Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Stats Blitz! Numbers through May at Independence Motor Speedway

Welcome to the first 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 two weeks of weekly racing (the end of May).

There are some all-time statistics included at the end, 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 at Independence. For those inquiring minds, 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 www.actiontrackphotos.com.

Car Count
Division - Average - High - Low
Late Model – 19.5 - 21 - 18
Modified – 23.5 - 27 - 20
Stock Car – 14.5 - 16 - 13
SportMod – 21.5 - 24 - 19
Hobby Stock – 20.5 - 22 - 19
TOTAL – 99.5 - 102 - 97

* 124 drivers have earned points so far this season.
* Among those 124 drivers, 39 different hometowns are represented.
* Points leaders account for six of the 10 total feature wins through two weeks.
* The Tylers have it: Tyler Droste (SportMods) and Tyler Bruening (Late Models) are the only drivers to lead the points in his respective division both weeks of the season.

* 36 drivers have remained in the top-10 in the points both weeks of the season. Those drivers include:
Late Model (7): Darren Ackerman, Tyler Bruening, Dirk Hamilton, Drew Johnson, Rory Metcalf, Jon Passick, Travis Smock;
Modified (8): Mike Burbridge, Troy Cordes, Patrick Flannagan, Adam Johnson, Jerry King, Jerry Luloff, Tony Olson, Shawn Ryan;
Stock Car (8): Norman Chesmore, Austin Evens, Tim Helle, Sean Johnson, Jeremy LaPlant, Dave Stricker, Thomas Thompson, Jarod Weepie;
SportMod (6): Jim Buhlman, Tyler Droste, Danny Dvorak, Lucas Lundry, Ray Lundry, Josh Sherbon;
Hobby Stock (7): August Bach, Vince Buchholz, Nathan Christie, Russell Damme Jr., Jeremy Floyd, Chris Wiltse, Steve Wiltse.

Feature Winners
* There have been 9 different feature winners in 10 feature events this season.
* There have been no repeat winners in the Late Model, Modified, Stock Car or Hobby Stock divisions. Read more below on extended history relating to back-to-back winners to open the season.
* One driver has multiple wins: Tyler Droste (SportMod).

Tyler Droste became the first driver to earn back-to-back wins in 2011 by scoring a pair of SportMod wins to open the season. Dating back to season championship night last season, Droste has recorded three consecutive victories at Independence.

History in the making?
Late Model: Tyler Bruening became the 10th straight different opening points night Late Model feature winner: Travis Smock (2010), Rob Toland (2009), Darren Ackerman (2008), Darin Burco (2007), Dale Stolte (2006), Greg Kastli (2005), Dean Wagner (2004), Gary Crawford (2003), Curt Martin (2002 and 2001). Not since the 2002 season has a Late Model driver won two features in the first three weeks of the season. Greg Kastli won on the second and third nights that year. Tyler Bruening and Rob Toland are the only drivers eligible to break that streak in 2011.
Modified: Mike Burbridge became the 26th different opening night Modified winner in the 29-year history of the division at the speedway and the eighth straight different opening night winner in the division: Richie Gustin (2010), Max Corporon (2009), Vern Jackson (2008), J.D. Auringer (2007), Jason Snyder (2006), Joey Schaefer (2005), Scott Hogan (2004), Vern Jackson won in 2003. For the 15th consecutive season, no Modified driver won back-to-back features to open the season. Steve Droste was the last to do so in 1996. Scott Hogan was the last driver to win two of the first three features in a season, that back in 2004. Mike Burbridge and Adam Johnson were the first two winners in 2011.
Stock Car: For just the sixth time in the 19-years the Stock Cars have competed at Independence, a driver named Trimble or Irvine was not in victory lane during the first two weeks of the season (1993, 1996, 2001, 2002, 2008). Sean Johnson and Dave Stricker are each looking to become the 14th driver in 19 years to win two of the first three features of the season in the division.
SportMod: Tyler Droste is looking to become the first SportMod driver to win the first three features of the season in the division's brief four-year history at the track. The last time any driver won three straight features in the same season at Indee was Brian Irvine (Stock Cars) on August 1, 8 and 15, 2009. Including his win on championship night in 2010, Droste is the only driver in division history at Independence to string three straight wins together over two seasons.
Hobby Stock: Scott Pippert became the 21st different opening night Hobby Stock winner in 23 years of Hobby Stock racing at Independence. August Bach became only the sixth Hobby Stock driver in track history to win a feature in the first two weeks of consecutive seasons. The other five to do it? Rod Grother (2005-2006), Patrick Stansbery (2001-2002), Chris Wessner (1995-1996), Kevin Hoehne (1993-1994) and Lon Gadow (1990-1991).

Mike Burbridge became the 26th different Modified driver to visit victory lane in the division's 29 years of competition at the track. The win also marked his first career Modified win in IMCA competition.

* 77 drivers have earned at least one top-10 finish this season.
* 23 drivers earned top-10 finishes in both features:
Late Model (4): Darren Ackerman, Tyler Bruening, Drew Johnson, Jon Passick;
Modified (5): Troy Cordes, Patrick Flannagan, Adam Johnson, Jerry Luloff, Shawn Ryan;
Stock Car (5): Norman Chesmore, Sean Johnson, Dave Stricker, Thomas Thompson, Jarod Weepie;
SportMod (5): Tyler Droste, Danny Dvorak, Lucas Lundry, Ray Lundry, Josh Sherbon;
Hobby Stock (4): August Bach, Vince Buchholz, Nathan Christie, Russell Damme Jr..

No stranger to the top 10, Troy Cordes has earned 27 top-10 finishes in 30 nights of racing dating back to the start of the 2009 season, including two top-10s to start the 2011 season.

