Sunday, September 26, 2010

Benton County champions crowned on final night of 2010 IMCA points racing

With bad weather plaguing the region throughout the weekend, all eyes were on Benton County Speedway in Vinton on Sunday. Weather-delayed from one week ago, season championship racing was offered on the 1/4-mile oval on the final night of IMCA points racing this season.

While it's common to see division points leaders wrap up successful seasons with final trips to the winner's circle, only one points leader among the five divisions entering the night walked away with a championship night feature victory. Despite the frigid temperatures, a solid field of over 100 race teams and a good crowd in the stands put a cap on a successful year in Vinton.

IMCA Modified points leader Scott Hogan started the 25-lap main event from the pole psotion. He was pestered early by Tony Olson, who was fifth on the starting grid. Hogan assumed command early and led the field through a pair of cautions over the first five circuits while Olson attempted to charge to the front using the bottom groove. Hogan proved to be too fast, forcing Olson to battle a number of drivers for the runner-up spot.

While Hogan led, Mark Schulte used the high groove to challenge Olson and Joe Docekal worked both high and low in his attempts to wrestle away the second spot. That trio of drivers waged a terrific war for runner-up honors as Hogan put some distance on the field.

Just as Hogan was entering lapped traffic on the 16th lap, the caution flag waved, bunching the field. Hogan again took command on that restart and following one final restart a lap later. When racing resumed one last time on lap 17, Hogan capped off his track title with the feature win on championship night. Olson held off a hard charging Schulte for second. Mike Burbridge, who started 19th, made an impressive run to come home fourth ahead of Johnathan Thimmesch. Docekal, who was involved in a late caution while battling for second, raced through traffic to come home sixth. Ty Glass, who started 17th and then was involved in an early yellow, raced through the pack to a seventh place finish. Ronn Lauritzen, Todd Jensen and Shawn Fisher completed the top 10.

Hogan, who also earned championship honors at 34 Raceway in Burlington this season, appears to be in position to take home his first IMCA regional championship. Entering the night, Hogan was only a few points out of the lead of the North Central Region, however he was the only driver in the top three to earn two track titles. The bonus points that come along with the track championships may propel him to the regional title, as well.

Jerry Luloff, who sat third in points at the start of the night, elected to take the challenge of starting at the tail of the field. By winning from the back, Luloff would have doubled his money, however he left early with mechanical problems.

When points leaders Justin Temeyer and Norman Chesmore elected to start at the tail of the IMCA Stock Car feature, Damon Murty must have been salivating. Originally scheduled to start outside the third row, Murty moved up to the outside of row two for the green flag in that 20-lapper. He quickly took advantage, bursting into the lead on the first lap prior to a lap one caution.

On the restart, Murty quickly fought off challenges from Bob Ahrendsen to extend his advantage while Nathan Wood moved through the pack. Starting eighth, Wood motored into the top five after just one lap, then advanced one more position a lap later. He positioned himself to make his way into third on the sixth citrcuit, however a second yellow flag negated that move.

When racing resumed, Wood made quick work of Scotter Dulin and Ahrendesen to steal second, then went to work on Murty, who had already built a decent lead. Another stoppage just past the midway point allowed Wood to restart on Murty's rear bumper.

Running the low groove, Wood pulled to within half of a car-lsength of the lead when racing resumed, however Murty proved too strong as he motored to the win. Wood ran second at the line, a straightaway ahead of Chesmore who worked back through the pack to come home third. Curtis Roster ran fourth ahead of Roger Ciesielski, who was a recent addition to the division in the final weeks of the season. It was his first appearance in Vinton this year. John Schaefer ran sixth ahead of Mike Padden while Scott Beauregard, Mike Galli and Ahrendsen completed the top 10.

Although mechanical problems sidelined Temeyer early, he earned track championship honors by taking the green flag in the event.

IMCA SportMod points leader Austin Kaplan appeared to be another track titlist set to wrap up his season in victory lane as he took command at the drop of the green in that 15-lapper. Kaplan was immediately pursued by local favorite Drew Fish as those two drivers separated themselves from the field early.

Just as the leaders were about to enter lapped traffic midway through the event, the caution flag waved on lap seven. Fish worked the low side of Kaplan and briefly took the top spot shortly after racing resumed, however Kaplan fought back to snare the lead. Danny Dvorak, who started second and slipped back to fourth, entered the mix out front and briefly challenged Fish for second.

After another caution slowed the event with just four laps to go, it appeared that Kaplan was on his way to the win. Just after the leaders took the white flag, however, a pileup on the front stretch forced a green-white-checkered finish. While under caution, a tire went down on Kaplan's ride, forcing him to the pits and leaving Fish on the point.

When racing resumed one final time, Fish held off Dvorak to score the victory. Bryan Rodman made a nice run from the 10th starting spot to come home third ahead of Jim Buhlman and Shane Ebaugh. Joel Rust finished sixth ahead of Kent Kositsky, Dave Schulze, Jesse Belez and Rick Paulson.

Despite the unfortunate end to his night, Kaplan locked up the track title by simply taking the green flag in the event. His track championship in Vinton, along with his title in Independence, will go a long way toward his bid for a national championship in the division.

A close points battle at the top of the IMCA Sport Compact standings prevented either of the points leaders from taking the challenge, leaving points leader Gary Peiffer on the pole with Nathan Chandler to his outside, only seven points out of the lead entering the night. Unfortunately for Chandler, however, an expired engine forced him to an early exit on lap one, leaving Peiffer with the title shortly after the green flag waved.

