Sunday, May 31, 2009

Welsh wins first, Stanek goes back-to-back at Independence Motor Speedway

One hundred twenty-six drivers signed in to compete for the third night of weekly racing at Independence Motor Speedway. Twenty-five events were run in just under four hours as the final checkered flag waved at 10:25. One driver earned his first career win in his division while another picked up his second win in as many weeks.

In the I.M.C.A. Late Models, 24 cars were on-hand and Jill George looked to run and hide at the drop of the green in the 25-lap headliner. From her pole position start, George quickly shot into the lead and began to distance herself from fellow front row starter Scott Welsh.

George built up a straightaway lead by the time she entered heavy lapped traffic a dozen laps into the event. As she was making her way through the backmarkers, she collided with Jared Fuller's ride, who had spun in turns one and two and was sitting sideways when George entered the set of turns. The heavy impact left both drivers unable to continue, an unfortunate premature end to George's run.

The two-wide restart left Welsh on the pole alongside Brian Hunter. Travis Smock and Dale Hackwell Jr. completed row two. When racing resumed, Welsh quickly jumped into the lead while Smock shot to the inside of Hunter to snag second place.

Smock remained glued to Welsh's rear bumper as the leaders stayed committed to the low groove of the speedway. Smock's numerous attempts to gain the edge on the low side were denied as Welsh drove to his first-ever win in the division. Hunter and Hackwell completed the top four.

Justin Ginther held the early lead in the 15-lap I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock feature. Ginther paced the 22-car field while Joe Sprague challenged for the top spot. Contact between the two on the third lap sent both cars into a spin, ending both of their bids for the win.

On the restart, Jeremy Floyd and Josh Irvine inherited the front row. Floyd took charge and received pressure from Irvine until he spun two laps later ending his chances for his second win of the season. Justin Hanson, who started in the fifth row, worked his way into second by the fifth lap and motored around the outside of Floyd one lap later to assume command.

One lap after Hanson took the lead, Wes Stanek followed him to the front of the pack and into second place. Stanek ran second for a handful of laps before sweeping under Hanson for the lead with only three laps to go. He went on to take the win, his second in a row, ahead of a hard-charging Vince Buchholz and Justin Lichty.

Chris Luloff came from the fourth row to score the victory in the 15-lap I.M.C.A. SportMod main event. Following a lap one caution, Luloff made his way around Russell Hesse and Curt Hilmer on just the second lap to take the lead.

Kyle Bentley, meanwhile, charged through the field from a fifth row start and settled into second place on lap five. He pressured Luloff throughout the remainder of the event, trying both the high and low grooves. All of Bentley's attempts to draw even with the leader were unsuccessful until the pair navigated the final set of turns on the final lap. Bentley pulled along the outside of Luloff exiting turn four, but Luloff held the advantage by a few feet at the line to score the exciting win. Hilmer finished third and Scott Thomas, who started deep in the field in row 10, came home fourth.

Dan Trimble left little doubt he was the man to beat at the start of the 20-lap I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature. From his outside front row start, the multi-time track champion rocketed into the lead at the drop of the green and never looked back on his way to a wire-to-wire win in the caution-free event. Phil Holtz and Shane Manson ran second and third.

Don Erger held the early advantage in the I.M.C.A. Modified feature. In an event that was slowed numerous times for caution, the minute per lap time limit was enforced with Erger taking the win ahead of Max Corporon and Darin Duffy.

It was a good night of racing at Independence as the show was smooth and efficient, despite the dry and dusty conditions. Twenty and thirty mile per hour winds throughout the course of the day made it hard for the track crew to keep moisture in the speedway, however the smooth, fast surface was to the liking of most drivers.

It was also great to see long-time promoters Jerry and Donna Blue in attendance tonight. The Blues, who promoted the speedway throughout the '80s and '90s toured the pits throughout qualifying events to catch up with drivers prior to taking in the feature events from the infield.

In addition, over $1,500 was raised for cancer research on Cancer Awareness Night.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Faler, Whalen, Stewart win caution-free events at CJ Speedway

After many of the divisions had last week off due to the Sprint Invaders special, weekly racing resumed in all five divisions at CJ Speedway on Friday night.

The Hobby Stocks opened feature action with Billy Faler assuming the early lead from his pole position start. Hot on his heels, however, were Bryar Keltnerand Lane Kauffman. The trio engaged in an enetertaining three-car battle througho ut much of the event.

Faler's pursuers tried to pull even with the race leader numerous times, however neither one was able to take away the top spot, allowing Faler to lead the event in its entirety on his way to the win. Kauffman worked under Keltner with only two laps remaining to finish second.

In Mod Lite action, Jason Masengarb jumped into the lead at the drop of the green flag. Working the high side, Justin Buchholz made his way around Daniel Keltner for second on the second lap and into the lead one lap later.

A trio of cautions throughout the first half of the event kept the field close, however Buchholz and Masengarb put a comfortable distance between themselves and the rest of the field as the second half of the event ran caution-free.

Continuing to run the high side, Buchholz held off all of Masengarb's challenges until the leaders entered lapped traffic with only two laps to go. This allowed Masengarb to sneak underneath for the lead as he drove to the victory ahead of Buchholz. Robert Guss, Darrin Norton and Gary Rossell completed the top five.

Tyler Whalen took the lead early in the 10-lap Four Cylinder feature. He quickly extended his lead and held an advantage of half of a straightaway just prior to the midway point of the event.

As Whalen led, Wayne Noble was maneuvering through traffic from a fourth row start. Sneaking under the low side of his competitors, Noble secured second place on lap six. He cut into Whalen's advantage as the leader navigated through lapped traffic, however he wasn't able to make up enough ground, allowing Whalen to lead the caution-free event in its entirety. Following Whalen and Noble to the line were Jordan Tipps, Ryan Walker and John Whalen.

In Modified action, Daniel Brockert shot into the lead at the drop of the green from his outside front row starting position. Brockert's stay out front was short-lived, however, as Steve Stewart worked under the leader one lap later.

Stewart continued to pace the field while Bruce Hanford settled into second on the third lap. Although the leaders encountered lapped traffic on just the fifth circuit, they extended their advantage over the field to a full straightaway by lap eight.

