After three consecutive weeks of rainouts, Lee County Speedway was finally able to get its season points opener in the books as 128 race teams filed into the fairgrounds to take part in the festivities at Donnellson on May 14.
A strong field of 22 I.M.C.A. Modifieds started feature action and it was Lonnie Heap leading the way from his pole position start. Heap ran out front for just two laps when a car slowing on the high side exiting turn two allowed Jeff Foster to challenge for the lead. Mueller swept beneath the leader and lapped car to take over the top spot after starting from the second row.
As Foster pulled away from the field, Michael Long was blistering his way through traffic from a midpack start. Running the high groove, Long immediately found himself in the mix out front and into third place after just six laps. He made his way around Heap one lap later, then went to work on cutting into Foster's lead, which was more than half of a straightaway just past the midway point of the event. Foster's margin was cut significantly when the cautuion flew on lap 12, bunching the field.
Foster continued to maintain his lead without trouble through a pair of restarts until the race's final stoppage came on lap 16. When racing resumed that time, Long swept to the inside of the race leader as the top two engaged in a terrific side-by-side battle for the lead over the remaining laps.
As the leaders navigated through turns one and two on the final lap, however, Long hit a rut, throwing his car to the top and losing precious ground to the leader. Foster went on to score the exciting win while Brandon Rothzen, who started outside row six, made a strong charge through the field to sneak under Long at the line for second. Wyatt Lantz and Heap completed the top five.
The I.M.C.A. Stock Cars set the bar high for 2010 in their season opener as a thrilling photo finish decided the first feature of the year. At the start of the 15-lapper, John Oliver Jr. took command from his pole position start. He received heavy pressure, however, from a quartet of drivers as the top five runners broke away from the pack and engaged in a thrilling five-car battle out front. Oliver, Derek St. Clair, Jason Cook, Jeff Mueller and Jim Redmann shuffled positions and racing grooves at the front of the pack.
Mueller was the first to challenge Oliver for the lead as he dove to the inside of the leader to enter a door-to-door battle out front on lap four. Running the nigh side, Cook entered the mix one lap later to challenge the lead pair while Redmann went to work on the low side St. Clair for fourth, all within a matter of just a couple of car-lengths at the front of the pack.
Cook inched into the lead for a couple of laps, but Mueller powered back on the low side to regain the advantage. He built a five car-length lead by the time the yellow flag waved with just two laps to go. On the restart, Cook went back to work on the low side and found himself in another wheel-to-wheel battle for the lead with Mueller. The two raced in that fashion all the way to the checkers with Cook inching ahead by a bumper to score the thrilling win. Oliver ran third and Matt Greiner, who started in the fifth row, came home fourth. Abe Huls, who started alongside Greiner, finished fifth.
Mark Burgtorf continued his dominance at the Lee County oval as he scored the victory in the I.M.C.A. Late Model 25-lapper. After starting only a couple rows deep, Burgtorf moved into the lead shortly after the race went green and built a straightaway lead in just four laps. Rob Toland motored into second on lap eight and it appeared he might have something for the #7, however that never materialized as Burgtorf made quick work of the event, running away from his peers and hiding in lapped traffic to score the win. Toland ran second, Denny Woodworth third and pole-sitter Colby Springsteen came home fourth.
Derek Coleman drove his Dominator Chassis to the opening night win in the I.M.C.A. SportMods. He took charge following a mid-race caution and drove away from the pack to take top honors. Joe Bliven finished second and Roger Dresden made a last lap pass on A.J. Johnson to score the third place finish. Johnson, who led during the early stages of the event, finished fourth.
Jake Wenig led wire-to-wire to take the win in the Hobby Stock division. Jim Lynch, who pressured for the lead late in the event, came up short and finished second. Jeremy Pundt, Rob Wilsey and Ray Raker ran third through fifth.
The four-cylinder Wild Things rounded out the night's action. William Michel took over around midway through the event to drive to the win ahead of Chuck Fullenkamp. Mike Fisher, Jerry Ostby and Dakota Fenton completed the top five.
Despite all the rain in the area throughout the week, it was nice to see that the fairgrounds wasn't a muddy mess like many may have expected. Although the nice car count and opening night car registrations did delay the start of the show by around 20 minutes, qualifying ran at a pretty good clip.
Tough break for Tom Goble on the night. After suffering engine damage in his Late Model heat race which forced a premature end to his night, he did manage to find one of the muddy areas in the pits. His trip back home to Burlington was delayed as a wrecker crew on-hand had to help get him on his way.
It was also a tough start for Late Model driver Jeff Aikey. After "finding" his draw number after a lengthy debate, Aikey was scheduled to start in the middle of his heat instead of the back of the pack. Unfortunately, Aikey was late to staging after a missing neck brace prevented him from making the initial call, forcing him to start at the tail of his event. Aikey failed to qualify for the redraw in that event and started deep in the 26-car feature field.
Points night number two at Independence is on tap tonight. Not only is it Pepsi Night, but local TV station KWWL will be on-hand to shoot some promotional video. It should be a great night for racing. Hope to see you there.