* 40 drivers have earned at least one top-5 finish this season.
* Only 10 drivers earned top-5 finishes in both features:
Late Model (0): None;
Modified (2): Adam Johnson, Shawn Ryan;
Stock Car (3): Norman Chesmore, Dave Stricker, Jarod Weepie;
SportMod (3): Tyler Droste, Danny Dvorak, Ray Lundry;
Hobby Stock (2): August Bach, Vince Buchholz.

Jarod Weepie has been a front-runner at Independence for many years in the IMCA Stock Car division. In fact, in the last 30 weekly events at Independence (dating back to the start of the 2009 season), Weepie has recorded 23 top-5 finishes, including a pair of top-5s to start the 2011 season.

* 26 drivers have earned at least one top-3 finish this season.
* Dave Stricker (Stock Car), Tyler Droste (SportMod), Ray Lundry (SportMod) and August Bach (Hobby Stock) are the only drivers with top-3 finishes in both features this season.

After starting the 2010 season with first and fourth place finishes during the first two nights of racing, August Bach (19) got out of the gate fast once again in 2011. He has a win and a third place finish to his credit after two weeks of racing this season.

Feature Lap Leaders
* 29 drivers have led at least one lap of feature competition.
* Division lap leaders include:
Late Model (3 total different lap leaders): Rob Toland (25 laps led), Tyler Bruening (20), Jon Passick (5);
Modified (6): Mike Burbridge (12 laps led), Tony Snyder (8), Patrick Flannagan (7), Adam Johnson (6),
Vern Jackson (4), Jerry King (1);
Stock Car (4): Sean Johnson (15 laps led), Dave Stricker (9), Thomas Thompson (6), Mike Padden (1);
SportMod (6): Tyler Droste (15 laps led); Luicas Lundry and Ray Lundry (5 each); Danny Dvorak (3); Jim Buhlman and Cory Evans (1 each);
Hobby Stock (4): Scott Pippert (14 laps led), Jamie Whitaker (11), August Bach (4), Justin Lichty (1)

She ain't purdy, but she sure is fast.
After 34 Raceway in Burlington rained out on May 28, Rob Toland made the trip from Moline, Illinois, to dominate the IMCA Late Model feature at Independence. His 25 laps led this season is the best among all drivers after two weeks of racing.

Heat Races
* There have been 23 different winners in 26 heat races.
* The only drivers to win heats both nights through two weeks include Tyler Bruening (Late Model), Sean Johnson (Stock Car) and Jamie Whitaker (Hobby Stock).

Jamie Whitaker (25) earned four IMCA Hobby Stock heat race wins in 2010. He's already halfway to last year's mark as Whitaker has won both of his heat races in 2011.

Efficiency Stats
* A total of 36 races have been run this season.
* A total of 392 laps have been completed.
* A total of 53 caution flags have been thrown.
* Of the 36 races this season, 14 of them have been caution-free.
* 41 of the 53 cautions have occurred during features
* The Hobby Stock division (6 cautions in 7 total events) has had the best caution per race ratio by averaging .86 cautions for every race.
* The Hobby Stock division (6 cautions in 71 total laps) has had the best caution per race lap ratio by averaging 11.83 laps of green flag racing between caution flags.
* The Hobby Stock division leads the speedway by averaging 7.5 completed laps of feature racing before the first yellow flag.

Since the year 1967...
* 646 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 6.7 events.
* 416 Modified feature events have been completed in weekly competition with 78 different winners. On average, a new Modified winner visits victory lane every 5.3 events.
* 264 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 6.8 events.
* 39 SportMod feature events have been completed in weekly competition with 13 different winners. On average, a new SportMod winner visits victory lane every 3.0 events.
* 325 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 3.8 events.
* Overall, in the last 43-plus seasons, there have been 1,690 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 61 consecutive features. His last miss was June 3, 2006.
Modified: Jerry Luloff has qualified for 199 consecutive features. His last miss was July 5, 1997.
Stock Car: Jarod Weepie has qualified for 138 consecutive features. His last miss was June 9, 2001.
Hobby Stock: Russell Damme Jr. has qualified for 21 consecutive features. His last miss was July 25, 2009.
SportMod: Jim Buhlman has qualified for all 39 features dating back to the first one at the speedway on June 21, 2008.

Jerry Luloff is known to local fans as the "Independence Icon" for good reason. He has qualified for 199 consecutive IMCA Modified features at his hometown track, a streak that dates back to July of 1997. To show how impressive of a mark that is, second on the list for Modifieds is Troy Cordes. He has qualified for 40 consecutive features, dating back to August of 2007.