Stewart was able to pull away from Hanford by six car-lengths as the backmarkers held Hanford back. Stewart drove to the win ahead of Hanford and Brockert, who over a straightaway behind the leaders when the checkers flew. Alex Buffington and Larry Herring rounded out the top five.

The I.M.C.A. Stock Cars closed the evening with an exciting 12-lap feature. Darrin Ealy jumped into the lead early and found himself half of a straightaway ahead of his nearest pursuer by lap five, despite a lap two caution.

Working the low groove, Tad Payne made his way into second place on the third lap after starting in the fifth row. Slowly gaining ground on Ealy, Payne was able to erase the deficit entirely with the help of a lap nine caution.

On the restart, Ealy stayed committed to the high groove as Payne worked low. Another pair of cautions slowed the event with Ealy holding the edge each time. On the final restart, Trent Vrchoticky entered the mix at the front of the pack as he was glued to the tires on the low groove. Pulling even with Payne as the white flag displayed, the pair battled each other as Ealy drove to the win, his first-ever in the I.M.C.A. Stock Car division. Payne held onto second ahead of Vrchoticky. David Hemsted and Randy Phillips ran fourth and fifth.

There were a few more cars tonight than the previous points night and the show was done an hour earlier than opening night. In addition, the hard work Don and Sharon Wood and Brian and Amanda Tipps have put into the racing surface is definitely paying off as it has been smoother and smoother each passing week.

While there was a delay midway through the event to add water to the dry surface, the post-intermission features were run in impressive fashion. Three of the five events ran without a single caution and all five feature events were completed in 75 minutes.

Another side note about CJ is the quick manner in which they distribute purse money. Checks are written almost immediately following the completion of each feature event in the scoring tower and they are handed out almost by the time the next feature on the track sees checkers.

While the Hobby Stock car count was low tonight with only five cars in attendance, I understand other drivers were in the stands and they indicated they planned to support the speedway on the track in coming weeks. Car counts of 16 Mod Lites, 18 Four Cylinders, 12 Modifieds and 21 Stock Cars brought the total to 72 on the evening.

Thanks to announcer Gene Arnold and promoter Amanda Tipps for allowing me to watch the races from the tower and thanks to Gene for the special plug for

Tomorrow night it looks like the weather should be great for weekly racing at Independence Motor Speedway.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Stein, Murty among winners on exciting night at Benton County Speedway

Being a Vinton, Iowa, native, it was great to head home to take in the action at Benton County Speedway on Sunday night. A packed grandstand and a pit area loaded with 115 cars made for a fantastic night at the fairgrounds. My first trip to Vinton this season, it was the latest "first visit of the year" to my hometown track since it re-opened some 20 years ago.

The first feature out of the gate was for the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks during which Jason Stringer took the early lead from his pole position start. With Stringer out front, Bill Bonnett and points leader Scott Pippert quickly worked through traffic from respective fifth and sixth row starting positions. By the time the field completed the third lap, both drivers found themselves in the top three, a couple of car-lengths behind Stringer.

Working the high side, Pippert pulled even with Bonnett the fifth time around the fast, smooth 1/4-mile oval. He swept around both Bonnett and Stringer by the time the field completed lap six.

By the ninth lap, Pippert pulled ahead of his nearest followers by half of a straightaway before entering lapped traffic one lap later. While dodging the backmarkers, Pippert extended his lead to a full straightaway by the time the checkers flew. The points leader drove to the impressive victory ahead of Bonnett, who currently sits second in the standings. Vince Buchholz came home in third followed by Stringer.

Fourth row starter Brad Chandler snagged the lead of the 12-lap I.M.C.A. Sport Compact feature after only three laps. Nathan Chandler, who started right behind him, ran the high groove and followed him into second.

The leaders pulled away from the field and made it a two-car race midway through the event. Staying committed to the high groove, Nathan Chandler made his bid for the lead following a lap six caution. He went untouched over the final half of the event to score the victory. A straightaway behind when the checkers flew, Bill Whalen crossed the line in third. Gary Peiffer and Justin Wacha completed the top five.

Ryan Coleman led the early stages of the 15-lap I.M.C.A. SportMod feature. Starting in the front row, Coleman held a comfortable early advantage until a pair of slower cars impeded his progress just four laps into the event.

Danny Dvorak and Kurt Hogan, who both started the event from row three, quickly closed the gap. With Dvorak running high and Hogan low, the three front-runners engaged in a brief wheel-to-wheel battle before Hogan spun in turn four to bring out the caution.

When racing resumed, Dvorak went back to work on the high side and made a pass for the lead one lap later. He built his lead to half of a straightaway as Chris Luloff, Kyle Bentley and Rod McDonald made their way to the front of the pack in an exciting five-car battle with Coleman and Kyle Olson.

Luloff settled into second just past the midway point and attempted to run down the race leader. With lapped cars and a straightaway margin ahead of him, Luloff settled for second as Dvorak drove to the win, his second in as many nights. Bentley finished third ahead of McDonald and points leader Austin Kaplan.

A photo finish thrilled the crowd in the I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature, but first it was Steve Meyer who made the move of the night at the start of the 15-lap event. From his fourth row start, Meyer shot to the inside of his competitors when the green flag waved, cruising into second place by the completion of the first lap. He assumed the lead one lap later, just prior to the race's first caution.

On the restart, Meyer held his line at the bottom of the speedway while Jason DeShaw tried to nose under him. DeShaw's efforts were denied as Meyer mastered the low groove. As the leaders battled, Damon Murty was making his way through traffic after starting 10th. He settled into second after a lap six caution slowed the race one final time.

When racing resumed, Meyer continued to hug the tires on the low side with Murty glued to his rear bumper. Numerous attempts by Murty to edge under Meyer's No. 94 were unsuccessful as the lead pair pulled away from the field by a near-straightaway margin.

On the final lap, Murty attempted one last time to stick his No. 99D under the left rear of Meyer. He was able to make the move stick as he pulled even with the leader as they navigated turns three and four.

Side-by-side at the checkers, Murty edged ahead at the line to steal the win by mere inches. DeShaw held onto third ahead of Bob Ahrendsen and Justin Temeyer.

