Monday, May 17, 2010

Photo finishes highlight action-packed night at Benton County Speedway

After completing my paperwork from Saturday's late night at Independence, I made the decision to head to Vinton to wrap up a three-day swing of racing over the weekend. The wild from Saturday carried over to an even wilder Sunday as the weekend contained a little bit of everything. A total of 103 race teams signed in to the pits in the five weekly divisions at Vinton to take part in a show that fans won't soon forget.

I included below a number of photos from track photographer Scott Tjabring of Action Track Photography. Not only is Scott a die hard race fan, but he is one of the absolute best track photographers around. Independence and Vinton are lucky to have Scott and his wife Donette at the track all season long. Thanks to both of you for your great work!

First out of the gate on Sunday night was the 15-lap feature for the I.M.C.A. Stock Cars. In perhaps the tamest race of the night, Phil Holtz took charge at the drop of the green flag after starting outside of the front row. Pole-sitter Paul Shepherd stayed close as his #31S remained on the rear bumper of the #7H Holtz machine throughout the early going.

Four laps into the event, Jeff Mueller, who charged into the third spot after starting eighth, stalled on the low side of turns three and four to bring out the caution flag. This allowed Damon Murty to settle into third place for the restart.

When racing resumed, Holtz held the point and continued to pace the field with Shepherd and Murty pressuring him. On the eighth circuit, Shepherd went up in smoke as he drifted off the high side of turns three and four to bring out the caution flag.

Murty restarted right on Holtz' bumper and went to work on the low side in attempt to gain the advantage. Holtz withstood Murty's pressure to lead every lap en route to victory lane. Murty ran second followed by Nathan Wood and Norman Chesmore. Scooter Dulin, racing in honor of his grandfather, Marion Cottrell, who passed away earlier in the week, finished fifth. More information on Cottrell appears below.

Phil Holtz led wire-to-wire to win the I.M.C.A. Stock Car feature. (photo courtesy of Scott Tjabring/Action Track Photography,

While Holtz was the front-runner throughout the first feature, being in the lead seemed to be the last place anyone wanted to be for the remaining four features on this night. In all other divisions, cautions, mechanical problems or miscues cost every early race leader a trip to the winner's circle.

The first to experience such misfortune was Al Sweerin in the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks. Starting outside of the front row, Sweerin, much like Holtz, shot into the lead at the drop of the green. He held the point through a trio of early caution periods while Kyle Parizek, Russell Damme Jr. and Matt Brown gave chase.

Sweerin was frantically holding off pressure from his counterparts when he miscued in turns three and four on lap six, spinning his #11 and forcing a caution period. With Sweerin now relegated to the back of the pack, Parizek inherited the top spot with Brown and Damme hot on his heels for the restart.

When racing resumed, Parizek drove the high line while Brown worked the low side of the lightning fast oval. Brown took control on the back straightaway on lap 10. Ironically, Brown's run came to an end when Sweerin became lapped traffic to the leaders. Sweerin spun again, this time in turns one and two on the 12th lap, collecting Brown in the process. Since both Sweerin and Brown were stopped on the track when the caution flag waved, both were sent to the rear for the ensuing restart.

Parizek again benefitted from the misfortune of the lead car and restarted out fron with only three laps to go. He remained committed to the high groove while Damme, now in second, went to work on the low side. Damme ducked under Parizek's #17K on the back straightaway and the leaders entered a side-by-side battle over the final two circuits. Parizek inched ahead at the line as the checkers waved to score the improbable win. Damme ran second and Rod Grother, who started ninth, came home third. August Bach and Eric Stanton completed the top five.

Kyle Parizek found his way to the winner's circle of the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stock feature. (photo courtesy of Scott Tjabring/Action Track Photography,

While the Hobby Stocks saw leads lost due to driver error and being in the wrong place at the wrong time, the I.M.C.A. SportMods saw both of those things, plus mechanical problems sidelining its leaders in that 15-lapper.

Pole-sitter Kent Kasitsky took the lead at the drop of the green in that event. He quickly distanced himself from the field while Kyle Olson, Joel Rust and Jim Buhlman battled for position behind him. Following a lap three caution, the leaders went three-wide out front as they entered the first set of turns. Contact among the drivers launched Rust onto Olson's #K3 and into a rollover on the bottom of turn two. Along with the incident forcing an immediate end to Rust's and Olson's night, Buhlman and fourth-running Mike Hogencamp were involved in the mishap, sending them to the pits, as well. While many of their cars suffered substantial damage, all drivers walked away uninjured.

