Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lapped traffic key for three winners at 34 Raceway

After Lee County Speedway's opener on Friday night, I stayed in southeast Iowa with the intention of driving home Saturday morning for the season opener at Independence Motor Speedway that night. Those plans, of course, were dependent on Mother Nature's willingness to break from her typical April weather and allow racing to begin on time at Independence. Since she didn't want to cooperate (as she rarely does this time of year, despite the constant disbelief race fans in the Midwest have of April weather... that's another blog), I stuck around and took in the weekly opener at 34 Raceway in Burlington.

Six divisions were scheduled for the opening points night, which included a make-up feature for the Stock Cars that was rained out prior to the completion of last week's show. Since the make-up feature was not a points race for the Stock Cars, that feature was run at the end of Saturday's show so that it would not affect drivers racing for points should they suffer misfortune in the "opener" part of the night.

While three drivers led the entirety of their respective features, another three took the lead late to score victories, all of them assisted by lapped traffic. Among them was Josh Foster, who chased down Mitch Morris to top the field of 17 IMCA Modifieds. Morris, who started on the pole, took the lead at the drop of the green and immediately separated himself from the field. He paced the field while Kevin Goben worked to hold off Foster for the runner-up spot.

After working one groove lower than Goben throughout the early stages, Foster had a good run and snuck beneath Goben's #4 eight laps into the 20-lapper. By that time, Morris was nearly a straightaway ahead of his nearest pursuers.

While Foster was working to cut into the huge deficit, Scott Hogan was also making noise. Hogan reeled in Foster just as Foster made his bid to pass Goben for second. Hogan followed him into third a couple laps later and the race was on.

The lead held by Morris shrunk lap by lap during the second half of the event and that advantage diminished even quicker when the leader encountered lapped traffic with five laps to go. Morris dove to the low side of the backmarker while Foster went high. Foster cleared for the top spot as they made their way around the lapped car and set sail to lead the remainder of the event and take the win. Morris held on for second ahead of Hogan and Milo Veloz. Goben ran fifth.

Donnie Steward chased down Daniel Bergquist in similar fashion in the 305 Sprint feature. Bergquist, who started on the front row, shot to a huge early lead while Steward did battle with Nick Guernsey for second. By the time Steward cleared the Guernsey machine on lap seven, Bergquist was enjoying a straightaway lead.

Lapped traffic posed a problem in the Sprints, as well, when Bergquist encountered backmarkers at the midway point of the 20-lapper. His lead closed quickly, which allowed Steward to pull to his inside as the leaders entered turn one. Steward came out of turn two with the lead as he pulled away from the field in dominating fashion to take the win. Jayson Ditsworth, who made an impressive run on the high side of the speedway, came home second ahead of Bergquist. Guernsey and Dustin Whiting completed the top five.

Michael Grossman was the early leader in the 4-Cylinder division. From his outside front row starting spot, Grossman set sail with Nick Wilkerson in pursuit. Wilkerson stayed within striking distance of the leader and  moved in for the kill just past the midway point of the 12-lapper when Grossman encountered lapped cars.

Wilkerson swept past the leader to take command with Bill Whalen Jr. not far behind. Although Whalen cleared Grossman for second, he could not reel in the leader as Wilkerson drove to the opening night win. Whalen ran second ahead of Grossman, Bradley Stevenson and Jerrod Nichols.

Eric Rowley held the early lead in the 15-lap Hobby Stock main event while Jake Wenig pressured from his second row starting spot. Wenig took advantage of a lap two caution to make his way around Rowley and win the event going away. Dan Wenig came home second ahead of Dane Fenton, Matt Gavin and Victor Hastings.

Mark Burgtorf survived heavy pressure from Colby Springsteen to score the win in the 25-lap IMCA Late Model feature. From his front row starting spot, Burgtorf took the lead at the drop of the green and was quickly pressured by Springsteen, who started one row behind him.

A quartet of cautions throughout the event kept the field close and allowed Springsteen to challenge from the low side while Burgtorf worked the high groove. Burgtorf's line proved to be the fastest as he held on for the victory by a couple of car-lengths ahead of Springsteen. Tom Darbyshire came from the fourth row to finish third after a great battle with Matt Strassheim and Lonnie Bailey. That pair ran fourth and fifth, respectively.

Jason Cook survived a trio of cautions during the first half of the IMCA Stock Car main event to lead that race in its entirety on his way to the win in the points opener. Cook, who received pressure on the low side from John Oliver Jr., denied all challenges and came away victorious in the 20-lapper. Oliver ran second ahead of Brett Timmerman, Matt Greiner and Abe Huls.

In the make-up feature, the Stock Cars provided for quite an entertaining finale for the evening. Although Jim Lynch led that 20-lapper in its entirety to score his first win in the division after moving from the Hobby Stocks, he fought every step of the way. Shane Watts, who started the event in the second row, quickly made his way into the second position and kept within a couple car-lengths throughout the first half of the event. By lap 11, Watts made the move to the low groove to challenge Lynch for the lead

With Lynch running the top side, Watts repeatedly tried to get a run on the bottom groove and was eventually able to pull even with the leader with a handful of laps to go. As the leaders battled, Jason Cook and Matt Greiner joined the fray at the front of the pack.

Exiting turn four on the final lap, Watts slid up to the middle while Lynch defended his turf on the top side. Contact between the two sent Lynch into the wall, but he held his position and was first across the line as he scored the exciting win. Cook dove to the bottom and slid across in second ahead of Watts, who finished third with substantial damage on the right side of his #56. Greiner and John Oliver Jr. completed the top five.

Although seven features were on the agenda for the night, the races were done in a timely manner with the final checkered flag waving shortly after 10:30. A smaller than normal crowd turned out on the chilly Saturday night, however the track was in great shape and provided for some great action all night long. Before the races, I had the chance to speak with IMCA Modified driver Scott Hogan and his crew, who made the trip from my hometown of Vinton. While the temps were chilly in Burlington, they guessed it was 10+ degrees warmer than in Vinton. That was one more reason I'm glad we decided to hold off on the opener for Independence until next weekend!

Tomorrow, the plan is to head back home to Vinton and take in the second night of weekly points races at Benton County Speedway. I was asked to assist Janice Smith of the Lil' Racer Car Club during tomorrow's kids' gunny sack races. I gladly agreed until I was informed I may actually take part in the event. I'm interested to know what Sunday will bring! Gunny sacks or not, I hope to see everyone in Vinton on Sunday!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cale collects checkers on opening night at Lee County Speedway

Despite cold temperatures, a brisk wind and the threat of rain in the area, the season points opener at Lee County Speedway is in the books. After two straight weeks of rainouts for a couple of pre-season specials, there was doubt up until race time that getting in Friday night's show would be a possibility. A brief rain shower just prior to the completion of qualifying events caused a slight delay, but a great night of racing on a well-groomed surface provided those in attendance a good night to kick off the 2012 season.

Tyler Cale topped a field of 14 IMCA Modifieds to take the opening night victory. The first heat winner grabbed the #1 pill for the draw/redraw opener and started the 20-lapper on the pole. He quickly took charge as Brandon Savage and Ryan Cook pursued. Rich Smith, Brandon Banks and Jeff Waterman also joined the battle for the runner-up position while Cale pulled away from the pack.

