Sunday, August 30, 2009

Season champions crowned at Independence Motor Speedway

One hundred eight cars signed in for the season finale with championship honors up for grabs at Independence Motor Speedway. Four of five points leaders entering the night capped their seasons with feature wins to propel them to track titles.

Darin Duffy topped that list as he did so in dramatic fashion to steal the show in the I.M.C.A. Modified division. Duffy elected to take the challenge and start at the rear of the field, hoping to double his winnings with a feature win. Duffy's fellow front-row starter, Troy Cordes, along with second row starters Justin O'Brien and Jerry Luloff, went to the back with Duffy. The four that elected to start at the tail were inverted, leaving points leader Duffy in the 24th starting position for the 25-lap event.

At the drop of the green, Johnathan Thimmesch and Max Corporon battled out front after inheriting the front row. Thimmesch held the point for the first two circuits before Corporon made his way around the leader one lap later. Meanwhile, Duffy was working through the field, making his way into the top 10 after just four laps. He motored into the top five on lap eight just prior to the race's first caution. By that time, Luloff also made his way into the top 10 with Cordes not far behind.

When racing resumed, Corporon held the point while Duffy battled Jason Snyder and Thimmesch for the runner-up spot. Duffy made his way into that position just prior to the midway point on lap 12 with Luloff following close behind in fourth and Cordes in sixth.

Duffy then went to work on the high side of the speedway and entered a side-by-side battle with Corporon for a couple of laps before breaking away for the lead on lap 15, right before the final caution flag waved. On the restart, Duffy pulled away to score the victory by a straightaway margin. Luloff pulled alongside Corporon exiting the final set of turns and inched ahead at the line for an impressive second place finish. Snyder and Cordes rounded out the top five. Duffy earned the track title by an impressive 50-point margin over Cordes.

Darren Ackerman entered the night needing only to take the green flag to clinch his third track championship in the I.M.C.A. Late Model division. Ackerman had bigger things in mind as he shot into the lead at the drop of the green flag. Fellow front row starter Travis Smock settled in behind him.

Ackerman survived a pair of early cautions to hold the lead when racing resumed for the final time on lap seven. Smock went to work on the high side of Ackerman and challenged for the lead, however Ackerman held the top spot, then changed his line to the high groove and proceeded to pull away from the field. Ackerman entered lapped traffic with only 10 laps remaining as Smock and third-running Curt Martin attempted to close in on the leader.

Heavy lapped traffic two laps later slowed Ackerman only momentarily as he made his way through the backmarkers en route to his third win of the year and the track title. Smock held off Martin for second. Tyler Bruening and Greg Kastli completed the top five.

Brian Irvine took the early lead in the 20-lap I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature. Irvine put some distance on the field while Jarod Weepie and Dan Trimble battled behind him for second. The duo swapped positions in an entertaining battle throughout much of the event until Trimble was able to break away with only a couple of laps remaining. By that time, Irvine checked out on the field to score his track-leading ninth win of the season to lock up the track championship. Trimble, Weepie, Norman Chesmore and Phil Holtz rounded out the top five.

Josh Irvine made it a family affair as he earned a clean sweep in the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock division. From his pole position start, the points leader assumed the early command and never looked back in an event that was slowed only one time for caution. Irvine led the event in its entirety to take the win and track championship. Wes Stanek ran second at the line ahead of Justin Hanson, Matt Brown and Justin Lichty.

The SportMod division was the only class of cars to see someone other than the points leader entering the night drive home with a victory. Points leader Jim Buhlman and fellow front row starter Kyle Bentley battled early before Joel Rust entered the mix at the front only a handful of laps into the event.

In a race that was littered with cautions, the leaders had little opportunity to gain breathing room on the field. Following one of those cautions, just past the midway point on lap eight, Rust took advantage and put heavy pressure on Bentley. He swept under the race leader to take command with only five laps to go and drove to the win ahead of Josh Sherbon. Kaleb Bentley, Kyle Bentley and Danny Dvorak completed the top five.

Buhlman, who suffered a flat tire on lap six, made a quick tire change during one of the caution periods and made it back onto the track to remain on the lead lap. He charged through traffic and crossed the line in seventh as the checkers waved, however Kyle Bentley stole the track title from him by a single point. Bentley, who entered the night just two points behind Buhlman, picked up three points to claim top honors in the exciting points race.

It was a great end to an exciting season at the speedway. While it's hard to believe the season is over, we were fortunate to run the final eight weeks without a rain out as heavy rains pelted eastern Iowa throughout the entire summer. Hats off to Cam and Jodi Granger of CJ Promotions on their first season at the helm. They brought back the excitement fans of Independence had come to expect over the years. I'm certain fans and drivers can expect much more of the same in years to come.

On a side note, I spoke with SportMod driver Curt Hilmer following the races. He let me know that his father, racing veteran Bob Hilmer, suffered a heart attack on Friday night and was in a Waterloo hospital. The elder Hilmer, a longtime competitor at tracks throughout the state, was actually in attendance at the races just a week or so ago. I wish Bob a speedy recovery and my thoughts and prayers are with the entire Hilmer family.

While the season has come to a conclusion in Independence, racing action throughout the region is far from over as a number of special events highlight the calender during September and into October. I plan to take in a few of those specials at 34 Raceway in Burlington in the coming weeks, and may hit one or two at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson.

Prior to the special events, however, I'll have a final look at Independence from a statistical point of view later this week with a season-ending Stats Blitz.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Season championship scenarios for Independence Motor Speedway

A few years ago, I started putting together scenarios detailing what drivers needed to do to win each track championship at Independence entering the final race of the season. After a hiatus for the last couple of years, I thought I'd bring it back for readers of Keep in mind, these stats are not official, just observations I have made upon reviewing the current standings.

I.M.C.A. Late Model
Darren Ackerman holds a 23 point advantage entering the final night of racing. The most points any driver can gain in the feature is 23, so even with a last place finish and a win by second-place Travis Smock, Ackerman would be guaranteed no worse than a tie atop the points at season's end. I.M.C.A. breaks ties by the number of feature wins. If that still doesn't break the tie, most second place finishes, then most third place finishes, etc. are used until the tie is broken. Regardless what happens on Saturday, Ackerman will hold the tiebreaker by virtue of his two wins this season. That means, all he'll have to do to earn his third title is take the green flag in next Saturday's feature. Note: Although points are awarded to Late Models in heat races throughout the course of the season, no heats are run on championship night. They are not necessary to qualify cars for the feature since lineups are already set entering the night.

I.M.C.A. Modified
Darin Duffy doesn't even have to get out of bed on Saturday to claim the championship in the Modifieds. Duffy currently holds a 46 point lead over Troy Cordes and the feature winner earns 40 points so Duffy has already clinched the championship.

I.M.C.A. Stock Car
Current Standings
Brian Irvine - 473
Jarod Weepie - 466 (-7)
Phil Holtz - 460 (-13)
Dan Trimble - 459 (-14)
Norman Chesmore - 456 (-17)

Brian Irvine - Irvine will clinch the title with a finish of eighth or better. Otherwise, he needs to finish no worse than seven positions behind Jarod Weepie, 13 positions behind Phil Holtz, 14 positions behind Dan Trimble and 17 positions behind Norman Chesmore to take the crown.
Jarod Weepie - Weepie must beat Irvine by eight spots in the feature to win the title and finish no worse than 6 behind Holtz (within 5 if Holtz wins, due to the tiebreaker), 7 behind Trimble (within 6 if Trimble wins, due to the tiebreaker) and 10 behind Chesmore.
Phil Holtz - Holtz must beat Irvine by 14 positions in the feature to earn the title, beat Weepie by 6 (by 7 if Holtz does not win) and beat Trimble by 1 (by virtue of a series of tie-breakers, even though he is currently ahead of Trimble in the standings). He must also stay within 4 finishing positions of Chesmore (within 3 if Chesmore wins) to win the points.
Dan Trimble - Trimble must beat Irvine by 15 positions, Weepie by 7, Holtz by 1 and finish within 3 finishing positions of Chesmore to win the title.
Norman Chesmore - Chesmore must beat Irvine by 18 positions, Weepie by 11, Holtz by 5 (by 4 positions if Chesmore wins), and Trimble by 4 positions to win the title.

