Thursday, June 30, 2011

Aikey victorious in exciting Red Dralle Memorial at Independence Motor Speedway

Race fans filled the grandstands at Independence Motor Speedway on Wednesday night for the Red Dralle Memorial as the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models made its annaul visit to the Buchanan County Fairgrounds. A track record-tying 50 Late Models signed in to compete in the event, which honored Red Dralle, a veteran Late Model driver at the speedway who passed away last October. By the end of the 84-lap feature, a distance recognizing Dralle's first car number, Jeff Aikey took home the $5,004 winner's share in a thrilling event that left fans on the edges of their seats until the checkers waved.

At the drop of the green, pole-sitter Joe Zrostlik paced the field with fellow front row starter Nate Beuseling in tow. Third row starter Colby Springsteen made it a three-car break-out at the front of the pack as he joined the lead pair following the first lap.

The leaders remained unchanged, but within striking distance of each other until Beuseling was able to make his way around Zrostlik just prior to the race's first caution on lap 17. Just prior to the caution, Zrostlik fell back to fourth as Justin Reed, who started in the third row outside of Springsteen, and Ray Guss Jr advanced positions. Reed then began to reel in the leaders when the caution waved.

When racing resumed, Reed motored around the high side of Springsteen and chased Beuseling for a number of laps. The leaders briefly ran in three-wide formation with Reed holding the point before a pair of stoppages on laps 35 and 37. Stephan Kammerer and Aikey, who started in rows four and five, worked into the top five a few laps prior to the pair of cautions and restarted in row three behind the leaders.

On the lap 37 restart, Aikey swept past Kammerer, Springsteen and Beuseling in just a couple of laps to settle into second as the race reached its midway point. Aikey chased down the leader as those two battled for the lead, entering lapped traffic on lap 49. Aikey was able to take advantage of the backmarkers and slipped beneath Reed on the 55th circuit. He never looked back as drove to the exciting win. Reed ran second at the line. Springsteen and Kammerer were able to close late as the leaders raced through traffic, running a close third and fourth, respectively. Beuseling completed the top five.

A trio of drivers advanced 12 positions from thier starting spots, however Bryan Klein earned the best finish among those drivers by moving from 19th to seventh. As a result, he earned a $504 bonus as the race's hard charger. All purse money ended in "4" on the night in recognition of the car number Dralle drove at the end of his career.

Feature (starting positions in parentheses)
1. (10) 77 Jeff Aikey, Waterloo
2. (6) 1ST Justin Reed, Collinsville, IL
3. (5) 38 Colby Springsteen, Morning Sun
4. (8) 77K Stephan Kammerer, Blue Grass
5. (2) 46 Nate Beuseling, Silvis, IL
6. (4) 58 Ray Guss Jr., Milan, IL
7. (19) 25 Bryan Klein, Cedar Rapids, IA
8. (16) 28C Terry Neal, Ely
9. (9) 56 Andy Eckrich, Iowa City
10. (22) 33 Nick Marolf, Moscow (hard charger provisional)
11. (23) 16 Tyler Bruening, Decorah (points provisional)
12. (11) 73 Greg Kastli, Waterloo
13. (24) 42 Tom Darbyshire, Morning Sun (points provisional)
14. (20) 22 Charlie McKenna, Clear Lake
15. (1) 50 Joe Zrostlik, Long Grove
16. (7) 2P Jon Passick, Waterloo
17. (14) 12J T.J. Criss, Oskaloosa
18. (13) 21B Joel Brasch, Dunkerton
19. (12) 145 Dale Hackwell Jr., Washburn
20. (17) 14M Mike Murphy Jr., Colona, IL
21. (3) 16S Dan Shelliam, Hazel Green, WI
22. (18) 07 Matt Ryan, Davenport
23. (21) 7B Mark Burgtorf, Quincy, IL
24. (15) 45 Curt Martin, Independence

First heat (3 qualify, 2 redraw) - 1. Eckrich; 2. Reed; 3. Kastli; 4. Neal; 5. Murphy; 6. G1 Mike Garland, Morrison, IL; 7. 53 Darren Ackerman, Readlyn; 8. 98 Travis Smock, Independence; 9. Sam Halstead, New London; 10. 21 Ryan Duhme, Lamotte.
Second heat - 1. Kammerer; 2. Beuseling; 3. Hackwell; 4. Klein; 5. McKenna; 6. 99 Luke Pestka, Robins; 7. Darbyshire; 8. 40 Joel Callahan, Dubuque; 9. 60 Dean Wagner, Evansdale; 10. 4 Leon Thomsen, Waverly.
Third heat - 1. Shelliam; 2. Aikey; 3. Brasch; 4. Ryan; 5. Bruening; 6. 42S Matt Strassheim, Morning Sun; 7. 76 Jason Hahne, Webster City; 8. 21M Luke Merfeld, Dubuque; 9. 14 Boone McLaughlin, Mediapolis; 10. 88 Drew Johnson, Belle Plaine.
Fourth heat - 1. Zrostlik; 2. Springsteen; 3. Criss; 4. 38S Dain Sires, Cedar Falls; 5. 4D Rick Dralle, Waterloo; 6. 78 Rick Wendling, Hazleton; 7. 15K Justin Kay, Wheatland; 8. 777 Dirk Hamilton, Jesup; 9. 95 Eric Sanders, Coal Valley, IL; 10. 68 Tysus Pattee, Vinton.
Fifth heat - 1. Passick; 2. Guss; 3. Martin; 4. 44 Luke Goedert, Holy Cross; 5. Burgtorf; 6. 99D Darrel DeFrance, Marshalltown; 7. 93 Jay Johnson, West Burlington; 8. 3 Kevin Sather, Ankeny; 9. Marolf; 10. 2V Vic Lovejoy, Manilla.
First B feature (top 3 transfer) - 1. Neal; 2. Ryan; 3. McKenna; 4. Goedert; 5. Garland; 6. Strassheim; 7. Dralle; 8. DeFrance; 9. Darbyshire; 10. Merfeld; 11. Sather; 12. Duhme; 13. Kay; 14. Smock; 15. Lovejoy; 16. Sanders; 17. D. Johnson; 18. Wagner.
Second B feature - 1. Murphy; 2. Klein; 3. Burgtorf; 4. J. Johnson; 5. Marolf; 6. Sires; 7. Pestka; 8. McLaughlin; 9. Callahan; 10. Ackerman; 11. Wendling; 12. Pattee; 13. Bruening; 14. Hahne; 15. Halstead; 16. Thomsen; DNS Pattee.

Along with the Late Models, 35 IMCA Stock Cars signed in for the second night of the Great American Stock Car Series. After being rained out at Buena Vista Raceway in Alta on Monday, the the three-day series was shortened to two days with the first night of action taking place on Tuesday at Marshalltown Speedway.

At the start of the 30-lapper at Independence, Justin Temeyer took the lead. He paced the field until an early caution following lap one. On the restart, Sean Johnson shot to the inside of both Temeyer and second-running Damon Murty to take command by lap two until the second of three caution flags waved on lap three.

On the restart, Johnson set sail, leaving Temeyer to battle with pole-sitter Murty for second. Murty quickly worked beneath Temeyer and then attempted to reel in Johnson, who was pulling away from the field on the high groove. As Johnson led, Tuesday night's winner, Donavon Smith, was making his way through traffic from a fourth row start. Smith snuck past Temeyer for third on lap seven, then went to work on cutting into his sizable deficit. Johnson, Murty and Smith ran 1-2-3 until the third and final caution waved on lap 21, just as the leaders entered lapped traffic.

When racing resumed and with a clear track in front of him, Johnson again showed the way despite having defending series champion Murty and current series points leader Smith hot on his heels. He led the remaining nine circuits to score the first series win of his career, earning $1,004 in the process. Murty and Smith followed. By virtue of his first and third place finishes, I believe Smith clinched the series title by a single point over Johnson, who finished fourth at Marshalltown on Tuesday. Trent Murphy, who earned one of the final qualifying spots from a B feature, made an impressive run through the field to finish fourth after starting 21st.

1. (3) 8R Sean Johnson, Independence
2. (1) 99D Damon Murty, Chelsea
3. (7) 35 Donavon Smith, Lake City
4. (21) 25 Trent Murphy, Jefferson
5. (9) 21X Devin Snellenberger, Pulaski, WI
6. (2) 56T Justin Temeyer, Independence
7. (10) 36 Larry Karcz, Pulaski, WI
8. (14) 3W Jeff Wollam, Marshalltown
9. (11) 19J Jay Schmidt, Tama
10. (8) 57 John Heinz, Green Bay, WI
11. (18) 3 Jarod Weepie, Dunkerton
12. (16) 32 Derek Green, Granada, MN
13. (4) 1330 Justin Jacobsen, Black Creek, Wi
14. (24) 17 Kenny Hansen, Audubon
15. (22) 22K Kevin Rose, Waterloo
16. (20) 27J Jason Cook, Mt. Pleasant
17. (6) 09M Brett Mather, Lamont
18. (19) 24 Eric Brown, Boone
19. (15) 89B Dave Stricker, Waterloo
20. (13) R31 Ryan Leeman, Roland
21. (23) 1SW Tony Ritterbush, Dunlap
22. (12) 20M Perry Misner, Garden City, KS
23. (5) 75 Curt Hook, Ackley
24. (17) Steve Meyer, Grundy Center

First heat (top 4 qualify, 3 redraw) - 1. Karcz; 2. Hook; 3. Misner; 4. Leeman; 5. Meyer; 6. 69 Jake Ludeking, Decorah; 7. 10 John Schaefer, La Porte City; 8. Ritterbush; 9. Murphy.
Second heat - 1. Smith; 2. Temeyer; 3. Murty; 4. Wollam; 5. Brown; 6. 321 Dan Feltus, Allison; 7. 76 Mike Galli, Urbana; 8. 20L Lauren Vis, LeGrand; 9. 18 Tom Schmitt, Independence.
Third heat - 1. Jacobsen; 2. Snellenberger; 3. Heinz; 4. Stricker; 5. 83E Thomas Thompson, Hopkinton; 6. 9E Austin Evens, Independence; 7. 92 Dan Mackenthun, Hamburg, MN; 8. Weepie; 9. 37C Roger Ciesielski, Waterloo.
Fourth heat - 1. Johnson; 2. Schmidt; 3. Mather; 4. Green; 5. J. Cook; 6. Rose; 7. Hansen; 8. 27R Ryan Cook, New London.
First B feature (top 4 transfer) - 1. Meyer; 2. Brown; 3. Murphy; 4. Ritterbush; 5. Schaefer; 6. Ludeking; 7. Galli; 8. Vis; 9. Feltus; DNS Schmitt.
Second B feature - 1. Weepie; 2. J. Cook; 3. Rose; 4. Hansen; 5. Evens; 6. Mackenthun; 7. Thompson; 8. R. Cook; 9. Ciesielski.

The IMCA SportMods were also on-hand as 18 open wheel machines signed in to compete. In that 20-lap feature, Brad Lautenbach made his first-ever visit to the speedway pay off as the Wisconsin driver took the $504 winner's share back to the Badger state.

Racer Hulin, also making his first-ever visit to Independence, took the early lead as Tyler Droste and Ken Kositzky gave chase. Meanwhile, Lautenbach, who did not qualify for the redraw and started the feature in 11th, quickly worked through the field. He sped past Kositzky for third just four laps into the event, then reeled in Droste for second just prior to the midway point on lap nine.