As Cale extended his lead, defending track champion Josh Foster worked through the field from a fifth row starting spot. He ran both the high and low grooves, making his way through traffic and into the runner-up spot late in the event. Cale, however, proved to be too strong out front on his way to the impressive win. Foster ran second ahead of Cook, Banks and Waterman.

A trio of drivers spent time at the front of the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature, but when the checkers waved it was John Oliver Jr. taking the opening night win. From his pole position start in the 14-car field, Oliver settled in behind fellow front row starter Jake Wenig. Wenig paced the field while Oliver and second row starters Jeff Mueller and Jim Redmann gave chase.

Wenig went high in turns three and four early in the event and clipped the guardrail, which resulted in a flat tire on his #4. Oliver then took over the top spot and was quickly challenged by Mueller at the front. That duo offered a thrilling side-by-side battle at the front of the pack, with Oliver holding the edge when the caution flag waved at the race's midway point. During that stoppage, Mueller exited to the pit area with mechanical problems.

When racing resumed, Oliver pulled away from the pack to score the victory ahead of Redmann and Jason Cook. Jeremy Pundt and Corey Strothman rounded out the top five.

Once he got out front, Tony Dunker wasn't to be denied as he took the win in the 15-lap IMCA SportMod main event. Dunker and pole-sitter Rick Barlow Jr. led the field to green with Dunker receiving early pressure from Philip Cossel out front.

Cossel's fellow third-row starter Chris Larson and John Oliver Jr. joined the fray in a challenge for position while Dunker worked to extend his lead. As his pursuers battled for position, defending track champion Jim Gillenwater was making an impressive run through traffic. After mechanical problems forced him to an early exit from his heat race, Gillenwater started the feature last on the 20-car grid.

By the midway point of the event, Gillenwater worked his #10 into the top five and quickly reeled in Cossel, Oliver and Larson in a four-car battle for second. With Dunker comfortably out front, the four drivers chasing him ran in close formation, swapping positions throughout the second half of the event. Larson worked the high side of the smooth, fast 3/8-mile oval, while the rest of the quartet ran down low.

While his challengers battled each other for position, Dunker ran uncontested out front to take the impressive win. Cossel held on for second with Larson driving the high line to third. Although he challenged Cossel for second earlier in the race, Gillenwater settled for fourth at the line. Oliver completed the top five.

Chuck Fullenkamp came from a third row starting spot to top the 11-car field in the IMCA Sport Compact feature. He made a quick charge to the front, then held off persistent challenges from defending Wild Things track champion Darin Smith to score the win in the 12-lapper. Kimberly Abbott made her way past Robert Thompson late in the event to steal third. This is the first season in Donnellson that the four-cylinder division is sanctioned with IMCA.

The IMCA sanction is also new to the Hobby Stock division at Lee County. Despite the low turn-out in that division, the trio of cars that took the green flag in that feature provided for an entertaining nightcap. Dustin Griffiths scored the win in that 10-lapper, fighting off constant, furious challenges from Andrew Hustead. Michael Wenke completed the field. Although John Oliver Sr. signed in and was on the track for hot laps, he scratched from all events.

Even though the weather was questionable throughout the night, it was great to finally get the season underway in Donnellson. I know a number of people were questioning the decision to race on Friday night, considering the weather and the fact that nearly every other track in the region canceled. A shout out goes to Dave and Von Sapp, the new management at LCS, along with promoter Dewain Hulett for going through with the program in less than ideal conditions. I look forward to spending my Friday nights on the mic in southeast Iowa.

As long as Mother Nature cooperates tomorrow, I'll be heading back north to Independence Motor Speedway for the Burco Sales Season Opener at the Buchanan County Fairgrounds. A lot of new and exciting changes are in store for race fans in northeast Iowa and I hope we can get the ball rolling tomorrow night. On Sunday, I'll be back at Benton County Speedway in Vinton for weekly points night number two. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thanks for reading.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A little of everything in weekly opener at Benton County Speedway

Although there have been special events over the last few weeks, nothing compares to my passion for weekly racing. If Sunday night's season points opener at Benton County Speedway was any indication, it's going to be an incredible season on the Vinton quarter-mile.

An impressive 100 cars entered the pit area for the first night of weekly racing and all five divisions provided great entertainment for those in attendance. In short, Sunday night had it all - Thrilling finishes, spectacular roll-overs, an impressive fundraiser and a controversial finish that resulted in an embarrassing display of poor sportsmanship on the part of many fans in the stands. (Complete results follow below.)

The 12-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature was the first out of the gate and it was pole sitter Brett Vanous showing the way for the first lap. Nathan Chandler pressured on the low side from his second row starting spot and worked beneath the race leader by the completion of lap two. He survived a mid-race caution and late-race challenges from Merv Chandler to take the win. Gary Peiffer followed across the stripe in third, a full straightaway behind the leaders.

Outside front row starter Nathan Ballard assumed the early lead in the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock feature. While Ballard was receiving pressure from Matt Brown, defending track champion Scott Pippert was making his way through traffic from a fifth row start. Pippert rapidly advanced through the field and was running in the top three after just four laps.

Working the low side of Brown one lap later, Pippert made it a three-car battle for the lead, sweeping beneath Brown on lap six and inching closer to Ballard. He continued to work the low groove and escaped with the lead on the 10th lap.

On lap 12, while exiting turn four, Pippert momentarily lost control of his #47 and hit a tractor tire on the low side of the turn, forcing it onto the track to bring out the caution. For the ensuing restart, Pippert was granted the lead since he was not stopped when the caution waved - the correct call by track officials. More on that later. Pippert held off Ballard over the final three circuits to score the victory.

Matt McCahen appeared positioned to earn his first career win the IMCA SportMod division until Danny Dvorak worked past him late in that 15-lap feature. Like a rocket, McCahen shot to the front after just one lap from his third row starting spot. He quickly started to pull away from the field, putting a straightaway between himself and his nearest competitor by the time the caution flag waved on lap eight.

When the field was aligned for the restart, defending track champion Danny Dvorak started on McCahen's rear bumper and appeared poised to steal the lead until a quick yellow waved one lap later. McCahen had a strong restart when racing resumed following the second caution and quickly pulled away from traffic.

Dvorak, however, closed when McCahen lost fuel pressure in the waning laps. Dvorak slid beneath McCahen's #63 on the final lap to steal the opening night victory. Nick Roberts came home third.

Sean Johnson redrew the #1 pill and started on the pole of the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car main event. He paced the field while Damon Murty pursued from a second row starting spot. Working the low side, Murty chased the race leader until Johnson left a little breathing room for Murty to slip through on the sixth lap.

Murty went on to survive a trio of cautions and late pressure from Johnson to take the checkers. Michael Jaenette came home third in his first appearance at the speedway.

Ronn Lauritzen led a field of 24 IMCA Modifieds to green in the evening's nightcap. Lauritzen ran strong out front, entering lapped traffic after only five laps when the first caution flag waved. He held the point on the restart and was pressured by Shawn Ryan, who was in search of his first-ever IMCA-sanctioned Modified win.