I.M.C.A. SportMod
Current Standings
Jim Buhlman - 442
Kyle Bentley - 440 (-2)
Danny Dvorak - 422 (-20)
Joel Rust - 422 (-20)

Jim Buhlman - A win or a second place feature finish will clinch the title for Buhlman. Otherwise, he needs to finish within 1 position of Kyle Bentley. As it stands, the tiebreaker between Buhlman and Bentley extends to most fifth place finishes. Both drivers have no wins, 2 seconds, no thirds and 3 fourths entering the final night. Bentley has one fifth place finish to Buhlman's none. In addition to his finish relating to Bentley, Buhlman must also stay within 19 positions of both Danny Dvorak and Joel Rust to win the title.
Kyle Bentley - Bentley will earn the title if he beats Buhlman by 2 positions. He must also stay within 17 positions of both Dvorak and Rust.
Danny Dvorak - Dvorak will earn the title if he beats Buhlman by 20 positions, Bentley by 18 positions and finishes ahead of Rust. Dvorak holds the tiebreaker over Rust by virtue of his four feature wins to Rust's one win.
Joel Rust - Rust will win the title if he beats Buhlman by 20 positions, Bentley by 18 positions and finishes ahead of Dvorak.

I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock
Current Standings
Josh Irvine - 467
Quinton Miller - 462 (-5)

Josh Irvine - Irvine will win the title by finishing no worse than sixth in the feature. Otherwise, he must stay within 5 finishing positions of Miller to win the championship.
Quinton Miller - Miller will win the title by beating Irvine by 6 positions and staying within 19 positions of Wes Stanek.
Note: Although there is a chance Stanek could finish ahead of Miller in the standings, Stanek is mathematically eliminated from winning the track title as he currently sits 25 points behind Irvine. A driver can earn as many as 40 points in the feature, but only as few as 17 (24th on back awards 17 points regardless how many cars start). Should 27 Hobby Stocks sign in and we start that many cars (God forbid) and Stanek wins (40 points), Miller finishes 21st (20 points) and Irvine 27th (17 points), Irvine would hold onto the title by two points over both Stanek and Miller.

As I said, although I did look them over closely, these are just observations and not official. At any rate, it's safe to say there is a lot to be decided on championship night. Aside from the points leaders, there are some very close battles for position throughout the standings in all five divisions. Coincidentally, starting lineups will be straight-up based on total points. As is the case with the final standings, ties in Saturday's feature lineups will be broken by best finishes, as well.

I'll have a few more stats Saturday night on a few drivers when they are introduced. Have a great week!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Milestone wins highlight exciting night at Independence

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa (August 22) - A trio of first-time winners, along with a trip to victory lane for one driver for the first time in nine years headlined a memorable night at Independence Motor Speedway. One-hundred fourteen race teams signed in for one final qualifying night prior to next Saturday's season championship program.

In the I.M.C.A. Modified division, 25 cars signed in to compete in the 20-lap feature event. At the on-set, it was pole-sitter Tony Snyder setting the pace. Snyder assumed command while third row starter Shawn Ryan shot to the inside of his competitors to take second on the first lap.
Jerry Luloff also made a quick run through the field. From his fourth row starting spot, Luloff worked through traffic and settled into third place after just three laps. Ronn Lauritzen, who started alongside Ryan, made his way into the top four as Luloff spun in turn three to bring out the caution flag.

On the lap five restart, Snyder continued to lead with Ryan and Lauritzen giving chase. Lauritzen made his way past Ryan on the following lap as he set his sights on Snyder. Lauritzen was applying pressure to the leader when the caution flag waved a final time on lap eight. When racing resumed, Lauritzen shot beneath Snyder and assumed command of the event. He led the final 12 laps on his way to the victory, the first in his career after just 50 starts in a Modified. Ryan ran second ahead of Joey Schaefer, who made an impressive run through the field to finish third after starting 22nd. Points leader Darin Duffy wrapped up the division crown by virtue of his 13th top-four finish in as many nights this season. He takes an unsurmountable 46 point lead into championship night over Troy Cordes. Vern Jackson finished the feature in fifth ahead of Cordes and Luloff, who made a nice run through the field to finish seventh following the lap five spin.

You often hear people say, "That's the best feature I've ever seen," just to say they saw a good race. Rarely, however, does that phrase take on literal meaning. For the 20-lap I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature, I can honestly say, without question, it was the best feature I've ever seen.

Pole-sitter Kevin Rose led the first lap of the crowd-pleasing event, but from that point on, nearly every lap was too close to call as six drivers drove two, three and four-wide at the front of the pack for the entire 20 laps. Along with Rose, Phil Holtz, Jason Hocken, Norman Chesmore, Jarod Weepie, Brian Irvine, Steve Meyer and Dan Trimble all took turns challenging for the lead in the caution-free event.

Hocken took his turn out front on lap two as the field battled right behind him. Starting outside row two, Holtz was able to stick his nose under Hocken to snare the lead on lap nine while Chesmore worked low, Meyer worked high and Irvine was looking for racing room wherever he could find it.

Holtz held a narrow lead before Chesmore worked his way under the leader to briefly take charge on lap 14. Holtz worked his way back around Chesmore one lap later while Irvine worked the low groove. Irvine made his way past Chesmore with just over a lap remaining and then pulled even with Holtz. The leaders raced side-by-side over the final lap of the event. As they came to the checkers, Holtz inched ahead at the line to score the win in a photo finish over Irvine. It was the first victory for Holtz at the speedway in his first year in the division. Irvine ran second ahead of Chesmore, Weepie and Trimble.

For those questioning the final call at the line, Jim Morrison of Hawkeye Racing News was not only on-hand for tonight's races, he also positioned himself at the start-finish line for the end of the event. Holtz was the victor by maybe one foot over Irvine.

In the standings, Irvine was able to add a couple more points for insurance of Weepie. Irvine now stands seven points ahead of Weepie entering championship night. By virtue of his win, Holtz slipped past Trimble by one point in the standings. Holtz now sits third, 13 markers behind Irvine.

An impressive 30 I.M.C.A. Late Models signed in to qualify for 24 starting spots in the 25-lap feature. A scary pile-up in turns one and two on the first lap collected nearly a dozen cars for a 12-minute delay. While nobody was injured, the starting lineup was shaken up for the ensuing restart as around a handful of cars were unable to continue.

Jared Fuller assumed command when racing resumed and quicky extended his lead over the field. Rick Wendling, who started in row four, imediately went to work and found himself in second place after just two laps, half of a straightaway behind Fuller.

Wendling worked past the race leader on the eighth circuit and quickly pulled away while Darin Burco was making a charge to the front. Burco worked past Fuller on lap 15, then closed the gap on Wendling as the leader encountered lapped traffic on lap 19.