The lone caution of the race came on lap 12, bunching the field for the restart. When racing resumed, Lautenbach took just two laps to dispose of Hulin as he drove to the impressive victory.

1. (11) 21L Brad Lautenbach, New Franken, WI
2. (2) 505 Racer Hulin, Laurel
3. (4) 92 Tyler Droste, Waterloo
4. (3) 3R Danny Dvorak, Vinton
5. (12) 25 Tyler Hackett, Algoma, WI
6. (8) 3D Drew Fish, Vinton
7. (7) 26J Joel Rust, Grundy Center
8. (14) 96 Lucas Lundry, Maynard
9. (9) 00 Jim Buhlman, Cedar Falls
10. (13) Kip Siems, Cedar Falls
11. (5) Ray Lundry, Maynard
12. (18) 86 Rod McDonald, Manchester
13. (1) K0 Ken Kositzky, Cedar Rapids
14. (15) 36 Matt Pittman, Jefferson
15. (17) 66E Cory Evans, Independence
16. (16) 28P Rick Paulson, Tripoli
17. (6) T17 Tom Rawlins, Kellogg
18. (10) 24B Kyle Bentley, Independence

First heat (top 5 redraw) - 1. Dvorak; 2. Rust; 3. Rawlins; 4. Kositzky; 5. Hulin; 6. Lautenbach; 7. Siems; 8. Pittman; 9. Evans.
Second heat - 1. Buhlman; 2. R. Lundry; 3. Fish; 4. Droste; 5. Bentley; 6. Hackett; 7. L. Lundry; 8. Paulson; 9. McDonald.

It was a beautiful night to honor Red Dralle and a number of Late Model veterans were also on-hand to take in the show. Among those in attendance were Late Model veterans Ed Sanger, Gary Crawford, Bill Zwanziger, Bob Hilmer, Gary Henderson, Larry Wasserfort and Tom Fitzpatrick. Combined, those seven drivers alone account for 112 weekly Late Model wins in the 650+ Late Model features in track history. With Sanger and Crawford being in attendance and Curt Martin, Greg Kastli and Rick Wendling competing in the event, all of the top five in career Late Model wins in speedway history were on-hand. Those five drivers account for 254 career wins in weekly Late Model racing alone at Independence.

Special thank you to Rick Dralle and his crew for all the hard work they did to make last night a success. It definitely paid off as the tribute to his father was undoubtedly a showcase event. After a couple days off, my next race will be the seventh weekly points race of the season at Independence this Saturday night. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Stats Blitz! Facts and Figures through June at Independence Motor Speedway

Welcome to the second installment of the 2011 Stats Blitz! Throughout the year, I’ll offer month-by-month updates of all things statistical at Independence Motor Speedway. The statistics included here are through six weeks of weekly racing (the end of June).

There are some all-time statistics included, dating back to 1967. While the track was believed to have opened in 1965, my records date back to the beginning of the 1967 season. All of the “all-time” statistics here include races from only the five divisions that currently compete today. Modifieds started competing in 1983, Hobby Stocks in 1989, Stock Cars in 1993 and SportMods in 2008. The information included for the Late Models dates back to 1967.

As always, special thanks to track photographer Scott Tjabring of Action Track Photography for allowing me to use his photos. Check out his excellent work at

Car Count
Division - Average - High - Low
Late Model – 21.8 - 29 - 18
Modified – 25.3 - 29 - 20
Stock Car – 15.5 - 18 - 13
SportMod – 19.5 - 24 - 14
Hobby Stock – 21.3 - 23 - 19
TOTAL – 103.5 - 111 - 97

* 162 drivers have earned points so far this season.
* 55 different hometowns are represented on the points sheet.
* Points leaders account for five of the 30 total feature wins through six weeks. Jerry Luloff (Modifieds), Ray Lundry (SportMods) and Vince Buchholz (Hobby Stocks) lead the standings in their respective divisions, but have yet to record a feature win in 2011.

CONSISTENCY THE KEY - IMCA Modified driver Jerry Luloff sits atop the division's standings despite no victories through six weeks of the 2011 season. Although he'd rather pick up a win or two along the way, Luloff is one of four Modified champions in track history to win a title without a win (2006).

* 29 drivers have remained in the top-10 in the points following all six weeks of the season. Those drivers include:
Late Model (5): Darren Ackerman, Tyler Bruening, Dirk Hamilton, Jon Passick, Travis Smock;
Modified (6): Mike Burbridge, Troy Cordes, Patrick Flannagan, Adam Johnson, Jerry Luloff, Tony Olson;
Stock Car (6): Norman Chesmore, Austin Evens, Tim Helle, Sean Johnson, Dave Stricker, Jarod Weepie;
SportMod (6): Jim Buhlman, Tyler Droste, Danny Dvorak, Lucas Lundry, Ray Lundry, Josh Sherbon;
Hobby Stock (6): August Bach, Vince Buchholz, Nathan Christie, Russell Damme Jr., Chris Wiltse, Steve Wiltse.

TOP DOG - Dave Stricker has been on top of the IMCA Stock Car standings for five consecutive weeks. That's the longest stretch for any current points leader at the speedway.

Feature Winners
* There have been 20 different feature winners in 30 feature events this season.
* There have been four different winners the last four weeks in both the SportMod and Hobby Stock divisions.

Making history…
Late Model: With his win on June 25, Tyler Bruening guaranteed that there will be at least one three-time winner in the Late Models this season. Only four times in the last 45 years has there not been at least one Late Model driver with three feature wins (1975, 1989, 2008 and 2010). Bruening is looking to become the first Late Model driver since Curt Martin in 2004 to earn three consecutive trips to Late Model victory lane. On June 25, he became the 21st Late Model driver since 1967 to earn back-to-back wins. The record of three straight Late Model wins at Independence is shared by four drivers – Ed Sanger, Gary Crawford, Curt Martin and Rick Wendling.

A SHOT AT HISTORY - IMCA Late Model driver Tyler Bruening is looking to become only the fifth driver in 45 years to string together three consecutive feature wins in the division.

Modified: On June 18, Vern Jackson became only the seventh Modified driver in track history to win three consecutive features. He joined Darin Duffy (three 3-race win streaks), Jack Mitchell (2), Troy Cordes (1), Greg Kastli (1), Mark Noble (1) and Duane Van Deest (1) as the only drivers on that list. By virtue of his third win of the season, Jackson guaranteed that there will be at least one three-time Modified winner this season. In the 29 years the Modifieds have competed at Independence, all but three times has there been at least one three-time winner. The only years there wasn’t at least one three-timer included 1993, 1994 and 2008. With his victory on June 25, Darin Duffy’s feature wins in the Modifieds now span just over 18 years. His first win came on June 5, 1993, meaning his first win to his most recent win spans 6,594 days. He is 14 days shy of tying Timm Jensen for the all-time mark at Independence for “win span” in the Mods.

OLD MAN ON THE BLOCK - Darin Duffy has the second longest span between his first and most recent wins in the IMCA Modified division. At 18 years and 20 days between those wins, he is 14 days shy of Timm Jensen on the all-time list for the division. A win on July 9 will tie him with Jensen and any win after that date will give him the outright lead in that caregory.

Stock Car: With his June 18 feature win, Sean Johnson became the first three-time winner in the Stock Car division this season. Every year since the Stock Cars joined the weekly program at Independence (1993), there has been at least one three-time winner. Johnson became the 13th Stock Car driver to earn back-to-back wins in the division by virtue of his victories on June 11 and June 18. The others include Dan Trimble (14 streaks of at least two consecutive wins), Brian Irvine (7), Larry Portis (4), Justin Temeyer (3), Lon Gadow (2), Chris Wessner (2), Tom Schmitt (2), Jarod Weepie (1), Norman Chesmore (1), Darrin Treptow (1), Damon Murty (1), Brad Holtkamp (1).
SportMod: Josh Sherbon is the only SportMod driver to earn at least one feature win in every season the division has competed at Independence (since 2008). Lucas Lundry is the only other driver in the division to record at least one win in three straight seasons (2009-current). Tyler Droste is currently the only driver in the division with multiple wins this season. In its brief history, the SportMods have never had fewer than two multi-race winners at Independence.
Hobby Stock: On June 18, Justin Lichty earned the Hobby Stock win, bringing his current streak to five straight seasons with at least one feature win. That mark ties Chris Luloff as the second longest such streak for the Hobby Stocks in track history. Only Patrick Stansbery (1998-2003) won a feature in each of six consecutive seasons. Quinton Miller, who has four straight seasons with at least one win, will match Lichty and Luloff if he can make it to the winner’s circle in 2011.

DRIVE FOR FIVE - Justin Lichty earned the seventh IMCA Hobby Stock win of his career at Independence on June 18, giving him at least one win in each of the last five seasons. His first win at Independence came exactly 50 weekly race nights ago. He sits 12th on the all-time list at Independence.

* 111 drivers have earned at least one top-10 finish this season.
* 10 drivers have earned top-10 finishes in all six features:
Late Model (2): Darren Ackerman, Tyler Bruening;
Modified (1): Jerry Luloff;
Stock Car (3): Norman Chesmore, Dave Stricker, Jarod Weepie;
SportMod (3): Danny Dvorak, Lucas Lundry, Ray Lundry;
Hobby Stock (1): Vince Buchholz.

COUNT TO TEN - Darren Ackerman has opened the 2011 season with six straight top-10 finishes in the IMCA Late Model division. Dating back to the start of the 2009 season, Ackerman has earned 28 top-10s in 34 nights of racing.

* 67 drivers have earned at least one top-5 finish this season.
* No drivers have earned top-5 finishes in all features this season. The drivers with the most top-5 feature finishes in each division are as follows:
Late Model: Darren Ackerman, Tyler Bruening, Jon Passick (4 each);
Modified: Mike Burbridge, Vern Jackson (4 each);
Stock Car: Dave Stricker, Jarod Weepie (5 each);
SportMod: Jim Buhlman, Danny Dvorak, Ray Lundry, Josh Sherbon (4 each);
Hobby Stock: August Bach, Vince Buchholz, Justin Lichty (4 each).

The longest current top-5 streak in each division includes:
Late Model: Darren Ackerman (3 straight top-5s);
Modified: Vern Jackson (4);
Stock Car: Jarod Weepie (3);
SportMod: Jim Buhlman (4);
Hobby Stock: Jim Ball, Justin Lichty, Chris Luloff (2 each).

GIMME FIVE - IMCA SportMod driver Jim Buhlman has earned four consecutive top-5 finishes, the longest such streak in the division this season.

* 49 drivers have earned at least one top-3 finish this season.
* While nobody has finished in the top three every week, exactly one driver in each of the five divisions has earned four top-3 finishes this season. They include Tyler Bruening (Late Models), Vern Jackson (Modifieds); Dave Stricker (Stock Cars), Ray Lundry (SportMods) and August Bach (Hobby Stocks).

THREE'S NO CROWD - Ray Lundry has recorded four top-3 finishes this season, including back-to-back third place finishes to close out the month of June. His consistency has propelled him to the top of the IMCA SportMod points at Independence for the first time in his career.