On the track, however, Peiffer repeatedly slid off the top side of turn three, allowing Bill Whalen Jr. to sneak by for the lead. Whalen held the point until a mid-race caution when Brad Chandler, who realigned right behind him, worked the top groove into the lead. Chandler led the final eight laps to score the victory ahead of Brett Vanous and Whalen. Dallas Chandler ran fourth and Justin Wacha, who did take the challenge and started 18th, raced to a fifth place finish. Peiffer, Travis Losenicky, Cale Peterson, Joe Goodenbauer and Travis Ross rounded out the top 10.

With his second straight IMCA Hobby Stock title assured just by taking the green flag, points leader Scott Pippert obliged the fans by starting at the back of that 20-lapper. Brad Forbes and Matt Brown gave up their starting spots to join Pippert at the tail leaving Vince Buchholz to start on the front row. Buchholz took advantage of that gift as he raced into the lead at the drop of the green.

Buchholz held the point until a lap eight caution when he exited with what I believe was a flat tire. Brown, who worked his way back into third by the time the yellow came out, also left with a flat tire. This allowed fellow front row starter Wes Stanek Jr. to inherit the point with Kyle Parizek in tow.

On the restart, Parizek worked beneath the race leader to take over the lead while Pippert was making his way from the back and into a challenge for the lead at the race's midway point. Parizek and Pippert swapped the lead and pulled to a straightaway advantage over the field by the time the yellow flag waved one final time with just four laps remaining.

On the restart, Parizek bolted ahead of the field as Pippert suffered a right rear flat when the flying green waved, forcing him to a premature exit. Parizek led the final two circuits to take the win ahead of Forbes, who made a strong run from the back to finish second. Michael Peterson, Doug Laughridge and Steve Higham rounded out the top five. Randy Vandevegte, Al Sweerin, Russel Damme Jr., Billy Grimm and Frank Auen completed the top 10.

It was an entertaining night of racing in Vinton; a good night considering championship night doesn't always provide the best racing. Thanks to Mick Trier and crew for getting the facility together despite the persistent rains that pelted the area earlier in the weekend. While the track did get rough and the pits needed a lot of TLC to get into manageable condition, it was nice that racing was able to happen on Sunday night.

This was night #61 for me this season and the last night that I have scheduled... for now. While there are still special events on the calendar, I haven't determined if I'll make it to any of them or not. Stay tuned...

Monday, September 20, 2010

Rainy theme continues beyond regular season

What is traditionally one of the busiest "specials" weekends of the season turned into one of the wettest. While the area racing schedule was jam-packed with a number of post-season attractions this past weekend, Mother Nature, as she has done all season, released her fury once more.

I was one of many who chose to be front and center on Saturation Saturday as I was in Burlington over the weekend for the 19th annual Pepsi USA Late Model Nationals at 34 Raceway. While the Friday night portion of the two-day show was successfully run, the final night of the last installment of the 2010 Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models was canceled for the first time in event history.

I spent Friday in the crow's nest with fellow Positively Racing blogger Jeff Broeg. While he handled the blogging duties on Friday, I planned to write a complete recap of the event in his absence following Saturday's finale. Yeah, that didn't work out so well as Saturday's event was postponed until Sunday which, in turn, was washed out after steady rains throughout the weekend forced track officials to pull the plug early. Jeff summed up Friday's events quite well over on the Back Stretch, so be sure to check out his thoughts there.

Rather than repeating the same thoughts asnd observations (seriously, at times I think Jeff and I share a brain... feel free to insert your own classless joke here), I'll use a few moments here to randomly air my thoughts on the role the weather played this past weekend. Simply put, before Mother Nature unleashed her wrath, this time of year was already saturated with specials.

Just like any other race night, or canceled race night, numerous opinions surfaced in various racing circles. While everyone was disappointed at how the weather forced the hand of officals at 34, some were left upset at the eventual cancellation of the event. Really? Of course there were. Please keep in mind, a vast majority of those who were upset were the same folks who state their opinions as fact. I won't go into detail here on how the all-knowing base their opinions. You can go back to May when I addressed the same question In Staging. Yeah, it doesn't appear as though those race enthusiasts learned much in the last four months.

Instead, I'm going to flip over to the race calendar to see what would serve as a good make-up date for a $10,000-to-win Late Model special. You know, just to throw it in because, by God, we're race fans! We're entitled!

Okay, there have to be a whole slew of empty dates. I mean, it is the end of September and who in their right mind would schedule too many events this time of year? Afterall, seriously, were you even outside today? It was 60 when I went to work this morning and pushing 90 when I got home. Nobody is going to take their chance against those odds! Okay, onto the schedule...

Good grief, I've had second thoughts. I'll pass, thanks. You mean there are that many tracks that even have races in the region, let alone schedule them for September and October? Wow, and I thought it was tough enough to fight for the race fan's dollar during the regular season, but the post-season, too?

Fine, I'll stop with the sarcasm. I'll just leave this topic on a final note... or two. Post-season specials generally bring with them increased purses. In many cases, extremely large purses. With those purses you need a lot of butts in the stands. With everything going on this time of year, it's hard enough to compete for the race fan's dollar, but when you're forced to reschedule an event, that just makes it all that more difficult. You're highly unlikely to draw the same crowd you'd have gotten if you were able to get the show in on the original date. To find another date, a last minute date on the calendar after you've already used your rain date, and you just as well sell the house, give away the dog and live in the car... unless they come calling for the wheels, too. Is it unfortunate that the Pepsi rained out? Damn right it is. Is it anyone's fault? Absolutely not. Is it your money? Nope. Do you want a place to go racing next year? Thought so.