Another pair of cautions prior to the midway point slowed the event with Lauritzen maintaining the point until he unexpectedly went to the pit area with suspension problems during a lap nine stoppage.

Ryan inherited the lead and worked to hold off Adam Johnson when racing resumed. As the leaders tussled, defending track champion Scott Hogan and Joe Docekal were making their way through the field from respective fourth and fifth row starts.

Hogan went to work on the low side and advanced as far as second in a great four car battle at the front. Contact between Docekal and Hogan resulted in a flat left rear tire on Hogan's ride, forcing him to an early exit. Meanwhile, Johnson's attempt to work the low side of Ryan came up short at the line as Ryan drove to the milestone win. Johnson held off Docekal for third.

Don Burkey put together another great race track for tonight's show. The racing was excellent in all five divisions with multiple grooves throughout the night. He's one of the best in the business! Job well done, Don!

While the results immediately follow, there's plenty more to talk about from Sunday night and all of that may be found below...

First heat (top 4 redraw): 1. 71 Troy Cordes; 2. 70 Jerry King; 3. 22 Brandon Banks; 4. 91 Shawn Ryan; 5. 19 Jimmy Gustin; 6. 27 Jamie Johnson; 7. 96 Eric Tuttle; 8. 26P Kevin Pittman; 9. 15D Dustin Johnson.
Second heat: 1. 12D Joe Docekal; 2. 18 Jerry Luloff; 3. 10K Ronn Lauritzen; 4. 1J Jeff Streeter; 5. 14B Shane Burbridge; 6. 7T Tim McBride; 7. 171 Buck Swanson; 8. 1X Steve Streeter; 9. F7 Patrick Flannagan.
Third heat: 1. 19G Richie Gustin; 2. 33D Scott Hogan; 3. 11B Mike Burbridge; 4. 24R Adam Johnson; 5. T23 Tony Olson; 6. 17 Dawn Krall; 7. 2Z Zach Rawlins; 8. 5 Jason Morehouse; 9. 14 Dustin Morgan; 10. 80 Jerry Dedrick.
B Feature (top 12 transfer to A): 1. J. Gustin; 2. S. Burbridge; 3. J. Johnson; 4. Pittman; 5. Olson; 6. McBride; 7. S. Streeter; 8. Swanson; 9. Flannagan; 10. D. Johnson; 11. Morehouse; 12. Krall; 13. Tuttle; DNS Rawlins, Morgan, Dedrick.
Feature: 1. Shawn Ryan; 2. Adam Johnson; 3. Joe Docekal; 4. Jerry Luloff; 5. Brandon Banks; 6. Jerry King; 7. Kevin Pittman; 8. Mike Burbridge; 9. Tony Olson; 10. Patrick Flannagan; 11. Jamie Johnson; 12. Jeff Streeter; 13. Buck Swanson; 14. Tim McBride; 15. Shane Burbridge; 16. Jason Morehouse; 17. Dustin Johnson; 18. Scott Hogan; 19. Dawn Krall; 20. Jimmy Gustin; 21. Ronn Lauritzen; 22. Steve Streeter; 23. Troy Cordes; 24. Richie Gustin.

IMCA STOCK CAR (18 cars)
First heat (top 5 redraw): 1. 93 Michael Jaenette; 2. 8R Sean Johnson; 3. 7H Phil Holtz; 4. 19J Jay Schmidt; 5. 52J Jeremy Pundt; 6. 20B Andrew Burke; 7. 60 Clayton Deppe; 8. 87 John Emerson; 9. 9E Austin Evens.
Second heat: 1. 99D Damon Murty; 2. 3T Scooter Dulin; 3. 52 Nathan Wood; 4. 31S Paul Shepherd; 5. 15 Norman Chesmore; 6. 76 Mike Galli; 7. 05 Seth Bowen; 8. 21DE Jason Deshaw; 9. 4JR Russell Damme Jr.
Feature: 1. Damon Murty; 2. Sean Johnson; 3. Michael Jaenette; 4. Nathan Wood; 5. Scooter Dulin; 6. Jay Schmidt; 7. Andrew Burke; 8. Norman Chesmore; 9. Jason Deshaw; 10. Jeremy Pundt; 11. John Emerson; 12. Phil Holtz; 13. Mike Galli; 14. Austin Evens; 15. Clayton Deppe; 16. Paul Shepherd; 17. Seth Bowen; 18. Russell Damme Jr.

First heat (top 4 redraw): 1. S16 Kip Siems; 2. 3B Brian Anderson; 3. T17 Tom Rawlins; 4. 00C John Van Wechel; 5. 10 Mike Knapp; 6. 11 Al Sweerin; 7. 11M Jody Mitchell.
Second heat: 1. 23JR Nick Roberts; 2. K3 Kyle Olson; 3. 777 Jamie Duinink; 4. J2 Dave Schulze; 5. 28P Rick Paulson; 6. 42L Lonnie Mercer; 7. 95 Mike McDonald.
Third heat: 1. 3R Danny Dvorak; 2. 80 Duane Van Deest; 3. 63 Matt McCahen; 4. 19J Levi Smith; 5. 00 Jim Buhlman; 6. 22H Curt Hilmer.
Feature: 1. Danny Dvorak; 2. Matt McCahen; 3. Nick Roberts; 4. Tom Rawlins; 5. Jamie Duinink; 6. Levi Smith; 7. Kyle Olson; 8. Dave Schulze; 9. Kip Siems; 10. Mike Knapp; 11. Brian Anderson; 12. Al Sweerin; 13. Rick Paulson; 14. Lonnie Mercer; 15. John Van Wechel; 16. Jody Mitchell; 17. Duane Van Deest; 18. Curt Hilmer; 19. Jim Buhlman; 20. Mike McDonald.

First heat (top 4 redraw): 1. 29 Nathan Ballard; 2. 67 Justin Stander; 3. 55 Vince Buchholz; 4. 77 Rod Grother; 5. 07 Jacob Keiser; 6. 2P Cale Petersen; 7. 1S Greg Sweerin.
Second heat: 1. 78 Matt Brown; 2. 27 Clint Nelson; 3. 500 Garrett Eilander; 4. 166 Justin Lichty; 5. 64 Jerome Wilson; 6. 09 Brayden Forbes; 7. 51D Dustin Filloon.
Third heat: 1. 47 Scott Pippert; 2. 25 Doug Laughridge; 3. 76S Adam Streeter; 4. 26 Nathan Christie; 5. 64JR Jeremiah Wilson; 6. 45 Justin Wacha.
Feature: 1. Scott Pippert; 2. Nathan Ballard; 3. Matt Brown; 4. Vince Buchholz; 5. Clint Nelson; 6. Doug Laughridge; 7. Nathan Christie; 8. Garrett Eilander; 9. Cale Petersen; 10. Justin Lichty; 11. Greg Sweerin; 12. Justin Wacha; 13. Rod Grother; 14. Justin Stander; 15. Jerome Wilson; 16. Brayden Forbes; 17. Dustin Filloon; 18. Adam Streeter; 19. Jacob Keiser; 20. Jeremiah Wilson.