Feature Lap Leaders
* 46 drivers have led at least one lap of feature competition.
* Division lap leaders include:
Late Model (10 total different lap leaders): Tyler Bruening (45 laps led); Luke Merfeld and Rob Toland (25 each); Dain Sires (14); Darren Ackerman (13);
Modified (10): Vern Jackson (40 laps led), Leon Wilson (16), Mike Burbridge (12), Tony Snyder (10), Jerry King (9);
Stock Car (8): Sean Johnson (54 laps led), Dave Stricker (26), Thomas Thompson (6), Mike Padden (3), Justin Temeyer (2);
SportMod (9): Tyler Droste (23 laps led), Danny Dvorak (18), Lucas Lundry (13), Josh Sherbon (12), Jim Aschenbrenner (9);
Hobby Stock (9): Jamie Whitaker (17 laps led); Justin Stander (16); Rod Grother (15); Scott Pippert (14); Chris Luloff and August Bach (8 each).

LEADER OF THE PACK - IMCA Stock Car driver Sean Johnson has led 54 laps of feature competition this season, the most of any driver at the speedway. Included in his time out front are three feature wins, all of which he led from green to checkers.

Heat Races
* There have been 44 different winners in 80 heat races.
* Vern Jackson (Modifieds) leads all drivers with five heat wins through six weeks. Those five wins have come in the last five weeks.
* Four-time heat winners include Tyler Bruening (Late Models), Justin Lichty (Hobby Stocks) and Jamie Whitaker (Hobby Stocks)
* Three-time heat winners include Bryan Klein (Late Models), Mike Burbridge (Modifieds); Johnathan Thimmesch (Modifieds), Norman Chesmore (Stock Cars), Sean Johnson (Stock Cars) and Lucas Lundry (SportMods).
* Only four drivers have finished in the top three of all six of their heats this season. They include Late Model drivers Tyler Bruening and Jon Passick, and Hobby Stock drivers August Bach and Jamie Whitaker.

FEELING THE HEAT - Vern Jackson has been dominating in IMCA Modified qualifiers this season. He has won five straight heat races entering July

Efficiency Stats
* A total of 115 races have been run this season.
* A total of 1,216 laps have been completed.
* A total of 142 caution flags have been thrown.
* Of the 42 races this season, 78 have been caution-free.
* 101 of the 142 cautions have occurred during features.
* The Hobby Stock division (20 cautions in 23 total events) has had the best caution per race ratio by averaging .87 cautions for every race.
* The Hobby Stock division (20 cautions in 227 total laps) has had the best caution per race lap ratio by averaging 11.35 laps of green flag racing between caution flags.
* There has been a total of only one caution flag in 17 heat races for the Hobby Stocks this season.
* The Late Model division leads the way by averaging 9.83 completed laps of feature racing before the first yellow flag. The last two Late Model features have been caution-free. Overall, the last 56 laps of Late Model feature racing have been completed without a single caution.

BEST OF CLASS - The IMCA Hobby Stocks may be considered an entry-level division, but they have put on the cleanest and most competitive shows week in and week out in 2011. The caution flag gets a breather when the Hobby Stocks go green as they have been slowed only 20 times all season. Of the 23 total Hobby Stock races this season, 16 have gone caution-free.

Since the year 1967...
* 650 Late Model feature events have been completed in weekly competition with 96 different winners. On average, a new Late Model winner visits victory lane every 6.8 events.
* 420 Modified feature events have been completed in weekly competition with 78 different winners. On average, a new Modified winner visits victory lane every 5.4 events.
* 268 Stock Car feature events have been completed in weekly competition with 39 different winners. On average, a new Stock Car winner visits victory lane every 6.9 events.
* 43 SportMod feature events have been completed in weekly competition with 13 different winners. On average, a new SportMod winner visits victory lane every 3.3 events.
* 329 Hobby Stock feature events have been completed in weekly competition with 85 different winners. On average, a new Hobby Stock winner visits victory lane every 3.9 events.
* Overall, in the last 44-plus seasons, there have been 1,710 features completed in the five divisions that currently compete at the speedway.

Qualifying Streaks
* The longest currently active feature qualifying streaks for weekly competition in each division include:
Late Model: Darren Ackerman has qualified for 65 consecutive features. His last miss was June 3, 2006.
Modified: Jerry Luloff has qualified for 203 consecutive features. His last miss was July 5, 1997.
Stock Car: Jarod Weepie has qualified for 142 consecutive features. His last miss was June 9, 2001.
Hobby Stock: Russell Damme Jr. has qualified for 25 consecutive features. His last miss was July 25, 2009.
SportMod: Jim Buhlman has qualified for all 43 features dating back to the first one at the speedway on June 21, 2008.

Rainout Trends
* The month of June was successfully completed without a single rainout. It marked the 74th time in 45 seasons that a calendar month during a single season saw no rainouts. Although the month of June has gone without a single rainout 20 times in the last 45 years, 2011 was the first time since 2004 that June did not have at least one rained out program. The last time any month went without a single rainout was August of 2010.

* There are five dates scheduled for weekly racing in the month of July this season (2, 9, 16, 23, 30). Of those, the only date to see a rainout in weekly racing history at Independence was July 9, 1988. All other 24 combined shows scheduled for those dates were successfully completed. The last time the month of July did not have a single rainout was 2008. The last time a July with five Saturdays didn’t have a rainout was 2006.
* Since 1967, there have been 20 months with five Saturdays that were completed without a single rainout at Independence. The most recent was August 2009.
* Since 1967, there have been 171 rainouts in 803 total weekly races scheduled. The month of July has had the best race-to-rainout ratio as only 26 events have been rained out of the 195 scheduled. That means 86.7% of all weekly shows scheduled for the month of July have been successfully completed.
* When breaking down the season into halves where May and June comprise the first half of the season (not including any April dates) and July and August comprise the second half, historically, there are nearly half as many rainouts during the second half of the season than there are in the first half. Entering 2011, there were 102 rainouts (now at 104 – remember, don’t count this April’s rainout for this) during the first half of the season and only 55 rainouts during the months of July and August.

Stuff Nobody Should Know…
* All six Late Model feature winners have come from different starting positions (1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 10). Coincidentally, Luke Merfeld’s feature win from the pole position on June 11 is the only pole-sitter to finish the night in victory lane. In the first six weeks of each of the previous six seasons, there were 17 feature winners who started on the pole.
* The starting spot to produce the largest number of feature winners is outside row four. That position has produced six winners overall this season. The inside fifth row starting spot has produced five feature winners.
* The starting spots in the first five rows to produce the fewest number of feature winners include the pole position and inside row three (one winner each).
* No feature winners have come from the front row in the Modified, Stock Car and SportMod divisions. Only three front row starters have won this season, twice in Late Models and once in Hobby Stocks.
* Danny Dvorak and Lucas Lundry (SportMods) have finished in the top 10 all six nights, however neither has finished in the same position twice. Dvorak’s finishes, in order so far this season, are 5, 3, 1, 10, 4, 7. Lundry has had finishes of 2, 9, 3, 8, 1, 6. Likewise, in the Modifieds, Jerry Luloff has had six non-duplicated top-10 finishes of 7, 6, 9, 2, 5, 3. In the Late Models? Darren Ackerman has had six top-10 finishes of 4, 9, 1, 2, 6, 5. It may sound insignificant (and I’m sure it is), but it’s very uncommon, especially for four different drivers to have done it through six weeks of the same season.
* Aside from the four three-time feature winners this season (Tyler Bruening, Vern Jackson, Sean Johnson and Tyler Droste), only two other drivers have finished in the same top-10 finishing position on three separate occasions. Ray Lundry (SportMods) has had three third place finishes and Tony Schimmels (Stock Cars) has had three fifth place finishes. No Hobby Stock driver has finished in the same top-10 finishing position more than twice.
* Jamie Whitaker (Hobby Stocks) has the dubious distinction of leading the most feature laps through six weeks without a feature win. He has led 17 laps over the course of two separate features.
* Two drivers share the “honor” of leading the fewest laps this season, but still earning a win. Justin Temeyer (Stock Cars) has led a total of two laps this season - the final two laps of his feature win on June 4. Justin Lichty (Hobby Stocks) led only the final lap during his feature win on June 18, however he also led the very first lap of the opening night Hobby Stock feature on May 7.

WHEN IT COUNTS - Justin Temeyer has led only two laps of IMCA Stock Car action this year, but he did it when it mattered most. He led the final two laps on June 4 to make the trip to victory lane.

* Vern Jackson (Modifieds) has led at least one lap in each of the last five Modified features. In fact, he has led a minimum of four laps in each of those events. He seems to be most dominant in the middle of feature racing as he has led laps 9-12 in four of the last five weeks this season.
* Sean Johnson (Stock Cars) led all 15 laps in each of the three features he has won. He has held the lead in four of the six features so far this season, 54 of the 94 total Stock Car feature laps. While Johnson has led 45 laps during features he has won, the winners of the other three features in the division (Justin Temeyer and Dave Stricker) led for a combined 15 laps during their victory runs.
* On June 25, Jim Ball (#7B) became the first Hobby Stock driver with a letter in his car number to lead a lap of feature action. In the other divisions’ 24 combined features, a lettered number has led in 16 events.
* No driver has held the points lead following every week of the season. This will guarantee that, for the fifth consecutive year, there will be no wire-to-wire track champion. The last to do it? Brian Kunkle in the B Mod division in the 14-week 2006 season.
* Since the 1989 season, 87 track champions have been crowned among the five divisions that currently compete at Independence. Of those track champions, 49 were leading the points in their respective division at the end of June. The breakdown is as follows:
Late Model: 15 of 22 Late Model track champions held the points lead at the end of June, including Curt Martin (1991, 1999, 2006), Greg Hunter (1992), Gary Crawford (1993), Greg Kastli (1994, 2002, 2003), Rick Wendling (1995, 1996), Darren Ackerman (2004, 2007, 2009), Dale Hackwell Jr. (2008) and Tyler Bruening (2010).
Modified: 11 of 22 Modified track champions held the points lead at the end of June, including Tom Bartholomew (1990, 1992), Owen Grube (1993), Scott Hogan (1997, 2003), Jerry Luloff (1999, 2000, 2001), Troy Cordes (2002, 2010) and Darin Duffy (2009).
Stock Car: 10 of 18 Stock Car track champions held the points lead at the end of June, including Dan Trimble (1994, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004), Larry Portis (1995), Jarod Weepie (2005, 2007).
Hobby Stock: 12 of 22 Hobby Stock track champions held the points lead at the end of June, including Steve Holthaus (1989), Lon Gadow (1990), Forrest Frost (1992), Chris Wessner (1995), Doug Otto (1999), Jeff Roete (2000), Scooter Dulin (2001), Patrick Stansbery (2002, 2005), Brian Irvine (2004), Josh Irvine (2007) and Chris Luloff (2008).
SportMod: Austin Kaplan in 2010 is the only SportMod track champion to lead the points at the end of June the season he won a title. No SportMod driver has led the points at the end of every month during a championship season.

That will take care of this month. Check back at the end of July for the third Blitz of the summer! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Hogan, Dvorak, Pippert extend points leads at Benton County Speedway

A trio of points leaders added a little more cushion atop the standings on another exciting night at Benton County Speedway. IMCA Modified driver Scott Hogan and IMCA SportMod driver Danny Dvorak, along with Scott Pippert in the IMCA Hobby Stocks, all extended their leads by winning their respective features.

