Saturday night was night number two in what is shaping up to be my first three race weekend of 2016. I joined up with son Brent and his family as we made our way to the West Liberty, Iowa Raceway for the IMCA late model Tri Track Challenge event.
A total of 86 race teams signed in for the five class program. 13 heat races and about a 15 minute intermission set things up for feature racing in the five IMCA divisions.
The sport modifieds were up first, 18 strong for 15 laps. Jarrettt Brown took command of the race on lap two before yellow fever set in, with four caution periods in the first half dozen laps. During a lap four restart, it was Colton Livezey finding the top spot, and when things finally settled down, he and Brown battled it out as the green flag laps piled up. The first five cars separated themselves from the rest of the pack on the big 1/2 mile. Although Brown stayed close, the race belonged to Livezey. Aaron Osweiler came home third, with Shaun Slaughter completing the top four.
The stock car class was short on numbers, with nine, but in usual fashion, offered up plenty of action. Greg Gill paced the opening pair of laps, but the third time around saw row three starter Johnny Spaw take the lead. With Gill running the low groove, David Brandies used a high side pass to move to second one lap later. At the mid point of the 15 lapper, Brandies had closed to within about five car lengths of the leader. In the waning laps he was able to move within striking distance, but Spaw was up to the challenge, picking up the win. Brandies and Gill crossed the line second and third.
Sport compacts were up next for ten laps. After a restart on the first attempt, the race stayed green throughout. Steve Struck moved to the front on lap four and held off Jason KlerkdeReus for the win.
The 20 lap modified feature ran next. Oddly, the 24 car field had been split into four qualifying hear races, and had run last in the heat race order, but fourth in the feature lineup. All but one car came to the feature grid, and Quad City area driver Brian Bushong took the early lead. On the third circuit, Davenport, Iowa veteran Bruce Hanford pulled alongside Bushong, and then took the top spot on the fourth go around. Hanford quickly stretched his advantage, as Matt Fulton powered to the runnerup spot just before the crossed flags signaled the halfway point in the race, wirh Bushong falling to fifth. Hanford entered lapped traffic on lap 13, but maintained a healthy lead until the only caution of the race came three laps later. A slower car spun and fourth running Brad Dierkes made contact, setting up a lengthy delay and ending a good run for the # 29D. The Delaware restart had Fulton and Larry Herring lined up behind Hanford, and Herring claimed the second spot as the green waved. Even with a clear track ahead, Hanford could not regain the advantage he had enjoyed, and as the front two came to the white flag, Herring was out front by a nose. Hanford fought back as the two charged down the back stretch, but the night would belong to Herring. Fulton held third ahead of Chris Zogg in fourth.
It was now time for the 25 lap $2,000 to win late model finale. All 20 cars took the green flag, although track points leader Chad Holliday retired immediately from his row nine starting spot. Outside polesitter Scott Fitzpatrick took command on the start, with third starting Ray Guss Jr in tow. Polesitter Tyler Bruening slipped around Guss on the fourth circuit. As I watched the leaders, I could not help but check on Justin Kay. Having witnessed more than one dominating performance by the Wheatland, Iowa ace at West Liberty, I was surprised when he finished just outside the top four redraw spots in his heat, setting him up in row five for the money race. As lap four was scored, he had moved to the tenth position., and gained three more spots in the next three laps. where he settled in behind Jeremiah Hurst. Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick was setting a torrid pace, and he encountered slower traffic on lap 17 of the 40 lap finale. One circuit later, disaster struck. Richie Gustin apparently dropped fluid on the racing surface after possibly contacting the turn four fence. In any event, Fitzpatrick drove through the fluid, lost control and smacked the fence, ending his strong run. As it turned out, this would be the only caution period of the race. With the leader on the hook, the second and third place cars of Bruening and sixth starting Denny Eckrich lined up side by side for the restart, with Bruening choosing the inside line. This also move Kay to row three, and as the green flag flew, he charged all the way to third place. At the halfway point he moved around Eckrich for second, although Denny retook the spot one lap later. Then on lap 22, Kay held the spot as the two raced side by side. Meanwhile Bruening was building what looked to be a comfortable advantage out front. By the 27th trip around, Kay had secured the runnerup spot and began to run down the leader. The front three separated themselves a bit from the rest of the field, but it was Kay on the move. With four laps remaining, he had wiped out the lead Bruening had built, and he wasted no time overtaking the leader with three to go. There was no looking back, as the 15K chalked up another West Liberty win. Bruening held second ahead of Eckrich, row eight starter Joel Callahan, and Nick Marolf. Guss led the second five over Hurst, Andy Eckrich, Ryan Dolan, and Matt Ryan. Rob Moss and Chris Horn were the only other cars running at the checkers.
Despite several lengthy delays to clean up accidents, the show ended just before 10:30.
The sun is shining brightly this Sunday morning, so it looks like a night of racing at Quincy Raceways is on the docket to round out a triple header of action. Check back tomorrow evening for a recap of QR events.