Stuff Nobody Should Know…
* Eight different starting positions have produced the 10 feature winners this season. Only outside row two and inside row 5 have produced multiple winners (2 each).
* Every division has had one feature winner come from an inside starting spot and one feature winner come from an outside starting spot except the Late Models. Both Late Model winners started on the outside.
* All five of the opening night winners – Tyler Bruening (Late Model), Mike Burbridge (Modified), Sean Johnson (Stock Car), Tyler Droste (SportMod) and Scott Pippert (Hobby Stock) had never before won on opening night at Independence. The victories for Burbridge and Pippert marked their first career wins in weekly racing at Independence.
* Looking ahead… In 2011, June race dates include the 4th, 11th, 18th and 25th. A combined 20 weekly events (five apiece) have been scheduled on those dates in the history of the track. Of those 20 dates, only twice have the races been rained out – June 18, 1983 and June 25, 2005. Weekly races for June 4 and June 11 at Independence have never rained out. Coincidentally, May 28 was on the schedule this season and racing has won out over Mother Nature all six times in track history.
* Since the 1989 season, 87 track champions have been crowned among the five divisions that currently compete at Independence. Of those track champions, 44 were leading the points in their respective division at the end of May. The breakdown is as follows:
Late Model: 14 of 22 Late Model track champions held the points lead at the end of May, including Denny Osborn (1989), Curt Martin (1990, 1991, 2006), Greg Hunter (1992), Greg Kastli (1994, 2001, 2002, 2003), Rick Wendling (1995, 1996), Darren Ackerman (2004, 2007) and Tyler Bruening (2010). Of those, nine champions led the points at the end of every month during their championship seasons. They include Curt Martin (1991, 2006), Greg Kastli (1994, 2002, 2003), Rick Wendling (1995, 1996), Darren Ackerman (2007), Tyler Bruening (2010).
Modified: 10 of 22 Modified track champions held the points lead at the end of May, including Steve Droste (1994, 1995), Jerry Luloff (1999, 2000, 2006), Darin Duffy (2001, 2009), Scott Hogan (2003) and Troy Cordes (2010). Of those, five champions led the points at the end of every month during their championship seasons. They include Jerry Luloff (1999, 2000), Scott Hogan (2003), Darin Duffy (2009) and Troy Cordes (2010).
Stock Car: 8 of 18 Stock Car track champions held the points lead at the end of May, including Lon Gadow (1993), Dan Trimble (1994, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001), Jarod Weepie (2005) and Brian Irvine (2009). Of those, four champions led the points at the end of every month during their championship seasons. They include Dan Trimble (1994, 1998, 2000) and Jarod Weepie (2005).
Hobby Stock: 11 of 22 Hobby Stock track champions held the points lead at the end of May, including Lon Gadow (1990), Forrest Frost (1992), Kevin Hoehne (1994), Chris Wessner (1995), Jeff Roete (2000), Scooter Dulin (2001), Patrick Stansbery (2002, 2005), Vince Buchholz (2003), Brian Irvine (2004) and Josh Irvine (2007). Of those, seven champions led the points at the end of every month of their championship seasons. They include Lon Gadow (1990), Forrest Frost (1992), Scooter Dulin (2001), Patrick Stansbery (2002, 2005), Brian Irvine (2004) and Josh Irvine (2007). Also, during the shortened 2008 season, that did not get underway until June, Chris Luloff led at the end of every month en route to the track title.
SportMod: Kyle Bentley in 2009 is the only SportMod track champion to lead the points at the end of May the season he won a title. No SportMod driver has led the points at the end of every month during a championship season.

Tyler Bruening is the only defending track champion to currently hold the points lead in his division at Independence. He is looking to become the first back-to-back titlist at Independence in three years. The last time a driver repeated as champion was in 2007-2008 when Jarod Weepie did it in the IMCA Stock Car division. The last Late Model to do it? Curt Martin from 2004-2006 when he won three straight titles.
That ought to take care of May. Check back at the end of June or early July when the Blitz returns!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Local drivers have memorable weekend at Benton County Speedway

Throughout the morning hours on Sunday, it appeared that diehard race fans in the Vinton area would be forced to make other plans for their extended holiday weekend. Substantial rainfall in the area led most to believe racing would not be an option for the evening unless it was on TV. After a long afternoon of TLC by the track crew at Benton County Speedway, however, the show went on as scheduled.

A great crowd turned out for the Sunday show with 87 race teams signed into the pit area. Of those, a trio of hometown drivers earned popular feature wins to make the weekend extra memorable.

The first area driver to bring the hometown crowd to its feet was IMCA Hobby Stock driver Doug Laughridge. After jumping out to the early lead, Laughridge held off challenges from a pair of veteran drivers to thrill the hometown fans.

At the start of the 15-lapper, Laughridge rocketed into the lead from his second row start. He quickly distanced himself from the field, putting half of a straightaway between himself and pole starter Gary Pfantz after just one lap. Laughridge inched ahead even farther while Pfantz was working to deny pressure from Rod Grother and Justin Stander. Laughridge's lead disappeared, however, when debris forced the first caution on lap six.

When racing resumed, Laughridge again pulled away while Nathan Ballard and points leader Scott Pippert made their way into the top five after starting alongside each other in the sixth row. The field was bunched again following two more stoppages on laps 10 and 11. By the time the final caution waved on the 11th circuit, Ballard used the low groove to shoot into second with Pippert close behind.

On the restart, Laughridge again held the point, but was heavily pressured by Ballard and Pippert. Despite efforts to work past the leader using both the high and low grooves, Laughridge brought the crowd to a thunderous roar when he crossed the line for his first career victory in the division. Pippert edged Ballard for the runner-up spot.

1. 25 Doug Laughridge
2. 47 Scott Pippert
3. 29 Nathan Ballard
4. 4X Gary Pfantz
5. 55 Vince Buchholz
6. 17K Kyle Parizek
7. 2P Cale Peterson
8. 67 Justin Stander
9. 6 Randy Vandevegte
10. 1S Greg Sweerin

Up next was the 15-lap IMCA SportMod feature and Drew Fish kept the Vinton victory theme alive. After struggling through a tough first few weeks of the season, Fish took the win in the thrilling 15-lap event despite late pressure from another pair of local drivers.

Pole-sitter Brian Anderson held the top spot for the first four laps while Fish worked his way to the front from a third row start. Fish worked the low side of the lightning-fast 1/4-mile and into a challenge for the lead on lap five. He then held the point as Racer Hullin followed him to the front. As he was challenging Fish for the lead, Hullin's machine locked up in turn three, spinning and forcing the race's final caution on lap seven.

On the restart, Fish maintained the lead while Kurt Hogan and Danny Dvorak were battling for second right behind the leader. The leaders entered a three-car battle out front before Fish was able to gain a car-length or two advantage. Dvorak made a late push past Hogan for second, but came up short at the line as Fish drove to the win.

1. 3D Drew Fish
2. 3R Danny Dvorak
3. MR09 Kurt Hogan
4. 26J Joel Rust
5. K3 Kyle Olson
6. 00 Jim Buhlman
7. 3 Dave McCalla
8. 80 Jared Van Deest
9. 3B Brian Anderson
10. 96 Lucas Lundry

Vinton native Scooter Dulin took the lead just past the midway point of the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature to become the third and final local winner on the night. Pole-sitter Andy Bryant held the early lead while Dulin battled with Norman Chesmore for second. Dulin worked the low side of Bryant on lap nine to make his bid for the lead with Chesmore following him to the front one lap later. Chesmore then went to work on the low side of Dulin, but could never make a charge as Dulin escaped with the exciting win in the caution-free event.