With that said, Friday night was my 60th night of the season. While I reached the goal I set at mid-season, I still have a couple more events on my calendar. The way the weather has been lately, I'll call them tentative dates. Tomorrow night, September 21, is the rescheduled USMTS event at Allison and I plan to be there for Highway 3 Raceway's season finale. After that, I'll be back in Burlington on Saturday for the JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt Tour finale. That will be followed by my last projected race of the season - season championships at Benton County Speedway in Vinton on Sunday. I may try to take in a few others in the coming weeks, but I know better than to look too far ahead this time of year...

Thanks for reading. I'll see you at the races.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A final look back at the 2010 IMCA Super Nationals

It's strange, normally after seeing 300-plus races involving 800 cars at Boone over the course of six days, I'm ready to be home. For some reason, that wasn't the case this year. I could go another week or so, but that isn't the way it works. There are a number of locals, however, who are glad to be home and tell their stories of success from the past week.

Most notably, perhaps, is the story of one Modified driver from northeast Iowa who never got behind the wheel of his car, yet managed to see his car come across the line eighth in the Modified finale on Saturday night. While Dunkerton's Jason Snyder didn't compete at this year's Super Nationals, he found just the right guy to drive his #98. Snyder put Oakley, California's Kellen Chadwick behind the wheel of his Rage Chassis and, not only did that prove to be a smart move, the damage suffered on Snyder's ride throughout the week was minimal. According to Snyder, his machine had only a scratch on the bumper and a small dent in the quarter panel after four nights of furious competition. That's makes for a damn successful trip to Boone.

The story doesn't stop simply at Chadwick getting behind the wheel of the unfamiliar race car and driving it to such success at the most competitive Modified event of the year. The fact that Chadwick got behind the wheel of any car, or was even able to walk to it, is what makes the story so sweet. Chadwick was involved in a frightening racing accident a few years ago, leaving doctors to tell him he'd never walk again, let alone get behind the wheel of a race car or drive it to an eighth place finish in a field of over 270 competitors.

Yes, these are the types of stories that come out of Boone and Super Nationals. Congratulations to Jason, Kellen and the entire Rage team.

Snyder's wasn't the only Rage in the final starting field of 33 on Saturday night. West Union, Iowa's Justin O'Brien also made it into the field by sneaking into a starting spot in one of the last last chance features before the big dance that night.

O'Brien, who drove to a 28th place finish led the trio of Karyn's Krusaders cars for the week. He, along with Darin Duffy and J.D. Auringer, sported Karsyn's wraps for the event. Unfortunately for Duffy and Auringer, their week came to premature ends on Saturday.

Duffy had a pair of things working against him. Either the draw worked against him for his qualifying heat races or he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time. While that tends to be common at Boone, Duffy's bad luck went to the next level.

After being involved in a pretty nasty incident on Friday, Duffy was looking to get into the show the same way O'Brien made it on Saturday. With 10 cars on the track and the top three making it to the main event, the last chance feature on Saturday provides the "easiest" way of getting into the show. The tough part is getting into one of those 10 spots in the last chance feature.

Unfortunately for Duffy, who was riding in second in that last chance feature, he was pressured from behind a little too closely by Humboldt, Iowa's Ryan Watnem. Watnem, who was running in the third and final qualifying spot, not only tagged Duffy heading into turns one and two part-way through the event, he spun Duffy and eventually landed on his engine compartment, ending the week for both competitors.

It should be noted, however, that Troy Cordes, in the same last chance qualifier, came home to the third and final qualifying spot and made it into the big show. After starting 30th, Cordes drove to a 19th place finish in the finale. It was the eighth straight year Cordes qualified as one of the final 33 at Boone.

The toughest break of the night with the most on the line had to go to Jefferson's Luke Wanninger. The first-year driver was pressuring leader Brandon Blochlinger of Concordia, Kansas, throughout much of the event. The pair ran side-by-side and nose-to-tail throughout much of the event until a lap 32 caution seeled Wanninger's fate. Wanninger was left out to dry on the restart as Beatrice, Nebraska's Johnny Saathoff swept beneath him, forcing Wanninger to drop back a number of spots before racing to a seventh place finish.

Congratulations to Jimmy Gustin and crew on a great win in the Modified feature. Definitely one of the crowd favorites, Gustin ran strong all week and was very deserving of his Super Nationals championship.

Marengo's Paul Shepherd may not have been everyone's first local pick to have the most successful week in the Stock Car division, but he drove to a fantastic eighth place finish in that division's feature. It isn't because Shepherd isn't a good driver, but he has driven a very limited schedule this season in anticipation of his plans to run at Super Nationals. In fact, prior to his qualifying run on Friday, I spoke with Paul in the pits. He said his focus all season was Super Nationals, so it was great to see him not only qualify, but finish toward the front.

Justin Temeyer was the other area driver to qualify for the Stock Car feature. He made it a relatively stress-free week after he made the dance after qualifying on Wednesday night during the first night of qualifying for that division. After winning the third of 16 heats, Temeyer raced to a sixth place finish in the qualifying feature. After running in the front half of the main event, Temeyer got sideways coming out of turn two midway through that event (I'm not sure if it was a solo act or if he had help), which forced him to a 21st place finish in the big dance.

Two-time Stock Car champion Brian Irvine failed to make the big show for the first time in his career, however he did get a little redemption as he picked up the win in the Race of Champions for the Stock Cars. Rumored to be his last race, it was good to see Irvine go out on top.

Jeff Mueller, who also competed at area tracks periodically throughout the season, ran 23rd in the feature while northeast Iowa hotshoe Lynn Panos finished 22nd. All three of those cars, I believe, are Dominator Chassis built by Nick Wroten.