This apparently left Kasitsky out front and Jesse Belez, who was running sixth at the time of the caution, now in second. Unfortunately for Kasitsky, however, he pulled to the infield with mechanical problems just before the race was set to resume. This left Belez now at the point for the ensuing restart.

When the green flag waved again, Belez quickly went to work on the top side while Shane Ebaugh and Austin Kaplan ran second and third. Kurt Hogan, meanwhile, snuck beneath both of those drivers and settled into second place on the back stretch during the fifth lap.

Hogan quickly applied pressure to Belez and made his way past the leader only two laps later. While Hogan was leading, Kaplan was getting his #1 machine dialed in and he started to make a charge toward the front. Kaplan used a strong run on the top side of the speedway while Hogan hugged the tractor tires down low. Kaplan pulled even with Hogan exiting turn four on the final lap as the two drag raced to the start finish line where Hogan held on by a nose to score the thrilling win. Kaplan, Danny Dvorak, Rod McDonald and Belez rounded out the top five.
Kurt Hogan (MR09) battles Austin Kaplan (1) for the lead in the I.M.C.A. SportMod feature. Hogan won in a photo finish. (photo courtesy of Scott Tjabring/Action Track Photography,

The 12-lap I.M.C.A. Sport Compact feature began in horrific fashion as Jeremy Wheeler got turned upside in the high side of turn two. He went end-over-end and barrel rolled before finally coming to rest in the middle of the speedway. He was transported to the local hospital, however his condition was not made available by the end of the evening's program.
Above: Jeremy Wheeler gets airborn at the start of the I.M.C.A. Sport Compact feature. This shot was taken while Wheeler was on his way down during the nasty flip. Wheeler was actually off the ground higher than this during his wild ride. Below: Wheeler returning to the ground during the multi-car fiasco. (photos courtesy of Scott Tjabring/Action Track Photography,

When racing resumed, Dallas Chandler assumed command after originally starting the event in the second row. Chandler paced the field while his pursuers shuffled positions behind him. Among those pursuers was Brad Chandler, who was competing for a top five spot. He took it upon himself to remove the car driven by Gary Peiffer by intentionally knocking him off the high side of turn two, which resulted in a second caution period. Peiffer was knocked out of the event and Chandler was sent packing for having a total lack of common sense having just witnessed Wheeler's indicent in front of him.

On the restart, Dallas Chandler struggled to get his #3 in gear and slowed coming out of turn four. He collected the third place car of Bill Whalen Jr. in the process, however Chandler continued moving while Whalen sat idle to bring out another caution. Whalen was sent to the rear of the pack for bringing out the yellow while Chandler, who remained moving the entire time, kept his position out front.

Chandler again has trouble keeping up to speed on the following restart and quickly fell back in the pack. This allowed Brett Vanous to sneak past for the lead. Following him through were Nathan Chandler, Merv Chandler and Justin Wacha. Nathan Chandler was able to sneak below Vanous for the lead just prior to the final caution of the event. The time limit expired on the race and Nathan Chandler was awarded the victory. Vanous, Merv Chandler, Wacha and Dallas Chandler completed the top five.
Nathan Chandler is all smiles after his I.M.C.A. Sport Compact victory. (photo courtesy of Scott Tjabring/Action Track Photography,

The I.M.C.A. Modifeds provided the nightcap on the evening and they did not disappoint. Patrick Flannagan led the 17-car field to the green flag and he assumed command in short order. Moving to the high groove, Flannagan put a few car-lengths between himself and the field while Troy Cordes masterfully navigated the low groove. Cordes shot from an outside second row starting position to the inside of his competitors and into second place after just one circuit.

Cordes was attempting to reel in Flannagan when Flannagan made those efforts unnecessary. He spun on the high side of turn four on lap three to bring out the first of three caution flags in the event. Cordes took command on the restart and built a five car-length lead over Dennis Betzer and Joe Docekal when the yellow flag waved a second time just two laps later.