Wendling flawlessly made his way through the backmarkers and maintained his advantage over Burco to score the victory. Burco ran second ahead of Fuller. Mick Wiele of Columbus Junction made his first-ever trip to the speedway and took home an impressive fourth place finish after starting 21st. Dean Wagner ran fifth. The win was Wendling's first at the speedway in almost exactly nine years to the date. His last trip to victory lane was August 19, 2000.

Darren Ackerman entered the night with an 11 point advantage over Travis Smock and an 18 point edge over Jon Passick. Passick eliminated himself from title contention by failing to qualify for the feature and both Smock and Ackerman were involved in the lap one melee. Smock, unable to continue, finished toward the back, while Ackerman, who finished the race without the sheet metal on the entire right side of his car, drove to a 10th place finsh. That means Ackerman will take a 23 point edge into championship night. While Smock can make up a maximum of 23 points on championship night to finish, at best, in a tie for the points lead (with a win and a finish of 24th or worse by Ackerman), Ackerman would still clinch the title by virtue of his two feature wins this season. All Ackerman needs to do to clinch his third track title is take the green flag next Saturday.

Another points leader not having the best of nights was in the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock division. Josh Irvine, who entered the night 11 points ahead of Quinton Miller, found himself receiving a majority of the damage during a lap two caution when much of the field spun in front of him, ending his night with severe damage to the front end of his #35.

Leading the field for those first two circuits was Russell Damme before Mark Butler charged to the front when racing resumed. While Butler led, Justin Hanson was motoring through the field from a sixth row start in search of his first win. Hanson made his way around Damme just prior to the midway point of the 15-lapper, then worked around Butler on lap nine. He extended his lead until a final caution flag slowed action with just three laps to go.

When racing resumed, Hanson failed to get up to speed which allowed Butler and Damme to sneak back by him. Butler went on to score the victory, his first, ahead of Hanson, who was able to make his way past Damme to salvage second. Damme, Kerry Davis and Jeremiah Wilson completed the top five.

A flat tire in the event sidelined Miller late in the event, dropping him to 10th in the race results. While he finished the night on the trailer, Miller managed to trim Irvine's points lead down to five entering the final night.

Ankeny visitor Austin Kaplan made it two I.M.C.A. SportMod wins in three visits to the speedway this season. Kaplan started inside the fifth row and used the low groove to run down race leader Jeremiah Boynton. Kaplan moved into second place just prior to a lap five caution, then eased around the leader one lap later to drive away to the win. Jim Buhlman crossed the line in second ahead of Boynton, Kaleb Bentley and Jake Strayer. Buhlman took the points lead away from Kyle Bentley with his second place finish. Entering the night seven points back, Bentley finished 11th to slip behind Buhlman by two points entering the final night.

It was a great night of racing at the speedway. First-time winners, Wendling's return to the winner's circle for the first time in nine years, the classic Stock Car battle and the tightened points battles made for great stories in all five divisions. All should contribute to what is hopefully an exciting end to the season next Saturday night.

For those wondering, the features will be lined straight-up by total points. There will be no invert of the top-six or dash race for position. It will be good, old-fashioned championship night racing with no heat races and, hopefully, cooperative weather so out-of-car inroductions will provide fans the chance to see their favorite drivers.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aikey takes fourth Deery Series win of the season at Iowa State Fair

DES MOINES, Iowa (August 18) - Jeff Aikey dominated to score his fourth win of the season during the annual Iowa State Fair stop for the Deery Brothers Summer Series for I.M.C.A. Late Models. Forty-one Late Models signed in to compete, along with 115 cars in the other four divisions competing for an impressive car count of 156.

At the start of the 35-lap Late Model feature, front row starters Todd Cooney and Ray Guss engaged in a wheel-to-wheel battle. The duo led the field in an exciting door-to-door fight during the first few laps before Guss inched ahead running the low groove. As Guss extended his advantage, Aikey was also working the low groove through traffic, making his way past Cooney for second on lap seven.

With Aikey running low, Guss went to work on the high side in attempt to pull away. Instead, Aikey quickly narrowed the margin and took the lead on lap 10. Aikey put some distance on the field as Terry Neal worked his way into a second place battle with Guss. Aikey was entering lapped traffic on lap 17 just as Neal's efforts were dashed when a flat tire on his #28C brought out the caution and sending him to the pits for a tire change.

Following the race's only other caution on lap 19, Aikey again pulled away from the field. By lap 25 he built up nearly a straightaway lead over Guss and found himself tailing backmarkers once more by the 31st circuit. He went on to score the victory by a straightaway ahead of Guss and Jay Johnson.

1. Jeff Aikey, Waterloo;
2. Ray Guss Jr., Milan, Ill.;
3. Jay Johnson, West Burlington;
4. Tommy Elston, Keokuk;
5. Jason Frankel, Quincy, Ill.;
6. Rob Toland, Davenport;
7. Jason Hahne, Webster City;
8. Craig Jacobs, Des Moines;
9. Fred Remley, Blue Grass;
10. Colby Springsteen, Morning Sun;
11. Brett Diercks, Bettendorf;
12. Todd Cooney, Des Moines;
13. Terry Neal, Ely;
14. Al Johnson, Story City;
15. Darrel DeFrance, Marshalltown;
16. Charlie McKenna, Clear Lake;
17. Ryan Griffith, Webster City;
18. Greg Kastli, Waterloo;
19. Chad Cooney, Des Moines;
20. T.J. Criss, Oskaloosa;
21. Ryan Giles, West Des Moines;
22. Josh Most, Red Oak;
23. Justin Kay, Wheatland;
24. Sam Halstead, New London.

In other action, Donovan Smith scored an exciting win in the I.M.C.A. Stock Car 15-lapper. Early on it was front row starter Steve Jackson pacing the field. Running the high groove, Jackson held the point, but was receiving constant, heavy pressure from a number of cars, including Smith. At times, the lead six cars ran two and three-wide, nose-to-tail, swapping positions each lap. Smith inched ahead on the low groove of the speedway to nip Jackson at the line for the checkers. Donnie Bown, who gave Jackson fits earlier in the event in a battle out front, crossed the line third ahead of Dustin Smith and Justin Temeyer.

Kevin Sather scored an impressive win in the I.M.C.A. SportMod division. Sather took command from race leader Jesse Sobbing just prior to a lap three caution and never looked back to top the 15-lap event. He took the checkers a straightaway ahead of Sobbing and Dalton Dingman. Rick Gladson and Bryon Weyer completed the top five.

A pair of close finishes highlighted two I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock features. In the first 12-lapper, Nick Murty made a late race pass on the high side to score the win. He edged Daniel Hilsabeck and Steve Jones in a three-wide finish at the checkers to take the victory. In the second feature, Kris Walker took command on lap eight from race leader Kenny Hanson when the leaders encountered lapped traffic. Walker made his way through traffic and past Hanson to lead the final five laps on his way to victory.

Brett Moyer made his bid for the lead on lap 19 of the 25 lap Truck feature to take top honors. Moyer worked under Ed Nelson to drive to the win. Bob Murray ran third.

It was a great night of racing and my first return to the State Fair special in five years. It was nice to chat with a number of folks in the pits prior to the action, as well as fellow blogger Kevin Trittien of Tapfan's Tours of For his take on the event, be sure to check out his blog, as well as more results from Joyce and Dick Eisele's 4dfan Report. Thanks to Bucky Doren, who was working the mic tonight, for letting the fans know was on-hand to cover the action.

Other Notes: I had a chance to catch up with former I.M.C.A. Stock Car driver Jerry Schipper prior to the races while walking through the fair. Schipper, who was a regular competitor in Independence through the late '90s and a two-time track champion, said he does miss the weekly wars even though he hasn't piloted his #89J in nine years. It's hard to believe it's been that long, Jerry!