The story of success of the budget racer may have been best defined in the Hobby Stock division. Waterloo's Russel Damme Jr., in just his second full year in the division, blew away the field in his last chance heat race on Tuesday before qualifying fifth in that night's feature. Damme finished 17th in the division's 30 car field on Saturday. Damme, whose family runs the wreckers at both Independence and Vinton during the season, was down to his last motor after being claimed midway through the year. It was even rumored that the spare engine for the wrecker was going to find its way into Damme's #4JR if needed. That's proof right there that money can't buy you the ability to wheel a race car. Congrats to Russel, his crew and Dominator Chassis, on yet another successful run.

Josh Irvine also did the Irvine name proud. He came home sixth after starting mid-pack in the 30-lapper.

SportMod driver Danny Dvorak had a great week with high expectations entering the weekend. Not only did Dvorak qualify for the outside of the front row for the SportMod Race of Champions, he also won the final qualifying feature on Tuesday to start outside of row one for the feature. It appeared as though handling problems pestered Dvorak all night Saturday, however, as he finished seventh in the RoC and 23rd in the feature. Regardless, congratulations to Danny and his crew on a successful week at Boone.

Kyle Bentley came out of retirement of sorts to compete at this year's Super Nationals. The 2009 track champion at Independence Motor Speedway took off the 2010 season to focus on his new house and family. He got the racing bug late in the season, however, as he drove Kevin Robinson's SportMod on championship night at Indee and then at Super Nationals. He drove to a 15th place finish in the big dance.

Indee and Vinton track champion Austin Kaplan also qualified for the Saturday show, however he pulled off early to finish 26th. Eric Flander, who raced a few times with us at Independence, led much of the 30-lap main event and drove to an impressive second place finish. The locals represented well in the SportMod division.

Area Late Model driver Tysus Pattee survived the carnage to race to a 10th place finish in the Late Model/Deery Series portion of the week. While 10 yellow flag periods and a red flag for Jason Rauen's rollover slowed the event, Pattee raced to his best finish at Boone.

Thanks again to track announcer Johnnie Tharp and his Super Nationals sidekick Blake Anderson (the walking encyclopedia of all things Super Nationals) for inviting me into the announcing booth throughout the week. While the unexpected invitation was great, it was just as nice to have a reserved seat in the grandstands all week without rotating trips among friends downstairs to keep a spot on the catwalk!

My hat is also off to the Lawtons, track prep crew, IMCA officials, track officials and the rest of the crew that makes the six-day event such a success. Their efforts are monumental and often times overlooked. Flaggers Grant Oskvig and Nick Breuklander are the officials probably the most vulnerable to public scrutiny, however they did an excellent job all week. While a few message board posters have shared thoughts to the contrary (we can always count on them to do little more than that), Grant and Nick should be applauded for flagging a consistent show all week long. Great job, guys!

One last note on the trip to Boone involves, of all things, Sprint Cars. Most know that, while I don't mind an occasional Sprint Car race, Sprints are not at the top of the list to get my racing dollar. Knoxville Raceway announcer and Sprint Car geek (I use that term as nicely as possible) Tony Bokhoven was at Boone. While I hadn't seen Tony in quite a few years, I was almost shocked to see him at Super Nationals since Sprints were removed from this year's schedule. Despite his love for Sprint Car racing, it was nice to see Tony again after so many years!

The six-day visit to Boone brings my season total to 59 race events in 2010. I'll hit my goal of 60 and close in on 65 within the next two weeks if Mother Nature cooperates. After a few days of getting back in the groove at work, my plan is to head south to 34 Raceway in Burlington this coming weekend for the two-day Pepsi USA Late Model Nationals, the final event on the 2010 schedule for the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models. Following that, it'll be back to Vinton on Sunday for season championships at Benton County Speedway in Vinton, then the season finale at Highway 3 Raceway when the rescheduled USMTS race takes place on Tuesday the 21st. After that, it will be back to Burlington for the finale of the JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt Tour.

While Super Nationals is often the last event for many in the area, there are still a lot of specials on the calendar so get out there and support those tracks before the season winds to a close. See you at the races.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Super Nationals halfway over following opening night for Mods and Stocks on Wednesday

(Scroll to the bottom for a Wednesday recap)

With one final shot at qualifying for Saturday's Super Nationals features, a pair of local drivers locked up starting spots for their respective main events this weekend.

IMCA SportMod driver Danny Dvorak, who also made it to Monday's qualifying feature, but failed to make it into the weekend finale, qualified in a big way on Tuesday night. Dvorak, who started inside the second row of the 30-car last chance feature qualifier, made his way to the front at the drop of the green and never looked back. He survived numerous caution periods to lead the 20-lapper in its entirety to lock up the outside front row starting spot of Saturday's Sportmod feature.

Dvorak, who appeared to be fighting a push following a couple of mid-race restarts, collected himself in the last half of the race to drive to the win ahead of Tad Reutzel of Burt.

A number of other area drivers made Tuesday's last chance feature, including Kyle Bentley, who was piloting the #24R of Kevin Robinson. Starting toward the back of the pack, Bentley dodged a number of cautions and snuck up into 10th in an event that took the top 10 to Saturday. Bentley was freight-trained on the low side late. He did cross the line in 13th, pending post-race inspection.

Rob McDonald also made a good run to come home 14th. Jurt Moeding ran 26th after running in the middle of the pack throughout much of the race before getting caught up in a mid-race caution. Kurt Hogan finished 27th.

Eric Flander of Barnes City, and who made a couple of appearances at Independence this summer driving the 12E, drove to a second place finish in the other qualifier. He will start in the middle of the second row on Saturday night. flander led much of that qualifier before being passed late by Scott Davis.