1. 3T Scooter Dulin
2. 15 Norman Chesmore
3. 77 Andy Bryant
4. 31S Paul Shepherd
5. 10 John Schaefer
6. 7H Phil Holtz
7. 6X Bob Ahrendsen
8. 8 Curtis Roster
9. 287 John Emerson
10. 76 Mike Galli

After a trio of cautions prior to the completion of the the first lap slowed the IMCA Sport Compact feature, outside second row starter Adam Gates jumped into the lead of that 12-lapper. Gates maintained a few car-lengths over the field as a quartet of drivers eventually made their way into second place at various points. None of those challengers were able to reel in the race leader, however, as Gates led the event in its entirety to score the win. Merv Chandler, who exited the race early with a flat tire, made a strong run back through the pack to finish second.

1. 007 Adam Gates
2. 1 Merv Chandler
3. 8M Jacob McVay
4. 00W Bill Whalen Jr.
5. 15 Ross Neal
6. 51 Bryce Bailey
7. 10N Gage Neal
8. A1 Louis Trachta
9. 2ND Brad Chandler
10. 8MM Kandi Floyd

Dustin Crear worked past pole-sitter Buck Swanson on the third lap to take the lead in the IMCA Modified feature. Crear paced the field while Troy Cordes and J.D. Auringer pursued after starting in the middle of the pack. Cordes was the first to challenge for the lead, but was still in second when Auringer worked the low side of the speedway to steal the position on lap eight.

Just prior to the race's only caution on lap 11, Auringer reeled in Crear and snuck below him to steal the lead. On the restart, Auringer was briefly challenged by Cordes, but pulled away to score the impressive win. Joe Docekal and Scott Hogan made strong runs through traffic to complete the top four.

1. 00 J.D. Auringer
2. 71 Troy Cordes
3. 12D Joe Docekal
4. 33D Scott Hogan
5. 32 Chris Snyder
6. 1J Jeff Streeter
7. 22 Brandon Banks
8. 25 Shawn Fisher
9. 2AC Dustin Crear
10. 5 Jerry Dedrick

Race Notes: Stock Car points leader Justin Temeyer finished last in the 11-car field after suffering engine problems a few laps into the feature. He entered the night with a 12-point cushion over Norman Chesmore and finished the night with only a three point lead... Stock Car driver Paul Shepherd was unable to make the starting call in his heat race, but made a nice run from a last place start to finish fourth in the feature... Sport Compact driver Brad Chandler crossed the line in second in that feature, however he was penalized for questionable driving in the waning laps of that event. Contact between he and Ross Neal sent Neal for a spin late in the event, leaving Chandler scored in last of all cars on the lead lap... SportMod driver Lucas Lundry made his first visit to Vinton this year and came away with a 10th place finish in the 24-car field... J.D. Auringer made a mid-afternoon decision to go to Vinton pay off. Auringer has been racing in Dubuque on Sundays, but the program there was rained out tonight... Modified driver Adam Birck made the long haul from Canton, Missouri. He was initially planning to race in the Quad Cities on Sunday, but "kept driving north" when the races there were rained out. Unfortunately for Birck, his drive home was likely much longer than expected after he suffered engine problems in the heat race and was unable to start the feature.

Great work tonight by track prep man Don Burkey and promoter Mick Trier for their hard work to make the races possible tonight. For those who may have stopped by the track in the middle of the afternoon, you could consider them miracle workers to even make the pit area accessible to race cars, let alone providing an outstanding racing surface for the night's events. A job well done, guys!

A busy week lies ahead as I start a mini CBC Tour in a few days. I'll be behind the microphone for a trio of Corn Belt Clash Late Model Series events in a three-day span later this week. On Wednesday, the tour invades Cedar County Raceway in Tipton, followed by a trip to Fayette County Speedway in West Union on Thursday. The three-day swing will end in Fountain City, Wisconsin, at Mississippi Thunder Speedway on Friday night before another night of weekly racing back in Independence on Saturday. I'll do what I can to provide updates between naps and fuel stops! Hopefully, Mother Nature is through with her fits so we can get a strong start on the busy June schedule!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Droste delivers another win at Independence

After three cancellations during the first four weeks of the season, Memorial Day weekend offered the second Saturday of weekly points racing at Independence Motor Speedway for 2011. Of the 102 cars signed in, three drivers used feature wins to propel them to the top of their respective division's standings while a fourth made a repeat trip to the winner's circle.

In the IMCA SportMod division, Tyler Droste took a liking to victory lane at the end of 2010 and he has yet to leave it. After winning on championship night last season, Droste became the first driver in the division's four-year history at the speedway to record back-to-back wins to open a season.

At the on-set of the 15-lap feature, it was outside front row starter Cory Evans pacing the field the first time around the 3/8-mile oval. He held the point until third row starter Danny Dvorak slid beneath him on the following lap to take the lead. Dvorak and Ray Lundry swapped the top spot while Droste marched through the field from a fifth row start.

Droste made his way past Dvorak for second on the sixth lap, then inched ahead of Lundry just prior to a caution on lap 10. Droste then drove away to score the victory ahead of Lundry and Dvorak. Dave Schulze and Josh Sherbon completed the top five. Including his win to end 2010, Droste also became the first driver to string together three consecutive wins in the division. The third win of his career, Droste moved into a tie with Chris Luloff for fourth on the division's career wins list at Independence.