First heat (top 5 redraw): 1. 2 Merv Chandler; 2. 11 Steve Miedke; 3. 22 Nathan Chandler; 4. 00W Bill Whalen Jr.; 5. 36DD Gary Peiffer; 6. 75 Louis Trachta; DNS 007 Adam Gates.
Second heat: 1. 8M Jacob McVay; 2. 35 Brett Vanous; 3. 18J Jaycee Floyd; 4. 22T Travis Losenicky; 5. 03 Neil Nabholz; 6. 9L Jeremy Lerch; 7. 83 Travis Ross.
Feature: 1. Nathan Chandler; 2. Merv Chandler; 3. Gary Peiffer; 4. Brett Vanous; 5. Travis Losenicky; 6. Bill Whalen Jr.; 7. Neil Nabholz; 8. Jeremy Lerch; 9. Steve Miedke; 10. Jacob McVay; 11. Louis Trachta; 12. Jaycee Floyd; 13. Travis Ross (DNS); 14. Adam Gates (DNS).

The most impressive thing about Sunday night had nothing to do with what happened on the race track - it was the generosity of those who gave money to support North Benton Ambulance. While one of North Benton's two ambulances has equipment known as the Lucas Device, which provides automatic CPR, the ambulance on-hand at the speedway on race nights does not have that equipment. A 50/50 raffle was held during the course of the program and donations were taken in to help pay for the Lucas Device for North Benton Ambulance. Incredibly, nearly half of the $12,000 needed was raised in just a few short hours on Sunday. Along with individual donations, the 50/50 raffle alone raised $1,215 to go toward the purchase of the equipment. In total, $5,060 was raised for North Benton Ambulance. It was a humbling experience to see so many people willing to help support the local emergency team.

A pair of spectacular roll-overs slowed action as Adam Streeter suffered a wicked barrel roll in turn one on the opening lap of the Hobby Stock feature. Contact from Mike Knapp sent Brian Anderson into a scary rollover on the front stretch just after the start/finish line at the end of the SportMod feature. All drivers walked away uninjured. Steve Miedke took a wild ride of his own in IMCA Sport compact action. Contact from a competitor sent Miedke up on two wheels in three different directions before coming to rest in the front stretch barriers just off of turn four. Miedke, too, was uninjured.

The biggest talk on the night appeared to be the call late in the IMCA Hobby Stock feature when Scott Pippert hit the tractor tire while leading that feature. Although the crowd was very willing to donate to the North Benton Ambulance fundraiser earlier in the evening, many must have felt that entitled them to behave in a childish and disrespectful manner during Pippert's victory lane speech.

The problem people appeared to be having with the call was that Pippert was awarded his spot back following the caution. As I mentioned before, however, the correct call was made. As has been reiterated to drivers over the past few years at the speedway, the caution rule is as follows: If you are still moving when the caution flag waves, you get your spot back for the ensuing restart. The only exception to that is if you are deemed guilty of rough driving. I fail to see why people were so upset when Pippert was put back in the lead for the restart.

Reading the rule above, the proper call was made. Aside from that, the crowd was completely out of line by booing Pippert in victory lane. He did not make the call and he won the race. If you don't like the call, then why would you boo the winner of the race as if it was his call to make? And, if people were booing the call and not Pippert, why would you boo the call when the call clearly was correctly made based on the rule?

Fans at many tracks cry foul when they see a call that doesn't go a certain way. They call an injustice for inconsistent officiating and demand change, they demand answers, they demand the right to be pissed just because they can. Well, the rule in question has been in place at Vinton for many years. If you have an issue with it, do not take it out on the driver in his victory lane interview. Do not take it out on the call. If you have an issue with a rule, I'm certain those in the position to make or change the rules would be happy to listen to your concerns. I repeat, "Happy to listen to your concerns," not happy to listen to a foul-mouthed tirade or temper tantrum because you simply want things done your way. It's amazing, all race fans and drivers want consistency, but when that's what they get, it just doesn't always seem fair, does it?

I guarantee that tonight's incident drew attention only because the call in question involved the leader of the race. Had it been a driver in any other position on the track, nobody would have argued the call. If any other driver had been given his/her spot back, it would have gone unmentioned. No, not because it was Pippert, but because it was the race leader. I'm not sure about you, but leader or not, I think we all want the same rules for everyone on the track. That's what you got tonight, so be happy the BCS officials held their ground and made the correct call.

I've been a track official at Independence for a number of years and have always been more than willing to listen to ideas or suggestions people are wanting to share. I'm eager to engage in a conversation with them if they want to propose something that they think will improve a race program. If we disagree, I am willing to share why I think those ideas won't work and why I think a policy already in place works better. I'd venture to guess most race track officials feel the same way. Either way, a healthy conversation, thought and discussion are not only the best, but the only means to make improvements in anything in life. The problem is that most people have no desire to do it in a respectful manner and the behaviors of the fans in Vinton tonight were downright embarrassing.

Just a couple weeks ago I was talking to a few people about Pippert's success in Vinton in recent years. He's probably been the most dominant driver in any division at Vinton since Randy Patten and Scott McLaughlin won nearly every week back in the days of the Thunder Mods. Pippert is probably the most dominant Hobby Stock driver since Jerry Luloff won nearly every night out in the early 1990s before moving into the Modified division. Yet, I had never seen such a popular winner until Pippert. Generally, in racing circles, for whatever reason, race fans don't like winners. They want to see different drivers succeed and different drivers win. Pippert, who is generally known as one of the nice guys, hasn't had to suffer through all the negativity from fans because he wins a lot. Tonight was a different story and simply uncalled for.

I spoke with Pippert in the infield following his feature and we discussed his popularity and how the booing tonight was different territory for him. When I questioned what the coming weeks will bring, he seemed disappointed in assuming they're likely to do it again. It's sad to expect it, but unfortunately, he's probably right.

Don't boo the driver when he wins by the rules. Don't condemn the call when the call was properly made based on the rule. If you have a question about a rule or its intention, ask questions, offer feedback, start a respectful discussion. Or, like the fans in Vinton tonight, you can react with an overly immature display of unsportsmanlike behavior. I guess that's your call.

That's all for this weekend. Up next for me, we'll try for the third time to get in the season opener at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson on Friday. After two special events were rained out the last two Fridays, the weekly racing program is set to go green this Friday night. IMCA sanctioned Modifieds, Stock Cars, SportMods, Hobby Stocks and Sport Compacts comprise the weekly racing menu in Donnellson. I'm looking forward to a fun season in southeast Iowa!

Then, on Saturday night, the weekly wars start at Independence Motor Speedway with the Burco Sales Season Opener. IMCA sanctioned Late Models, Modifieds, Stock Cars, SportMods and Hobby Stocks will see their first action of the season on the newly-surfaced 3/8-mile oval at the Buchanan County Fairgrounds. I hope to see you there!

Just to clarify regarding Independence, I am returning to Independence this season. One of the wacky rumors I heard recently came from a fairboard member in Independence. She was informed that they "wouldn't be seeing Ryan in Independence this season because he's going to promote Donnellson." Wrong and, uh, wrong. Be careful where you get your information! I guess that "informant" isn't a reader of my blog to know we've been busy preparing for the upcoming season. Speaking of which (how's that for a segue?)...