Track announcer Bucky Doren spent the weekend in Des Moines at his son's baseball tournament so he asked me to fill in for him Sunday night. While I've called a few races in Vinton over the years, this was my first time behind the mic there for a weekly show. It was a lot of fun, but that did take away from my note taking, so the following recap may lack just a bit in the accuracy (and substance?) department.

Outside front row starter Jerry Dedrick was looking for his second career win in the IMCA Modified feature just one week after his first trip to the winner's circle. He took command at the drop of the green and paced the field for the first two laps until the caution flag waved. A pileup that collected Scott Hogan and Brandon Banks forced those two to the tail for the following restart.

When racing resumed, Dedrick again took charge running the low groove of the speedway. That's when the deja vu settled in... Mike Burbridge and Patrick Flannagan pursued the leader by also running the low groove of the speedway. In nose-to-tail formation, those three drivers led the parade in the same fashion as they did one week ago.

Flannagan eventually worked beneath Burbridge to steal second, just a lap before Burbridge slowed and came to a stop with mechanical problems a short time later. By this time, Hogan worked back through traffic and found himself in fifth for the ensuing restart.

On the restart, Hogan motored around Ronn Lauritzen and Chris Snyder, then challenged Flannagan for second. He made the pass for second and then sped past Dedrick with only a few laps to go. Hogan then pulled away to score the victory, his fourth of the year. Dedrick, Joe Docekal and Lauritzen completed the top four. Banks made a great run through the field to come home fifth.

1. 33D Scott Hogan
2. 5 Jerry Dedrick
3. 12D Joe Docekal
4. 10K Ronn Lauritzen
5. 22 Brandon Banks
6. 25 Shawn Fisher
7. 32 Chris Snyder
8. 7 Todd Jensen
9. F7 Patrick Flannagan
10. 8 Tony Snyder

Danny Dvorak scored his sixth win of the season in the IMCA SportMod division after taking command from leader Racer Hullin midway through the 15-lapper.

At the drop of the green, Hullin went to work on front row starters Brian Anderson and Rick Paulson to take the early advantage. As Hullin led, Dvorak and Drew Fish worked through the field from midpack starts. Dvorak worked his way into contention on the low side as Fish ran the high groove. Around the midway point of the event, Dvorak worked around Hullin, then sped away to victory. Fish finished a close third.

1. 3R Danny Dvorak
2. 505 Racer Hullin
3. 3D Drew Fish
4. K0 Ken Kositzky
5. 00 Jim Buhlman
6. 80V Duane Van Deest
7. J2 Dave Schulze
8. K3 Kyle Olson
9. 22H Curt Hilmer
10. 3B Brian Anderson

From a fifth row starting spot, IMCA Hobby Stock points leader Scott Pippert made quick work of the field and broke into the top four just prior to a caution following the completion of the first lap. Only a couple of laps after the restart, he powered beneath Justin Wacha, Adam Streeter and Cale Peterson to assume command. Pippert never looked back as he drove to the dominating win.

1. 47 Scott Pippert
2. 2P Cale Peterson
3. 45 Justin Wacha
4. 25 Doug Laughridge
5. 67 Justin Stander
6. 55 Vince Buchholz
7. 09 Brad Forbes
8. 07 Jacob Keiser
9. 4X Gary Pfantz
10. 12J Jeremy Floyd

Brett Mather held the early lead in the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature. He paced the field until the caution flag waved just a couple of laps into the event. By that time, fourth row starter Justin Temeyer worked into the second position. Temeyer quickly challenged when racing resumed as he put his #56T to the inside of Mather's machine. Temeyer came away with the lead on the following lap as he drove away from the field to score the win. Damon Murty followed Temeyer to the front, but couldn't reel in the leader as he finished second.

1. 56T Justin Temeyer
2. 99D Damon Murty
3. 7H Phil Holtz
4. 09M Brett Mather
5. 6X Bob Ahrendsen
6. 8 Curtis Roster
7. 77 Andy Bryant
8. 3T Scooter Dulin
9. 46 Jeremy LaPlant
10. 76 Mike Galli

Bill Whalen Jr. took advantage of his outside front row starting spot to drive to his first win of the season in the 12-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature. Whalen extended his advantage to over half of a straightaway and maintained that lead throughout the event while Merv Chandler and Nathan Chandler battled for second behind him. Merv eventually edged Nathan for second in that race-long tussle.

1. 00W Bill Whalen Jr.
2. 1 Merv Chandler
3. 22 Nathan Chandler
4. 2ND Brad Chandler
5. 8M Jacob McVay
6. 35 Brett Vanous
7. 51 Bryce Bailey
8. 07X Tyler Whalen
9. 22T Travis Losenicky
10. 57K Ross Kitner

It was another excellent night of racing on the smooth 1/4-mile. There was plenty of two, three and sometimes four-wide racing throughout the night that offered fans a great show. Thanks again to Bucky Doren for asking me to fill in tonight and to Mick Trier and Dana Benning for being okay with his evening's substitute!

Up next for me is the Deery Brothers Summers Series Red Dralle Memorial this Wednesday night at Independence Motor Speedway. Along with the $5,004-to-win 84-lap feature for the Late Models, the three-day Great American Stock Car Series will wrap up in Independence that evening for a $1,000 winner's share. Also competing will be IMCA SportMods for $500-to-win. Gates open at 4 p.m. with hot laps at 6:45 and racing at 7.

Prior to Wednesday's big race, I'll be compiling another Stats Blitz for Independence Motor Speedway. I hope to have that posted sometime tomorrow night. In addition, if you're friends with Independence Motor Speedway on facebook, I've made it a routine to post feature win milestones every Monday from that week in track history. Tomorrow will be no different as a whopping 50 milestone wins occurred this week in Independence Motor Speedway history. All 50 of those will be posted sometime Monday night.

That's all for tonight! I hope to see you Wednesday night at the Red Dralle Memorial!

Bruening tops stellar Late Model field at Independence Motor Speedway

On a night when rain forced the cancellation of a number of racing programs in eastern Iowa, only a few pesky showers and occasional sprinkles fell at Independence Motor Speedway. This allowed for a stellar field of Late Models to converge on the 3/8-mile oval in preparation for the Deery Brothers Summer Series Red Dralle Memorial this Wednesday. Including seven new entries on Saturday, an outstanding field of 29 Late Models were on-hand to compete.

After the field was pared down to 24 for the feature, outside front row starter and division rookie Dain Sires took command at the drop of the green for the 25-lapper. Sires set a torrid pace as he put a few car-lengths on second-running Jon Passick. Passick, who started in the fourth row, made his way into second after just one lap and attempted to reel in the leader.

As Passick pursued Sires, Tyler Bruening was making his way through traffic from a fifth row start. Running the low groove, Bruening powered into third after three laps and started to chase down Bruening. That pair battled for the runner-up spot as, together, they closed in on Sires. Bruening made his way beneath Passick for second on the 11th circuit, then slipped beneath Sires for the lead four laps later.

While Bruening made his way to the front, Ray Guss Jr. was making noise of his own as he raced through the field from his sixth row starting spot. He made his way past Dale Hackwell Jr. at the same time Bruening took the lead, then worked into a battle with Passick for third. While Bruening was trying to run away in lapped traffic with a handful of laps to go, Guss battled Passick and Sires for position.

Guss made his way past Sires for third as Bruening navigated through the backmarkers with six laps to go, then made his bid for second with only two laps remaining. Bruening's advantage, however, was too much to overcome as he drove to the win, his second straight and third of the season. Guss ran second ahead of Passick, Sires and Darren Ackerman in a feature that saw no cautions for the second straight week, taking just over seven minutes to complete. It was Bruening's 10th career win at Independence.

Vern Jackson was looking to become the first IMCA Modified driver at Independence in 27 years to win four consecutive features. Midway through the 20-lapper it appeared that victory for him was all but a certainty.

After a number of cautions prior to the completion of the first lap, Jackson, who started inside of row six, quickly made a charge to the front. He settled into third after only three laps, then made his way around Mike Burbridge for second just prior to a lap seven caution.

Jerry King, who held the lead throughout those first seven laps, took charge when racing resumed. Jackson took just two laps to make his way to the front and quickly pulled away from the field. As Jackson led, Darin Duffy was running the high groove and into contention. He worked into second on the 12th lap, then quickly went to work on chasing down the leader.

With just six laps to go, Duffy swept to the outside of Jackson to take command. He then pulled away from the field to score the win by nearly a staightaway advantage. Jackson ran second ahead of points leader Jerry Luloff, King and Burbridge. It was Duffy's first win of the season, but the 37th of his career at Independence in the Modifieds. He is now back to within a single win of Jackson atop the all-time list.

Just a week after winning the IMCA Hobby Stock feature in a three-wide photo finish at the line, Justin Lichty came up just short of his second consecutive thrilling win at the speedway. Jim Ball set the early pace as he worked the high side into the lead on the first lap after starting in the second row. Ball held the point while Jamie Whitaker worked through the field from the fourth row. He challenged Ball for the lead following a lap three caution, then took over the top spot three laps later.

Meanwhile, August Bach was charging on the low side of the speedway and into the top three just prior to the midway point of the 15-lapper. Bach snuck past Lichty on lap eight, then worked his way below Whitaker for the lead on lap 12. A short time later, Whitaker spun to the low side of turns three and four to bring out the final caution.

On the restart, Lichty remained glued to Bach's rear bumper as that pair ran nose-to-tail and side-by-side over the final three laps. Lichty motored to the outside of the leader exiting turn four on the final lap, but Bach proved to be too strong down low as he held on to win by mere inches. Chris Luloff, Steve Wiltse and Ball completed the top five.

Tyler Droste took the lead from Matt McCahen on the third lap of the 15-lap IMCA SportMod main event. Droste held the top spot while Josh Sherbon made his way into contention during a pair of mid-race cautions. Sherbon, running third following a lap seven caution, swept around Ray Lundry and Droste to take charge just one lap later.

After a final caution slowed the event on lap 11, Droste worked the low groove to stay close to Sherbon when racing resumed. On the final lap, Droste powered to the low side of Sherbon in turn three and slid in front of the leader as they exited turn four. Droste shut the door to drive to his third win of the season and fourth of his career. Sherbon, Lundry, Jim Buhlman and Rod McDonald rounded out the top five.

Sean Johnson took the lead on the third lap of the IMCA Stock Car feature as points leaer Dave Stricker was making noise from a mid-pack start. Stricker made his way into second on the sixth lap of the 15-lapper, then pressured Johnson for the lead. After contact between the two on lap 12, Stricker found himself out front with Johnson slowing to a crawl and headed toward the pits. Stricker went on to extend his points lead by winning his second feature of the year. Norman Chesmore, Jarod Weepie, Justin Temeyer and Tony Schimmels completed the top five. Johnson, who made quick repairs to his machine, rejoined the field following a late restart to salvage an eighth place finish.

Despite the gloomy morning and afternoon, it turned out to be a beautiful night at the speedway and those in attendance were provided their money's worth. Aside from newcomer Guss, Late Model drivers Nate Bueseling, Stephan Kammerer, Luke Goedert, Luke Pestka and Justin Kay also made their first appearances of the season. Iowa City's Todd Davis also made his first visit of the year, wheeling Rick Dralle's backup machine. In the Stock Cars, Perry Misner made the long haul from Garden City, Kansas, to compete as he plans to run this week's three-day Great American Stock Car Series that concludes at Independence during this Wednesday's Deery Brothers Summer Series event.