In the IMCA Modified division, outside second row starter Tony Snyder looked poised to earn the first feature win of his career as he rocketed into the lead on the first lap. He quickly pulled away from the pack, leaving Adam Bolin, Keith Pittman and Troy Cordes to battle for second. That trio engaged in a terrific battle for the runner-up spot for a number of laps while Vern Jackson moved from a sixth row start into the top five. A pair of cautions slowed the event on laps six and seven, allowing Jackson to close the gap on the leaders.

When racing resumed following the lap seven stoppage, Jackson split between his competitors and settled into second just one lap later. On lap nine, Jackson made his way past Snyder and appeared to be on his way to a division-leading fourth career Memorial Day weekend Modified win at Independence. Those plans went south when he slowed with engine problems as the field came around to complete lap 13.

With Jackson pulling to the infield, Snyder again assumed command. By this time, Adam Johnson made his way from a fifth row start and into a challenge for the lead. He slipped beneath Snyder on lap 15, then led the remaining five laps to secure the victory ahead of Cordes. Shawn Ryan, who started 16th, made an impressive run to come home third ahead of Snyder and Pittman. Jerry Luloff, who qualified for his 199th consecutive Modified feature at Independence, a streak that dates back to July of 1997, made an impressive run of his own to finish sixth after starting 17th. For Johnson, it was his fifth career win at the speedway, placing him in a tie for 27th on the all-time list with Pittman, Larry Schmitt and Tom Fitzpatrick. Johnson has now won at least one feature at Independence in four of the last five seasons. His win Saturday night also moved him to the top of the point standings in the division.

Dave Stricker also used a win in the IMCA Stock Car division to lift him to the top of that division's standings. Stricker, who started in the fourth row, made his way to the front on the 10th lap of the scheduled 20-lapper. He passed race-long leader Thomas Thompson in the caution-filled event that eventually timed out after 16 laps. Norman Chesmore, Jarod Weepie, Phil Holtz and Tony Schimmels completed the top five. The third Stock Car win of his career at Independence, Stricker is now tied for 16th on the all-time list with Brad Holtkamp, Dale Hackwell Jr., Forrest Frost and Jerry Schipper.

August Bach engaged in an entertaining battle with pole-sitter Jamie Whitaker for the lead throughout the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock main event. Whitaker, who led the first 10 laps of the race, gave way to Bach with just five laps to go. The leaders then swapped the lead until a flat tire sidelined Whitaker with a couple of laps remaining, allowing Bach to sneak away with the win. Quinton Miller, Jim Ball, Justin Lichty and Vince Buchholz completed the top five. Bach has now won a feature each of the past three seasons in the division at Independence.

In the evening's finale, IMCA Late Model driver Rob Toland made the trek from Moline, Illinois, after the program at 34 Raceway in Burlington rained out. Since it was only the second points race of the season, the Late Models drew for their starting positions and, after qualifying through his heat, Toland redrew the #2 spoon for the feature. Toland quickly pulled away from the pack and survived a handful of cautions, plus a late charge from Curt Martin, to take the victory. Greg Kastli, Jon Passick and Dale Hackwell Jr. chased the leaders to the checkers.

Up next for me is a trip to Vinton for the holiday weekend and a return to Benton County Speedway. Although I have attended the races there on a regular basis this season, I haven't written about it lately here at Positively Racing. I plan to change that this weekend and expect to have notebook in hand for this weekend's show. See you at the races!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Losing a father and a friend

Over the past few days, I've been considering if and how I would write a blog about the passing of my father. On so many levels, it feels like the memories of the loss of a loved one aren't really a good fit for a racing blog. The more I got to thinking about it, though, the more right it felt for me to write about my dad. In all honesty, if it wasn't for my father, I wouldn't even go to the races.

When it came down to sitting at the keyboard, however, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to write. I still don't. Regardless what the next few paragraphs include, you can probably call it therapeutic for me to try to put into words what my dad meant to me. No matter what comes to mind, everything I remember here will be fond, affectionate, loving memories of a man who sacrificed and gave a lot for his family. Those are the only memories of him that I can remember because those are the only ones that exist.

For the readers who may not know, my dad, Dwayne Burkey, died on May 14 after a brief battle with lung cancer. So brief, in fact, only three weeks passed from the moment we became aware of his condition until his death. By law, I guess you could say Dwayne was my step-father because he married my mom in July of 1987 when I was 13 years old. In my heart and in my soul, he was and will always be my dad and those are the only places that matter.

My dad was a race car driver for many years at Vinton Speedway back in the 1970s and 1980s in the Roadrunner division. From the mid-to-late 1980s, the track closed until Larry and Kathleen Kemp reopened the facility, since named Benton County Speedway. When the Kemps reopened the track (in 1989, I believe), my dad raced Dan Krug's Hobby Stock a few nights before getting back into racing with his own car in the Pro Stock division. He raced until 1995 when he retired from behind the wheel to help maintain the racing surface in Vinton, a duty he took pride in until last month when he became too ill to work at the track.
As would be expected, memories of my dad came flooding back these past few weeks as I spent much of my time at the hospital and in Vinton with my mom and my brothers. It's amazing to remember everything you thought you had forgotten about a loved one when they're no longer with you. There are also those stories that you've remembered and cherished since the moment they first happened. It's moments like those that have helped get us through the past few days.

I think many of you know the story of my dad's Pro Stock feature win in 1995. Although he had won at Independence, his hometown track was in Vinton and he wanted to win there more than anywhere. He started helping Larry Kemp prepare the track prior to the end of his racing days and it was on a day that season when he made a discovery while making his way around the track in the road grader. A horseshoe made its way to the surface after it had been lost in the track many years before. Larry told him he better hang onto that horseshoe because finding it may have been a good omen. When he got home, my dad and brother mounted the horseshoe in the cockpit of his race car and, wouldn't you know, he earned that elusive feature win that very Sunday night.

