Monday, September 4, 2017

Marathon Racing at Spoon River

Sunday afternoon, Darryl, Fred, and I headed for Spoon River Speedway for their annual marathon show known as the Fall Nationals. The start time was moved up this year with hot lap qualifying for four of the five classes starting at 3:00. A total of 110 cars signed in led by the featured UMP modifieds, with 40 drivers vying for the $3,000 top prize. Ray Bollinger set quick time for the modifieds, and using Jeff Broegs least favorite format, the heat races were split up into six groups, with the six fastest qualifiers all earning a pole start. Five of the six eight lap events were won from the pole, with the other victor coming from outside row one. A surprisingly small field of 13 UMP super late models signed in for a chance at a $2,000 payday, with Ryan Unzicker pacing the field in qualifying while also winning his heat race from the pole. 19 UMP Pro Crate late models saw Tommy Elston set quick time and also go flag to flag in his heat race. The UMP street stocks turned out 22 cars, and 16 USAC/IMRA midgets completed the field. The track was reworked following qualifying, but it was again black slick before the completion of the preliminary events - 16 heat races, 2 modified B-mains, and a street stock dash. The crate late model 20 lap feature then came to the track, with heat winners Elston and Jake Little on the front row. Elston jumped to the early lead before a pile up in turn one on lap two eliminated three cars. Myles Moos suffered heavy damage to his #84, leaving the 3/8 mile high banked oval behind the wrecker. Back under green, Elston stretched his lead, but was forced back to the pack after cautions on laps six and eight. These periods also interrupted a great battle for the second spot between Alan Weisser, A J May, Little, and Sam Halstead. By lap 13, Elston had opened a nearly straightaway lead, as Halstead began to fade a bit. With no more yellow flags, Elston cruised to what I am told is his 15th win of 2017. May came home second ahead of Weiiser, Little, and Halstead. Carl Runge paced the second five over Michael Zimmerman, Eric Wilson, Brian Crebo, and Roben Huffman. Track workers then went to work again on the speedway in what was originally billed as a first intermission. After a lengthy reworking of the track, it was announced that intermission number two for track prep would be cancelled, and the street stocks came to the track for 40 laps of racing. Although the race got off to a good start, with six green flag laps, followed by seven more following the first caution, things went down hill from there. By my count, a total of nine caution periods interfered with a hotly contested race. From my vantage point, it was difficult to deciphre what the announcer was saying, but I am pretty sure Jeremy Nichols was the name of the winner. He also captured his heat race, and led all but one lap of the feature. Nichols drives a car crafted to resemble a 1957 Chevy, so of course I had to be rooting for him just a bit! I was equally in the dark during the USAC/IMRA midget feature, but I hope I am correct in naming Adam Taylor the winner of the 20 lap race which was slowed only once for a caution period. The modified heat winners redrew for their starting spots for the first three rows of their 40 lap headliner. Mike Chasteen vaulted to the early lead from row one ahead of a lap two yellow. Back under green, he was soon challenged by row two starter David Stremme. Stremme finally made the pass for the lead on lap eleven, and three circuits later, the yellow waved when fifth running Dave Weitholder made contact in turn one. With Weitholder headed to the tail, the third and fourth place cars of Allan Weisser and Bollinger both ducked to the hot pit with flat tires. Around this same time, some type of racing activity resulted in a " discussion " between Michael Long and Leka which saw both top ten contenders head to the trailer. Another pair of yellows erased a nice Stremme lead, and with 25 laps scored, Bollinger and Weitholder were back in the top ten when Weitholder looped his #05. Back to racing, Bollinger entered the top five, and Weitholder again began to move forward. The final caution came on lap 33, and this time the field restarted single file. Through it all, Stremme held serve, cruising to the win. Tyler Cook ran a strong race to take second over Chasteen. KC Burnett was fourth, Bollinger settled for fifth, and Weitholder again drove back to sixth. The final race of the night was the 25 lapper for the UMP super late models. Unzicker sat on row one with heat two winner Mike Glascock. Unzicker powered to the lead, but a spin by Matt Shannon before the lap was scored resulted in a full restart. That would be the only stoppage of the race. Soon Unzicker had a commanding lead, while Glascock was well ahead of third running Jose Parga, and Parga had some distance in front of a battle between Bob Gardner and Cole Swibold. In the final couple of laps, Swibold slowed and pulled his #98 off the track, doing so without bringing out the caution. The final rundown had Unzicker with a flag to flag win, leading Glascock, Parga, Gardner, and Russ Adams to the final checkered flag of the night. Shannon came home sixth, one lap down, besting Glen Thompson, Shane Allen, and Jeff Riddell, with Swibold credited with tenth. The final checkers waved about 10:15, completing the 24 race program.

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