With the Deery Series coming to town on Wednesday, Saturday night was a great primer for the 84-lap Red Dralle Memorial Late Model headliner. Prior to that, however, I'm heading back to Benton County Speedway in Vinton tonight. Track announcer Bucky Doren is enjoying some family time this weekend and he asked me to fill in for him. I'm looking forward to calling the races at my hometown track. Hope to see you there!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Highway 3 Raceway fair races rained out, but busy Butler County Fair schedule awaits

After it appeared that Highway 3 Raceway would dodge the weather Tuesday night when a dark storm cloud slid past the northwest side of Allison, a smaller, but persistent cell washed out the racing program. The special event, which was scheduled to kick off the 2011 Butler County Fair and included USRA Stock Cars, B Mods and Hobby Stocks, along with 4-Cylinder Hornets, was called off just following hot laps as the heavy rains began to fall. The event is expected to be rescheduled, however a rain date has yet to be announced. Check in the coming days for the make-up date.

Although the Tuesday night portion of the fair schedule was canceled, a loaded schedule is on tap for fairgoers for the remainder of the week and through the weekend. Included is a packed grandstand schedule that resumes tomorrow night at 7 p.m. with a Demolition Derby. On Thursday, two days of music kicks off with Richie Lee and the Fabulous 50s performing at 7 p.m. Country group Gloriana headlines Friday's schedule at 7:30 p.m. following the opening act of Katie Armiger. A pair of grandstand events highlights the Saturday portion of the fair schedule as Chuckwagon races will be held at 1 p.m. with Scrambles set for 7 p.m. Figure 8 races close out grandstand entertainment for this year's fair at 6 p.m. Sunday night. For a detailed list of fair events, be sure to check out

Although I originally planned to head north to Cresco Speedway on Thursday night for the Hawkeye Dirt Tour, I don't believe I'll be able to make it to that event. If you haven't been to Cresco and are looking for some great racing, make the trip to the Howard County Fairgrounds on Thursday night as Tom Barnes and his crew always put on a great show!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Packed house on-hand for mid-season championships at Benton County Speedway

On a Sunday when the weather finally wasn't a major player in the course of the evening's events, a grandstand full of race fans came out for mid-season championship racing, sponsored by Gary's Auto, at Benton County Speedway in Vinton.

Going away from the traditional mid-season format of lining up cars based on total points (more on that later), a regular night of racing was in store for race fans as heat race qualifying and average point inverts determined the starting lineups.

First out of the gate was the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock feature. At the drop of the green in that event, pole-sitter Justin Wacha took command. Wacha, in search of his first career win in the Hobby Stocks, was impressive early as he skated away from the pack by a few car-lengths. Third row starter Justin Stander made an impressive run through traffic to take over second place from Cale Peterson following a lap three caution. Stander started to cut into Wacha's advantage and found himself on the leader's rear bumper following the race's final caution on lap seven.

On the restart, Stander remained glued to Wacha's rear bumper as the leaders ran the low groove of the speedway. Stander tried a couple of times to work the low side of Wacha, but was unable to make the move until the white flag waved. Stander then shot to the inside of the the leader in the first set of turns and exited turn two with a slight advantage.

Despite contact between the two, both drivers held their positions entering turns three and four. Stander pulled away from the pack as Wacha faded when he bobbled on the low side, leaving Stander to drive away with the win. For Stander, it was a bit of redemption as he lost the lead on the final lap of the Hobby Stock feature the night before at Independence Motor Speedway.

1. 67 Justin Stander
2. 77 Rod Grother
3. 78 Matt Brown
4. 17K Kyle Parizek
5. 55 Vince Buchholz
6. 2P Cale Peterson
7. 1S Greg Sweerin
8. 4X Gary Pfantz
9. 07 Jacob Keiser
10. 25 Doug Laughridge

Nathan Chandler went to work on the high side to make an early charge to the front in the 12-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature. Chandler, who started inside of row three, quickly made his way to the high groove and took over second on the first lap. Just one lap later he worked around James Stevens to take control out front. As Chandler extended his lead, Gary Peiffer settled into second on lap three.

Slowed three times for caution over the final eight laps, the field remained bunched together. On each restart, Chandler pulled away as Peiffer worked to hold off Brad Chandler for the runner-up spot. Nathan Chandler survived each caution period to drive to the win while Peiffer held off Brad Chandler at the line for second.

1. 22 Nathan Chandler
2. 36DD Gary Peiffer
3. 2 Brad Chandler
4. 51 Bryce Bailey
5. 07X Tyler Whalen
6. 8M Jacob McVay
7. 13X James Stevens
8. 35 Brett Vanous
9. 83 Travis Ross
10. A1 Louis Trachta

Pole-sitter Jesse Belez held the early lead in the 15-lap IMCA SportMod feature. Quick to challenge, third row starter Dave Schulze dropped to the low side and battled for the lead on the first lap. He came away with the lead as the field completed lap two and showed the way until the first caution waved on lap five. By this time, Kyle Brown worked through traffic after starting alongside Schulze, and found himself in second for the ensuing restart.

When racing resumed, Brown worked the low side of the leader while Drew Fish was running the high groove after restarting in fourth. Fish inched ahead at the completion of lap nine with Schulze and Brown still running the low side. Schulze briefly took command on the following lap as the trio battled three-wide for the lead. Brown, however, snuck ahead on the following lap before the caution flag waved again.

Brown restarted out front and never looked back when the green flag waved as he drove to his first win in Vinton. Fish remained committed to the high groove to beat Schulze to the line for second.

1. 21X Kyle Brown
2. 3D Drew Fish
3. J2 Dave Schulze
4. K0 Ken Kositzky
5. 3R Danny Dvorak
6. K3 Kyle Olson
7. 00 Jim Buhlman
8. 81 Jesse Belez
9. 95 Mike McDonald
10. 33 Ed O'Brien

Andy Bryant was in search of his first IMCA Stock Car win on the Vinton oval and appeared poised to take home the hardware as the pole-sitter rocketed to the lead at the drop of the green. He quickly extended his lead to multiple car-lengths while Paul Shepherd fought to hold off a hard-charging Justin Temeyer for second.

Temeyer, who started eighth, worked the low side of Shepherd to take second place just three laps into the event, then set his sights of Bryant. Temeyer quickly reeled in the leader, making his bid for the lead on the low side of the speedway on lap five. Temeyer pulled away from the pack to sail to victory. Phil Holtz, who was nearly a straightaway behind the leaders by the time he made his way into third on lap six, made an impressive run to chase down Bryant and sneak beneath him for second at the checkers.

1. 56T Justin Temeyer
2. 7H Phil Holtz
3. 77 Andy Bryant
4. 6X Bob Ahrendsen
5. 3T Scooter Dulin
6. 31S Paul Shepherd
7. 15 Norman Chesmore
8. 09M Brett Mather
9. 22R Todd Reitzler
10. 76 Mike Galli

By the time the IMCA Modifieds made their way to the speedway for the evening's 20-lap finale, the surface became dry slick and proved driver ability would prevail. In the end, Jerry Dedrick made his first career trip to the winner's circle in the division.

At the drop of the green, Dawn Krall held the top spot, but Dedrick was able to make his way by her on the second circuit. He worked the low side of the speedway as Mike Burbridge and Patrick Flannagan gave chase. The first to challenge for the lead, Burbridge closed on Dedrick's four car-length advantage and was able to stick his nose beneath the leader with five laps to go. Unable to take advantage, Burbridge settled back into second with Flannagan hot on his heels.

Flannagan worked the low side of Burbridge as the flying green was displayed as he took over the second position. Like Burbridge, Flannagan's attempts to work the low side of Dedrick were unsuccessful as Dedrick drove to the milestone win.

1. 5 Jerry Dedrick
2. F7 Patrick Flannagan
3. 11B Mike Burbridge
4. 10K Ronn Lauritzen
5. 12D Joe Docekal
6. 33D Scott Hogan
7. 32 Chris Snyder
8. 8 Tony Snyder
9. 25 Shawn Fisher
10. 22 Brandon Banks

As I mentioned earlier, the racing format for tonight's mid-season event was the standard qualify/invert format you'll see any other night throughout the season. It was great to see BCS use the qualifying format for tonight's show. As a kid, I always liked to see out-of-car introductions and the points leaders start up front, but the older I've gotten (insert own jokes here), the more I've come to appreciate a "regular" race night for mid-season. Quite frankly, mid-season serves as no more than a reminder that the season is already halfway gone (as if we want to be presented with that terrible notion, anyway); not a reason to alter the racing format. In fact, it wouldn't bother me if tracks did away with a proclaimed "mid-season championships" event altogether, unless, of course, you do it the right way. They did it the right way tonight in Vinton. Gary Peiffer of Gary's Auto in Troy Mills did a phenomenal job in sponsoring tonight's show. With the Frisbee toss, giveaways (including 10 bikes for the kids), and T-shirt cannon, he showed he really knows how to sponsor a night of fun for the whole family. I realize the old saying that "drivers work all year to start up front," and I agree with that sentiment... AFTER they've worked all year, they can start up front during season championship events. It takes away from the ebb and flow of a season to lineup by points for mid-season and it makes championship night mean that much more.

Up next for me is the Butler County Fair race at Highway 3 Raceway in Allison this Tuesday night. It will be my first time at Allison this summer and I'm looking forward to the long climb to the crow's nest to call the night's action. USRA Stock Cars, B Mods and Hobby Stocks, along with 4-Cylinder Hornets, will be on-hand. Come on out as county fair season in Iowa gets underway! I hope to see you there!

Jackson, Johnson stay hot at Independence Motor Speedway

On a night when storm cells littered eastern Iowa, only a few sprinkles of rain fell at Independence Motor Speedway, allowing for a great night of racing on the smooth, fast 3/8-mile oval. By night's end, a pair of drivers continued their hot streaks at the speedway while another pair earned their first wins of the season.

In the IMCA Modified division, Vern Jackson joined an elite group of drivers as he drove to his third consecutive feature win in the division, becoming only the seventh Modified driver in speedway history to record three straight victories.

Outside front row starter Jason Snyder held the early advantage while Jackson worked into contention after starting in the fifth row. Following a pair of cautions on laps one and three that kept the field bunched together, Jackson worked into a battle for the lead a handful of laps into the event. He made his way past Snyder for the lead on lap six and then set sail.

Adam Johnson made his way through traffic and settled into second on lap 14, then went to work on closing in on Jackson. Although he made up ground late in the event when the leader encountered lapped traffic, Jackson's margin was too large to overcome as he drove to the win. Johnson finished second ahead of Troy Cordes, Mike Burbridge and points leader Jerry Luloff.

For Jackson, it was his division-leading 38th career Modified win at the speedway and 94th overall at Independence. He joined Darin Duffy, Jack Mitchell, Troy Cordes, Duane Van Deest, Greg Kastli and Mark Noble as the only drivers in track history to earn three straight wins in the division. Jackson also moved atop another category in the Modified ranks. He now has seven seasons with three-plus wins, the most of any Modified driver in track history.