Victory lane in 1995

Another memory came in 1982 when I was eight years old. During intermission at the races in Vinton, I was talking with a few friends down in the old box seats at the front of the grandstands when announcer Bill Haglund called my name as the Junior Fan of the Week. I was not only in shock, but terrified at the thought of walking down to the front stretch in front of all those people.

Then, there he was, driving his #98 Roadrunner to the front stretch so I could get in and take a lap around the track with him. A track official handed me my trophy and helped me get into the passenger side of my dad's race car. Until that time, I had never even been in the car while it was running, let alone while it was in motion. He knew I was scared and took it slow as we made our way around the track. When we got to the back stretch, I felt like I was in another world. I'd never seen the other side of the race track and I remember thinking things seemed so different over there. I was so proud to be there with him for the whole world to see. When we made it back to the front stretch, I hopped on my dad's lap with trophy in hand so the photographer could take our picture. It's a photo I have treasured for the last 29 years and will cherish so much more for the rest of my life.

Junior Fan of the Week photo from the summer of 1982

Memories like those, along with countless others, were brought up in conversation with my family the last couple of weeks, along with the hundreds of people who came to pay their respects at his visitation on Wednesday. We joked at how my dad would have been furious at having a visitation for him. He was a simple guy who admittedly wasn't fond at being confronted with sickness and death. He was the type of person who always wanted to remember people the way he knew them in life, not in death. We realized that funeral visitation was a process meant for the family. Along with giving the many people who cared for him the chance to pay their respects, it was for that reason we decided to go ahead with the visitation. Looking back, I think he'd have been happy, but also embarrassed at the thought that so many people respected him.

Although he is gone, his memory will live on forever. Whether it's at home, at the track or wherever we may be at any given time, I am comforted by the thought that he is always going to be right there with us. I returned home today for the first time since last week to take care of things around the house. As I was finishing mowing the lawn, I looked up to see a cardinal sitting in my backyard. Not only was red always dad's color, it was the first time in the six years I've lived in my house that I'd seen a cardinal there. After a quick glance, the bird was gone. It brought a rush of emotion and tears to my eyes as I frantically fumbled for my phone to text my brother about what I had just seen. My dad was there to watch over me and to let me know everything was going to be okay because he'll be right there with me for every decision I make, to celebrate the good times with me and to provide support for any obstacles that may stand in my future.

Along with their condolences, so many people have expressed their sadness that his illness took him from us so quickly. While I wish we'd have had more time together, I am comforted by the fact that he did not suffer, that he was peaceful when he left us and that my family was provided the opportunity to say goodbye.

While the races will never be the same and while there will always be something missing on Sunday nights in Vinton, the memories of my dad will make race nights so much more meaningful. Like everyone else who is involved in our sport, my dad knew that racing was about family, friends and fun. His passion for racing will continue to live on in my family. Likewise, his love for his racing family will be present every race night. When I think of my dad, I will appreciate all the great people I've come to know over the years simply because he enjoyed spending his Sunday nights at the races.

Thank you, Dad. Your impact on my life is immeasurable and I will never be able to thank you enough for being a part of my life and of my family. I love you.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Miedke, Keiser make Mother's Day memorable at Benton County Speedway

On Sunday afternoon, I made the trip to Vinton to spend some time with Mom on Mother's Day, then head to the track for the night's racing action. Those in attendance were undoubtedly left with a lot to talk about on Monday after a number of thrilling finishes in an efficient program that allowed race-goers more "mom time" as the final checkered flag waved shortly after the eight o'clock hour.

Just like moms, who deserve special recognition year-round rather than only one day on the calendar, a number of divisions don't always get the recognition they deserve. Those divisions provided the best racing of the night on Sunday as the "entry level" IMCA Sport Compact and IMCA Hobby Stock divisions left everyone on the edges of their seats until the checkers waved.

In the Sport Compacts, Steve Miedke motored to the front of the pack after one lap from his second row starting spot. He was able to put a few car-lengths on the field while Bill Whalen Jr., who started two rows deeper, made his way through traffic. Whalen, who earned wins at CJ Speedway on Friday and West Liberty Raceway on Saturday, was looking for a clean sweep of the weekend.

Whalen chased Miedke to the front, but remained a couple of car-lengths back while Bryce Bailey pursued the leaders. Bailey provided heavy pressure on Whalen, making his way into second just past the midway point of the 12-lap event. Entering turn two on lap seven, however, Bailey spun to the low side to bring out the caution, forcing him to the back of the pack for the ensuing restart.

When racing resumed, Miedke again pulled away from the pack, but encountered lapped traffic late in the event. Contact with a spinning backmarker on the back stretch of the final lap allowed Whalen to sneak past the leader as they entered turn three. Not to be left behind, Miedke powered his #11 hard into the final set of turns and was able to pull even with Whalen's #00W.

With Whalen already committed to the high groove, Miedke stayed on the throttle as he navigated the corner. As he drifted high exiting turn four, Miedke made slight contact with Whalen, but was able to inch ahead at the line for the thrilling win. Whalen held on for second ahead of Brett Vanous. By virtue of his third place finish, Vanous ended the night with the points lead. Brad Chandler made an impressive run through the 19-car field. He started the event in last when he borrowed the James Stevens machine after his own car broke earlier in the night.

1. 11 Steve Miedke
2. 00W Bill Whalen Jr.
3. 35 Brett Vanous
4. 2nd Brad Chandler
5. 1 Merv Chandler
6. 22T Travis Losenicky
7. 22 Nathan Chandler
8. 007 Adam Gates
9. 51 Bryce Bailey
10. A1 Louis Trachta

Hobby Stock points leader Scott Pippert was looking to make it four-for-four for the points season in that division, and five straight overall. While it appeared like he had no chance early in the event, by race's end Pippert proved why he has been the most dominant driver in the division.

