Monday, January 2, 2017
With 2016 in the rear view mirror, it's time to take a look back and a look ahead. In 2016, I attended 49 nights of racing, my highest total in several years, thanks mainly to the addition of the fledging late model class at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson,Iowa, a 40 minutes driver from my front door. In total, I visited eleven tracks this season - Quincy and Pontoon Beach in Illinois, Pevely, Moberly, and Memphis in Missouri, and in Iowa in addition to Donnellson, West Burlington, West Liberty, Tipton, Knoxville, and one new venue, the Dubuque Fairgrounds in Dubuque. The 3/8 mile Sunday night track has been on my list of places to go for many years, but the distance from home coupled with their running the same night as Quincy has always been an issue. My first visit was well worth the trip, and in fact so enjoyable that I made the trip again a month later! I did not, however, take in the racing at the Dome in St Louis in December, so I am more than ready for the 2017 season to begin. There are always some changes made in the off season, and it would seem this year is no exception. While I would consider the first year of the crate late model class a success in Donnellson as far as car counts and competition, promoter Mike VanGenderen has decided to sanction the class on Friday nights for 2017 with the UMP Pro late model division. During 2016 there were a couple cars from Illinois based tracks that made the trek west to race in Donnellson, and LCS track champion Tommy Elston journeyed to Spoon River Speedway in Banner,Il and picked up a win. So we will see what effect the sanctioning will have in the coming year. If I understand correctly, the IMCA late models will again be able to run at Lee County in what is considered phase in season. There were several IMCA cars that competed in 2016. At the same time, Quincy Raceways has announced that they will be adding the UMP Pro late models to the weekly Sunday night card about nine times in 2017. The UMP super lates will be in action about 15 times, so on certain nights, both classes of late models will be racing. It has been stated that on those nights, the top finishing crate cars will have the option of also running the open feature. We will have to see how this plays out, and as of now, promoter Ken Dobson has not indicated which classes will race on which nights. He has however released a tentative schedule which has the track taking a few nights off during the season, including every other week during July and August. So I would encourage everyone to check the schedule ahead of time. Dobson also has the Pro lates several times at the Jacksonville,Il track during the season. While I try to be a solid supporter of weekly racing, I get as excited as anyone over special events. In 2017, the MLRA late models will again make a pair of visits to Donnellson, on Thursday, May 4 and Friday, June 2. The series will follow up in May with races in Davenport, Iowa on Friday, and Independence, Iowa on Saturday. June 1 still shows as a to be announced date, but Saturday, June 3 will mark a return trip to Randolph,Co Raceway in Moberly. Last seasons events in Donnellson and Moberly had strong car counts, 37 and 35 in Donnellson, and 31 in Moberly, and strong competition. The MLRA is among the best regional series, my only gripe is that the are billed by the series owners as Lucas Oil late models. This is a bit deceiving, most likely done on purpose, creating confusion with the Lucas Oil late model national touring series. The World of Outlaw visit to Quincy Raceways has been dropped from the schedule after two seasons, but the always popular UMP Summernationals will come to town on Monday, July 3 following weekend stops in Pevely,Mo and Lincoln,Il. Also, Dobson is trying to put together another high paying late model special mat a time to be determined. In my neck of the woods, racing is set to kick off the weekend of March 17 and 18 at the Scotland Co. Speedway in Memphis, classes and times not yet announced. The following Friday and Saturday is on the card in Donnellson. Quincy Raceways will spring into action on Sunday, April 2. And of course the biggest show in this area falls on Saturday, April 15 at 34 Raceway in West Burlington with the ninth annual Slocum 50. Co sanctioned by UMP, MARS, and The Cornbelt Clash Series, the 50 lap feature will again pay a whopping $10,555 to win. 33 cars signed in in 2016, with Bobby Pierce cashing the big check. The silly season is now in full swing, but we will hold off on rumors and half truths. Schedules and driver plans should be getting firmed up in the next few weeks, and then we can make plans to meet each other as we prepare to go Racin' Down the Road.