While numerous caution periods generally take away from the excitement of any race, that wasn't the case in the 20-lap I.M.C.A. Modified feature. At the drop of the green, Chris Stein took command and paced the field for the first five circuits until a series of stoppages slowed the event.

When the field got settled, Stein maintained his position out front while Scott Hogan and Troy Cordes made their way through traffic. With Hogan running high and Cordes on the low side, both drivers worked into the top three just prior to the midway point.

Cordes worked under Hogan, who saw the top groove go away, on lap 10. Cordes tried to stick his nose under Stein's machine, but could not pull even with the leader, allowing Stein to drive to the win. A front-runner at both Davenport Speedway and Jackson County Speedway in Maquoketa, it was Stein's first win at the speedway in his second visit.

Cordes and Brian Krall completed the top three. Shawn Fisher, who made an impressive run late, came home fourth. Hogan was fifth.

The team of Steggall and Lewis led wire-to-wire to take the victory in the Cruiser feature.

As always, it was a great night of racing at BCS. Despite the struggles the Modifieds had early, 26 events were completed in just under four hours as the final checkered flag waved at 9:45.

Thanks to announcers Jim Roper and Bucky Doren for allowing me to join them in the new scoring/announcing tower in the infield. Special thanks go out to Jim for giving me a little air time on the mic to promote!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Dvorak, Irvine, Duffy, Stanek, Stolte take Indee checkers

Following two straight rainouts, we were finally able to get the second show of the season in at Independence Motor Speedway. A great field of cars was on-hand as 124 drivers signed in to compete.

The I.M.C.A. SportMods were up first as 26 drivers signed in to compete in that division. At the start of the scheduled 15-lapper, pole-sitter Danny Dvorak took charge. He quickly pulled away from the pack while Chris Luloff and Joel Rust battled behind him for second.

Luloff won the fight for the runner-up spot, but he could not catch Dvorak as Dvorak survived a handful of cautions to win the time-shortened event.

The I.M.C.A. Stock Cars had, hands down, the most exciting race of the night. Nineteen cars took the green flag in the 20-lapper with pole-sitter Justin Temeyer taking control early. Kevin Rose settled into second on the second lap after starting one row behind Temeyer.

While the leaders battled, Brian Irvine was making his way through the field from a sixth row start. Irvine worked his way into the top five after only five laps and then made his way into the top three by lap eight to set up an exciting race at the front of the pack.

Irvine challenged the lead pair in an exciting three-wide battle at the midway point of the event. He edged around Temeyer on lap 10 only to have Rose follow suit. Rose then worked the low groove of the speedway as the lead pair ran side-by-side for a handful of laps until the caution flag slowed the action on lap 13.

On the restart, Irvine continued to fend off the challenges of Rose while Temeyer was receiving pressure from Mike Mauer for third. Irvine held on to score the exciting win ahead of Rose while Mauer made a late run on Temeyer to steal third place honors.

If not for a handful of cautions that led to a time-shortened event, the I.M.C.A. Modifieds may have challenged the stock cars for the most exciting event of the night. Jimmy Gustin took the early lead from his pole position start as Darin Duffy and Troy Cordes worked from fifth and sixth row starts, respectively.

While Duffy and Cordes worked through traffic, Ronn Lauritzen was pressuring Gustin at the front of the pack. With the leaders battling, Duffy worked his way into contention on the eighth lap while Cordes ran fifth as the field was slowed for caution a couple of times in the early going.

By the time the caution flag waved for a fourth time on lap eight, Gustin remained out front with Lauritzen second, Duffy third and Cordes fourth. The time limit expired under the caution period, setting up one final chance to end the race under green.

When racing resumed, Duffy went to work on the high side and quickly disposed of Lauritzen. He then moved alongside of Gustin for the lead as the field completed lap 11. Duffy inched ahead of Gustin at the line just before the caution flag waved a final time, ending the event. Gustin was scored second and Cordes made his way around Lauritzen for third.

In the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock division, the yellow flag ruled early, as well. After taking the lead from Joe Sprague on the second lap, Wes Stanek Jr. held the point through a handful of stoppages in the 15-lapper.

Staying committed to the low side, Stanek led the remainder of the race, holding off Don Arnold to take the win. Vince Buchholz made a late race pass on Quinton Miller to take third,

The I.M.C.A. Late Models lined up using the draw/redraw format throughout the night, as dictated by I.M.C.A. rules. Late Models use this format for the first two points races of the season. Dale Stolte took advantage of his pole position redraw for the 25-lapper to score the wire-to-wire win.

Fellow front row starter Tyler Bruening pressured Stolte early and late, but was never able to mount a serious challenge as Stolte was just too fast off the corners. Travis Smock came from the fourth row to take third and, Rick Wendling, who was substituting in Jill George's No. D1, fnished fourth.

Overall, it was a great night of racing. Track conditions were much improved from those on opening night. It was a very slick track on Saturday night which made it difficult for the drivers to navigate at times, however it was incredibly smooth and fast. There were some delays in realignments under caution, which will hopefully be worked out in the near future.

Due to the desire to finish the show in a more timely manner than opening night, two-wide restarts were scrapped in place of single file restarts for the features. Time will tell, but this may actually be the way to go for the duration of the season.

One quick note, the framework for the grandstands has been constructed and is now in place at the speedway. The project will hopefully be completed in the next couple of weeks. If you haven't been to Independence yet this season, you will definitely want to stop by and check out the new grandstands. I don't think there will be a bad seat in the house.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rogerson wins Sprint Invaders stop at CJ Speedway

The weather finally cooperated on a Friday night in southeast Iowa as CJ Speedway managed to get its second race in the books for the 2009 season. Prior to Friday night's Sprint Invader special, the only complete show the speedway has seen this year was the season opener earlier this month.

The Sprint Invaders were joined by the Mod Lites and 4 Cylnders to kick off the Memorial Day holiday weekend on the 4/10-mile oval.

Twenty-three Sprints signed in to compete for the second series event of the season. Following three qualifying heat races in which the top two from each event earned a starting position in the six-lap Shake-Up Pole Dash, Ben Wagoner earned his first-ever pole position start in series competition by virtue of the Dash win.

Wagoner started the Dash outside of the first row and walked away from the field to score the victory. Following the event, he rolled the dice, literally, on the front straightaway to determine his starting spot in the 20-lap A-Main. Rolling a "one," Wagoner preserved his pole start for the feature.