Pole-sitter Jeremy Floyd led for much of the 15-lap event, but was under constant pressure from numerous pursuers. Jacob Keiser posed the strongest challenge as he ran a close second for most of the race. While the leaders battled, Pippert was making his way through the field from his sixth row starting spot. Pippert cleared half of the competitors in front of him and was sitting sixth when the race's only caution flag waved on lap six.

When racing resumed, Floyd maintained his position at the front of the pack with Keiser close behind when third-running Vince Buchholz spun in turn four. By that time, Pippert went to work on the high side and started closing in on the leaders. He made his way around Rod Grother with only two laps to go when Keiser swept beneath Floyd to take the lead.

Committed to the high side, Pippert made a quick attempt to chase down the leader as the white flag was displayed. He pulled to the outside of Keiser the final time down the back straightaway as Keiser remained glued to the bottom. Exiting turn four Keiser took a slight advantage as Pippert worked the top side. Keiser held on at the line by less than a car-length to earn the exciting victory. Floyd and Grother chased the leaders to the checkers.

1. 07 Jacob Keiser
2. 47 Scott Pippert
3. 12J Jeremy Floyd
4. 77 Rod Grother
5. 26 Nathan Christie
6. 09 Brad Forbes
7. 2P Cale Peterson
8. 29 Nathan Ballard
9. 78 Matt Brown
10. 67 Justin Stander

The excitement continued in the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature. At any point throughout the first six laps, if you took a snapshot of the action, you may be led to believe the field was lined up prior to the green flag as the front four cars in the field stayed in side-by-side formation the entire time.

Outside second row starter Curtis Roster made his way past outside front row starter Scooter Dulin at the drop of the green to join pole-sitter Thomas Thompson at the front of the pack. With Roster up high and Thompson down low, the two remained wheel-to-wheel while Dulin dropped to the low side and Phil Holtz joined the fray out front. Holtz pulled to the outside of Dulin as the top four remained wheel-to-wheel and nose-to-tail prior to lap six when contact between Dulin and Holtz forced the first caution of the event.

When racing resumed, Thompson held the point and continued to pace the field while Justin Temeyer was working the low groove through traffic from a fifth row starting spot. Running fifth when the green flag waved for the restart, Temeyer quickly made a charge to the front as he snuck past Roster for second just one lap later.

Thompson, still running down low, gave Temeyer a little too much breathing room exiting turn four on the 10th circuit as he stuck the nose of his #56T beneath Thompson's #83E. Temeyer assumed command by the time the leaders entered turns one and two. He withstood all challenges to lead the remainder of the event en route to the victory. Nathan Wood, who made a late charge by running the top side of the track, challenged Temeyer late, but settled for second. Unfortunately for Thompson, he pulled off early with mechanical problems.

1. 56T Justin Temeyer
2. 52 Nathan Wood
3. 15 Norman Chesmore
4. 6X Bob Ahrendsen
5. 8 Curtis Roster
6. 10 John Schaefer
7. 31S Paul Shepherd
8. 3T Scooter Dulin
9. 9E Austin Evens
10. 76 Mike Galli

What appeared to be a sure victory for front row starter Troy Cordes turned into less than a guarantee when lapped traffic played a part in the 20-lap IMCA Modified feature. Cordes left the field behind quickly when the green flag waved and built up a half straigthaway lead over fellow front row starter Brandon Banks just a couple of laps into the event. Cordes maintained that advantage by the time Joe Docekal made his way around the outside of Banks for second four laps into the event.

On lap 11, Cordes encountered his first lapped car which allowed Docekal to close part of the gap. It was lapped traffic three laps later, however, that made things interesting. A pair of backmarkers were running side-by-side when Cordes approached them on the back stretch, leaving him little room to work with. As Cordes was considering his options, Docekal closed the gap and pulled to within a car-length of the leader.

When the leaders cleared traffic, Cordes held the point while Docekal attempted to make his move beneath him. Despite a gallant effort, Docekal came up short at the line as Cordes scored the win by a car-length. Points leader Scott Hogan, who started in row five, went to work on the high side early to come home third in the caution-free event.

1. 71 Troy Cordes
2. 12D Joe Docekal
3. 33D Scott Hogan
4. 22 Brandon Banks
5. 5 Jerry Dedrick
6. 10K Ronn Lauritzen
7. T23 Tony Olson
8. 32 Chris Snyder
9. F7 Patrick Flannagan
10. 11B Mike Burbridge

After a couple of cautions prior to the completion of the first lap, third row starter Kurt Hogan was liking his chances more and more as the 15-lap IMCA SportMod feature took shape. Following miscues by those in front of him, Hogan eventually found himself in the pole position without a lap in the books.

Hogan took command when the green flag waved the third time and shot into the lead ahead of Jim Buhlman, a SportMod feature winner each of the last two weeks in Vinton. Hogan stretched his lead to half of a straightaway by the time the caution flag waved again on lap four.

When racing resumed, Hogan again took charge, building the same advantage while Buhlman kept the same distance between himself and the battle for third among Curt Hilmer, Ken Kositzky and Jake Strayer. The caution flag again wiped out Hogan's lead just past the midway point. Despite an additional pair of stoppages with only three laps to go, Hogan proved too strong for the field as he scored the victory ahead of Buhlman. Hilmer held off Strayer for third and, in the process, lifted his #22H to the top of the division's point standings. Hilmer now holds a slim one-point edge over Hogan and Kositzky, with a trio of drivers tied for fourth just four points out of the lead. Buhlman, who jumped to seventh in points, is only six points out of the lead.

1. MR09 Kurt Hogan
2. 00 Jim Buhlman
3. 22H Curt Hilmer
4. 18J Jake Strayer
5. K0 Ken Kositzky
6. J2 Dave Schulze
7. 1 Austin Kaplan
8. 28P Rick Paulson
9. 33 Ed O'Brien
10. 72 Mike Hogencamp

Thanks to Mick Trier and crew for another excellent night on the 1/4-mile. The track was fast and smooth and should be in great shape for this Tuesday's Hawkeye Dirt Tour opener, where I plan to be and intend to recap right here at Positively Racing. On that note, I hope tonight's blog meets your standards, Mick! Since I didn't get the Indee results posted in a timely manner for you last night, I made a little extra effort to get tonight's recap posted! Also, to RACEceiver mic-man Mike Van Genderen, I apologize for no recap of last Sunday's races in Vinton. Hopefully, tonight's report gets you through the week!

