steering was off. But he hit the loud pedal at the green, and the # 32 stuck for two more trips around the oval. Unfortunately, Feger made contact with the backstretch wall on the final go around, but he recovered to finish fourth behind Babb and Shirley. Newman rolled home fifth, ahead of Moyer and Moyer Jr. Manville came from 17th to finish eight, ahead of Burgtorf, who was the last car on the lead lap. Laycock completed the top ten.
Next it was 20 laps of UMP modified racing. With one car unable to make the starting grid, the field sat on the track for a bit waiting for an alternate. When the cars rolled off, their was a puddle of what appeared to be oil under the # 18L of Michael Long. Track officials peered inside the engine compartment of his ride, and what they saw caused Long to retire before the race began, a poor ending to his birthday. Rick Conoyer started up front, and held the lead until Mike Harrison made a mid race pass. From there, the # 24H fairly cruised to an amazing 33rd feature win of 2015. Conoyer scored the runner up finish. The real race was for third, as Matt Mevert held of Dean Hoffman and Nick Hoffman in a down to the wire finish.
With a long Saturday ahead, we headed to the parking lot while Josh Russell was preparing to top the B-mods ahead of Robbie Eilers.
Sunday night should find us back at Quincy Raceways, as the UMP Big Ten late model series comes to town racing for the final time in 2015, with a $2,000 top prize. There will also be a second late model feature, lined up as a complete invert of the finish of the Big Ten headliner. UMP modifieds, and three classes of IMCA cars, stocks, sport mods, and sport compacts will round out the card. Hopw to see you there or somewhere Racin' Down the Road before the season ends!