At the start of the 20-lapper, Wagoner assumed command, chased by Dash runner-up finisher Matt Rogerson and Bobby Mincer. Only a couple of laps into the event, series points leader Kaley Gharst went for a wild ride down the back straightaway, rolling his No. 14P numerous times to bring out the red.

When racing resumed, Rogerson dove to the inside of the race leader to take over the lead. Rogerson led the field into lapped traffic just five laps later as he built his lead to half of a straightaway.

Methodically working his way through the backmarkers, Rogerson extended his advantage to a straightaway margin just past the midway point. Rogerson then cruised to the victory in impressive fashion.

Starting toward the back of the pack, Joey Mohahn made an impressive run through the field to nip Wagoner at the line for second.

In the 12-lap Mod Lite feature, pole-sitter Darrin Norton held the early advantage. His time out front was limited, however, as Justin Buchholz dove to the inside of him for the lead following a lap one restart.

The pair battled for the lead throughout a quartet of early cautions before Buchholz pulled away to the impressive win. Norton ran second, a dozen car-lengths behind the race winner, and Todd Hansen came home third.

A missed shift couldn't slow down T.J. Garrison as he scored the victory in the 4-Cylinder feature. A trio of cautions in the early stages of the 12-lap event kept the field close together and made for a good battle between Garrison and Wayne Noble. Garrison held the point following a lap three restart, however he missed a shift when racing resumed, allowing a half-dozen cars to pass him before getting back up to speed.

Garrison quickly rebounded and worked his way back into second, behind Noble, after only one circuit. Working the low groove, Garrison made his way past Noble two laps later en route to the win. Noble and Travis Yakle completed the top three.

Although this was only my second-ever visit to the speedway (both this season), I've heard nothing but good things about the time and effort the new promoters have put into the facility in Columbus Junction, not to mention the money that has gone into improvements. Don and Sharon Wood and Brian and Amanda Tipps have done a remarkable job thus far and have dedicated themselves to their duties as promoters.

While you hear of some tracks that simply "put on races," the folks at CJ are definitely into the promoting business as evidenced by their desire to get kids involved in the fun at the speedway. Last night, for instance, the Lil' Racer Car Club had a number of activities for the young race fans to enjoy. Along with being offered free rides around the track before the races with the 4 Cylinder drivers, gunny sack races were held during intermission and free ice cream was available in the concession area.

Last night's events did run a little long due to the time taken to water in attempt to keep the dust down on the dry surface. A couple of wild flips in the Sprint races also slowed down the show a little bit, however that tends to happen when the cars are going at speeds they were seeing last night. Despite those delays, I'm certain things will come together a little more smoothly as the season continues on. One positive note, the track, aside from being dry, was in excellent shape.

It was also nice to chat with I.M.C.A. Stock Car driver Travis Finke, who was in attendance last night. Since the Stock Cars had the night off, Travis was watching from the grandstands with family and friends. He also had a lot of good things to say about the speedway under the direction of the new promoters. There was some excitement in his voice as we talked about the potential of his hometown track.

Tonight, weather permitting, we hope to be back in action at Independence Motor Speedway after two weeks off. As I write this blog at home in Waterloo, a pretty decent rain shower just passed through the area. I did, however, receive a message from promoter Cam Granger who said the track (20 miles due east of Waterloo) has yet to see any rainfall today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Elston victorious in Deery Series thriller at Highway 3 Raceway

I think it's safe to assume that the list of drivers who have passed Jeff Aikey for the lead in a Late Model feature is a very short one. Tommy Elston not only assured himself a place on that list, but he passed the all-time career wins leader in the Deery Brothers Summer Series for I.M.C.A. Late Models twice on his way to victory lane in a series classic on May 20 at Highway 3 Raceway in Allison, Iowa.

Thirty-five I.M.C.A. Late Models signed in to compete on the 1/2-mile oval, along with 44 drivers in the other four divisions competing in the first race held at the Butler County Fairgrounds in 2009.

Throughout the day, wind speeds of 30mph and stronger kept the track prep crew busy watering the track with the hope of keeping the dust down. Unfortunately, the winds blew throughout the night, although they did calm quite a bit once the sun went down. As it turned out, the winds came from the south, directly toward the grandstands. Although this unpreventable situation created less than ideal conditions for those in attendance, the action on the track more than made up for it.

Front row starters T.J. Criss and Joe Zrostlik exchanged the lead for the first three laps of the 35-lap Late Model headliner while Aikey went to work on the high side of the speedway from his second row start. Aikey swept around Zrostlik in turn two on the fourth lap to assume command.

While Aikey paced the field, Elston followed him to the front of the pack from his third row start. Running the low groove, Elston settled into second on lap six as he and Aikey gained half of a straightaway lead on the field when the yellow flag waved on lap eight.

After racing resumed, Elston shot to the inside of Aikey to take control for the first time in the event on the very next lap. Immediately, the duo again to put distance on the rest of the field while Rob Toland was making his way through traffic from a fifth row starting spot.

Elston and Aikey continued to battle side-by-side with Elston holding the advantage each time around the speedway until Aikey nosed in front at the completion of the 15th circuit. By this time, Toland made his way into fourth chasing down Criss.

Aikey began to extend his lead over Elston when the leaders encountered lapped traffic two laps later. He put a straightaway distance on the rest of the field as he navigated through the backmarkers. It was also on lap 17 when Toland worked past Criss for third and Ray Guss, who qualified for the feature by winning a B feature, settled into the top five.

A dozen car-lengths out front, Aikey's lead vanished on lap 21 when the caution flag waved for Darrel DeFrance's No. 99D which was stranded on the high side of turns three and four.

As the race returned to green, Aikey held his ground out front while Toland moved to the inside of Elston for a brief two-car battle for second. Guss entered the mix as he made his way into the top four.

Elston then pulled away from Toland, leaving him to do battle with Guss as he attempted to chase down Aikey once more. With the lead pair remaining unchanged, Guss made his way around Toland just prior to a lap 25 caution.