While being at a race track was the plan for many on this Sunday, it shouldn't overshadow the importance of Mother's Day. Although there are designated days on the calendar to express our appreciation for our parents, it goes without saying that expressing love and gratitude for mom and dad is something that we all should do every day.

You hear a lot of people say that they are lucky to have the best parents in the world. For those of us who feel that way, we are damned lucky. I have said it many times before and I will say it for eternity that my mom is my best friend. Every time we end a phone call or say goodbye in person, we make sure to say, "I love you." It isn't because we have to, it's because we do.

We never know what each tomorrow may bring - it may be a good day, a bad day, a day to remember or a day we wish we could forget, but each of those days should bring with them a moment when you tell your parents that you love them. My love for my mom is unconditional and I have been reminded time and time again that her love for me is the same. There will be good days ahead that we will celebrate together and there will be rough days, as well, when we'll lean on each other. No matter what those days bring, Mom, I am truly blessed to be your son. I love you, Mom. Happy Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Droste, Johnson, Bruening among opening night winners at Independence

After a one week weather delay, the season got underway at Independence Motor Speedway on Saturday night as 97 cars were on-hand to do battle for the first night of the season.

The final IMCA SportMod winner of the season in 2010, Tyler Droste picked up where he left off to open the 2011 season. After chasing front row starter for the first lap, and then Lucas Lundry another handful of times around the 3/8-mile oval, Droste swept around the high side to take the lead just prior to a lap seven caution.

Droste then pulled away from the field when racing resumed to lead the final eight laps of the event to score the victory, the second of his career at Independence. Lucas Lundry fought off his dad, Ray, to take home second. Kip Siems and Danny Dvorak completed the top five.

Sean Johnson used a nifty move at the start of the IMCA Stock Car feature to take the early command. Starting outside of the second row, Johnson split between front row starters Dave Stricker and Tim Helle to nab the top spot by the time the field exited turn two on the first lap. As Johnson led, Justin Temeyer worked into second place just prior to the midway point on lap seven and a caution on lap eight.

When racing resumed, Johnson and Temeyer engaged in arguably the best race of the night. With Johnson out front, Temeyer tried both high and low to steal the lead, using slingshot moves in both sets of turns, with Johnson regaining control each time. One final Temeyer push came up short on the last lap as Johnson drove to the victory, the ninth of his career at Indee, moving him into a tie with Chris Wessner on the all-time list. Following Johnson and Temeyer across the line were Dave Stricker, Jarod Weepie and Norman Chesmore.

Pole-sitter Jon Passick held the lead early in the 25-lap IMCA Late Model feature. He held the point through a myriad of cautions early in the race until the fifth lap when Passick drifted high, allowing Tyler Bruening to sneak by. After a brief challenge from Travis Smock, Bruening drove away to score the opening night win. The eighth win of his career in weekly competition at Independence, Bruening now sits tied for 20th on the all-time list with Jeff Aikey and Joe Schaefer. Bruening became the first track champion in three years to open the following season in victory lane. The last driver to do that at Independence was 2007 Late Model champion Darren Ackerman, who won the 2008 opening night feature.

Scott Pippert, who has been dominant in the IMCA Hobby Stock class at Benton County Speedway in Vinton this season, raised the bar Saturday night by making a very rare appearance at Independence. Pippert, who is 4-for-4 this season on the Vinton 1/4-mile, picked up his first career win at Independence in dominating fashion.

Front row starter Justin Lichty paced the field for the first lap, but fourth row starter Pippert already made his way into the top four by the end of lap one and then quickly challenged for the lead. He swept past Lichty a few moments later to lead the second time around and then quickly pulled away from the field. Pippert survived a late race caution to take his first-ever win at Independence ahead of Vince Buchholz and August Bach. Nathan Christie and Chris Wiltse completed the top five. Pippert became the 85th different winner in the division at Independence since it was introduced 23 seasons ago.

Mike Burbridge became another first-time winner as he took top honors in the 20-lap IMCA Modified feature. After following early leader Jerry King for the first lap, second row starting Burbridge made his bid for the lead one lap later following an early caution. Pole-sitter Patrick Flannagan kept Burbridge in his sights and took over the lead just two laps later. Flannagan held the point until the race's next stoppage on lap 10.

Following the restart, Burbridge made quick work of Flannagan and pulled away from the field to score his first win in weekly competition at Independence. Jerry King surged past Flannagan for second following a late caution. Flannagan ran third ahead of Adam Johnson and Shawn Ryan. With Burbridge's win, he became the 78th different weekly Modified winner in the 29 seasons the Modifieds have competed at the track.

A number of drivers made good runs through the field in their respective features. Among them were SportMod drivers Danny Dvorak and Josh Sherbon, who finished fifth and sixth, respectively, after starting at the back of the 24-car field. Along with Pippert's Hobby Stock win from the fourth row, fellow Hobby Stocker August Bach came from the sixth row to finish third and Chris Wiltse turned a seventh row start into a fifth place finish. In the Modifieds, Adam Johnson came from the last row of the 20-car Modified field to finish fourth.

Also in attendance was Kyle Ealy of speedblitz.net. As I mentioned on the mic last night, if you want an "unfiltered" view of all things racing in the region, be sure to take a moment to read his blog.

Up next for me is a trip to Vinton tonight to visit mom for Mother's Day. And, since she works at the track, taking in the races will be a double bonus for my Sunday. Happy Mother's Day to all the great moms out there. See you at the races!