Monday, April 10, 2017

Back Up and Running

Last Saturday night I was able to get my 2017 racing season underway with the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series late models and Sprint Invader 360s at 34 Raceway in West Burlington. But before I could file a report, the modem on the old Dell decided to give out. And by the time I was back on line, that race was old news in blogosphere time. But weekend number two is in the books, so here we go! Saturday night I joined son Brent and family for a visit to the Peoria,Il Speedway for their season opener, the $5,000 to win Chuck Hamilton Memorial for super late models. The car count for the open engine machines was a bit low at 19, but the quality of the field was top notch. One lap qualifying for the supers and the UMP modifieds opened the show, with Frank Heckenast Jr pacing the late models and Ray Bollinger topping the mods. Outside pole sitter Scott Schmitt topped the first LM heat, while pole sitter Brian Shirley captured heat two. It was a bit curious that the five support classes ran heats of six and seven cars while the super lates ran only two. The 1/4 mile Peoria track is in many ways like stepping back in time, although improvements are being made. However, the PA system sounds exactly like Charlie Browns teacher, so we left not knowing who was wheeling many of the support class entries. The local steel block late model class was 13 strong and featured a couple of drivers who also competed a time or two last season at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson,Iowa. But it was former super late model racer Jason Jaggers who claimed the feature win. Blake Woodruff ran second in a sharp looking # 87, and I believe Raymond Ellis was behind the wheel of the third place #93. Bollinger, who is a part time visitor to Quincy Raceways, topped the UMP mod headliner after Quincy defending point champion Dave Weitholder lost the handle on his ride while leading the feature event. The super feature was last on the card, with Bobby Pierce and Jason Feger setting on row one. Feger jumped to the early lead with Pierce and row two starter Shirley in tow. As the leaders quickly caught the back of the pack, Shirley made a dandy move to shoot from third to the front. He then opened a commanding lead, as a great battle developed for second through fourth, with Ryan Unzicker joining the fray. With cars running all around the oval, Pierce eventually broke away and closed in on Shirley, challenging for the lead. The lone caution in the race, for a stalled Bob Gardner, was well timed for Shirley, and on the restart he was able to maintain a small lead to the checkers. Pierce settled for the runner up spot, with Feger, Unzicker, and Heckenast rounding out the top five. Unoffically, the second five was Mike Spatola, Rodney Sanders, Brent Larson, Schmitt, and Nick Kurtz. The clock had passed 2:00 AM as I climbed in to bed, preparing for the one week delayed opening night for Quincy Raceways. Quincy Raceways has added the UMP Pro late models to their rotation for 2017, with plans to feature five classes each week from among the six now offered. However, with opening not cancelled last week due to wet grounds, it was decided to run all six classes this Sunday night. Things got off to a rough start when the water truck broke down, and with a stiff southerly breeze, the first attempt at hot laps created a dust storm. So the borrowed water truck was put to use and the program got under way about one hour late. A nice field of 74 cars signed in, including a healthy 14 cars in the new late model division. Michigan racer Rusty Schlenk, fresh off a Saturday night feature win in Pevely,Mo. set quick time for the dozen UMP super late models with a lap of 13.355 seconds in his new ride, the #CJ1 CJ Rayburn house car. Ray Bollinger followed up his Saturday dominance in Peoria with a quick time of 14.272 in the UMP modifieds. Schlenk and Highland Speedway winner McKay Wenger topped the super late heat races. Following intermission, the 15 IMCA sport mods lead off the feature parade. It took three tries to get started, but under green, Austin Howes grabbed the early lead. He survived a handful of cautions, each time under heavy pressure from Brandon Lennox, the Saturday winner at 34 Raceway. Meanwhile, veteran Tony Dunker was trying to build a high line around the .29 mile oval. As the 18 laps wound down, Dunker was finally able to get his power to the ground, and on the final lap, he overtook Lennox for the runner up slot behind Howes. Justin Ebbing also found a good line late, advancing to fourth at the checkers. The Pro Crates were up next for 20 laps. Heat two winner, the Lee County Speedway defending champ, Tommy Elston started outside heat one winner AJ May. Elston jumped to the early lead before Sam Halstead lost the handle in turn four, bringing out a caution. Back to racing, Elston opened a lead, while May and veteran Denny Woodworth battled for second. The race stayed green, with Woodworth finally breaking free and running down the leader. He was able to show his nose under Elston in the closing laps, but # 45 held off # 45DW for the win. May grabbed third, while Friday night Jacksonville winner Tommy Sheppard ran fourth. Halstead Charged back take fifth.The second five saw Vance Wilson leading Brandon Savage, Josh Jackson,Trent Grotz, and Gunner Frank. A six car invert in the UMP mod class put Rick Conoyer on the outside of row one, and he quickly jumped to a nice lead. Former late model standout Jason Frankel charged from row four to second in his bright yellow #0, but he jumped the cushion in turn two as Bollinger found his way around Shaun Deering, going from fourth to second. Conoyer stayed in the preferred low groove, while Bollinger went " elbows up" - his words - on the high line. As the white flag waved, Bollinger powered to the lead on the high side, holding on for the win in the non stop event. Conoyer collected second, while Dave Weitholder may a late charge to third. Deering and Frankel completed the first five. The Super lates started straight up, with Schlenk and Wenger on row one. Again, it was 25 laps of green flag racing, and Schlenk held serve for the distance. Wenger chased the leader the entire way, but to no avail. Woodworth jumped from his crate to his open car, pushing Wenger at the checkers, as McKay had a tire going down. Woodworth, the defending track champion, settled for third, taking the spot after a battle with Alan Westling. Justin Reed muscled past Jamie Wilson on the final lap for fifth, Jason Peery ran seventh, and Jose Parga finished eighth in his first visit to QR. Clint Kirkham flipped his # 28 Friday in Jacksonville, but he climbed in Charles Vanzandts # 80V crate car to complete the cars running at the checkers. Derek Fetter and Todd Frank retired early, while Rickey Frankel was in the trailer with apparent rear end issues. The IMCA stock car class was short on cars on opening night, and Rudy Zaragoza saw his night end early when he smacked the front stretch wall in the heat race. Defending track champ Abe Huls led flag to flag for the winahead of Brian Hoener, Jerry Jansen, and Michael Larsen. The biggest class on the night was the 17 car IMCA sport compact class. Missing from the feature line up was Allyssa Steele, who flipped her new ride 1 3/4 times in turn four in her heat race. Barry Taft put his # 57 out front to grab the feature win. Craig Bangert nabbed second. It was a strange night at the Bullring, with two familiar faces absent from the action. Modified standout Michael Long has had engine issues twice already in the young season, and he was at the track without his # 18L. And 16 time late model champion Mark Burgtorf is setting out the 2017 season, at least as weekly racer, although he may be available on a fill in basis. Quincy Raceways will not be racing next Sunday, taking the Easter holiday off. As of now, the schedule calls for racing on April 23, with both late models classes in action along with IMCA sport mods and sport compacts, and 305 sprint cars. The UMP mods and IMCA stock cars have a scheduled night off. This Friday night, I plan to be at Lee County Speedway for their first weekly show, then Saturday it will be off the 34 Raceway for the Slocum 50. Maybe we will see you there!

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