Sean Johnson also earned his third win of the year as he topped the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car main event. From an inside third row starting spot, Johnson shot to the inside at the drop of the green and came away with the lead by the completion of the first lap. A pair of early cautions allowed Damon Murty, who made his first appearance of the season, to stay close with the leaders. Murty swept around the outside of his competitors to steal third after just two laps from a fifth row starting spot. He closed on Johnson and pulled alongside of the leader just as the final caution waved on lap four.

On the restart, Johnson led the field to green and fought off a couple more challenges from Murty. He then pulled away to score the victory, his second straight and third of the season. Murty ran second ahead of Justin Temeyer, Jarod Weepie and points leader Dave Stricker.

It was Johnson's 11th career trip to the winner's circle in the Stock Car division at Independence and his fifth win in the last eight Stock Car features at the speedway. He remains eighth on the division's all-time wins list and now sits within three victories of Norman Chesmore for seventh.

Pole-sitter Rick Wendling paced the field at the start of the 25-lap IMCA Late Model feature. Wendling held the point while Rick Dralle gave chase and Tyler Bruening worked through the field from a fifth row start.

As Bruening made his way through traffic, Dralle closed the gap out front and slid past Wendling for the lead at the 10-lap mark. As Dralle made his bid for the lead, Bruening closed the gap on the leaders, working below Wendling one lap later. Bruening then snuck past Dralle for the lead on lap 12.

Bruening came upon lapped traffic just two laps later while Jon Passick was charging through the field. Running the high groove, Passick chased Bruening through the backmarkers as he tried to cut into the straightaway advantage Bruening held out front. Passick closed the gap late in the race, but remained a few car-lengths back at the line. This allowed Bruening to take his second win of the season, and first since opening night, in the caution-free event. Dralle ran third ahead of Curt Martin and Greg Kastli, who both started in the sixth row. Darren Ackerman came from a 17th starting spot to finish sixth.

The win was Bruening's ninth career at Independence, moving him into a tie with Bill Barthelmes for 19th on the all-time list. Bruening's win propelled him back into a tie atop the division's standings with Ackerman. Passick's good run kept him within two points of the division leaders.

A three-wide finish wowed the crowd as the IMCA Hobby Stocks arguably put on the best show of the night. At the drop of the green, Chris Luloff held the point from his pole-position start. Luloff extended his advantage throughout the first few laps of the 15-lapper while Jim Ball and Steve Wiltse battled for position.

With Luloff nearly half of a straightaway ahead of the field, Justin Stander worked into contention from a fifth row starting spot as he drove the high groove into third on lap seven. Stander's progress was assisted when the caution flag waved on lap eight.

On the restart, Stander quickly challenged Luloff for the lead and came away with the top spot on the following lap. Stander held the point until the race's final caution waved on lap 11. When racing resumed one last time, Luloff, Justin Lichty and Jamie Whitaker challenged Stander for the lead as the quartet went four-wide down the front stretch to complete lap 12. Stander still held the advantage a lap later, but Lichty and Whitaker remained wheel-to-wheel with the leader as Luloff faded to fourth.

The leaders ran three-wide throughout the remainder of the event with Stander holding a slight edge in turn four on the final lap. Lichty, however, went to the high side and had a great run off the corner. He surged ahead by a bumper at the line to earn the thrilling win. Stander finished second with Whitaker third as that trio ran in three-wide formation to the end. Luloff and Ball completed the top five.

It was Lichty's seventh career win in the division at Independence, moving him into sole possession of 12th on the all-time Hobby Stock wins list at the speedway. It was also Lichty's first win of the season, which extends his streak to five consecutive years at Independence with at least one Hobby Stock win. That ties him with Chris Luloff for second all-time in that category. Patrick Stansbery, who won at least one Hobby Stock feature for six consecutive years (1998-2003), is at the top of that list.

Cory Evans held the early lead in the 15-lap IMCA SportMod feature while Matt McCahen and Tyler Droste gave chase. Evans worked the high line while Droste, who made his way past McCahen on lap three, ran the low groove. Droste pulled even with Evans as the caution flag waved on lap five.

Following the restart, Droste worked past Evans on the low side, however contact between the two brought out another stoppage a short time later, sending both to the back for the ensuing restart. For that restart, Lucas Lundry inherited the pole as he led the remainder of the event to take his first win of the season. Jim Buhlman finished second ahead of Ray Lundry, Danny Dvorak and Drew Fish.

The third SportMod win of his career at Independence, Lucas Lundry is now tied for fourth with Chris Luloff and Tyler Droste on the all-time list. Lundry now has one win in each of the last three seasons, the second longest streak in the division.

With the threat of rain in the area, track officials made every attempt to keep the show moving. After getting underway just past the 6 p.m. hour, the 102 cars on-hand competed in 19 events in a program that ended at 9:10. Great job to promoter Cam Granger and his track crew for nailing the track prep on Saturday!

After a return to Vinton tonight (weather permitting), I'll head to Highway 3 Raceway in Allison this Tuesday for the Butler County Fair race program, then (tentatively) I'm planning a trip to Cresco Speedway for the JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt tour event on Thursday.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Barker is best in Hawkeye Dirt Tour action at Cedar County Raceway

A strong field of 33 IMCA Modifieds were on-hand at Cedar County Raceway in Tipton on Tuesday night for the third event of the 2011 JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt Tour. When the checkers waved, Modified veteran Ron Barker stood in victory lane for his first HDT win.

Pole-sitter Ronn Lauritzen paced the 23 starters at the drop of the green. Running the low groove of the smooth, multi-groove 1/4-mile, Lauritzen powered ahead of Jeff Waterman. A pair of early cautions kept the field bunched together and allowed Kurt Krauskopf to challenge Waterman for second. Krauskopf made his way past Waterman following the second caution on lap four, then worked the high side to chase down Lauritzen. Those efforts were assisted when the final caution of the event waved three laps later.

On the restart, Lauritzen held the point while Krauskopf elected to start on the outside of the second row with Waterman to his inside. Krauskopf again went to work up top with Lauritzen a groove off the bottom while Dusty Kraklio battled his way into contention. As Kraklio went to work on the low side of Lauritzen in turns one and two on the eighth lap, the field battled three and four-wide behind them for position.

Kraklio inched ahead for the lead one lap later while Barker settled into the top four after starting eighth. Running the high side, Barker swept past Krauskopf on the 11th circuit, then made his way past Lauritzen one lap later. Following Barker on the high side of the track was Jacob Waterman, who started deep in the field, but made his way into fourth as Barker passed for second.

Committed to the high groove, Barker made his way around Kraklio on the following lap as Jacob Waterman tried to keep pace with the new leader. Waterman took the high side around Lauritzen and Kraklio just past the midway point.

Barker's lead appeared insurmountable until he reached lapped traffic with just five laps to go. As he navigated the backmarkers, Waterman closed the gap while Brian Webb reeled in the leaders. Barker shot beneath the lapped car of Larry Herring with just two laps to go, putting traffic between himself and Waterman to close the deal as Barker drove to the exciting win. Waterman held off Webb for second.

1. 37B Ron Barker
2. 69 Jacob Waterman
3. 6 Brian Webb
4. 2 Dusty Kraklio
5. 60 Kurt Krauskopf
6. X Ryan Dolan
7. 1 Dan Chapman
8. 21A Kelly Meyer
9. 71W Jeff Waterman
10. 10K Ronn Lauritzen
11. 19G Richie Gustin
12. 27M Mark Schulte
13. 62 Greg Cox
14. 70 Mitch Morris
15. 8 Rich Smith
16. 11B Mike Burbridge
17. 25X Jake Bowman
18. 67 John Ahlers
19. 12 Mark Elliott
20. 8T Tony Snyder
21. 96 Larry Herring
22. 57B Dennis Betzer
23. 21 Todd Hansen
24. 17D Todd Dykema (DNS)

Josh Foster, who suffered mechanical problems throughout the night, was scheduled to be the series provisional for the feature, however he was unable to make repairs in time so that position went to Tony Snyder. Todd Dykema, the track provisional, was also unable to make the starting call.

My main duty of the night was to fill in and sell HDT T-shirts on the grandstands side so I was unable to see the Stock Car or 4-Cylinder features. Tim Current broke Chip Kohl's winning streak in the Stock Car division to take the win in that feature while Nathan Chandler came out on top in the 4-Cylinders.

Although I wasn't able to take in all of the action on the track tonight, it was a pleasant change of pace to have the chance to visit with race fans in attendance. It was nice to meet Mike Weikert Sr., the father of Modified driver Mike Weikert Jr., although Mike Jr. struggled throughout the event and was unable to qualify for the feature. I had the chance to chat with former Pro Stock and Late Model driver Tom Struve of Palo. While he hasn't been racing this year, Struve's weekend schedule has been kept busy with six grandchildren. I also enjoyed watching the Modified feature with Ginny Thomas, the mother of Modified driver Ed Thomas. While I've spent a lot of time at the Thomas Racing shop in Waterloo over the years, it was the first time Ginny and I had actually watched a race together. Thanks for saving my spot, Ginny!

Thanks also to tour director Bucky Doren for inviting me down to help out tonight. It was a blast. And, as always, I have to give credit to promoters Al and Kathy Dlouhy. Some of the friendliest people you will meet, they truly define the word "promoter" when it comes to our sport. While many people in charge of racing facilities simply "put on races," the Dlouhys take pride in their product and truly care for their drivers and fans. They not only have a successful weekly program, but they are willing to bring in specials that they know drivers and fans want to see in that area. They don't just stick out their necks, take a chance and hope for the best - they work their tails off to get the job done right.

To top it off, they know what they're doing. The Dlouhys don't saturate and lengthen a mid-week show by adding numerous classes in support of the headlining division. Three divisions for a mid-week special is the perfect number and they proved it again tonight by providing a great show that had people on their way home by the 10 o'clock hour. Their efforts are shown each time I make the trip to Cedar County and they have a top notch staff in place to ensure your visit to Tipton is well worth it. If you still haven't put Cedar County Raceway on your schedule for this season, take the time to do it. The hospitality and quality of racing are second-to-none

That's all of the mid-week racing for me this time around. Another weekend of weekly racing at Independence and Vinton are up next before my schedule starts to slowly pick in anticipation of the "blur" that is July. Have a great week!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Bonus Blitz! Mid-June numbers, and then some...

I decided to leave my lawn mower in the garage for one more night, turn on an NCIS rerun and crunch some numbers for a Bonus Stats Blitz for Independence Motor Speedway. The following stats stray from the normal information I provide at the end of each calendar month. Actually, all of it could probably fall under the “Stuff Nobody Should Know” section at the end of the monthly Blitz. Call it corny, unnecessary, just something to do on a Monday night or anything else that comes to mind… Enjoy the Bonus Blitz!

***There have been four consecutive different Late Model winners to open the current season. Although that seems like it would be a rare occurrence, in 47 years, at least four consecutive different drivers opened the season with a win in 28 separate seasons. Of those, nine times five consecutive different Late Model drivers opened the season in victory lane, three times there were six straight winners, five times there were seven straight winners and two times (in 1970 and 1985) a record eight different Late Model drivers won features through the first eight weeks of the season.