On the ensuing restart, Elston went to work on the high side of the speedway and inched ahead of Aikey one lap later when the caution flag waved again, this time for Jason Frankel. Frankel, who won the other B feature earlier in the evening, started the event from the seventh row, and was charging through the pack and into the top five when he entered the first set of turns too hard and spun his No. 0F.

Elston paced the field to the green flag with only nine laps remaining as Guss worked the low side of Aikey for second. He snagged the position just prior to the race's final caution flag on lap 29.

When racing resumed for the final time, Elston ran high and Guss tried to make a move on the low side of him. Despite pulling even with Elston a couple of times, Guss could not make it stick as Elston drove to the win by a couple of car-lengths. Aikey crossed the line in third. Terry Neal quietly made a late run to take fourth ahead of Toland.

One interesting note about tonight's field, series points leader Mark Burgtorf was not in attendance. Robby Warner, who entered the night 10th in series points, was the only other driver in the top 10 in the standings not to compete.

Also, a caution during B feature competition caused a brief delay as Jill George, the driver of the No. D1, was involved in a multi-car caution. After a few minutes of tending to her, Jill was able to walk to the ambulance under her own power, however she did not return to competition this evening. We're all hoping for a quick recovery, Jill!

Feature Results (starting positions in parentheses)
1. Tommy Elston (5)
2. Ray Guss Jr. (14)
3. Jeff Aikey (4)
4. Terry Neal (7)
5. Rob Toland (9)
6. Boone McLaughlin (6)
7. Jay Johnson (12)
8. T.J. Criss (2)
9. Darren Ackerman (15)
10. Jason Frankel (13)
11. Tyler Bruening (3)
12. Al Johnson (20)
13. Charlie McKenna (23)
14. Travis Smock (16)
15. Joe Zrostlik (1)
16. Bryan Klein (19)
17. Greg Kastli (21)
18. Bobby Hansen (24)
19. Tom Darbyshire (17)
20. Gary Webb (8)
21. Darrel DeFrance (11)
22. Justin Kay (22)
23. Dale Hackwell Jr. (18)
24. Matt Strassheim (10)

Jill George
Ryan Giles
Luke Goedert
Sam Halstead
Jon Merfeld
Luke Pestka
Rob Petsche
Leon Thomsen
Carey Umbarger
Kyle Wahlert
Paul Watters

In other action, pole-sitter Shane Barnett held the early advantage in the 12-lap Hobby Stock feature. Running the high side, Barnett fended off the challenges of Chris Hovden's attack from the low groove.

Barnett held the point until racing resumed following a mid-race caution. At that time, Hovden rocketed beneath the race leader to take command. Hovden extended his lead over the next few laps, however Barnett closed the gap in the waning moments.

By a car-length at the line, Hovden held off Barnett's late charge to score the win. Brandon Harris motored from a fourth row start to take third.

Austin Curtin led wire-to-wire in the 10-lap Stock Car main event. A relatively easy win, Curtin held a 10 car-length advantage over Arlen Hoy when the checkers waved. Jake Ludeking ran third.

Another flag-to-flag winner, Irv Fosaaen coasted to victory in the Hornet feature by a straightaway margin ahead of Ricky Kay. Bill Whalen crossed the line in third.

Dan Farrell was the winner in the 12-lap B Modified feature. Farrell withstood the efforts of Curtis Engen to take home top honors. Kaleb Bentley made an impressive run from a fifth row start to finish third.

Overall, it was a good night of racing at H3R. In every previous visit to the speedway, I watched the events unfold from the crow's nest announcing the races. It was a nice change of pace to view from the grandstands despite the dusty conditions. While many tracks have struggled with track conditions for their season openers this year, the crew at H3R prepared a very racy surface for its opener.

One concern that I did have (and always have when it comes to mid-week shows) was the fact that five divisions were scheduled to compete. Generally, two or, at most, three divisions is plenty for a mid-week show. I believe tonight's car count was a testament to that belief. While the racing was good in all five divisions, having that many classes of cars wasn't really necessary. Granted, the final checkered flag waved at 10:25 after the 7 o'clock start, however the six stock cars and nine hornets may have only delayed the event. When you schedule a special event during the week, chances are high that you'll have many visitors who travel long distances. Getting everyone out of the gate by 10pm is always a good rule of thumb to go by when you're racing during the week.

One other housekeeping note concerned the lack of driver information. The first heat race was completed before the drivers' names were made available to the announcer. For the fans in attendance, it's always good to know who you're watching. For drivers and fans of those specific drivers, it's also always nice to hear your name over the loud-speaker. Although I'm familiar with many drivers from the area, a few names were new to me. Some were also difficult to decipher over the PA so I apologize if any are listed incorrectly in tonight's recap.

Slated for a half-dozen specials this season, there is no weekly racing scheduled for the fast 1/2-mile, however the USMTS will be making a visit in the near future, as will the Corn Belt Clash for Late Models (formerly the Indee Open Series). The Deery Series is also scheduled to make a return visit later this summer.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Foster, Hetrick grab wins at 34 Raceway

After three inches of rain at the end of the week, who knew the water truck would be every race fan's best friend Saturday night at 34 Raceway? I suppose when there's a frost warning in mid-May, anything's possible.

Following an unexpected 30-minute delay to start the show to water the track, 130 drivers attempted to qualify in the five racing divisions. On-hand were 21 I.M.C.A. Late Models, 36 I.M.C.A. Modifieds, 29 I.M.C.A. Stock Cars, 28 Hobby Stocks and 16 305 Sprints. A number of drivers were making their first visit to the speedway this season, if not their careers, as some tracks were unable to survive the spring showers and cold temperatures. A handful of Modified drivers and Stock Car driver Brian Irvine made the haul down from Independence as a result of the cancellation two hours north.

First to the track for feature action were the I.M.C.A. Modifieds. From his outside front row start, Beau Tayler assumed the early command of the 20-lap event as Rich Smith and Dennis Laveine gave chase.

Working the low groove, Smith made his way around Tayler and into the lead on lap five as Brandon Rothzen motored into third. Only three laps later, Rothzen ran down Tayler to settle into second and set his sights on Smith who, by this time, extended his lead to nearly a straightaway.

By the time the caution flag waved on lap 10, Tayler fell out of contention and Josh Foster entered the top three after starting the event from the sixth row. When racing resumed, Smith went to work on the high side as Rothzen challenged low. Foster swapped between the two grooves in search of the faster line before he shot between the leaders to take command as they completed lap 17.