On a side note, this marks my 200th blog entry since Jeff Broeg asked me to be a part of his writing family at Positively Racing in May of 2009. When Jeff told me he had started this site a few months earlier, I thought it was a neat concept. With all of the negativity on message boards and the bad light so many people unintentionally(?) create on our sport, the idea of a web site promoting all things positive relating to grassroots racing sounded like a unique and much-needed idea.

Looking back through the last couple years and how much this site has grown, it's truly humbling to read the hit meter on my page and to know that we have faithful readers who share the passion for stock car racing and not necessarily all the drama that comes with it. I guess you can call it a bit ironic that tonight's display in Vinton offered hints from both sides of that spectrum. The generosity of the fans was truly remarkable when it came to supporting the North Benton Ambulance. In these tough and uncertain economic times, it's refreshing to see people willing to give to such a worthy cause. At the same time, the negativity from the aftermath of the Hobby Stock feature left me shaking my head.

I'm not sure we'll ever have a fan base that truly understands how important it is to keep stock car racing in a positive light. It's no guarantee that there will be a race track down the road from you to visit every weekend during the summer and we should all keep that in mind when we attend our local tracks. Keep a positive light shining on our sport and give a reason for potential new fans to bring their kids to the races so we can keep our fan base strong. Leave the negativity at home and don't teach your kids it's ok to behave the way the fans did tonight.

With that said, it's been an incredible ride over the past three years and I look forward to many more. Jeff, Sue and the gang have been great to work with, although it's been more fun than work every step of the way.

If you do happen to be a loyal reader of In Staging and haven't checked out the other blogs on the site, I strongly encourage you to do so. Even if other writers cover tracks that you don't normally attend, they are always worth the read. Who knows? Maybe taking a look at their blogs will give you the urge to attend one of the tracks they attend on a regular basis.

As always, thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Popular Indee Drivers' Day Car Show kicks off season

Before I talk about the Independence Motor Speedway car show on Saturday, I need to thank Tammy Rasmussen of the Independence Chamber of Commerce and Captain Brian Brinkema of the Independence Police Department for all their help and hard work in making this year's Indee Drivers' Day a great success. Rasmussen and Brinkema played an enormous role in organizing this year's event and we wouldn't have had the great turn-out without all their efforts.

Twenty-six race cars were on display at this year's car show, held on First St. in downtown Independence. A nice variety of entrants from all five weekly racing divisions lined the downtown area, breaking down as follows:
Late Models (6): Curt Martin, Tracey Rigel, Rick Wendling, Greg Hunter, Travis Smock and Joel Brasch;
Modifieds (3): Adam Johnson, Jerry Luloff and Mike Manson;
Stock Cars (6): Sean Johnson, Jason Hocken, Scott Beauregard, Phil Holtz, Norman Chesmore and Russell Damme Jr.;
SportMods (3): Shane Ebaugh, Jim Buhlman and Brandon Smith;
Hobby Stocks (8): Bruce Fraser, Shawn Kuennen, Nathan Christie, Jim Ball, Marcus Wayne, Quinton Miller, Lowell Potter and Vince Buchholz.

Along with three go-karts driven by area youngsters, area racing legend Gary Crawford provided a couple of other conversation pieces for the morning festivities. Crawford had a late-1970s Camaro on display, familiar to the machine he piloted at race tracks throughout the region some 30-plus years ago. He also provided a 1969 Bonneville that will serve as the 2012 pace car for the speedway. The huge crowd of car show-goers was impressed with all of the entries and gave special attention to the cars Crawford displayed.

Award winners included:
Go-karts: Best of Show (Landon and Logan Duffy), Most Unique Graphics (Brady Kohrs);
IMS cars: Best of Show (Mike Manson), Fan Favorite (Marcus Wayne), Most Unique Graphics (Shane Ebaugh).

Marcus Wayne - #5 IMCA Hobby Stock - Fan Favorite

  Shane Ebaugh - #14 IMCA SportMod - Most Unique Graphics

 Mike Manson - #49 IMCA Modified - Best of Show

 Gary Crawford's 1970s Camaro

 Gary Crawford's 1969 Bonneville - The Official Pace Car of Independence Motor Speedway

While I was impressed with a lot of the new looks this season, I was most impressed with the Stock Car division entries. Although they weren't award winners on Saturday, Phil Holtz, Jason Hocken and Norman Chesmore will be piloting some sharp looking rides this season. And, as always, defending track champion Sean Johnson has a sweet look to his #8R.

Among the list of drivers above, one name especially stands out. Veteran Greg Hunter, who "retired" some five years ago, will be back in the weekly wars this season in his familiar #7.

Jason Hocken - #JR3 IMCA Stock Car
 Phil Holtz - #7H IMCA Stock Car - This car is so sharp, the graphics leap out at you. It's almost too classy looking to put on a race track!
 Greg Hunter - #7 IMCA Late Model
Travis Smock - #98 IMCA Late Model

Quinton Miller - #73 IMCA Hobby Stock

All of the above photos are courtesy of Scott Tjabring of Action Track Photography, the track photographer at Independence for the last 10-plus years. These photos and more are available at

Around 50 cars took part in the annual test and tune session at the fairgrounds following the car show. While the track did tend to tear up a bit as the afternoon went on, Indee race fans seemed impressed with all the hard work Darin Burco, Todd Summers and the crew from S&B Promotions has already done this spring. Darin and Todd are committed to getting the new clay ironed in and smoothed out. 

A number of other cosmetic changes will be noticed by fans this season. An additional concession stand should be completed by next Saturday's opening night. The addition was created to alleviate the congestion in the concession line and prevent fans from missing any racing when they run downstairs to grab a bite to eat. Other changes are also planned to speed up the flow of the line.

A water line was run from the water post near the pit entrance to the infield. Water trucks will now be able to fill up from the infield without needing to drive across the track and through the pits for refills. 

Other changes are planned as the season progresses, all of which should be welcomed by loyal Indee fans. It looks like the 2012 season shows a lot of promise and we're all looking forward to the season opener on Saturday, April 28. Pits will open one hour earlier than normal, at 3 p.m., to allow more time for registration. Grandstands will open at 4 p.m. with hot laps at 5:30 and racing at 6.

Tonight, I'll head across town to Benton County Speedway for the weather-delayed season points opener here in Vinton. I hope to see you there!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The weekend couldn't out-run the rain in Mason City

When I went to bed Thursday night, I had the feeling that I was coming down with something. When I woke up Friday morning, those fears were confirmed... Congestion, sore throat and fatigue had set in. Perfect timing since Lee County Speedway's season opener was scheduled for that night.

Although the races in Donnellson were canceled due to rain around the lunch hour, I made the trek south on Friday anyway to hang out with some friends, hoping I'd feel better for Saturday night's Sprint Invaders/$1,000-to-win IMCA Modified show at 34 Raceway in Burlington. I felt worse on Saturday, but after treating myself to some OTC meds and some prolonged rest, I went to 34 only to see that program cut short after heat race qualifying. Along with rain showers, a spectacular lightning show cut that program short. A night at a rain-soaked race track is not the cure for the common cold, I might add. Fear not fans of 34, the Sprint Invaders are tentatively scheduled to make up their feature as part of the July 3 program and I understand that all of the other rained out features will be made up this coming Saturday night. For up-to-the-minute scheduling info, be sure to visit

I returned home to Vinton on Sunday afternoon after the races were, you guessed it, canceled at Benton County Speedway, as well. Still not feeling the best, although slightly able to breathe through half of a nostril, I made the decision to make my first-ever visit to I-35 Speedway in Mason City. I asked my mom if she wanted to come along with me since she had never been there either and her Sunday night plans were also washed out with the Vinton cancellation.