***There have been four consecutive different Hobby Stock winners to open the current season. In the division’s 23 seasons at Independence, at least four consecutive different drivers opened the season with a win in 10 seasons. Of those, three times five consecutive different Hobby Stock drivers opened the season in victory lane and two times (in 2002 and 2010) a record six different Hobby Stock drivers won features through the first six weeks of the season.

***With his Modified victory on June 11, Vern Jackson won back-to-back features in the division for the third time in his career at Independence. He is one of 18 drivers in the division’s history to win consecutive Modified features at Independence. The others, in alphabetical order, are J.D. Auringer, Jeff Barkdoll, Ron Barker, Tom Bartholomew, Troy Cordes, Max Corporon, Steve Droste, Darin Duffy, Craig Haupt, Greg Kastli, Tim McBride, Jack Mitchell, Mark Noble, Keith Pittman, Kevin Pittman, Mike Sampson and Joey Schaefer. For those scanning the list, no, Jerry Luloff’s name is not on it. Although he is fifth on the all-time wins list at the speedway for the Modifieds, none of his 21 career wins have come in consecutive weeks. To his credit, his 21 wins have come in 14 different seasons, which leads the Modified division. Jackson is second on that list with at least one Modified win in 13 different seasons. One reason Luloff probably doesn’t mind? He leads the division all-time with five track championships. You can read more about the wins-to-championships ratio at the end of this blog.

***Jackson’s first Modified win at Indee came in 1997. Of those 15 years, he has had seasons with multiple wins a record 11 times. Darin Duffy is second on that list with eight seasons of multiple Modified wins at the speedway. Saturday night’s win for Jackson was his ninth in the month of June at Independence. His nine wins are the most all-time for the division in June.

***Dating back to July 17, 2010, Josh Sherbon and Tyler Droste have won eight of the last 10 IMCA SportMod features. Sherbon has won five of the last 10 and Droste three times in that span.

***Dating back to August 14, 2010, Sean Johnson has won four of the last seven IMCA Stock Car features. No other driver has more than one win in that span.

***Through 20 features so far this season, there have been 17 different feature winners. Those drivers have earned a combined 135 career wins in their respective divisions at Independence.

***June 11 was the fourth weekly points race of the 2011 season. My apologies in advance to Luke Merfeld, Vern Jackson, Sean Johnson, Josh Sherbon and Rod Grother… In the last 30 seasons, only 15.8% of all feature winners during the fourth week of the season have gone on to win track championships. The percentage for the fourth week is tied for the least likely to produce a track champion. With which week is it tied? Week 5.

To put it into perspective, since 1981, only six of 30 eventual Late Model track champions won in week four, five of 28 Modifieds, one of 18 Stock Cars, three of 22 Hobby Stocks and one of three SportMods. Of the past 30 track champions (among all divisions since 2005), only two champions won during week four – Curt Martin (Late Models, 2005) and Danny Dvorak (SportMods, 2008).

The numbers for week five are as follows: Only three of 30 eventual Late Model track champions won during week five of the season, four of 28 Modifieds, three of 18 Stock Cars, six of 22 Hobby Stocks and none of three SportMods.

To take it a step further (because I tend to like to do that), 128 track champions have been crowned since 1981. Of those titlists, only five times has an eventual track champion won back-to-back features during the fourth and fifth weeks of racing. They include Jack Mitchell (Modifieds, 1984), Greg Kastli (Modifieds, 1986), Dave Gerner (Sportsmen, 1987), Curt Martin (Late Models, 1999 and 2004). So, yeah, sorry guys, but it looks like you’re doomed if you win again on night five!

For an overall look at how often track champions visit victory lane, here are those numbers. Since 1981, Late Model champions have won 112 of 437 features (25.6%), Modified champions have won 106 of 414 features (also 25.6%), Stock Car champs are 79 of 262 (the highest percentage at 29.8%), Hobby Stock champions are 88 of 323 (27.2%) and SportMod track champions are six of 37 (16.2%).

***While wins help a driver move up the standings, consistency (not necessarily feature wins) equates to a division title. While Jack Mitchell (Modifieds, 1984) and Larry Portis (Stock Cars, 1995) earned 10 wins (the most all-time in a season) on their way to track championships, three-time and five-time winners during the course of the season have produced the most champions since 1985. Of the 95 champions crowned since 1985 in the divisions that currently compete at the speedway, 15 were three-time winners during their championship seasons and 15 were also five-time winners. There have been 14 two-time winners to earn championships and 12 four-time winning titlists. An astounding 11 times has a driver earned a track title without earning a feature win while, on the flip-side, only seven times has a one-time feature winner earned championship honors. Just 21 times (22%) has a track champion earned more than five feature wins in a season since 1985. Of the 95 track champions mentioned above, 42 did not even lead their division in the number of feature wins during their championship seasons.

I think that’s enough for tonight. I’ll be back sometime in late June or early July with the next Blitz!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Just your typical Sunday...

There's a town in east central Iowa that has boasted many things over the years. The community of just over 5,000 people, nestled along the Cedar River in Benton County, was known as the "Popcorn Capital" of Iowa due to its popular Vinton Popcorn Company that was located on West 4th Street for many years. Although that business closed a number of years ago, the rural community is still known as the "City of Lights" for its numerous, beautiful Christmas light displays which draw many travelers during the holiday season.

The community of Vinton is a proud little town. When you enter the city from the north on Highway 150, you feel as though you've entered a small town like those depicted in annual holiday TV specials. You always tend to feel you're visiting the right place as you travel across the bridge and down the hill, greeted by old fashioned street lights and murals that grace the buildings as you make your way downtown. The residents of Vinton take pride in their community and they know how to get things done.

On the southeast corner of town you'll find the Benton County Fairgrounds, the location of the annual Benton County Fair in late July and, more recently, the Boomtown Vinton fireworks celebration that was started just a few years ago, along with weekly stock car racing from April through mid-September every year . When it comes to getting things done in Vinton, you won't find a better example than a Sunday night at the fairgrounds. This Sunday night, June 12, was no different.

4:00 p.m. - Normally a bustling place around this time, the gate to the pit area of the race track and main grandstand entrance were relatively quiet on this night. A few regulars, committed to reserving their seats for the weekly racing program, were in attendance, as were a couple of race teams wanting to be sure to get their parking spots in the pits. It was casual, however, almost giving you an uneasy feeling that the hard work put into the week's program was done in vain. The clouds were present for most of the day and a few light, random sprinkles were starting to make their way to the ground.

Those rain drops didn't materialize into anything more than a nuisance over the next hour or so as the line of cars to the pit entrance and the line of race fans at the main gate continued to lengthen. "It's Sunday and we're in Vinton. We will race tonight," appeared to be the sense shared by everyone who made their way to the track despite the increasingly threatening skies to the west.

5:22 p.m. - Race cars were called to the race track to help pack in the racing surface in order to get the program underway in a timely manner and, hopefully, to dodge as many rain drops as possible.

5:31 p.m. - The many cars on the track were ushered off of the speedway by track official as the track packing was quick, efficient and thorough. It was time for hot laps.

5:52 p.m. - With hot laps complete and the show opened by announcer Bucky Doren, the first heat of IMCA Hobby Stocks makes its way to the speedway... then the second... then the IMCA Sport Compacts as the drops became slightly bigger and greater in number. Cars entered and left the track in quick, orderly fashion. We don't rain out in Vinton. We race.

6:27 p.m. - Thirty-five minutes after the first heat race took the first green flag of the night, the final heat race took the checkered flag - 11 heat races, 35 minutes, 0 caution flags.

6:28 p.m. - A quick check of the radar revealed there were still showers in the area. Actually, from the looks of Accuweather radar, it WAS raining in Vinton. Nevermind that, we had work to do... It was time for feature racing.

6:33 p.m. - After a parade lap for the IMCA Hobby Stocks, the field took the green flag for the first feature of the night. Inside second row starter Russell Damme Jr. swept past front row starters Justin Wacha and Cale Peterson to lead the first time around the fast 1/4-mile oval. Damme maintained a nice advantage out front while fellow second row starter Jacob Keiser worked past Wacha and Peterson on lap three as Justin Stander followed him into third.

Keiser reeled in Damme on the seventh lap and applied pressure to the leader's back bumper as Vince Buchholz made his way into fourth after starting in the fifth row. The order remained unchanged until the 13th lap when Stander bobbled exiting turn two. As he was trying to regain control of his machine, Buchholz slipped past him as the two made contact, sending Stander into a spin off the back stretch to bring out the first caution of the race. Check that, the first caution of the night... during race 12... on lap 93. When racing resumed, Damme held off the persistent Keiser to score his first win of the season.

1. 4JR Russell Damme Jr.
2. 07 Jacob Keiser
3. 55 Vince Buchholz
4. 78 Matt Brown
5. 2P Cale Peterson
6. 47 Scott Pippert
7. 17K Kyle Parizek
8. 45 Justin Wacha
9. 77 Rod Grother
10. 64JR Jeremiah Wilson

6:40 p.m. - Russell Damme Jr. made his way to victory lane for his interview as the IMCA Sport Compacts prepared to roll out of the staging area for their 12-lap feature event and the pesky rain drops stopped, at least momentarily.

6:44 p.m. - The green flag waved for the IMCA Sport Compact main event with pole-sitter Ross Kitner showing the way to lead lap one. Nathan Chandler, who started a row behind Kitner to the outside, quickly made his way past Jacob McVay and the leader to secure the top spot on lap two. Three laps later, Brad Chandler worked his way into second from a fourth row start as the lead pair quickly pulled away from the field.

The Chandlers were a straightaway ahead of third-running Brett Vanous when the race's only caution waved on lap eight after Gary Peiffer and Merv Chandler came together in turn four. When racing resumed, the leaders again pulled away from the pack with Nathan holding off Brad to score the victory.

1. 22 Nathan Chandler
2. 2 Brad Chandler
3. 35 Brett Vanous
4. 51 Bryce Bailey
5. 07 Tyler Whalen
6. 57K Ross Kitner
7. 1 Merv Chandler
8. 22T Travis Losenicky
9. 83 Travis Ross
10. 23 Brad Vanous

6:50 p.m. - As Nathan Chandler exited his car to prepare for the victory lane interview, the IMCA SportMods remained in staging, anxiously awaiting their turn on the speedway for their 15-lap feature.

6:54 p.m. - The green flag waved for the 21-car IMCA SportMod field with second row starter Racer Hullin powering to the front on the low groove of the speedway. He disposed of front row starters Ed O'Brien and Curt Hilmer to lead lap one. Hilmer remained in second while Ken Kositzky quickly made his way into third on lap three following a caution one lap prior.

Hullin held a decent advantage over the field when he entered lapped traffic just past the midway point, allowing Kositzky, who drove the low line into second, and Hilmer to close the gap. A caution one lap later removed the lapped traffic, but placed Kositzky and Hilmer on his rear bumper for the restart. When racing resumed, Hullin pulled away from the field and survived one final stoppage to motor to his second win of the season.

1. 505 Racer Hullin
2. K0 Ken Kositzky
3. 22H Curt Hilmer
4. 30X Josh Modde
5. J2 Dave Schulze
6. 00 Jim Buhlman
7. 3R Danny Dvorak
8. 3D Drew Fish
9. K3 Kyle Olson
10. 23R Nick Roberts

7:09 p.m. - Racer Hullin prepared for his second career victory lane interview with the IMCA Stock Cars at the ready to start their 15-lap feature as the light, pesky rain drops returned to the southeast corner of town.