Also, the qualifying format came up while I was making my rounds in the pits prior to the races. The draw-redraw format has a way of being unpredictable, however it seems the fairest way to conduct a touring series such as the Deery Series. There were some drivers talking about a passing points system being their preference, but I like the Deery Series the way it is. If, for no other reason, because it's a system all can understand, especially the fans. Knowing how many qualifiers come out of each heat makes the races much more enjoyable than trying to guess how many passing points a driver has earned and how it will affect who qualifies. Besides that, although I've never met a driver who thinks they have the "talent" to draw well, I.M.C.A. Marketing Director Kevin Yoder has actually kept statistics on the Deery Series draws over the years. Not surprised by his findings, Yoder said the average draws for most drivers over time is right around the 40-50 mark out of 100. I guess some tend to forget the nights the draw wasn't too detrimental. Besides that, just because you may draw one of the "worse" or "higher" numbers doesn't always mean everyone else is going to draw any better... it's all relative. Some nights, pulling out that 65 pill may not be that bad of a deal afterall!

It's a quick turnaround for the Deery Series as its next stop is Wednesday night at Marshalltown Speedway for its annual visit. Although I don't think I'm going to make it back-to-back nights, the Series on the highbanks is always a treat so if you can make it to the fast 1/4-mile, be sure to check it out.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Irvines sweep as Lerch, Luloff and Dvorak score wins at Independence

INDEPENDENCE, Iowa (August 15) - For the 10th time in 12 weeks this season, and for the eighth week in a row, an Irvine visited victory lane at Independence Motor Speedway. For the fourth time, two Irvines celebrated in the winner's circle. Brian Irvine took a track leading eighth win in the I.M.C.A. Stock Car division and Josh Irvine scored his fifth victory in the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks as both drivers added to their slim points leads with only two weeks remaining in the season.

At the drop of the green in the 20-lap Stock Car feature, Kevin Rose set the pace. Norman Chesmore, who started right behind Rose, moved under the leader on lap two to snag the lead. As Chesmore led, Brian Irvine was working through the field from a fifth row start. Irvine motored past Chesmore just shy of the midway point to take command. He led the final 11 circuits to take the win, his sixth in the last seven weeks. Jarod Weepie, Dan Trimble, Chesmore and Phil Holtz completed the top five. Irvine added an extra point to his lead over Weepie to take a four point edge into the last two weeks of the season. Trimble sits 11 points out of the lead.

Pole-sitter Don Arnold took the lead at the start of the 15-lap Hobby Stock feature. He received heavy pressure from Joe Sprague and Justin Hanson throughout the early stages of the event while Josh Irvine was working through the field from a fifth row start. Irvine worked his way into second place just prior to a mid-race caution on lap eight. When racing resumed, Irvine remained glued to Arnold's rear bumper until making the winning pass with only five laps to go. Hanson came home second ahead of Wes Stanek, Arnold and Brad Forbes. In the points race, Irvine now sits 11 markers ahead of sixth place finisher Quinton Miller.

Chad Lerch took command on the third lap of the 25-lap I.M.C.A. Late Model feature to drive to his third win of the year. The first year driver wasted little time extending his lead over the field as he amassed a straightaway advantage by the time he encountered lapped traffic on the 10th circuit. Lerch cleared the lapped cars while a quartet of drivers engaged in an exciting battle for second. Tom Struve claimed runner-up honors ahead of Greg Kastli, who nosed out Curt Martin at the line for third. By virtue of his fifth place finish, points leader Darren Ackerman padded his lead in the standings to 11 ahead of Travis Smock and 18 over Jon Passick.

Cautions plagued the I.M.C.A. Modified feature, resulting in a time-shortened event. Jeff Kriz led throughout much of the scheduled 20-lapper, holding off heavy pressure from Jerry Luloff and Darin Duffy. Luloff made his way around Kriz just prior to a lap 13 caution. After racing resumed, another caution brought a premature end to the event sending Luloff in victory lane. Kriz ran second ahead of Duffy, Doug Firgard and Leon Wilson. Duffy, who continued his hot streak with his 12th straight top-four finish, carries a 44 point lead over Troy Cordes into the final two weeks of the season.

Danny Dvorak was in the right place at the right time to claim the victory in the 15-lap I.M.C.A. SportMod main event. Lucas Lundry took the lead on the third lap and then held off challenges from Jake Strayer late in the event as he appeared to be on the way to his second win of the season. Exiting turn four on the final lap, however, contact from Strayer's machine sent Lundry into a spin allowing Strayer to cross the line first. Strayer, however, was deemed at fault, thus handing the victory to then-third place Dvorak. Josh Sherbon, Joel Rust, Jim Buhlman and Mary Handberg rounded out the top five. Finishing sixth, Kyle Bentley held onto a seven point lead over Buhlman in the points race.

It was another great night of racing at IMS as 110 cars signed in to compete. It was also nice to be joined in the tower by K98.5 radio personality Bucky Doren, who called the action in the I.M.C.A. Modified division. In addition, there were many kids on-hand for the back-to-school festivities. Those included bike giveaways, backpack prizes and other school supplies given to the kids on-hand, courtesy of the local Walmart. The kids were also able to take part in a candy dash during intermission, sponsored by Doug Cue of Superior Cleaning Services.

Only two weeks remain in the 2009 season at the speedway and a few of the points battles are far from over so it's setting up to a great two-week stretch. If you haven't had a chance to stop by, take advantage of one of the next two Saturdays, if not both. The new concession stand should also be open next week.

Due to computer problems over the weekend, I may not have bonus stats this week. If, by chance, things clear up, I'll see what I can scrounge up numbers-wise.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hensel wins thriller in Corn Belt Clash finale at Fayette County Speedway

WEST UNION, Iowa (August 12) - Although it was the final event of the series this season, Adam Hensel took advantage of his first series appearance as he drove to the win in the Corn Belt Clash Late Model Series finale at Fayette County Speedway. A pair of late race cautions combined with Hensel's ability to keep his #44 glued to the bottom groove propelled the 2006 WISSOTA national champion to the win after starting 10th.

At the start of the 40-lap event, outside front row starter Terry Neal took command. Neal, one of only a trio of I.M.C.A. cars to compete in the event, put his #28C in the lead at the drop of the green flag. He quickly pulled away from his competitors running the high groove of the smooth, fast 3/8-mile oval.

Just 10 laps into the event, Neal extended his advantage to a straightaway margin as he entered lapped traffic. Running the high groove, Chris Smyser was attempting to fend off the challenges of Lance Matthees, who was running the low line. As those two battled for position, Neal's margin widened as he flawlessly maneuvered through the backmarkers.

Over a straightaway ahead of his nearest foes, Neal put four lapped cars between himself and Matthees on lap 14. Matthees wrestled second place away from Smyser three laps earlier. As Matthees attempted to keep Neal in his sights, series points leader Keith Foss and Hensel were making their way through the field from their fifth row starting positions. Foss made his way around Smyser for third at the 20-lap mark with Hensel just two spots behind him.

Matthees whittled Neal's lead to just under a straightaway by the time the caution flag waved for the first time on lap 25. Neal restarted out front with Matthees and Foss in the row behind him. Hensel restarted fourth, just inside of Smyser, after passing him for the position on lap 21.

On the restart, Neal went back to work on the high side as Foss and Hensel snuck beneath Matthees. Foss held onto second while Matthees worked his way back around Hensel for third. The top four remained unchanged when the second caution was displayed on lap 32.