We set the Magellan for the track's address (as taken from the I-35 web site, I might add) and pointed the car north for the approximate two-hour drive. I contacted fellow blogger Kevin Trittien in advance to see if he could save us a couple seats since I'd never been there before and had no idea how long it would take to get there.

Around 5:45, we entered Mason City taking the third exit/fairgrounds exit specifically ignoring the Magellan's (I call her Maggie) instructions to take the first exit coming from the east. I was convinced I had seen a North Iowa Fairgrounds sign at an exit to the west of the city in the past so I went with my gut and not with Maggie.

Sometime, somewhere, somehow along the way I decided that maybe Maggie was smarter than I so I started following her directions once we exited the interstate. Of course, she took me backtracking through downtown Mason City to 4th Ave. SE, in the general direction of the first exit we passed, oh, so many miles before. Something just didn't feel right, so we turned around.

During our adventure, we stopped and asked a few girls who were doing their civic "Adopt A Highway" duties if we were near the fairgrounds. "Oh, no, one replied, you need to turn around and go a couple miles the other way." The other way? Hmmm, we just came from that direction and, sure enough, there was no race track.

Again, against my better judgment, I turned around and went east. As we just passed the ShopKo, I got a text from Kevin asking if we were almost there. I quickly called him and informed him that I'd love to tell him if we were almost there, but I honestly had no clue. By this point in time, checking out the empty parking lot at Kmart's clearance sale was more likely to see my business than any race track. Kevin informed me that if I passed the ShopKo, which I had (see above), then I was too far east. Around we turned again on 4th Ave., a street with which I was becoming far too familiar, and continued west until we reached the fairgrounds. Although the drive to the track was a bit longer than expected, it did allow me to forget about my sinus congestion and I was feeling pretty good by the time we made it to the speedway.

Before I continue, a note to I-35 promoter Joe Ringsdorf: As much as I enjoyed my Sunday drive through the streets of Mason City, please change the track's address on your web site from 3700 4th St. SE to 3700 4th St. SW. :)

We made it in time for the last few hot lap sessions, grateful that Kevin and his dad saved us a couple of seats with them. In Kevin's group was also new Southern Iowa Speedway promoter Mike VanGenderen, who made the two-plus hour trip to take in the show.

After all 11 heat races were run without a single caution in just over a half hour, the Junior Hornets rolled onto the track for the first feature. Oliver Monson pulled away from the field at the drop of the green and cruised to the win ahead of Spencer Cole. Ryan Bryant also dominated the field in the caution-free regular Hornet feature. He took the easy win ahead of Kelly Miller.

Likewise, the Hobby Stocks ran green-to-checkers with Stac Schroeder coming out on top in that 10-lapper. After starting in the middle of the pack, Schroeder worked the low side to the lead after just one lap to drive away from the pack. Opening night winner Heath Tulp closed late, but settled for second at the line. Chad Gentz, Zac Smith and Andrew Borchardt completed the top five.

In the IMCA SportMod feature, pole-sitter Dan Tenold set sail at the drop of the green and won in convincing fashion in that 12-lapper. The race was slowed only once for caution for, of all things, Tenold's air filter, which came loose and scattered parts all over the track at the end of the front stretch.

With clean air in front of him for the restart, Tenold led the four remaining laps to score the win ahead of Tad Reutzel and Adam Ackerman. Nate Chodur and Travis Greenfield completed the top five.

Outside front row starter John Campbell held the early lead in the 15-lap Stock Car feature. He set the pace while Joe Willier and Larry Portis ran the low groove into contention. The race was halted, however, after four laps when light rain started to fall.

After a brief delay, racing resumed with Willier taking the advantage on the low side to steal the lead by the completion of lap five. Portis also worked his way past Campbell, then stuck his nose to the inside of Willier as the leaders exited turn two on lap seven. Portis held the lead until heavy rain started to fall with only a couple of laps left. By that time, the track was lost and the evening's program was canceled with the final few laps of the Stock Car feature and the entire Modified feature to be finished.

Although it was disappointing that my first trip to Mason City was cut short due to rain, it should provide regular fans a great show next Sunday. Track announcer Jerry Vansickle announced that next Sunday's program would begin with the final few laps of tonight's Stock Car feature, then the make-up Modified feature, before a complete new show.

Thanks again to Kevin for saving seats for us. Also, to let Kevin's readers know, he's been having some computer issues lately and hasn't been able to write about the races he's attended. He hasn't disappeared! You can rest assured he's still hitting a number of races and, hopefully, will have his computer back up and running in the near future.

Since I know a number of Independence Motor Speedway fans read In Staging, those race fans may be interested to know that a couple of former Hobby Stock drivers have made their move into the Stock Car division this season. Father and son drivers Steve and Chris Wiltse were in Mason City tonight competing with the Stock Cars so expect to read their names in that division's results this season.

Also, thanks to announcer Jerry Vansickle for keeping me updated on the status of tonight's races at I-35. He let me know this afternoon that the races were on as scheduled, despite the stormy weather throughout the region this weekend. Along with his timely updates, he was entertaining on the mic tonight, as well, even if for a few inside jokes he made while chewing on the microphone...

My next race night will include a trip to Donnellson on Friday night as we try once again to get the season-opener in at Lee County Speedway. This coming Friday, 305 Sprints will highlight racing action in a $1,000-to-win event that honors the memory of former Sprint Car champion Brian Hetrick. Along with Mod Lites, IMCA Hobby Stocks and IMCA Sport Compacts, IMCA SportMods were also recently added to Friday's program as a result of this past weekend's rainout. To stay current all season on Lee County Speedway, I've added a link to the official track web site on this page.

On Saturday, I'll head north to Independence for the annual Indee Drivers' Day Car Show on the streets of downtown Independence from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. After the car show, the drivers will make their way through the streets to the fairgrounds for the annual test and tune session, which is scheduled for 2-5 p.m.

Before any racing next weekend, though, I will spend a day or two at the Buchanan County Fairgrounds in Independence doing the "rock walk" on the track. Among the 100 loads of new clay and dirt brought in during the off-season were a bunch of rocks that we're looking to have removed by next weekend's practice. If the weather's nice and you feel like chipping in, any and all extra hands are appreciated!

That's all for this weekend and, if I learned anything, it's that a trip to the races may not cure a cold, but it will sure take your mind off of it for a few hours at a time. Although I was feeling better when I got to Mason City, I don't think getting stuck in that downpour did me any favors. Now, where did I put that NyQuil...

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Auringer wraps up Frostbuster week with IMCA Mod win in Vinton

JD Auringer ended the five day Frostbuster swing in thrilling fashion on Sunday with a wire-to-wire win in a caution-free IMCA Modified feature at Benton County Speedway.