Foster went on to take the victory ahead of Smith. Tyler Cale and Darin Duffy raced through traffic to score third and fourth, respectively. Rothzen spun in the final set of turns to finish toward the back of the pack.

Kevin Hetrick led all 20 laps of the 305 Sprint feature to score the win, however it was a lot more work than it might indicate on paper. Hetrick received early pressure from Dave Anderson while Jayson Ditsworth and Bobby Mincer battled behind them.

Mincer and Ditsworth made their way around Anderson just past the midway point of the event as Hetrick held onto the lead. With Hetrick running the low groove and his two followers each running a groove higher, the lead trio pulled away from the rest of the field and engaged in a thrilling three-car battle until a lap 14 mishap. On that circuit, Mincer got loose exiting turn four, collecting Ditsworth in the process to bring out the caution.

With Mincer in the pits with a flat tire and Ditsworth relegated to the back of the pack for the ensuing restart, Hetrick walked away from the field when racing resumed to take the win ahead of a late charging John Draper and Anderson.

In I.M.C.A. Stock Car action, Rod Staats took advantage of his outside front row starting position to assume the early command. He paced the field for the first handful of laps while Chris Webb worked into a battle for the top spot on the fifth lap of the 20-lapper.

Following a restart on lap five, Webb shot to the inside of Staats as the two engaged in a side-by-side battle at the front of the pack. Webb took control on lap eight as Abe Huls was maneuvering through traffic from a fifth row start.

Staying committed to to low side of the speedway, Huls worked his way into third on lap eight and then into a challenge for the lead three laps later when he pulled to the inside of the front-runners and into the lead.

Huls survived a trio of caution periods to pick up the win ahead of Webb and Chris Larson.

A blown motor earlier this season may have hurt Mark Burgtorf in the I.M.C.A. Late Model standings, however his low point average landed him on the pole of both his heat and feature events.

After walking away from the field in his heat, Burgtorf more than matched that feat in the 25-lap feature as he lapped over half of the field en route to the win. Burgtorf encountered his first backmarker on the 10th lap and left his competitors in his dust as he walked away from the field.

Matt Strassheim and Jason Frankel battled each other through lapped traffic for second. Frankel made his way around Strassheim on the 14th circuit, but could not catch Burgtorf on his charge to the checkers. Strassheim finished third.

Victor Hastings paced the field throughout the early stages of the 15-lap Hobby Stock feature. A flat tire on lap six forced him to vacate the lead, handing it over to last week's feature winner, Ray Raker.

Running the high groove, Raker held a small advantage over the field as Jim Lynch and Dan Wenig made it a three-car battle at the front late in the event. The trio ran three-wide as they led the field to the white flag with Lynch splitting between his two competitors to hold the advantage at the line.

Raker made a strong bid on the final lap as he charged from the low groove out of the final set of turns. His attempt to regain the lead came up short at the line as Lynch rode the high side to victory. Wenig finished third.

The track officials did their best to move the show along as smoothly as possible, given the conditions they were working with tonight. Although the final checkered flag waved at 12:01 a.m., a big hand goes out to the crew at 34 for even being able to make a go of it tonight.

It was also nice to meet Sue McDaniel, Webmaster for We had a nice chat during the Modified B feature before she had to get back to work in the pits. Coincidentally, great run for her husband, Bert, who started the Stock Car feature 14th and finished fifth.

Next up for me is the Deery Brothers Summer Series for I.M.C.A. Late Models this Wednesday, May 20, at Highway 3 Raceway in Allison. Hopefully, Mother Nature will at least take a break for a mid-week special.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Independence canceled, return to 34 the plan

Another Saturday means another bout with Mother Nature as the races have been canceled for the second straight week at Independence Motor Speedway.

Said promoter Cam Granger, "The lack of proper drying conditions has put us in a position to call tonight's races. We wanted the opportunity to provide drivers and fans with a smooth racing surface following the difficulties we experienced on opening night. Unfortunately, Mother Nature is working against us to offer that so we are regretfully cancelling tonight's program."

Unfortunately, it isn't only the racing surface that has suffered as the grandstand/concession area is also momentarily out of commission. New grandstands are scheduled to be constructed by the end of the month and the rainfall in recent days on top of the excavation already completed has left that area of the fairgrounds less than adequate for use.

Some have questioned the call to cancel tonight's show, however Cam has expressed a genuine desire to keep the interests of both drivers and fans a priority. It was felt that forcing tonight's show to go on as scheduled would not be the correct decision. Thank you to Cam for putting the interests of those individuals at the top of the list and for taking the time to promote the speedway in a proper manner rather than forcing the show at what could be the expense of those individuals involved.

Tonight's cancellation follows a number of rain outs from Friday night. I planned to return to CJ Speedway for their second night of weekly racing, however it, along with every other track in the area, fell to rain.

I'm off to 34 Raceway again tonight for what is bound to be another great night of racing. After the late models and sprints had last Saturday off, I'm looking forward to their return. After three inches of rain in the Burlington area yesterday, the track should be tacky, fast and provide quite a show for those in attendance.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Excellent racing on Hall of Fame Night at 34 Raceway

A great night of racing at 34 Raceway made the trip to southeast Iowa worthwhile on a cool, spring night. Although the 305 Sprints and I.M.C.A. Late Models had the night off, the 96 I.M.C.A. Modifieds, I.M.C.A. Stock Cars, Hobby Stocks and 4-Cylinders on-hand provided a ton of action on the 3/8-mile oval. In addition, it was induction night for five individuals who entered the 34 Raceway Hall of Fame.

On display near the concession area were photos, points sheets, news clippings and advertisements dating back to the track's first season of operation, 1966. Three modifieds from the 1960s were also on display. The old rides of #11 Ron Jackson, #36 Bob Lane (the Schlitz Wagon) and #96 Bob Ensminger entertained as they made a few laps for the fans in attendance.