In only his second full year in the IMCA Hobby Stock division, Russel Damme Jr. of Waterloo earned his first ever start in the Super Nationals feature. Damme, who won his qualifying heat going away, started the 20-lap qualifying feature outside of row two. He was part of a three-car breakaway early before the caution flag waved to slow the race midway through. On the restart, Damme ducked back into fifth, but made his way back into the top three periodically throughout the event. In the end, Damme crept back to fourth to earn his first Super Nationals feature start. He will start outside of row four on Saturday's finale.

Although I left early on Monday (the late hours and cold weather just hit me harder than they used to), the entire show was run to completion by 11:10 p.m. on Tuesday. That's much better than the rumored 4:20 a.m. finish from Monday night/Tuesday morning!

Thanks to track announcer Johnnie Tharp and his Super Nationals partner Blake Anderson for giving me the opportunity to spend quite a bit of the evening behind the microphone. I had never called any action at Boone before, but it was fun to see things from that perspective. I may return to the booth more this week, depending how much Johnnie elects to save his voice... and depending on how much schoolboy Blake needs to study for his classes at UNI!

Tonight, qualifying starts for the Modifieds and Stock Cars. Looking at the cars that have already arrived for thoser divisions, you can rest assured that this year will be as competitive as ever. It's time tio head back to the track for Day 3... see you there!

NOTE: Typos may be more common in my Super Nationals reports than the normal blog entries. Time's a wastin' and there are deep fat fried Oreos waiting for me at the track!

The blog site I use to update my blog is down today, so it won't let me add a new blog, however it will let me edit existing ones. Ya got me, but what happened Wednesday night follows below...

While Super Nationals is halfway over according to the calendar, the excitement is just beginning for many as the Modifieds and Stock Cars started qualifying on Wednesday night in Boone.

Justin Temeyer got out of the gate early, taking an early heat win in the Stock Cars.He started the 24-car Stock Car main inside of row two for an event that sent 10 cars to Saturday night. Temeyer jockeyed from the fourth through seventh spots throughout much of the event before finishing his run in sixth, qualifying him for Saturday night.

Northeast Iowa competitor Lynn Panos, who primarily runs open shows until late August arrives on the calendar, came from a deep starting spot to collect his invitation for Saturday with a seventh place run. Another driver I've seen quite a few times this season, Jeff Mueller of New London, also snuck into Saturday by finishing eighth. Mueller ran much of the 20-lap qualifier from the back of the pack after being involved in an early yellow. He raced through traffic and dodged the yellow flag throughout the remainder of the event to make it to Saturday.

Damon Murty was in the wrong place a couple different times throughout the race as he suffered heavy damage from a pair of caution periods, resulting in his 20th place finish. Steve Meyer, who was running in a qualifying spot in the waning laps, made contact with Jeremy Christians as the field was coming off turn four to take the checkers. Neither of those drivers was able to close the deal, stalling on the high side of turn four. They're among the group who will try again tonight to get qualified.

In all, 16 heats were run for the 170 Stock Cars in attendance. The heat winners only, along with the winners of eight B features transferred to the night's qualifier.

By my count, 261 Modifieds were scheduled to take part in 20 heats for that division with the winners only qualifying for the night's qualifying feature.

Troy Cordes opened the night by winning the first heat in the division after coming from a fourth row starting spot. Local Jerry Luloff also made a good run, blowing away the field to earn a spot in the night's qualifier. Johnathan Thimmesch held off a hard-charging Jimmy Gustin to pick up a heat win to round out area qualifiers on the night.

In the 25-lap qualifying feature for the Mods, patience was definitely a virtue - unfortunately, that wasn't a characteristic too many possessed on this night. Multiple cautions slowed the event which resulted in quite a bit of cosmetic damage (at the very least) on a number of the rides. Perhaps the most disappointed was Luloff, who started 22nd in the 30-car field (and was one of few to display much patience) and made it into the top 10 midway through the event.

Luloff worked the low side on a late restart and made his way into fifth by the time the final yellow flag waved with only four laps to go. As only the top eight transferred to Saturday's big show, it appeared Luloff was on his way. Unfortunately for him, cars gor crossed up in front of him shortly after racing resumed. He got stuck behind the spinners and had to settle for 14th.

Cordes left the event early when, by no fault of his own, he was caught up in a caution, apparently destroying his radiator in the process. Thimmesch served as a pinball midway through the race wheile he was trying to work himself into a qualifying spot. He eventually finished 21st.

That's it from Wednesday. The Stocks and Mods will regroup, redraw and try it all over again tonight (weather permitting) in a complete, new show.

Thanks again to Johnnie and Blake updtairs for inviting me to call a few races. It appears as though I'll be back tonight and tomorrow to call some more action. Hope to see everyone there!

NOTE: Webmistress Sue, no more deep fried Oreos for me on Wednesday. I may actually resort to fruit and vegetables today before I send my system into total shutdown!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Day one of Super Nationals is in the books

A record number of cars in the SportMod division and some uncharacteristically careless driving in the Late Models highlighted the first day of racing during the IMCA Super Nationals at Boone Speedway.

The action was as intense as it always is at Boone, with 67 events scheduled for the evening (between pesky rain showers and the occasional delay), and a number of locals from the Independence area made successful trips to central Iowa. As I stated in my entry on Sunday night, results and race reviews will be available anywhere and everywhere over the coming week, so I plan to use my time at Boone to primarily focus on our local drivers at Independence Motor Speedway (and a few others I've gotten to know over the season). Although this is a brief overview of opening night, I plan to offer a bit more over the coming week.