When racing resumed, Hensel shot below both Foss and Matthees while Neal continued to pace the field. Hensel held the runner-up spot as the caution flag waved a third and final time on lap 35. Committed to their lines, Neal went back up top and Hensel down low when the green flag waved. Hensel pulled even with Neal in a drag race down the front straightaway on lap 37. He took over the point with the flying green in the air as he drove to the exciting win. For his efforts, Hensel took home a big chunk of change - $3,500 to be exact - as the winner's amount was increased from $2,000 for the series finale. Neal ran second and Foss, by virtue of his third place run, clinched the series title.

RESULTS (starting positions in parentheses)
1. (10) 44 Adam Hensel (Barron, Wis.);
2. (2) 28C Terry Neal (Ely);
3. (9) 95 Keith Foss (Winona, Minn.);
4. (3) 90 Lance Matthees (Winona, Minn.);
5. (8) 25 Chad Simpson (Mt. Vernon);
6. (6) 50 Denny Eckrich (Tiffin);
7. (12) 77X Kurt Kile (Nichols);
8. (5) 28X Justin Mitchell (Cedar Rapids);
9. (11) 88 Kevin Kile (West Liberty);
10. (1) 25S Chris Smyser (Lancaster, Mo.);
11. (7) 98X Jason Rauen (Farley);
12. (14) 78W Rick Wendling (Hazleton);
13. (16) 16 Tyler Bruening (Decorah);
14. (17) 22X Jill George (Cedar Falls);
15. (18) 33 Kevin Kirkpatrick (Waterloo);
16. (19) 15C Curt Schroeder (Des Moines);
17. (13) 98 Travis Smock (Independence);
18. (4) 29 Jeremiah Hurst (Dubuque);
19. (15) 31X Jason Utter (Columbus Junction);
20. (21) 45 Curt Martin (Independence);
21. (20) 77 Jeff Aikey (Cedar Falls).

1. 95 Keith Foss, 226
2. 25 Chad Simpson, 206
3. 45 Curt Martin, 202
4. 98X Jason Rauen, 186
5. 77X Kurt Kile, 182
6. 88 Kevin Kile, 180
7. 98 Travis Smock, 172
8. 90 Lance Matthees, 166
9. 28C Terry Neal, 158
10. 78W Rick Wendling, 148
11. 28X Justin Mitchell, 142
12. 77 Jeff Aikey, 136
T13. 31X Jason Utter, 134
T13. 33 Kevin Kirkpatrick, 134
T13. 25S Chris Smyser, 134
16. 15C Curt Schroeder, 132
17. C10 Darin Burco, 120
18. 32 Chris Simpson, 110
19. Z2 Gary Webb, 100
20. 16 Tyler Bruening, 82

Three other divisions competed for track points during the evening. Matt Jones topped a field of 29 USRA B-Mods to take the win in the 18-lap event. Jones took command on the third lap to score the win after starting outside of row two. Points leader Josh Wedo ran second ahead of Mike Darnall, who started deep in the field in row six.

Tom Schmitt extended his points lead in the USRA Stock Car division by taking home the victory. Schmitt worked his way around Dan Christopher five laps into the 18-lap feature to score the win ahead of Kurt Krauskopf and Mitch Hovden.

Keith Schwartzhoff led much of the USRA Hobby Stock feature until Chris Hovden and Adam Cline battled through the pack to challenge in the late stages of that event. The leaders ran door-to-door and occasionally three-wide over the final few laps before Hovden was able to break away for the win. Cline ran second ahead of Steve Larson.

It was a great return to northeast Iowa to a track that has always been a personal favorite of mine. Always in top-notch shape, the track was as racy as ever and provided great action throughout the evening. Despite over three inches of rain in the area earlier in the week, the track prep crew did an excellent job providing an awesome track for the 88 cars on-hand. A special nod to Jim Granger for working the grader following qualifying events. Although it's never anyone's wish to have an extended intermission during a mid-week show, his efforts, as well as those of the folks running the packers, made it pay off in the end. While it was looking like it was going to be a very late night, the four divisions reeled off 92 laps of feature action in only one hour and 13 minutes. The final checkered flag waved just prior to 11 p.m.

For the Late Models, the inaugural Corn Belt Clash Series was a success. Thanks to DART and Cen-Pe-Co Lubricants for their season-long support of the series, as well as for providing a point fund to the top 10 drivers in the final standings. Those 10 drivers will receive bonus money equivalent to the purse for the top-10 finishes in a standard series event. The standings were based on each driver's best four finishes out of a possible five series appearances.

Race fans of northeast Iowa may not be familiar with the name Adam Hensel, however he is well-known throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin. The 22-year-old not only won the WISSOTA national championship in 2006 at the age of 19, he was also the sanction's rookie of the year just one year earlier. A regular competitor at Superior (Wis.) Speedway and Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis., Hensel told me he also hits Red Cedar Speedway in Menomonie, Wis. Despite his success in recent years, Hensel, who drives for Forest Lake, Minn., car owner J.R. Haley, said the Fayette County win was his first of this season. Not a bad way to get that monkey off his back.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Stats Blitz Bonus 2!

With only three weeks left in the season, I thought I'd throw in another Stats Blitz.

* Darin Duffy has now won five of the last seven I.M.C.A. Modified features. That feat has not been accomplished in at least the last 20 years of weekly racing at the speedway. The last driver to come close to that type of streak was in 1999 when a driver reeled off seven wins in 10 nights. The driver? Darin Duffy. Coincidentally, Duffy's first Modified win in Independence came on June 5, 1993, the weekend of his father's birthday. He has won 32 sanctioned weekly Modified features in Independence since that time.

* Duffy's Modified win on August 8 marked the third time in his last four wins that he took the lead on lap six.

* Darin Duffy is the only Modified driver this season to earn more than one feature win. Not since 1993 has only one driver in the division won multiple features. That season, Jeff Aikey (yes, Jeff) was the only Modified driver to score multiple wins. He scored two wins that season. In a rain-shortened 11-week season, the other winners in 1993 were Tim Donlinger, Kevin Schroeder, Duane Van Deest, Buck Swanson, Garry Stuber, Steve Droste, Jim Abben and Owen Grube. Grube won the track title that year by 56 points over Garry Stuber and Steve Droste. That is the largest championship margin in the final standings in the last 20 years.

* For all of you Indee historians, here is a list of drivers and the dates they won their last Modified feature in weekly points racing at Independence. Keep in mind, some of these drivers went on to compete in other divisions, the Indee Open Series or other special events, however these dates include their final weekly points wins in the I.M.C.A. Modified division:
Denny Ansel - July 8, 1989
Jeff Barkdoll - June 24, 1995
Ron Barker - June 3, 1989
Tom Bartholomew - June 25, 1994
Arlo Becker - June 30, 1990
Merlin Benning - August 17, 1991
Dave Bentley - May 30, 1992
Dan Bohr - July 30, 1994
Corey Dripps - July 12, 1997
Steve Droste - July 13, 1996
Owen Grube - June 18, 1994
Doug Hillson - May 20, 1989
Ron Hurst - August 10, 1991
Timm Jensen - July 26, 2003
Todd Jensen - July 6, 1991
John Light - June 20, 1992
Dean Mahlstedt - May 11, 1996
Tim McBride - August 11, 2001
Jack Mitchell - July 23, 1994
Keith Pittman - June 28, 1997
Kevin Pittman - August 18, 1990
Mike Sampson - June 5, 1999
Larry Schmidt - August 1, 1992
Deon Turner - May 3, 2003
Duane Van Deest - May 21, 1994

* Brian Irvine has now won five of the last six I.M.C.A. Stock Car features. The last driver to have a comparable streak was Dan Trimble during the 2000 season when he won seven features in nine weeks and eight of 11. Over the course of the end of the 1999 season into the start of 2000, Trimble won seven straight features.