Prior to feature action, the 2009 Hall of Fame ceremony celebrated this year's five inductees. Newly enshrined members included original 34 Race Ways Park property owner Don Gugler and Rich Jackson, another of the original owners of the speedway. Car builder Robert Allender entered the Hall of Fame with the distinction of being the builder of the first car to grace 34 Race Ways Park's victory lane back in 1966 when Dick McClure was the first to carry a checkered flag at the speedway. Bud Bell, who took care of the racing surface for many years and long-time racer George Rogerson rounded out this year's inductees.

The I.M.C.A. Stock Cars started feature competition with a wildly entertaining event. At the on-set, outside front row starter Travis Finke set the pace. Running the high groove, Finke ran out front as Brett Timmerman and Greg Johnson battled behind him. Entering the mix only a handful of laps into the event were Bo Hunter and John Oliver.

The leaders ran nose-to-tail and wheel-to-wheel until the race's first caution flag waved at the midway point of the 20-lapper when Oliver made contact with Timmerman’s ride. This left Timmerman at the back of the pack for the ensuing restart and gave Oliver a free ride to the pits for the intentional spin.

On the restart, Finke continued to run the top side of the speedway while Hunter ran second. By this time, Jeff Mueller worked his way into the top three and challenged for second. He remained close until mechanical problems sidelined him two laps later when the yellow flag waved again.

Finke remained committed to the high groove when racing resumed, as Hunter ran one groove lower and Jason Cook entered the top three. The leaders ran three-wide as the field completed lap 13 with Cook taking the edge at the start-finish line.

Making an impressive charge through the field was sixth row starter Chris Larson. Running the low groove, Larson maneuvered his way through traffic and into the top three with only four laps remaining.

Larson then went to the high groove to try to chase down Cook as the white flag was displayed. Pulling onto Cook’s rear bumper entering turns one and two, Larson drifted high and slid off the top side of the speedway. This allowed Cook to drive away to the win ahead of Finke and Johnson.

In I.M.C.A. Modified action, Brandon Rothzen shot out to the early lead from his pole position start. Rothzen quickly extended his lead to a straightaway margin while Adam Birck, Jeff Waterman and Michael Long battled for second.

Rothzen’s big lead disappeared on lap seven when he was caught up in a wreck with lapped traffic, bringing an unfortunate early end to his night. Just prior to the caution period, Waterman made his way into second so, with Rothzen out of commission, he took over the top spot when racing resumed.

Waterman paced the field when the green flag replaced the yellow as Bill Roberts worked his way through traffic from a fourth row start and into second place by lap seven. Waterman, Roberts and Long pulled away from the field in an exciting three-car battle until Birck brought out the yellow flag on lap 13 when he slid off the high side of turns one and two.

Unfortunately for the hard-charging Roberts, he lost his air breather off of the #5R and elected to take his ride to the pits for the night as the race went yellow. Waterman continued to lead Long when the race went back to green as Scott Hogan, who started 16th, made his way into the top three.

Waterman led the remaining seven circuits to score the win ahead of Long. Josh Foster finished third ahead of Hogan, who was able to pilot the #33D over the final handful of laps despite the right front tire going flat.

Ray Raker led the 15-lap Hobby Stock feature wire-to-wire to score the win ahead of Rob Wilsey. Running the high side, Raker was able to hold off Wilsey’s challenges from the low groove to secure the win at the line. Dan Wenig made a strong run from the 11th starting position to finish third.

Wayne Nobel took the lead on the third lap of the 4-Cylinder feature to take the win in the 12-lapper. Dakota Fenton edged Chuck Fullenkamp at the line to steal second.

Making his debut tonight was 14-year old Dugan Thye, the son of racing veteran Darin Thye. On the first lap of his first night behind the wheel of the #11J Hobby Stock, Thye made contact with the front stretch wall, sending him on a wild, two-wheel ride before finally coming to rest upside down on the front straightaway. After a few tense moments, Thye emerged from the machine with a smile on his face. Not to let the moment get the best of him, Thye not only started the feature later in the evening, but took the checkers to score a 19th place finish in his first night out. Very impressive run, Dugan!

Tonight’s show started promptly at 7pm as it always does at Burlington and, even considering the special Hall of Fame ceremonies at intermission and Thye’s wild initiation into the sport, the show concluded just before 10pm. Thanks to the crew at 34 for another great night of racing!

Change of Saturday plans

Mother Nature has spoken once again as rainfall overnight has forced officials to cancel tonight's racing program at Independence Motor Speedway. I guess it's time to load up the car and head south to 34 Raceway in Burlington where I understand the air is cool, but the sun is shining. I'll have a full report later.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rain prevails on Friday

I pointed the car north this afternoon to make the trip to Fayette County Speedway in West Union. Running a weekly show for the first time in six or seven years, I was looking forward to what has always been exciting racing on the wide, fast, 3/8-mile oval. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas as the show was canceled late in the afternoon as I was 15 minutes out of Waterloo. Thanks to Modified driver J.D. Auringer for the text message to let me know to turn my car around. A trip north will definitely remain in the works for a date later this season.

Knowing there was bad weather all over the state, I made a couple calls only to discover Marshalltown Speedway also fell to the elements. Deciding the odds were against me, I figured it was best to park the car and stay home for the night.

I have exchanged a few texts with Facilities Director Jason Goble of 34 Raceway in Burlington and his mother, Terri, who have kept me updated on the status of their IRA 410 Sprint special. While it was smooth sailing early, that show has also struggled with the weather as a rain delay slowed things for a time in southeast Iowa. After the 305 Sprint and TQ Midget heats, the rains came and forced a delay. I understand, however, the rain has moved on and the 410s are now on the track for their qualifiers. Hopefully, the weather will cooperate so they can complete the show as tomorrow night they have a weekly points program on the schedule.

As for the rest of the weekend, I'll be back in Independence tomorrow night to announce night #2 of the weekly schedule after stopping by to visit mom a day early for Mother's Day. Her Sunday is already pretty full as she'll be helping prepare the track in Vinton for Sunday night's races.

I do want to give special thanks to Scott Tjabring of Action Track Photography here in Waterloo. Our track photographer at Independence for the past seven or eight years, Scott has allowed me to use his pictures here on It is greatly appreciated, Scott! Thank you for your tremendous work! If you haven't already done so, visit to see Scott's excellent photography skills.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Return to racing

After a year away from scoring and writing about the weekly battles at Independence Motor Speedway, I decided to make a return to racing in 2009 at Independence under the direction of new promoters Cam and Jodi Granger of CJ Promotions. This season, I'll serve as the race announcer at the 3/8-mile speedway and also plan to visit a number of other tracks across the state after limited travels in 2008.