Cars: 43
Qualifiers: 24

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was seeing Jill George of Cedar Falls behind the wheel of the #60 Wallybilt normally driven by Evansdale's Dean Wagner. Out of the gate in the first heat, George destroyed the field, pulling away to an impressive heat race win. She then drew 10 for the 50-lap Deery Series/Super Nationals headliner. Other locals who qualified through their heats included Terry Neal, Jon Passick, Jeremiah Hurst and Bobby Hansen.

A number of drivers also made it out of the B features and into the A as provisionals. They included Rick Dralle, Jason Rauen, Tysus Pattee, Joel Callahan and Jeff Aikey.

In the feature, George made a nice run on the high side and as was as far up as fourth before a mid-race caution slowed her progress and left her struggling with the high groove once racing resumed. By night's end, however, George made a nice recovery to race to a top-10 finish, coming home ninth. George, who has hit a lot of open shows this summer and has strayed away from IMCA contests, had her eyes wide open in the pits immediately following the race. She laughed and said, "Maybe I like these IMCA shows!" Awesome run for Jill driving a car in which she has spent very limited time.

Aikey, who finished second in his B to get into the field, say way back on the starting grid. After contact early with one of his competitors, Aikey made a couple of trips to the pits, but was able to stay on the lead lap throughout the numberous cautions. He raced through the pack and came home second to Ray Guss Jr.

Independence track champion Tyler Bruening, who also had problems early, came from a last place restart early and finished fourth. I was confused, however, during a late caution when Bruening and Passick got together in turns three and four to bring out the yellow. While it appeared both were stopped, only Passick was sent to the rear and Bruening, who was running 10th at the time, got his spot back. He certainly took advantage of his good fortune.

Pattee also proved it was a fight of the strongest survivors as he started at the back of the 24-car field and made a nive run to finish 10th.

I left my notebook in the car, but there had to be no fewer than 12 caution flags throughout the feature, which took exactly 63 minutes to complete. While many of the fans in attendance may not call Late Models their "favorites" (and I'm sure they'll use tonight's feature as a testament to those thoughts), the racing was great when the green flag was out.

There were two scary rollovers in the division. Sam Halstead flipped into turn one early in his heat race while Jason Rauen went over in turns one and two while running the high side in the feature. Both drivers were uninjured, although their cars (especially Halstead's) appeared to be in pretty bad shape.

Cars: 173
Qualifiers: One 30-car qualifying feature

A total of 173 names were on the results for the IMCA SportMods on opening night, a record dnumber at Boone. While those drivers were divided into 20 heats, that's where I get confused. Perhaps I left too early (midnight was late enough for me for night number one), but it was announced that only the winners of each of the 20 heats would qualify for the opening night feature. Alas, based on the results, 30 names are listed. I'm under the assumption that the winners of the 10 B-features were also given qualifying spots at the tail of the night's feature

Here's what I do know based on my observations before letting the cold defeat me Monday night...

Danny Dvorak won his qualifier although he crossed the finish line in second. Gatlin Leytham, who took the checkers first, was docked two positions for jumping the start. Dvorak redrew 18 and didn't make it intot he required top-10 in the feature to qualify for Saturday's show.

Kurt Moeding won his heat race after holding off the race-long pressure from Mark Rose. Moeding, too, was unable to nab a qualifying spot through the feature, however. He drew the number "8" pill, but finished 22nd. Austin Kaplan led most of his heat race, however a late pass by Brett Meyer dropped Kaplan into second place and the B feature. He won the B feature, started at the back of the A and worked into a ninth place finish to qualify for Saturday's main event. Austin Lucas won his heat race and turned that into a qualifying spot, as well, finishing eighth in the night's feature to qualify for Saturday.

Ken Kositsky, a Vinton regular, won his heat in dominating fashion, but failed to nab a qualifying spot in the A, coming home 20th.

Tyler Droste led much of his heat race qualifier, but came up short, finishing second. He, along with many others, will make another attempt tonight to make it to Saturday. Kurt Hogan, Chris Luloff, Jum Buhlman, Ray Lundry, Lucas Lundry, Kyle Olson, Mike Hogencamp and Leah Cabalka were among other locals competing tonight. I probably forgot a few others, but those are the names that jump out at this time. They'll all be back in action tonight to try to get qualified for Saturday.

Cars: 134
Qualifiers: Two 24-car qualifying features

Josh Irvine was the lone local driver to make it to Saturday's Hobby Stock feature. Irvine drove to a third place finish in his heat, won the B and finished eighth in the first qualifier to make it to Saturday's finale.

Eric Stanton, who started the season racing in Vinton on Sunday nights, also made it in, driving to a fifth place finish in the same feature as Irvine.

Many other locals were on-hand, including Vince Buchholz, August Bach, Jim Ball, Wes Stanek Jr., Matt Brown, Vinton points leader Scott Pippert, In fact, Brown made it to a qualifying feature, but was unable to muster more than an 18th place finish.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Docekal wins in Mod thriller, Kaplan comes from back at Benton County Speedway

As it has done all season, Benton County Speedway provided race fans with another great night of racing on the 1/4-mile oval.. For the second consecutive week, the IMCA Modifieds offered a three-car battle to the wire while Austin Kaplan came from the back of the pack to score the IMCA SportMod win.

At the start of the 20-lap Modified feature, Patrick Flannagan took the lead as the second row starter slid beneath pole-sitter Jerry Dedrick to lead the first lap. Joe Docekal, who started outside of the third row, used the bottom groove to motor into second after just two laps.

As Flannagan paced the field, Docekal remained close while Mark Schulte battled Tony Olson and Jerry Luloff for third. Trying both high and low, Schulte reeled in the leaders while Docekal remained glued to Flannagan's rear bumper. Just prior to the midway point, Schulte gained ground on the high side, pulling alongside Docekal for second with Luloff in tow. The top three remained unchanged when the second and final caution flag waved on lap 11.

