After a one week weather delay, the season got underway at Independence Motor Speedway on Saturday night as 97 cars were on-hand to do battle for the first night of the season.
The final IMCA SportMod winner of the season in 2010, Tyler Droste picked up where he left off to open the 2011 season. After chasing front row starter for the first lap, and then Lucas Lundry another handful of times around the 3/8-mile oval, Droste swept around the high side to take the lead just prior to a lap seven caution.
Droste then pulled away from the field when racing resumed to lead the final eight laps of the event to score the victory, the second of his career at Independence. Lucas Lundry fought off his dad, Ray, to take home second. Kip Siems and Danny Dvorak completed the top five.
Sean Johnson used a nifty move at the start of the IMCA Stock Car feature to take the early command. Starting outside of the second row, Johnson split between front row starters Dave Stricker and Tim Helle to nab the top spot by the time the field exited turn two on the first lap. As Johnson led, Justin Temeyer worked into second place just prior to the midway point on lap seven and a caution on lap eight.
When racing resumed, Johnson and Temeyer engaged in arguably the best race of the night. With Johnson out front, Temeyer tried both high and low to steal the lead, using slingshot moves in both sets of turns, with Johnson regaining control each time. One final Temeyer push came up short on the last lap as Johnson drove to the victory, the ninth of his career at Indee, moving him into a tie with Chris Wessner on the all-time list. Following Johnson and Temeyer across the line were Dave Stricker, Jarod Weepie and Norman Chesmore.
Pole-sitter Jon Passick held the lead early in the 25-lap IMCA Late Model feature. He held the point through a myriad of cautions early in the race until the fifth lap when Passick drifted high, allowing Tyler Bruening to sneak by. After a brief challenge from Travis Smock, Bruening drove away to score the opening night win. The eighth win of his career in weekly competition at Independence, Bruening now sits tied for 20th on the all-time list with Jeff Aikey and Joe Schaefer. Bruening became the first track champion in three years to open the following season in victory lane. The last driver to do that at Independence was 2007 Late Model champion Darren Ackerman, who won the 2008 opening night feature.
Scott Pippert, who has been dominant in the IMCA Hobby Stock class at Benton County Speedway in Vinton this season, raised the bar Saturday night by making a very rare appearance at Independence. Pippert, who is 4-for-4 this season on the Vinton 1/4-mile, picked up his first career win at Independence in dominating fashion.
Front row starter Justin Lichty paced the field for the first lap, but fourth row starter Pippert already made his way into the top four by the end of lap one and then quickly challenged for the lead. He swept past Lichty a few moments later to lead the second time around and then quickly pulled away from the field. Pippert survived a late race caution to take his first-ever win at Independence ahead of Vince Buchholz and August Bach. Nathan Christie and Chris Wiltse completed the top five. Pippert became the 85th different winner in the division at Independence since it was introduced 23 seasons ago.
Mike Burbridge became another first-time winner as he took top honors in the 20-lap IMCA Modified feature. After following early leader Jerry King for the first lap, second row starting Burbridge made his bid for the lead one lap later following an early caution. Pole-sitter Patrick Flannagan kept Burbridge in his sights and took over the lead just two laps later. Flannagan held the point until the race's next stoppage on lap 10.
Following the restart, Burbridge made quick work of Flannagan and pulled away from the field to score his first win in weekly competition at Independence. Jerry King surged past Flannagan for second following a late caution. Flannagan ran third ahead of Adam Johnson and Shawn Ryan. With Burbridge's win, he became the 78th different weekly Modified winner in the 29 seasons the Modifieds have competed at the track.
A number of drivers made good runs through the field in their respective features. Among them were SportMod drivers Danny Dvorak and Josh Sherbon, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, after starting at the back of the 24-car field. Along with Pippert's Hobby Stock win from the fourth row, fellow Hobby Stocker August Bach came from the sixth row to finish third and Chris Wiltse turned a seventh row start into a fifth place finish. In the Modifieds, Adam Johnson came from the last row of the 20-car Modified field to finish fourth.
Also in attendance was Kyle Ealy of speedblitz.net. As I mentioned on the mic last night, if you want an "unfiltered" view of all things racing in the region, be sure to take a moment to read his blog.
Up next for me is a trip to Vinton tonight to visit mom for Mother's Day. And, since she works at the track, taking in the races will be a double bonus for my Sunday. Happy Mother's Day to all the great moms out there. See you at the races!