The facilities in Independence have undergone quite a few changes in the past year. After the well-published storms tore through northeast Iowa in the spring of 2008, the effect they had on IMS left a lot of unanswered questions. The grandstands, uprooted from their foundation, left the fair board a lot of work to do and very little time to do it.

After a shortened schedule in 2008, Cam has taken over the reins this year and his hard work is already paying off. Brand new grandstands are expected to see completion by June 1, along with a new concession area which is scheduled to open on July 1. These will complement the new, expanded north bleachers, which have already been installed.

Along with the visual aspects of the speedway, Cam has vowed to promote the track like it has never seen before. He changed the grandstand admission from "5 and under free" to allow all kids ages 11 and under free into the grandstands. The local Walmart has agreed to donate two kids' bicycles every Saturday night and there are also plans for a cotton candy machine to be a part of the new concession area. Coincidentally, gone are the concessions purchased through a local wholesale distributor and, in place of them, fresh products from Edgewood Locker and Hy-Vee will be on the menu.

Three Wide Media has also provided a custom-built mini-modified to give two lucky kids a ride around the track, at speed, every Saturday night. As for the racing surface itself, over 30 loads of new dirt were added during the off-season.

There are also a couple of procedural changes that Cam and Race Director Mike O’Connor are incorporating this season to generate fan interest. Gone are single-file restarts and returning are double-wide restarts in all events. Also, 24 cars will start feature events, up from 20 starters in recent seasons.

Quite possibly one of the best changes this season is one that may actually go “unnoticed” by fans and drivers. Cam and his team have brought in a number of racing veterans to serve as his track crew for this season. The new team consists of both former drivers and veteran track officials who have many years of experience in numerous aspects of putting on a successful show.

The I.M.C.A. weekly racing program opened on May 2 after being rained out the week before. After an impressive 75 cars were pre-registered to compete, it was nice to see 122 cars turn out for the opening night of racing. On-hand were 26 I.M.C.A. Late Models, 35 I.M.C.A. Modifieds, 19 I.M.C.A. Stock Cars, 29 I.M.C.A. SportMods and 13 I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks as those in attendance witnessed the first spring race at the speedway in two seasons.

A lot of new faces were found in the pit area in all five divisions. Many drivers were making their first appearance at the speedway while a number of regulars over recent years were making the transition to new divisions. There were even a handful of “old-time” competitors making a return to weekly racing at the speedway after a many year absence. One such driver was Kevin Pittman, who last competed in weekly racing in the I.M.C.A. Modified division in 1990 in his #26.

After finishing second in points that season to Tom Bartholomew, Pittman wheeled an I.M.C.A. Late Model to great success over the course of many years. He then opted to wheel an Open Modified for a few seasons, competing weekly at Echo Valley Speedway in West Union. Since 1990, the only time Pittman drove an I.M.C.A. Modified on a Saturday night in Independence was during a one-night stint in 1992 when he drove Tom White’s 17W.

The track itself held up pretty well during the heat events. It did start to show some wear and developed a number of holes as qualifying progressed as the new dirt will need to be continually worked in throughout the course of the season. Folklore also says that as long as the level of the Wapsipinicon River (just a few blocks away from the speedway) remains high, the track has historically struggled to remain smooth.

While this was evident by the time the SportMods opened feature competition, the racing remained close, competitive and entertaining. Josh Sherbon picked up his fifth career win at the speedway, leading wire-to-wire in the event. Track newcomer Jake Strayer held off Rod McDonald for an impressive second place finish in his first visit as that pair of drivers put on a good wheel-to-wheel battle for the runner-up spot. Another driver who made a nice run through the field was Ryan Coleman, who started the event 16th and finished fifth.

Perhaps the most entertaining race of the night was the I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature. As many as five cars were vying for the lead in two and three-wide battles until Brian Irvine took control just prior to a mid-race caution. When the race returned to green, Irvine walked away from the field to pick up the win. Norman Chesmore held onto second ahead of another hard charger, defending track champion Jarod Weepie, who started the event in the 16th position.

Max Corporon survived persistent challenges from Troy Cordes to pick up the I.M.C.A. Modified win. Cordes stayed committed to the low groove of the speedway and pulled alongside Corporon many times throughout the course of the event, but was unable to nose ahead. Darin Duffy, another former regular competitor in the division, made his return to the weekly Modified ranks to come home third.

With the increasing appeal of the SportMods as an entry-level division, the Hobby Stock car count was a little low, however it remained competitive as a number of veteran drivers returned to action for opening night. Former track champion Josh Irvine quickly worked through the field from a fifth row starting position to score the win ahead of Quinton Miller and Justin Lichty.

In the nightcap, I.M.C.A. Late Model veteran Rob Toland made the tow from Davenport to take the opening night win ahead of Curt Martin and Jon Passick. Toland was piloting a car owned by local business owner John Maitland. Since it was sporting the #39 on its side, it will be interesting to see where Toland’s travels take him in 2009. Toland could prove to be tough competition if he competes weekly in Independence as he has had great success over the years in I.M.C.A. Deery Brothers Summer Series and Indee Open Series events at the speedway.

While there were some opening night snafus, such as the 20-minute late start, ironing in the new surface and getting everyone accustomed to double-wide restarts, the new crew has indicated they are dedicated to doing what they need to do to get things on track. It is the hope of Cam and Mike that racing will conclude right around the 10pm hour on a regular basis. The good news is that the river level has been receding and track workers have spent endless hours working on the rough spots since the conclusion of the May 2 show.

Aside from Independence, I’ve already made visits to Marshalltown Speedway for its season opener and CJ Speedway for the season opener under new promoters Don and Sharon Wood. I’ve also taken in two shows at 34 Raceway in West Burlington; the Deery Brothers Summer Series for I.M.C.A. Late Models and the weekly points opener.

What’s amazed me more than anything is the impressive car counts I’ve already seen this year. Despite the tough economic times we’re living in, it seems that racing is just as strong as ever. Let’s hope that continues as spring and summer progress.