From his pole-position start, Auringer pulled ahead of outside starter Dan Ratajczak at the drop of the green. Glued to the bottom of the slick, smooth 1/4-mile oval, Auringer put some breathing room between himself and the rest of the field.

Meanwhile, Richie Gustin dropped to the low side, as well, after starting outside of row number two, and ducked beneath Ratajczak on the second circuit. Gustin held onto second place for much of the event, but was unable to cut into Auringer's lead.

Troy Cordes went to work a groove above the leaders and slowly made his way into contention. He snuck past Ratajczak on the eighth circuit, then dropped to the low side to reel in Gustin. As he closed on Gustin, Ratajczak closed back on him for a terrific three-car battle for position while Auringer ran unchallenged out front.

With five laps to go, Auringer's lead started to dwindle as he encountered lapped traffic. This allowed the trio of pursuers to close the gap. Also working his way into contention was Ken Schrader, who was sitting in fifth after starting in the fourth row.

Gustin was able to put the nose of his #19G to the inside of Auringer as the field completed the white flag lap, but was unable to make his way around the leader through the backmarkers. In the meantime, Ratajzcak closed and took over second, but Auringer sealed the deal on the thrilling win. The other front-runners jockeyed for position over the final circuit with Schrader coming home third ahead of Gustin and Cordes.

Track announcer Bucky Doren had a clock on the race and it took just a whisker under eight minutes (7:59, to be exact) to complete the event.

1. 00J JD Auringer
2. 73 Dan Ratajczak
3. 9 Ken Schrader
4. 19G Richie Gustin
5. 71 Troy Cordes
6. 8 Kyle Strickler
7. 27M Mark Schulte
8. 08 John Whitman
9. 12 Mark Elliott
10. 10K Ronn Lauritzen
11. 71W Jeff Waterman
12. 12D Joe Docekal
13. 58 Marcus Yarie
14. 4K Kyle Kudick
15. 33D Scott Hogan
16. 66X Jared Siefert
17. 70 Mitch Morris
18. 01 Ed Thomas
19. 27 Jamie Johnson
20. 11 Ray Cox Jr.
21. 66 Bob Heffer
22. F7 Patrick Flannagan
23. 19R Todd Reed
24. 24R Adam Johnson

The finish was even closer in the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature. When all was said and done, Jason Deshaw, the new driver of the Dominator Chassis house car, came out victorious in only his second night behind the wheel in his new ride.

Pole-sitter Dave Stricker led the first time around the speedway before Deshaw stuck the nose of his #21DE to the inside of the race leader on lap two. Following the completion of that lap, third and fourth-running Dave Stricker and Scooter Dulin got together on the back stretch to bring out the caution with those two drivers sent to the tail for the restart.

When racing resumed, JC Howell pressured for the lead as all of the front-runners ran the preferred low groove of the speedway. Last week's winner, Damon Murty, opted for one lane higher and started picking off drivers one-by-one before making it into the top four at the midway point of the event.

Murty continued to work the middle lane to the front, working into a battle with Howell with five laps remaining as both drivers had Deshaw in their sights. Although Murty made his way around Howell for second, his bid for the win came up half of a car-length short at the line, leaving Deshaw in victory lane for the second time in his career at Vinton. Ironically, Deshaw stated his first Stock Car win at Vinton a few years ago also came after starting inside the second row. Jeff Mueller, who challenged for the lead late in the event, came home third.

1. 21DE Jason DeShaw
2. 99D Damon Murty
3. 77M Jason Mueller
4. 31S Paul Shepherd
5. 9E Austin Evens
6. 00 Luke Lemmens
7. 89B Dave Stricker
8. 87 John Emerson
9. 3T Scooter Dulin
10. 20B Andrew Burke
11. 29 Matt Greiner
12. 103 JC Howell
13. 76 Mike Galli
14. 15 Norman Chesmore
15. 4JR Russell Damme Jr.
16. 22 Jamie Suchocki
17. 83E Thomas Thompson

Austin Kaplan was in the right place at the right time during the caution-filled IMCA SportMod feature. He led the final two laps to take the win in an event that saw a lot of action at the front of the pack for the entire 15-lap distance.

On the start, pole-sitter Curt Hilmer took charge and pulled a few car-lengths ahead of Nick Roberts, who burst into second after starting in the third row. Roberts tried to work both the low and middle grooves, but was unable to cut into Hilmer's advantage. Meanwhile, Kip Siems settled into the third spot and challenged Roberts for second. Contact between those two drivers at the midway point sent Roberts into a spin, causing a pile-up behind the leaders.

For the ensuing restart, Roberts and all cars stopped on the track were sent to the tail, leaving Siems on Hilmer's rear bumper for the restart. When the green flag waved, Siems worked his way around the top side of Hilmer to steal the lead. He held the point until he suffered transmission problems exiting turn two in the waning laps. As Siems limped out of the corner, Hilmer had no where to go and was forced to slow behind him, allowing Kaplan to skate by for the lead. Kaplan led the final two circuits to take the win ahead of Danny Dvorak and Dave McCalla. Roberts rebounded nicely from his mid-race mishap to come home fourth ahead of Hilmer.

1. 1 Austin Kaplan
2. 3R Danny Dvorak
3. 3 Dave McCalla
4. 23JR Nick Roberts
5. 22H Curt Hilmer
6. 72 Mike Hogencamp
7. K3 Kyle Olson
8. 00 Jim Buhlman
9. 63 Matt McCahen
10. 26J Joel Rust
11. 40J Jason Doyle
12. 8C Rob Czarapata
13. 10 Mike Knapp
14. S16 Kip Siems
15. M11 Jody Mitchell
16. 11 Al Sweerin
17. J2 Dave Schulze
DNS 95 Mike McDonald
DNS 42L Lonnie Mercer
DNS 3B Brian Anderson

Scott Pippert continued his dominance in the IMCA Hobby Stock division. The winner of over a dozen features at the speedway last season, Pippert earned his second straight trip to the winner's circle to begin 2012. From his pole-position start, Pippert cruised in the 15-lapper to take the checkers over a straightaway ahead of Justin Lichty.

1. 47 Scott Pippert
2. 166 Justin Lichty
3. 2P Cale Petersen
4. 45 Justin Wacha
5. 78 Matt Brown
6. 25 Doug Laughridge
7. 77 Rod Grother
8. 09 Brayton Forbes
DNS 64JR Jeremiah Wilson

Likewise, Jacob Ellithorpe led the 12-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature in its entirety. Ellithorpe blew away the field by a margin similar to Pippert's as he sailed to the win ahead of Merv Chandler.

1. 72 Jacob Ellithorpe
2. 2 Merv Chandler
3. 11 Steve Miedke
4. 00W Bill Whalen Jr.
5. 18J Jaycee Floyd
6. 41 Jason Freeman
7. 8M Jacob McVay
8. 12X Duane Herb
9. 83 Travis Ross
10. 35 Brett Vanous
11. 07 Joe Goodenbaur
12. 9 Jeremy Lerch
13. 18E Chad Bilner
14. 22 Nathan Chandler
DNS 12B B. Bielenberg
DNS 12 Mitch Bielenberg
DNS 007 Adam Gates

Sunday night was a great way to end the five-day marathon of Frostbusters. Although the steady strong winds made it difficult to keep moisture in the track, Don Burkey and his son, Aaron, did a tremendous job on track prep this week. The track was smooth as silk all night and provided for a great night of racing.