On the restart, Flannagan continued to set the pace as Schulte and Docekal both dropped to the low side. Docekal worked below Luloff for third with just a handful of laps remaining as Schulte powered beneath Flannagan for the lead.

Flannagan held onto the point as Docekal rocketed beneath Schulte for second. Those two continued to battle until the white flag lap. On the back stretch of the final lap, Docekal swept beneath the Flannagan as Schulte ran up top. The leaders entered the final set of turns three-wide before Docekal pulled ahead of Schulte coming out of four. Docekal inched ahead to the outside of Flannagan to score the exciting win. Schulte ran a close third.

Entering the night, Scott Hogan held a 36-point lead over Luloff in the division's standings. By virtue of Hogan's sixth place finish and Luloff's 11th place run, Hogan will take a 41-point lead into the final night in two weeks, unofficially locking up the track title.

IMCA Modified
1. 12D Joe Docekal
2. F7 Patrick Flannagan
3. 27M Mark Schulte
4. 25 Shawn Fisher
5. 17X Mike Krall
6. 33D Scott Hogan
7. 32X Chris Snyder
8. 5 Jerry Dedrick
9. 111 Buster Pate
10. 7S Robbie Schmuecker

Despite the fact that seven caution flags destroyed the first six laps of the IMCA SportMod feature (and it was beyond ugly), it turned out to be one of the best races of the night.

At the drop of the green (the first one, when there were no laps in the books and gas tanks were full), outside front row starter Brian Anderson took the lead. Anderson led through four cautions on lap three (that's right, four cautions on a single lap), that slowed the field. During the first of those cautions, Austin Kaplan exited to the pits. Fortunately for Kaplan, he had forever and a day to repair his machine as his competitors were thoughtful enough to annihilate each other to bring out three more yellows before lap four could be scored.

Following that fourth caution, Drew Fish wiggled to the low side of Anderson for the lead. Anderson took the bait, allowing Fish to swim past for the top spot. By this time, Kaplan was already back into the top 12 of what was left of the original 24-car starting feel. By surprise, the fifth caution flag of the event waved on lap five with Fish leading the school and Anderson and Danny Dvorak in tow. Kaplan was sitting in seventh.

Following two more (that's seven total) caution flags by the end of six laps, the racing began at the front of the pack. Kaplan went to work on the high side, while Fish, Anderson and Dvorak worked low. Kaplan motored around the outside of Dvorak and Anderson to settle into second one lap later. He then put his viewfinder on Fish's #3D.

Kaplan quickly reeled in Fish when the leader encountered lapped traffic on the 11th circuit. Kaplan moved to the low side, seeking shallower waters as he amde his bid for the read. Kaplan took over the top spot as the flying green waved on his way to the win.

IMCA SportMod
1. 1 Austin Kaplan
2. 3D Drew Fish
3. 3B Brian Anderson
4. 00 Jim Buhlman
5. 3R Danny Dvorak
6. J2 Dave Schulze
7. 18J Jake Strayer
8. 17 Dawn Krall
9. 95 Mike McDonald
10. 81 Jesse Belez

Billy Grimm led throughout much of the 15-lap IMCA Hobby tock main event. Grimm paced the field through two caution periods in the first seven laps while Brad Forbes stayed close. Just past the midway point, Forbes made his way below Grimm for the lead, ending Grimm's fairytale run. Forbes went on to score the win ahead of a halrd-charging Rod Grother and Scott Pippert.

IMCA Hobby Stock
1. 09 Brad Forbes
2. 77 Rod Grother
3. 47 Scott Pippert
4. 22 Billy Grimm
5. 6 Randy VandeVegte
6. 78 Matt Brown
7. 76S Adam Streeter
8. 16 Wes Stanek Jr.
9. 115 Nate Sweerin
10. 25 Doug Laughridge

A wild rollover slowed the early stages of the 12-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature when Neil Nabholz got upside down in turns three and four on lap three. While Nabholz walked away uninjured, the three drivers leading the pack failed to slow their 4-cylinder rocketships when the red flag waved, resulting in their disqualifications.

With leaders Travis Losenicky, Brett Vanous and Bill Whalen Jr. gone from the event, Cale Peterson inherited the lead. He held the point until Nathan Chandler worked below him on the back stretch on the ensuing restart. Chandler went on to win the event with Merv Chandler and Gary Peiffer competing the top three.

IMCA Sport Compact
1. 22 Nathan Chandler
2. 1 Merv Chandler
3. 36DD Gary Peiffer
4. 48 Chuck Fullenkamp
5. 3 Dallas Chandler
6. 69 William Michel
7. 45 Justin Wacha
8. 2P Cale Peterson
9. 02R Travis Ross
10. 07 Joe Goodenbauer

Paul Shepherd survived four caution periods and repeated pressure from Curtis Roster to score the victory in the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature. Shepherd earned his first win in the division since July 8, 2007.

IMCA Stock Car
1. 31S Paul Shepherd
2. 8 Curtis Roster
3. 09M Brett Mather
4. 15 Norman Chesmore
5. 6X Bob Ahrendsen
6. 22K Kevin Rose
7. 76 Mike Galli
8. 56T Justin Temeyer
9. G1 Mike Padden
10. 9E Austin Evens

Thanks again to Mick and crew for another entertaining night back home in Vinton. Mick, be sure to note the time stamp of this entry - before 10 p.m.! Gotta love holiday weekends to give me a little more motivation to get my work done.