* The starting position to produce the most feature wins this season among all five divisions is outside of the front row. That starting spot has produced 10 of the 55 feature winners, however eight of those wins were during the first five weeks of the season. Winners have come from the front row only twice in the last five weeks (25 events).

* Drivers with the current longest top-10 feature finish streaks include:
Late Model: Brian Hunter (4 straight), Curt Martin (2), Darin Burco (2), Tysus Pattee (2). No driver has earned more than four straight top-10s in the Late Models. Along with Hunter, Darren Ackerman, Jon Passick and Travis Smock are the only drivers to earn four straight top-10s this season.
Modified: Darin Duffy (11 straight), Troy Cordes (8), Max Corporon (3), Vern Jackson (3). All 11 of Duffy's finishes have been top-4s, including four straight top-3s.
Stock Car: Kevin Rose (8 straight), Dan Trimble (7), Justin Tememyer (7). All seven of Temeyer's finishes during his current streak have been top-3 finishes.
SportMod: Danny Dvorak (3 straight), Joel Rust (2), Josh Sherbon (2), Curt Hilmer (2), Marty Rouse (2). Chris Luloff and Kyle Bentley have had the longest top-10 SportMod streaks this season. Each had five straight earlier this season.
Hobby Stock: Quinton Miller (11 straight), Wes Stanek (6), Joe Sprague (3), Josh Irvine (2). Josh Irvine is the only driver to earn more than two straight top-3s this season. He earned four straight earlier this season during his four-race winning streak. Miller's streak includes top-5 finishes each of the last three weeks and seven top-5s overall.

* Jarod Weepie (Stock Car) holds the distinction of being the only driver to have earned at least one finish in each of the top-six feature finishing positions.

* Through 11 weeks, 14 drivers have earned at least eight top-3 heat race finishes. The breakdown is as follows:
Late Model: Darren Ackerman and Jon Passick (8 each);
Modified: Darin Duffy and Troy Cordes (10 each), Johnathan Thimmesch (9). Among his 10 top-3s, Cordes has no heat wins;
Stock Car: Justin Temeyer (9), Dan Trimble (8);
SportMod: Danny Dvorak (10), Kaleb Bentley, Curt Hilmer and Drew Fish (8 each);
Hoby Stock: Josh Irvine and Quinton Miller (9 each), Matt Brown (8). Among his nine top-3s, Miller has no heat wins.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Duffy and Irvine extend points leads at Independence

With only four more points races remaining on the schedule this season entering Saturday night, a pair of points leaders made visits to the winner's circle at Independence - for one it helped him pad a nearly insurmountable lead and for the other it offered just a little bit of breathing room.

Darin Duffy entered the night 34 points ahead of his nearest competitor in the I.M.C.A. Modified division, nearly one full feature win ahead of the field. By night's end, he earned his sixth victory of the season to add one more point to his expanding lead.

At the start of the 20-lapper, Jeff Kriz held the lead until Tony Snyder spun on lap two while in second place. A number of cars were collected in the mayhem and, when the dust settled, many of the mid-pack starters found themselves right behind Kriz for the ensuing restart. Duffy, Jerry Luloff, Troy Cordes and Johnathan Thimmesch lined up right behind the race leader for the two-wide restart.

Kriz led for three more laps until the caution flag waved a second time. Following that stoppage, Duffy went to work on the low side, blowing by Kriz in turns one and two to snag the lead. He survived a handful of additional caution periods to score the win. Jerry Luloff was running a strong second when he spun in the first set of turns on the final lap. This allowed Troy Cordes and Max Corporon to sneak by for second and third, respectively. That pair of drivers also sits second and third in the division standings, now 35 and 77 points behind Duffy. Thimmesch and Justin O'Brien ran fourth and fifth. For Duffy, the streak continues. Not only was that his sixth win of the season, but his 11th top-4 finish in as many races this season.

In the I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature, close three-wide racing highlighted the early portion of the event. Norman Chesmore led the wheel-to-wheel group during the race's only cautions on laps three and four. Following the stoppages, Chesmore continued to run out front, receiving heavy pressure from Jarod Weepie.

With Weepie on Chesmore's bumper, Brian Irvine was looking for racing room both high and low. He eventually found a faster groove on the high side of the speedway to make his way around Weepie. He slipped past Chesmore on the ninth of 20 laps to drive to his track leading seventh win of the season. Chesmore ran second at the line ahead of Justin Temeyer, Jarod Weepie and Phil Holtz.

Entering the night, Irvine held a slim one point lead over Weepie and a mere six points separated the top five drivers. By virtue of Irvine's win, his lead expanded to four points over second-running Weepie and seven points over Temeyer. Dan Trimble sits nine points out in fourth place and Holtz is 10 points back in fifth.

In the I.M.C.A. SportMod division, not only did a first-time winner grace victory lane, but it was a driver who had never before made an appearance on the 3/8-mile oval. Austin Kaplan, who currently leads the points at Benton County Speedway in Vinton, made his first visit to Independence a memorable one as he dominated the field to take home the victory.

Scott Thomas challenged Brandon Davis in the early going of the 15-lapper. Thomas held the point for the first three circuits while Kaplan made his way through the field from a sixth row starting spot. Kaplan mastered the low groove and swept under Thomas on just the fourth lap to sail into the lead. He survived a pair of cautions to score the impressive win ahead of Joel Rust, Kaleb Bentley, Thomas and Curt Hilmer.

Following a flat tire that he believes may have cost him the win a week ago, Chad Lerch wasted little time looking for redemption in the 25-lap I.M.C.A. Late Model feature. From a row three start, Lerch motored into second place behind Tom Struve after just one lap. He then took the lead just three laps later and quickly distanced himself from the rest of the field.

It appeared to be smooth sailing for Lerch until a pair of mid-race cautions bunched the field, removing his straightaway lead on the field. Luke Goedert, who started from the sixth row, settled into second and was attempting to chase down Lerch by the time the caution flag waved on lap nine. Goedert tried to use the low groove to sneak under Lerch following restarts on laps nine and 12, but Lerch was just too strong one groove higher as he led the remainder of the event to score his second win of the season. Goedert, Curt Martin, Tom Struve and Darin Burco rounded out the top five.

Mark Butler held the early lead in the 15-lap I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock feature. While Butler led, Justin Lichty was working through traffic from a third row start. Following a lap four restart, Lichty worked the low side of Butler and made his way to the front one lap later. Adam Cline shadowed Lichty's efforts and made his way to second two laps later.

Following a restart on lap eight, Cline was challenging for the lead when contact from Lichty sent Cline into a spin to bring out the yellow. Both drivers were penalized for involvement, allowing Quinton Miller to take over the lead. Miller led the next lap and was awarded the win when the time limit expired for that event. Points leader Josh Irvine, Butler, Kyle Anderson and Wes Stanek completed the top five.

Still on top
Late Model points leader Darren Ackerman suffered an unpleasant early end to his night. On a restart early in that event, the field in front of Ackerman got bunched up and, when all was said and done, Ackerman was upside down on the front straightaway in the #53. Although it was "only" half of a rollover, Ackerman's night was done. He was complaining of a sore shoulder in the pits following the races, but seemed to be in good spirits considering his recent streak of bad luck. One positive note for Ackerman and his team, he retained the points lead following the night's show, although it is a very slim advantage. He now sits two points ahead of Jon Passick and three ahead of Travis Smock entering the final three nights of racing. Coincidentally, this was Ackerman's second rollover of the year. He also got upside down at a Deery Brothers special in West Union earlier this summer.

