Sunday, May 2, 2010

Racing dodges the rain for five exciting features at Benton County Speedway

About an hour before race cars were expected to hit the track, it looked as though Mother Nature was going to steal the victory Sunday night in Vinton. After a brief, pesky drizzle that brought with it insanely strong winds, she spared us her wrath and allowed race fans to be treated to an outstanding show on the 1/4-mile oval. In all, 109 race teams signed in to compete during the track's third weekly points program of the season.

First to the track for feature action were 21 I.M.C.A. Sport Compacts. Bill Whalen Jr., sporting a new four-cylinder ride, took advantage of his second row starting position to steal the lead at the drop of the green. Within the first five laps of the 12-lapper, Whalen built nearly a straightaway lead while Nathan and Brad Chandler worked their way through traffic behind him.

Nathan Chandler, who started outside the fourth row, made his way through the field and into second place on the sixth lap and attempted the tough task of reeling in veteran Whalen. Brad Chandler followed Nathan through the pack one lap later to settle into third as that duo went to work to cut into Whalen's huge advantage.

Despite encountering heavy lapped traffic late in the event, Whalen went on to score the win by nearly a straightaway margin. Nathan Chandler gained a little ground over the closing laps, but settled for second at the line. Brad Chandler finished third, a few car-lengths back, while Justin Wacha came home fourth.
Bill Whalen Jr. picked up the I.M.C.A. Sport Compact win - photo courtesy of Action Track Photography/Scott Tjabring

A field of 26 I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks was pared down to a 20-car starting field for that division's 15-lap headliner. Pole-sitter Joe Sprague took the point early while Rod Grother, who started outside row three, went to work on the bottom side of the speedway. Grother worked his way into second after just two laps and disposed of Sprague one lap later to take command of the event.

Grother continued to build on his lead, pulling away by nearly a straightaway over his nearest competitors, while Sprague attempted to hold off the challenges of Doug Laughridge and Nick Murty. Murty was eventually sidelined with mechanical problems, allowing Scottie Pippert and Eric Stanton to challenge for second. Laughridge appeared to be developing a push on his #25 and was unable to close in on Grother, however a late caution bunched the field for a two-lap dash to the finish.

When racing resumed, Grother maintained his strong run and took the checkers ahead of Laughridge, Stanton and Pippert. August Bach raced through the field from an eighth row start to finish fifth.
Rod Grother (77) drove to victory lane in the I.M.C.A. Hobby Stocks - photo courtesy of Action Track Photography/Scott Tjabring

A solid field of 30 I.M.C.A. SportMods were signed in for competition and it was outside front row starter Kyle Olson who set the early pace for the 24-car starting field in that 15-lap feature. As Olson led, Curt Hilmer worked the high side into second from his second row start, but was quickly pressured by veteran Jim Buhlman.

Buhlman snuck below the leaders and stole the top spot just prior to the race's first caution on lap five. Buhlman continued to pace the field for the following two laps until another caution was thrown for debris on the front straightaway. Unfortunately for Buhlman, that debris was a spring from the left rear of his car, forcing him to an early exit.

Danny Dvorak, who started outside of row six, had worked his way into second just before the lap seven caution and, thus, inherited the lead when the race returned to green. Dvorak led the remaining eight laps unchallenged to score the victory ahead of Olson and John Van Wechel. Austin Kaplan, who started alongside Dvorak in row six, finished fourth, and eighth row starter Rod McDonald ran fifth.
Danny Dvorak (3R) picked up the win in the I.M.C.A. SportMods - photo courtesy of Action Track Photography/Scott Tjabring

A rough driving penalty during his heat race did not deter I.M.C.A. Stock Car driver Justin Temeyer when the 15-lap feature field rolled onto the speedway. Temeyer, who started last in the 15-car event, raced through the field to score the exciting win.

At the drop of the green, it was pole-sitter Paul Shepherd leading the way. He held the point for six laps and survived a pair of caution periods that involved competitors Norman Chesmore, Brett Mather, John Schaefer and Curtis Roster, all of whom were challenging toward the front of the pack. Shepherd's good fortune came to an end when he spun on the low side of turns one and two on the sixth circuit, forcing him to an early exit.

Jason Deshaw inherited the lead with Scooter Dulin right on his tail for the lap six restart. By that time, Temeyer had worked his way through the pack and settled into the third position when racing resumed. On the restart, Dulin went to work on the low side of Deshaw as he stole the lead on lap nine. Deshaw faded at that point, which allowed Temeyer to slide into second, right on Dulin's rear bumper.

Temeyer pulled even with Dulin as the waving green was displayed and inched ahead a short time later. He held on for the thrilling win to complement his win the previous night in Independence. Ironically (or not?), prior to winning from the last starting spot in Vinton, Temeyer's win on Saturday came from the pole-position. Dulin chased Temeyer to the checkers while Damon Murty, Jeff Mueller and Abe Huls completed the top five.
Justin Temeyer passes Scooter Dulin on his way to the I.M.C.A. Stock Car win - photo courtesy of Action Track Photography/Scott Tjabring

In the evening's finale, 17 I.M.C.A. Modifieds made the starting call for that 20-lap feature. Front row starter Johnathan Thimmesch shot into the lead at the drop of the green while Patrick Flannagan and Troy Cordes gave chase. The bottom groove was the preferred line as the leaders remained glued to the tractor tires while only Robbie Schmuecker and Mark Schulte ventured high to try to gain ground on the field

Schmuecker was running fourth when he was sidelined with problems while Schulte, who started seventh, slowly gained on his competitors. While Schulte was working the high side in the middle of the pack, Scott Hogan masterfully worked the low groove from his fifth row starting spot and found himself in third place just prior to the race's first caution on lap three.

On the restart, Hogan swept beneath second-running Cordes to snag that position and then went to work on Thimmesch, taking away the top spot just one lap later. While Hogan extended his lead, Thimmesch started dropping back, allowing Cordes to move into second and Schulte, who was still running the high groove, to challenge in third.

While backmarkers started to slow Hogan's progress just past the midway point, Cordes and Schulte were battling for second with Max Corporon gaining ground in fourth. Corporon worked past Schulte on the low side as the race's final caution flag waved with only three laps reamining.

On the restart, Hogan maintained his lead while contact from Corporon sent Cordes into a spin entering the first set of turns. Corporon continued on while Cordes did a complete 360 in front of the field. While everyone dodged him, Cordes regrouped and the race stayed green. Untouched, Hogan ran away to the checkers to score the exciting win. Corporon finished second and Schulte, Tony Olson and Ronn Lauritzen completed the top five.
Scott Hogan drove to the I.M.C.A. Modified victory - photo courtesy of Action Track Photography/Scott Tjabring

It was a great night of racing in Vinton and, although weather delayed the show's start by a few minutes, the final checkered flag waved at 8:45. Once again, hats off to Mick Trier, Dana Benning and crew for running an entertaining and efficient show. I also need to give a shout out to my parents, Dwayne and Judy Burkey, for once again providing a smooth, fast racing surface! Although it was only my second visit back home this season, I understand the track has been in great shape all four nights the track has seen action this year. With all of the crazy spring weather we've had, that's no small accomplishment!

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