7:12 p.m. - John Schaefer shot into the lead at the start of the IMCA Stock Car main event. Schaefer was among a trio of different drivers to hold the lead over the course of the first three laps. After Mike Galli briefly assumed command on lap two, the middle of the pack saw four-wide action for position on lap three with Damon Murty sneaking through for fourth as Scooter Dulin took a turn out front.

As Dulin led, Paul Shepherd settled into second and briefly challenged to the low side while Murty worked the top groove. Murty worked the high side around Shepherd, then quickly dropped to the bottom to inch ahead of Dulin for the lead on lap seven. Dulin led the remainder of the caution-free event to score the victory, his second straight.

1. 99D Damon Murty
2. 3T Scooter Dulin
3. 31S Paul Shepherd
4. 81X Randy Killen
5. 10 John Schaefer
6. 76 Mike Galli
7. 17 Jason Niedert
8. 15 Norman Chesmore
9. 6X Bob Ahrendsen
10. 7H Phil Holtz

7:17 p.m. - Damon Murty prepared to answered questions about his second straight trip to victory lane as the evening's finale, the IMCA Modified feature, was ready to give the night a memorable finish.

7:21 p.m. - IMCA Modified feature pole-sitter Tony Olson, who has made it an undesirable habit of starting mid-pack or worse the past couple of weeks, took the green flag from the pole in the night's feature. Following a caution on the initial start of the 20-lap event, Olson rocketed into the lead only to have action slowed one final time after the completion of lap two.

On that restart, Olson again took charge, running the extreme high groove of the speedway. Fellow front row starter Brandon Banks gave chase while Troy Cordes and Joe Docekal worked the bottom groove into third and fourth. Olson allowed his competitors to stay in the hunt via a miscue exiting turn four midway through the event and getting a little too high in the corners late in the race.

Banks, Docekal and Cordes switched grooves throughout the event, running high and low at various times as they tried to cut into Olson's lead. The top four were running just a couple of car-lengths apart when the white flag waved. At that time, both Cordes and Docekal shot to the low side of Banks as Olson's pursuers worked the low side of the leader. Olson, Cordes and Docekal stayed three-wide down the back stretch as Olson regained the edge in the final set of turns. He powered off turn four to take the thrilling win in a photo finish that separated all three drivers by mere inches. Cordes edged Docekal at the line for second.

1. T23 Tony Olson
2. 71 Troy Cordes
3. 12D Joe Docekal
4. 22 Brandon Banks
5. 33D Scott Hogan
6. F7 Patrick Flannagan
7. 25 Shawn Fisher
8. 11B Mike Burbridge
9. 5 Jerry Dedrick
10. 7 Todd Jensen

7:34 p.m. - With the sprinkles slowly fading away, Tony Olson made his way to victory lane for the final celebration of the night. Sixteen races and an hour and 42 minutes after the first green flag waved, the track officials quietly gathered their belongings, loaded their ATVs and made their way to the pit office to drop off their radios while concession manager Dan Engledow and his staff worked to close down and clean up below the grandstands. Judy Burkey - ticket taker, grandstand greeter, grounds worker, track prep worker (yes, she spent two hours on the sheeps foot on Saturday night as she has for many years) and master of all trades at the speedway, exited to her car while Don Burkey quietly pulled the road grader onto the track to get an early start for next week's show.

They say rain was in the forecast for Vinton on Sunday. Those on-hand at Benton County Speedway, however, had racing in the forecast. And racing wins out over rain on Sundays in Vinton. They know how to get the job done and, on this Sunday, the racing in the forecast made for a typical Sunday night at the speedway.

Points leaders struggle, Jackson notches another win at Independence

On a night when all five division points leaders had their share of problems, including three who lost their positions atop the standings, Vern Jackson added another victory to a remarkable career at Independence Motor Speedway.

Dating back to his first feature win in weekly racing in the Roadrunner division in 1979, Jackson's IMCA Modified win on Saturday night gave him 93 career wins at Independence in weekly competition, more than any other driver in track history.

At the start of the 20-lap Modified feature, pole-sitter Leon Wilson jumped to a big early advantage. He quickly put a handful of car-lengths on the field while Jackson made his way from a third row start and into second place after just two laps. Jackson then went to work on running down the race leader while Jerry King and Mike Burbridge pursued.

As Wilson battled lapped traffic midway through the event, Jackson closed the gap and appeared set to challenge for the lead when the race's first caution flag waved on lap 10 for King, who slid off the high side of the front straightaway. By this time, Jerry Luloff and Troy Cordes, both working from fifth row starts, made their way into contention.

On the restart, Jackson again dropped in behind Wilson, but had difficulty making a bid for the lead. The field closed once again when the caution flag waved on lap 16. By this time, Johnson made his way beneath Luloff for second, putting him in the second row when racing resumed. For that restart, Wilson still held the point, but a loaded field of veterans was close behind. Along with points leader Johnson, four of the top five in career wins in the division completed the top six, including Jackson, Luloff, Cordes and Darin Duffy.

When the green waved again, Johnson shot beneath Wilson off of turn four as the field attempted to complete lap 17. After Johnson made his way past Wilson for the lead, he slid to the top side and Wilson shot to the bottom to try to regain the top spot. Halfway down the front straightaway, Wilson and Johnson made contact with Johnson slipping off the high side of the front stretch to bring out the final caution. With Johnson stopped on the track, he was sent to the rear of the pack for the final restart, as was Wilson for his involvement in the incident. This set up a two-wide restart out front when racing resumed with the bevy of career wins leaders making up the front two rows.

When racing resumed the final time, Jackson took control and held off Luloff to score the wild victory. Duffy ran third ahead of Burbridge and Kellen Chadwick. Cordes faded to a 14th place finish. If hard charger points had any cash value, Tony Olson would be swimming in the green stuff following his last three outings at Independence and Benton County Speedway in Vinton. Last Saturday in Independence, Olson gained 12 positions to finish third after starting 15th, then worked from a sixth row start to finish fourth in Vinton last Sunday. He did it again on Saturday night by finishing sixth after starting last in the 27-car starting field. I would say advancing 40 positions in three nights of racing is a job well done. Now we just need to work on getting you qualified for the invert out of the heats so you don't have to work so hard in the feature, Tony!

For Jackson, the 93rd win of his career now places him ahead of Curt Martin by two victories. All of Martin's victories have come in a stellar Late Model career while Jackson's have come in a track-high six different divisions. Along with his wins in the Roadrunners and Modifieds, Jackson also had wins in the Sportsman, Late Model, Street Stock and Pro Stock divisions.

Johnson, the points leader entering the night, finished 20th as he lost the lead in the division to Jerry Luloff. Luloff, who qualified for his 201st consecutive Modified feature on Saturday, moved to the top of the standings for the first time since August 18, 2007.

In the IMCA SportMod division, Jim Aschenbrenner took command on the first lap after starting in the second row. He paced the field through a myriad of early cautions while Josh Sherbon made his way through traffic and into second from a fourth row start after just three laps.

Following a lap nine restart, Sherbon went to work on the high side of Aschenbrenner to assume command. He led the remaining six laps to drive to the win ahead of Aschenbrenner and Jim Buhlman. Austin Lucas, who made his first appearance of the season, made a stout run to finish third after starting 19th. Curt Hilmer and Dave Schulze completed the top five.

The win was the 11th of Sherbon's career in the division at Independence, best among all drivers. He is also now the only driver to have won a feature in each of the four seasons the SportMods have competed at Independence. Since no other driver had won features in each of the first three years in the division at the track, he is guaranteed to hold that honor by himself as long as he continues to win.

Additionally, points leader Danny Dvorak held onto a 10th place finish (the best finish for all points leaders on the night), but gave up the lead to Sherbon, who moved to the top of the standings for the first time since May 23, 2009. Sherbon was fifth in the standings entering the night, giving him a four spot boost in the points to take the top spot. It is the biggest jump in position in one night to take over a points lead at Independence since a pair of drivers did it in 2009. Darren Ackerman moved from fifth to first in one week on June 27, 2009, while Jason Hocken also advanced from fifth to first in one week on June 20 of that same year.

Defending IMCA Hobby Stock track champion Rod Grother led the entire 15-laps in that main event to take the victory. From his outside front row starting spot, Grother took charge and never looked back to score the win, his first at the speedway since April 22, 2006. He remained the car to beat throughout a trio of cautions during the first half of the event to see the checkers first ahead of Quinton Miller, Jamie Whitaker, Justin Stander and Vince Buchholz. The sixth win of his career at Indee, Grother now sits tied for 12th on the division's all-time wins list.

Entering the night, August Bach held the points lead, however he left the race early after he and Chris Luloff engaged in some extra-curriculars while the race was under caution. By virtue of his 18th place finish and Buchholz' fifth place finish, Buchholz took over the points lead. Coincidentally, Buchholz is the only driver at the speedway to record top-five finishes in each of the first four nights this season. Also, his 10-point edge in the standings is the largest point lead of any of the five divisions at this point in the season.

Sean Johnson drove to his second win of the season in the IMCA Stock Car division. Johnson motored into the lead from his second row start after just one lap, leaving Roger Ciesielski and Tim Helle to do battle behind him. Brian Irvine entered that battle just past the midway point and moved into second with a handful of laps remaining. His progress, however, stopped there as Johnson powered to the victory ahead of Irvine, Ciesielski, Tim Helle and Jarod Weepie. Just like his win on opening night, Johnson led the event in its entirety. He also started in fourth during both of his wins.

Although Dave Stricker was one of only two drivers to not give up his lead in the standings, his 10th place finish did nothing to help his position. He now sits just three points ahead of Norman Chesmore in the standings, four ahead of Weepie and nine ahead of Johnson.

The last time Luke Merfeld was in victory lane at Independence was on July 4, 1998, after he earned the win in the Pro Stock division. Nearly 13 years later, Merfeld made a return trip to the winner's circle after taking top honors in the 25-lap IMCA Late Model feature.

Starting on the pole, Merfeld shot into the lead with Bryan Klein in pursuit. Despite a trio of cautions early in the event, the leaders built nearly a straightaway lead on the field by the time the caution waved again on lap 13. By that time, Greg Kastli worked from a fifth row starting spot and into the top three.

On the restart, Merfeld again took command and held the point through a pair of cautions for debris late in the race. Darren Ackerman, who started in row six, made his way through traffic and past Kastli on lap 20. His attempts to sneak beneath Merfeld came up short, however, as Merfeld drove to the milestone win. Ackerman finished second ahead of Kastli, Jon Passick and Dirk Hamilton. Through 20 feature events at the speedway this season, Merfeld became the first driver to win from the pole position.

Points leader Tyler Bruening suffered engine problems early in the event, forcing him to a 20th place finish. This allowed Ackerman to take the points lead by eight markers ahead of him in the division standings.

Tonight, it's back to Benton County Speedway in Vinton for another night of weekly racing, then on Tuesday I'm going to try something a little different and maybe a little more laidback. I'm heading to Cedar County Raceway in Tipton on Tuesday night for the JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds. If you want to stop by and say hi, I'll be helping tour director Bucky Doren by working souvenir sales on the grandstand side. It should be an interesting change of pace, but I hope to be done by feature time so I can provide a report on the night's action here at Positively Racing. Have a great week!