From flip to fifth
SportMod driver Curt Hilmer also spent time on his hood over the weekend. Hilmer reportedly got upside down and rolled three times on Friday night at Marshalltown Speedway. When he came through the pit gates at around 5:30 on Saturday, his car looked a little worse for wear and he said they just got it put back together late in the afternoon. Their hard work paid off as Hilmer qualified out of his heat race and ran an impressive fifth place in the evening's feature.

Cumulus next week
Next Saturday night is Cumulus Broadcasting Night at the Races. As is tradition on Cumulus Night, Bucky Doren of 98.5's Bucky and Brooks in the Morning will be calling the I.M.C.A. Modified action. It should be a fun and exciting Saturday night so be sure to stop out as only three races remain this season at Independence.

Corn Belt "Cash"
The final installment of the five-race Corn Belt Clash series will be making its way to Fayette County Speedway in West Union this Wednesday night, August 12. Normally a $2,000-to-win show for the Late Models, this event will pay $3,500 to the winner. With the point fund up for grabs, one lucky driver could earn $5,500 for his efforts Wednesday night.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Aikey scores 51st Deery Series win during "Dirt at the Downs"

I made the trip south to Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids for the first time in two years for the annual visit of the Deery Brothers Summer Series for I.M.C.A. Late Models. Joining the Late Models in the "Dirt at the Downs" special were I.M.C.A. Stock Cars, I.M.C.A. SportMods, I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks and Hornets.

Seventeen Late Models signed in to compete, however only 16 started the 35-lap feature. Terry Neal suffered engine problems during practice and appeared to be done for the night. Rick Dralle, however, offered a gesture of sportsmanship and loaned his car to Neal for the night's events.

Dralle's offer paid off for Neal as he took the early lead from his pole position start. Neal, Jeff Aikey and Jason Frankel made it a three-car breakaway from the pack in the early going before Aikey shot to the inside of Neal at the completion of lap four.

Aikey cleared Neal one lap later to take over the top spot, extending his lead to multiple car-lengths in quick fashion. His lead slowly disappeared when the leaders entered lapped traffic on the 12th circuit. Just a handful of laps later, at the midway point of the event, Aikey's lead evaporated when the leaders approached a line of seven backmarkers.

Aikey made his way under the #73 of Greg Kastli as Frankel pulled onto his rear bumper. Aikey held onto the lead as he struggled to make his way around the lapped car of T.J. Criss. With only two laps to go, Aikey cleared Criss to drive to the victory, his fourth career series win at Hawkeye Downs and 51st overall. The victory in the caution-free event extended his series points lead over second-running Frankel. Frankel ran second in the feature, as well, ahead of Neal, Ray Guss and Rob Toland.

In the 10-car Stock Car feature, Greg Hentrich took command at the drop of the green and never looked back to score his first win in the division. Hentrich held off heavy pressure from Brian Beatty to take the victory in the caution-free 25-lapper. Cory Houdek, David Ballstaedt and Chad Siems rounded out the top five.

Aric Becker earned his first trip to the winner's circle this season in the 15-lap SportMod main event. At the drop of the green, Becker took command from his outside front row starting spot to drive to the victory ahead of Blake Carson and Scott Kositzky in the eight-car event. Creston Williams and Jonny Williams completed the top five.

Jeff Franks made his way under race leader Shaun Myers on the third lap of the 20-lap Hobby Stock feature. Franks led the field into lapped traffic with only five laps remaining, then held off a hard-charging Gary Pfantz to score his fourth straight win in the division in another feature that did not see a yellow flag. Points leader Scott Siems finished third ahead of Myers and Nathan Ballard in the 10-car field.

Twenty-four Hornets signed in to compete on the 1/4-mile oval. Brogan Fiala took the lead on the third of 20 laps to drive to the win. It was the 15-year-old's second win of the season. Brian Franks chased Fiala to the checkers.

Although the car count was lower than desired, race fans were able to see some good, close, competitive racing and be on the road home at an early hour as the final checkered flag waved at 9 p.m. The night also provided non-regulars at the Hawkeye Downs asphalt the opportunity to see a handful of divisions generally seen competing on dirt tracks.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Stats Blitz Bonus!

I found a few other interesting statistics following the August 1 program at Independence Motor Speedway. For those of you who just haven't quite gotten enough, here you go...

* Darin Duffy has won four of the last six Modified features. The last time a Modified driver won four features in six weeks was July 8-August 12, 2000 when Duffy won four features in five weeks. He also won four of six from July 17-August 21, 1999. The last driver other than Duffy to do it was Keith Pittman. He won four of five from May 31-June 28, 1997. The last Mod driver to win three features in a row was Troy Cordes to close out the 2006 season from August 12-26.

* Brian Irvine has won four of the last five Stock Car features. The last time that was accomplished in the Stock Cars was when Irvine won four straight over the course of the 2008 and 2009 seasons. He closed 2008 with two wins and opened 2009 with two wins. The last time a driver won four out of five in the same season was in 2007 when Irvine won four straight from July 7-July 28. The last Stock Car driver other than Irvine to win four of five was Justin Temeyer from July 14-August 11, 2001. Coincidentally, that was Temeyer's first year in the division.

* The average starting position for the Late Model feature winners in 7.8. Modifieds 7.5, Stock Cars 6.1, SportMods, 5.6, Hobby Stocks 6.6.

* On August 1, Chris Luloff (SportMod) became the first driver this season to win a feature starting deeper than the sixth row. He started outside row seven.

* All three of Terry Neal's feature wins (Late Model) have come from outside row six starting positions. He has led a total of six laps in those three wins.

* August 1 feature winners led only 28 of the 95 laps of feature racing. Both Terry Neal (Late Models) and Brian Irvine (Stock Cars) led only the final lap of their respective features.

* The last three Stock Car drivers who lost the points lead fell to at least fifth place the week they lost the lead. Shane Manson went from first to fifth on July 11, Brian Irvine went from first to seventh on July 18 and Phil Holtz dropped from first to fifth on August 1. No driver has led the Stock Car points for more than three consecutive weeks. Have I mentioned how close the Stock Car points are this season?

* Seven of the top eight in the current Stock Car standings have held or shared the points lead for at least one week this season. The only driver in the top eight not to lead the points? Justin Temeyer. And he's now held the lead in eight of the 10 Stock Car features. Temeyer has led 84 of 200 total Stock Car feature laps this year. His 84 laps out front leads all drivers at the speedway this season. Fellow Stock Car competitor Brian Irvine has the second most with 62 laps led.

* Since season championship night of the 2006 season, there have been 17 different Late Model feature winners in just 35 events. Those winners have included: Darren Ackerman, Jeff Aikey, Levi Benn, Tyler Bruening, Darin Burco, Rick Dralle, Luke Goedert, Bryan Klein, Chad Lerch, Curt Martin, Terry Neal, Tysus Pattee, Luke Pestka, Dale Stolte, Rob Toland and Scott Welsh.

