After three cancellations during the first four weeks of the season, Memorial Day weekend offered the second Saturday of weekly points racing at Independence Motor Speedway for 2011. Of the 102 cars signed in, three drivers used feature wins to propel them to the top of their respective division's standings while a fourth made a repeat trip to the winner's circle.
In the IMCA SportMod division, Tyler Droste took a liking to victory lane at the end of 2010 and he has yet to leave it. After winning on championship night last season, Droste became the first driver in the division's four-year history at the speedway to record back-to-back wins to open a season.
At the on-set of the 15-lap feature, it was outside front row starter Cory Evans pacing the field the first time around the 3/8-mile oval. He held the point until third row starter Danny Dvorak slid beneath him on the following lap to take the lead. Dvorak and Ray Lundry swapped the top spot while Droste marched through the field from a fifth row start.
Droste made his way past Dvorak for second on the sixth lap, then inched ahead of Lundry just prior to a caution on lap 10. Droste then drove away to score the victory ahead of Lundry and Dvorak. Dave Schulze and Josh Sherbon completed the top five. Including his win to end 2010, Droste also became the first driver to string together three consecutive wins in the division. The third win of his career, Droste moved into a tie with Chris Luloff for fourth on the division's career wins list at Independence.
In the IMCA Modified division, outside second row starter Tony Snyder looked poised to earn the first feature win of his career as he rocketed into the lead on the first lap. He quickly pulled away from the pack, leaving Adam Bolin, Keith Pittman and Troy Cordes to battle for second. That trio engaged in a terrific battle for the runner-up spot for a number of laps while Vern Jackson moved from a sixth row start into the top five. A pair of cautions slowed the event on laps six and seven, allowing Jackson to close the gap on the leaders.
When racing resumed following the lap seven stoppage, Jackson split between his competitors and settled into second just one lap later. On lap nine, Jackson made his way past Snyder and appeared to be on his way to a division-leading fourth career Memorial Day weekend Modified win at Independence. Those plans went south when he slowed with engine problems as the field came around to complete lap 13.
With Jackson pulling to the infield, Snyder again assumed command. By this time, Adam Johnson made his way from a fifth row start and into a challenge for the lead. He slipped beneath Snyder on lap 15, then led the remaining five laps to secure the victory ahead of Cordes. Shawn Ryan, who started 16th, made an impressive run to come home third ahead of Snyder and Pittman. Jerry Luloff, who qualified for his 199th consecutive Modified feature at Independence, a streak that dates back to July of 1997, made an impressive run of his own to finish sixth after starting 17th. For Johnson, it was his fifth career win at the speedway, placing him in a tie for 27th on the all-time list with Pittman, Larry Schmitt and Tom Fitzpatrick. Johnson has now won at least one feature at Independence in four of the last five seasons. His win Saturday night also moved him to the top of the point standings in the division.
Dave Stricker also used a win in the IMCA Stock Car division to lift him to the top of that division's standings. Stricker, who started in the fourth row, made his way to the front on the 10th lap of the scheduled 20-lapper. He passed race-long leader Thomas Thompson in the caution-filled event that eventually timed out after 16 laps. Norman Chesmore, Jarod Weepie, Phil Holtz and Tony Schimmels completed the top five. The third Stock Car win of his career at Independence, Stricker is now tied for 16th on the all-time list with Brad Holtkamp, Dale Hackwell Jr., Forrest Frost and Jerry Schipper.
August Bach engaged in an entertaining battle with pole-sitter Jamie Whitaker for the lead throughout the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock main event. Whitaker, who led the first 10 laps of the race, gave way to Bach with just five laps to go. The leaders then swapped the lead until a flat tire sidelined Whitaker with a couple of laps remaining, allowing Bach to sneak away with the win. Quinton Miller, Jim Ball, Justin Lichty and Vince Buchholz completed the top five. Bach has now won a feature each of the past three seasons in the division at Independence.
In the evening's finale, IMCA Late Model driver Rob Toland made the trek from Moline, Illinois, after the program at 34 Raceway in Burlington rained out. Since it was only the second points race of the season, the Late Models drew for their starting positions and, after qualifying through his heat, Toland redrew the #2 spoon for the feature. Toland quickly pulled away from the pack and survived a handful of cautions, plus a late charge from Curt Martin, to take the victory. Greg Kastli, Jon Passick and Dale Hackwell Jr. chased the leaders to the checkers.
Up next for me is a trip to Vinton for the holiday weekend and a return to Benton County Speedway. Although I have attended the races there on a regular basis this season, I haven't written about it lately here at Positively Racing. I plan to change that this weekend and expect to have notebook in hand for this weekend's show. See you at the races!