On the restart, most of the field ran the low groove while Jerry Luloff went to work on the high side. Luloff motored around Betzer on lap six and immediately went to work on Docekal. While those two battled, Scott Hogan was blistering his way through traffic. Running seventh on the lap five restart, Hogan followed Luloff on the high side and entered into the battle for second just past the midway point of the 20-lapper. Exiting turns three and four on the 11th lap, Hogan shot between Luloff and Docekal and inched ahead for the runner-up spot. He established himself in that position entering turn one and set his sights on Cordes, whose lead was now over half of a straightaway.
Scott Hogan (33D) battles Max Corporon (3C) in the early stages of the I.M.C.A. Modified feature. (photo courtesy of Scott Tjabring/Action Track Photography,
Hogan was quickly making up ground on the race leader when the race's final yellow flag waved on lap 16. On the restart, Hogan went back to work on the high groove and sailed around Cordes one lap later. He remained untouched over the final four laps to take the exciting victory. Docekal made his way under Cordes to take second at the line. Cordes, Max Corporon and Luloff completed the top five
Scott Hogan and the rest of Team Hogan in I.M.C.A. Modified victory lane for the third straight week. (photo courtesy of Scott Tjabring/Action Track Photography,

Despite the wild rides and, at times, careless driving, there was terrific racing all night in Vinton. While it appeared Mother Nature may have had other things in store for the evening by providing a few pesky sprinkles jusdt prior to race time, she held off and allowed for a very entertaining night of racing.

Speaking to a number of people who were at both Independence and Vinton this weekend, the long, exciting, entertaining race nights became a popular topic of discussion. I think the lack of area racing in recent weeks had a lot to do with the thrills and spills over the weekend. Since race nights have been few and far between due to the unstable weather, a lot of drivers appeared to have spring fever this weekend and wanted to make up for lost time. In any event, let's hope those anxious moments were left behind this past weekend!

BCS Notes: Marion Cottrell, who I mentioned was the grandfather of Stock Car driver Scooter Dulin, was very involved in the racing community throughout the Vinton area. He was a longtime supporter of the speedway and racing, in general. He owned and operated Cottrell Radiator in Vinton and was well-known throughout the community. A special event in his honor will be held next Sunday at the speedway. The Stock Cars will be running a 20-lap feature with additional prize money awarded. While it will be a draw/redraw event for the division, track points will be awarded. It should be an excellent way to honor and remember Marion and all he meant to the community and local racing.

In addition to the special Stock Car feature, the I.M.C.A. Modifieds will be racing for an extra chunk of change next Sunday. Scott Hogan's win tonight was his third straight at the speedway, which means a $100 bounty will be placed on him. If anyone else wins next Sunday, they'll take home the extra prize. I believe Hogan will need to be running at the end of the event for anyone to be eligible to win the bounty.

In addition to his three straight wins at Vinton, Hogan also scored the victory Saturday night at 34 Raceway in Burlington. Those four races also marked Scott's last four nights of racing. I spoke to his wife, Jolyne, after tonight's program and she was humble in victory. Appreciating a good finish and just having fun at the speedway is what it's all about for their race team. It's nice to see folks who understand and appreciate the sport like they do have the success they've had the last few weeks. Jolyne did indicate the four-race winning streak was a first for their team. Four wins in four nights is a great accomplishment for any driver and well-deserved for Team Hogan as they appear dialed in for 2010.

While Austin Kaplan had a strong run in the SportMods tonight, it didn't appear he would even be able to make the call for his last chance race to sneak into the 24-car starting field. Kaplan was involved in a multi-car pileup in his heat that left him with severe rear-end damage and literally no sheet metal left on the passenger side of the car. His crew furiously worked to get the machine in running order for the B main. They did just that as Kaplan started the last chance qualifier toward the back and finished fourth. He started the feature 16th and put on a thrilling show all the way to a runner-up finish at the final checkered flag.

Up next for me is the first-ever Hawkeye Dirt Tour event for the I.M.C.A. Modifieds. Rescheduled from last Tuesday's rainout, that event will now be run this Wednesday, May 19, at Independence Motor Speedway. Along with a host of drivers already expected to be at this event, Independence has already had 38 different Modifieds visit the speedway in only two weekly points races this season. It's bound to be an exciting show as the Tour makes its inaugural visit to the Buchanan County Fairgrounds. Also competing will be I.M.C.A.-sanctioned SportMods and Hobby Stocks. Pit gates will open at 4 p.m. and grandstands at 5, with hot laps scheduled at 6:45 and racing to follow. For those interested in HDT T-shirts, Scott and Donette will have them available at the Action Track Photography stand below the grandstands! I hope to see you all there for the Modified Mayham, sponsored by Edgewood Locker!

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