* There have been five straight different winners in the SportMod division: Kurt Hogan, Joel Rust, Lucas Lundry, Danny Dvorak and Chris Luloff. Since the SportMods/B Mods were introduced at the track in 2004, the division has seen this happen twice. Most recently (SportMod), it happened in a five race span from July 26-August 23, 2008: Joe Docekal, Danny Dvorak, Kyle Bentley, Josh Sherbon and Jim Buhlman. Prior to that, there were five straight different winners in the B Mod division from June 26-July 31, 2004: Johnathan Thimmesch, Jon Wilhelmi, Kurt Roose, Craig Cordes and Dan Feltus. Yes, I realize SportMods and B Mods are not the same, but I put them together here for statistical purposes.

* There have been three different winners in the Hobby Stocks over the last three weeks: Josh Irvine, August Bach, Justin Lichty. Since the start of the 2000 season, there have been three different winners in a row in the division 18 different times. During those 18 streaks, 14 times a fourth driver continued the string of different winners. (I'd say the odds are in favor of another different winner this weekend.) Of those 14 times, 10 times a fifth driver continued the streak of different winners. Of those 10 times, four times a sixth driver continued the streak of different winners. One time there has been a streak of seven straight different Hobby Stock winners. During that streak an eighth driver extended the streak to eight in a row.

* More to follow at the end of the season... unless something catches my eye before then. Have a great week!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Ackerman's bid for three straight ends in heartbreak at Independence

Darren Ackerman was looking to become the first driver to win three consecutive features in the I.M.C.A. Late Model division at Independence Motor Speedway since Curt Martin last accomplished that feat around five years ago. Ackerman appeared to be on his way to the impressive run when lapped traffic spoiled the celebration just under a quarter of a lap from the chcekered flag.

At the start of the 25-lapper, 22 cars took the green flag with pole-sitter Jared Fuller setting the pace. The yellow flag waved on lap two for the race's only caution as Fuller led followed by fellow front row starter Scott Welsh. Starting from the fourth row, Chad Lerch made his way into the top three after just two circuits.

When racing resumed, Lerch went to work on the leaders and made his bid for the top spot just two laps later. Just as Lerch took over the lead, a number of drivers were charging hard through traffic behind him. Points leader Ackerman made his way into third on the fourth lap after starting in the sixth row. Fellow sixth row starter Terry Neal settled into sixth. Fifth row starter Jon Passick motored into fourth by the fourth lap and Curt Martin made his way into the top five by that time.

Ackerman ran the low groove and disposed of Welsh early, then set his sights on Lerch. The leaders ran nose to tail for a number of laps with Ackerman trying to gain the advantage down low. Lerch denied Ackerman's attempts until the 13th circuit when Ackerman shot to the inside of the leader to take over the point.

While Ackerman was battling Lerch, Neal was using the high groove to his advantage as he settled into third place on lap nine. By the time Ackerman made his way around Lerch, Neal was charging hard and slipped past him for second on lap 13, as well.

Ackerman and Neal then dueled in a classic battle throughout the remainder of the race. Just two laps after they moved to the front, the lead pair encountered lapped traffic. Ackerman remained committed to the low groove while Neal tried to stay close on the top side. Neal inched ahead on lap 17 for the lead, however Ackerman powered back on the low side two laps later to take command once again.

Ackerman slowly inched ahead of Neal until the field encountered heavier lapped traffic over the final handful of laps. Ackerman held a three car-length advantage over Neal until the lead pair entered the final set of turns on the final lap. A handful of backmarkers were slowly running the low groove as they were held up by Lerch, who suffered a flat tire late in the event.

The bottle-up in front of him forced Ackerman to hit the brakes, however he did not have time to clear the traffic. His #53 launched onto the front end of the lapped car of Drew Johnson, leaving both of them stopped on the low side of the final turn. Neal drove past the pile-up and onto the checkered flag to score the win, his third of the season. Passick, Martin, Travis Smock and Darin Burco completed the top five.

Rod Grother held the early lead in the 20-lap I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature. He paced the field until Justin Temeyer worked past him on lap seven, one lap before the race's only caution flag waved. By the time the yellow came out, Brian Irvine worked his way into third place after starting from row five. When racing resumed, Irvine quickly made his way around Norman Chesmore and then entered a memorable battle out front with Temeyer over the final 11 laps.

Irvine chased the leader until turn four on the final lap when he drove in hard and leaned on Temeyer, allowing Irvine to take the advantage coming out of the corner. Irvine edged Temeyer at the checkers for his sixth win of the year. Temeyer, Dan Trimble, Chesmore and Jarod Weepie completed the top five. The Stock Car points, which were close entering the night, tightened up even more following the evening's feature. Irvine now sits atop the standings, however the top five drivers are separated by a mere six points entering the final four weeks of the season.

The I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks went caution-free in their 15 lap event, taking right at five minutes to complete. Joe Sprague held the point until fellow row one starter Matt Burmeister took command on lap two. Burmeister held the point until Justin Lichty made his bid for the lead just prior to the midway point. Lichty made the pass in the first set of turns and led the field down the back straightaway on the seventh circuit. He led the remainder of the event to take his first win of the season ahead of points leader Josh Irvine, Marcus Wayne, Matt Brown and Quinton Miller.

Darin Duffy continued to dominate the I.M.C.A. Modified division, scoring his fifth win of the season and 10th top-4 finish in as many nights of racing. Jason Seegmiler paced the field for the first seven laps until a quartet of cautions slowed the event. Ronn Lauritzen made his way under Seegmiller to take charge two laps later. He led until Darin Duffy powered from a sixth row starting spot and into the lead on lap 13. Duffy walked away from the field to take the victory ahead of Lauritzen, Troy Cordes, Max Corporon and Jef Kriz.

Following a trio of cautions that littered the first half of the IM.C.A. SportMod feature, Chris Luloff worked around Ryan Englekes on the seventh lap en route to the win in the 15-lapper. The win was his third trip to victory lane this season. Josh Sherbon, Jake Strayer, Danny Dvorak and Joel Rust ran second through fifth, respectively.

The role of the spoiler
Terry Neal was making just his fifth appearance of the season on Saturday night. He is now 3-for-3 in weekly feature wins. He also scored the win in the Deery Brothers Summer Series visit back on July 1. He ran fifth at the Corn Belt Clash special two weeks later. Neal normally runs at Jackson County Speedway in Maquoketa on Saturday nights, however they did not run this weekend due to having a county fair special earlier in the week.

47 and holding
Entering the night, Mary Handberg held the longest active qualifying streak in the I.M.C.A. SportMods at 47 events. Dating back nearly four full seasons, Handberg last failed to qualify for a feature in Independence on August 27, 2005. She failed to make the August 1 feature after exiting early from her last chance race. Jim Buhlman now holds the longest qualifying streak at 41 consecutive events.

How appropriate...
Six laps into one of the Stock Car heat races, first-time visitor Kevin Hurst brought out the caution flag when his car sat idle in a cloud of smoke on the back straightaway. When the smoke cleared, it appeared as though he left more than just moisture on the track. In fact, his transmission fell out of the machine and onto the track. In a fitting tribute, it served as the appropriate time to give a plug to our race night sponsor... Iowa Transmission Rebuilders of Independence.

I see your point
I know I've given a lot of attention to the I.M.C.A. Stock Car points, but the division continues to amaze me. Just when you think the standings can't get any closer, they do just that. After 10 weeks of racing (up to 4 more nights remain), here's a preview of the top eight in the division's standings entering next week:
1. 26 Brian Irvine, 354
2. 3 Jarod Weepie, 353
3. 20 Dan Trimble, 350
4. 56T Justin Temeyer, 349
5. 7H Phil Holtz, 348
6. JR3 Jason Hokcen, 343
7. 15 Norman Chesmore, 342
8. 21 Shane Manson, 338