This was night #53 for me this year and, after six days in Boone this coming week, I'll be one race short of my 60-race goal for the season. I think I may need to raise my goal to 65 because I look to hit a few more specials in September and maybe October.

While many people covering the events in Boone will have various results and reports, I plan to focus my blog on the local guys who make the two-hour trek to central Iowa. If you're a fan of some of the drivers who race at Independence during the weekly battles of the regular season, I hope to bring race night-by-race night reviews of their week at Super Nationals. See you in Boone!

Deery Series offers fans the Most for their money at Lee County Speedway

Intense. Incredible. Amazing. Heartbreaking. All those words and more described Josh Most's unthinkable run to the front of the pack as he made a last-corner pass to win the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models event at Lee County Speedway on Saturday night.

Most, who had to race his way through the pack - nearly twice - brought the crowd to its feet as he inched past race leader Jason Perry at the line to complete the 35th and final lap of the Late Model feature.

From his inside second row start, Perry slid beneath pole-siter Tyler Bruening to escape with the lead at the end of the first lap. Outside pole starter T.J. Criss made his way to second, forcing Bruening back to third before the race's first caution on lap four when series points leader Ray Guss Jr. suffered a flat tire in turns three and four to bring out the yellow flag.

Two more laps were scored before the next caution on lap six. This time, Most slowed on the high side of turns one and two to bring out the caution. He then limped to the pit area for what he believed was a flat tire on the right side of his #92. His pit crew, who met him at the back stretch exit, informed him all four tires had air and quickly sent him back to the speedway. Forced the realign at the tail of the field for the next restart, Most went to work.

When racing resumed, Rob Toland and Mark Burgtorf started to charge to the front from their mid-pack starts. They entered their own battle as they worked toward the front, swapping the fourth position before Burgtorf exited with a flat tire on lap 12.

Perry, meanwhile, continued to have the field covered as Toland worked the low groove into contention, making his way into second on lap 13. By the time the yellow flag waved again on lap 20, Most worked his way back into seventh.

As Most charged through the pack, after initially starting 15th, then restarting from the tail on lap six, Jeff Aikey was also making some noise. Aikey, who started outside row six, slipped into third before the lap 20 caution. He edged past Toland for second one lap later before the race's final caution flag waved.

On the restart, Perry continued to show the way with Aikey, Toland, Justin Reed and Most in tow. Running the low side, Most worked past Reed and Aikey, who faded on the restart, and into the top three. With five laps to go, Most made his way under Toland for second as Perry built a five car-length lead over his competitors.

Most then moved to the very top of the lightning-fast, 3/8-mile oval to reel in Perry. Running on the cushion, and frequently in the crumbs just below the outside wall, Most pulled to within a car-length as the white flag was displayed. Committed to the top side, Most pulled even with Perry coming out of turn four on the final lap. Most pulled ahead at the line to score the win as the crowd came to its feet during the thrilling finish. Perry ran second ahead of Toland, Reed and Aikey. Terry Neal came from an 18th start to finish sixth ahead of Tom Darbyshire, who started 20th. Jay Johnson ran eighth ahead of Boone McLaughlin. Guss worked back through the pack to finish 10th.

In other action, Mike Shelton took control of the B Mod feature following a lap two caution. He dominated the rest of that 15-lapper to take the win ahead of Cayden Carter, Michael Bliven and Tyler Van Den Berg,

Jake Wenig led all 15 laps to score the win in the Hobby Stock feature. He took the checkers over a straightaway ahead of Jim Lynch. Dane Fenton ran third ahead of Jim Oliver.

Matt Greiner worked the high side past Abe Huls in the late stages of the 15-lap Stock Car feature to take the victory. Jason Cook ran second ahead of Cale Samberg and Phil Holtz. Huls retired with an expired engine with two laps to go.

Nick Wilkerson took the victory in the 4-cylinder Wild Things. Wayne Noble, Chuck Fullenkamp and Darin Smith rounded out the top four.

It was a great night of racing at LCS. The track was in perfect shape and the feature action was stellar in all five divisions. Great job to Terry and Jenni Hoenig and crew for a great night of racing. The show, which featured 98 cars, including 34 Late Models, saw the final checkered flag before 10:30 p.m.

Last week I mentioned how I had a unique responsibility over the weekend. I was to announce a non-racing event at a track in southeast Iowa. Longtime Modified and former Pro Stock driver Bill Roberts Jr. got married to his girlfriend, Brooke Houtz. I was asked to announce the event because it was held on the front stretch of 34 Raceway in Burlington. While I'm not a man of the cloth and didn't actually conduct the ceremony, the couple wanted the event to have a race night feel so I "opened the show" and introduced Brooke and Bill as the starting lineup... after the wedding party was brought to the front stretch by 4-wheelers, including the bride! In fact, the ceremony took place on the front stretch, right in front of Roberts' #5R Modified. Those in attendance were greeted by Facilities Director Jason Goble at the front gate as he was handing them their tickets for the event. Even flagman Bruce Thuleen and his wife Tara were in the flagstand with Bruce waving the checkers when the groom kissed the bride.

Around 150 were in attendance for the ceremony, which was absolutely perfect. In fact, Pastor Cindy, who led the ceremony, referred to the racing community through her words. Having never been a racing fan until recent years, she compared the couple's relationship to that of racing relationships and how the racing community is family, supportive of one another and special to all of those involved.

As I was saying to Jason after the event (after he was again waiting by the gate to thank everyone for coming to the night's program), at first I thought it would be fun to be a part of the event. In the end, I truly felt honored that Brooke and Bill asked me to be a part of their big day. Thank you to them, congratulations and I hope you have many happy, healthy years together. Now, I just need to figure out if I can count this as one of my race nights on my march to 60...