Unveiling a new look on his car tonight was IMCA SportMod driver Curt Hilmer. The second generation driver is the son of local legend Bob Hilmer, who had a very successful Late Model career back in the '60s and '70s. To honor his dad, who attends the races every Sunday night in Vinton, Curt put together some old newspaper clippings from the glory days of his dad's successful career. Joe and Travis at Wrap'd Up Designs created an incredible looking wrap consisting of those clippings. Since this site is having trouble with photo uploads tonight, head on over to Action Track Photos to check out Curt's #22H and all of the other action from Vinton Sunday night.

Next week in Vinton, there will be a special 50/50 raffle to help support the North Benton Ambulance Service, the folks who provide ambulance service for every event at the speedway. They currently have two ambulances, however only one of them contains a Lucas Device, which provides automatic CPR and is a time and life saver in emergency situations. Each unit costs around $12,000 so the fans of the speedway will be asked to show their support of the individuals who sacrifice their Sundays to provide emergency help at the speedway. If you don't attend the races, but would still like to send a donation, their address is: North Benton Ambulance, 704 W. 4th St., Vinton, IA 52349.

My next race is scheduled for this Friday, April 13, at Lee County Speedway. It will be the season-opener on the 3/8-mile and my first night behind the mic in Donnellson. The season kicks off with a $1,000-to-win IMCA Modified special and will also include IMCA Stock Cars, IMCA SportMods, IMCA Hobby Stocks and IMCA Sport Compacts. Gates will open at 4:30 p.m., with hot laps at 7 and racing at 7:30. I hope to see you there!

Murphy dominates, collects checkers in Slocum 50 at 34 Raceway

Mike Murphy Jr. left no doubt he was the man to beat at 34 Raceway on Saturday night. Murphy, who started eighth in the 24-car field, took just eight laps to make his way past leader Jay Johnson, then drove away from the field to win the Slocum 50 Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Model main event.

Pole-sitter Johnson took the early lead on fellow front row starter Tyler Bruening. Johnson had a few car-lengths on his nearest competitor when the race's only caution flag waved four laps into the event. By the time the yellow waved, Murphy worked his way into the top three.

When racing resumed, Murphy quickly worked past Bruening and tried both the high and low grooves to reel in Johnson on the tacky, smooth surface. Exiting turn four on lap six, Murphy shot to the inside of Johnson and took the lead by the time the leaders crossed the start/finish line.

Murphy then drove away from the pack, slicing through lapped traffic with ease to score the impressive victory by half of a track ahead of Bruening. Joel Callahan, who started in the sixth row, drove a great race to come home third, a short distance behind Bruening. Ray Guss Jr. who qualified through a B feature and started 16th, ran in the fourth position ahead of Andy Eckrich. Jeff Aikey, also a B main qualifier, raced from the 20th starting spot to finish sixth, the final car on the lead lap.

1. 14 Mike Murphy Jr.
2. 16 Tyler Bruening
3. 40 Joel Callahan
4. 58 Ray Guss Jr.
5. 56 Andy Eckrich
6. 77 Jeff Aikey
7. 15 Mark Burgtorf
8. 3D Tom Bowling Jr.
9. 42 Tom Darbyshire
10. 52 Matt Bailey
11. 99D Darrel DeFrance
12. 38 Colby Springsteen
13. 84 Sam Halstead
14. 93 Jay Johnson
15. 46 Nate Beuseling
16. 41 Matt Strassheim
17. 44 Luke Goedert
18. 31 Joey Gower
19. 15K Justin Kay
20. 22 Charlie McKenna
21. 76 Jason Hahne
22. G1 Mike Garland
23. 60 Dean Wagner
24. W56 Gary Webb

In other action, Jayson Ditsworth topped a 17-car field to win the 20-lapper in the 305 Sprint division. Starting outside of the front row, Ditsworth assumed command on the first lap to lead the event in its entirety. Donnie Steward and Josh Schnedierman had a good battle for second with Steward taking advantage of a mid-race restart to finish second. Alan Ambers and Daniel Bergquist completed the top five.

Mike Morrill made the long haul from Altoona pay off as he scored the win in the Mod Lite feature. From his pole position start, Morrill survived four cautions in the first four laps to take the checkers ahead of Josh May in the 15-lapper. Randy Bryan, Greg Rossell and Evan Epperson ran third through fifth.

Adam Gates led all 10 laps of the 4-Cylinder feature and survived a late caution to take top honors in that division. John Whalen, Bradley Stevenson, Daytona Fenton and Casey Mehaffey rounded out the top five.

An evening that started with questionable weather turned into a fantastic night of racing in Burlington. Pesky light rain showers at race time brought with it doubt that the show would go off. Despite the chilly wind and the nuisance of intermittent sprinkles, the drivers not only got the show in, but provided a terrific night of entertainment for everyone in attendance. The track prep crew (including Mother Nature), led by track owner Jeff Laue, provided a perfect surface for the season opener. There was multi-groove racing from the drop of the first green flag to the final checkers on a surface that remained smooth and tacky all night. When I talked to Jeff after the races, he commented, "When I picture the perfect track I want to make for the drivers, tonight was it." Without a doubt, Laue and his crew got the job done this weekend.

On Sunday, I'll get back on the Frostbuster swing in time for the finale of its 5-day run. I'll be at Benton County Speedway in Vinton as all five divisions that will compete weekly this season will be running. Have Easter dinner early as gates will open a bit early, as well! Happy Easter!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Gustin collects Marshalltown Frostbuster win

Richie Gustin challenged early, then appeared to be positioned for no better than a third place showing at Marshalltown Speedway on Friday night for the third Frostbuster special in as many days. Those fortunes changed when leaders Ricky Stephan and Darin Duffy made contact late in the event, allowing Gustin drove to his second IMCA Modified Frostbuster victory of the week.

Early on in the 25-lapper, Stephan assumed command from his outside front row start. He held the point while Gustin pursued and Duffy was looking for a way beneath Gustin's #19G. The leaders remained unchanged throughout the first half of the event until Duffy lunged beneath Gustin following a mid-race restart.

With all of the leaders running the top groove, Duffy tried to gain ground by dropping to the bottom as Gustin started to fade. Duffy was eventually able to gain on the leader in the waning laps and pulled inside Stephan in turns one and two. Contact between the two in that corner, however, sent Stephan into a spin and both he and Duffy to the tail for a green-white-checker restart.

When racing resumed that final time, Gustin drove the high line to victory holding off a late-charging Ken Schrader. Kyle Strickler came home third ahead of Jay Noteboom and Mark Elliott.

From a third row start, Damon Murty assumed command after just four laps in the 20-lap IMCA Stock Car feature. He made his way around pole-sitter Brandon Czarapata and was quickly followed to the front by Sean Johnson.

Running the high groove, Johnson was able to run with Murty, but was unable to get the traction on the low side to make a bid for the lead. Murty led the rest of the way to take the victory ahead of Johnson and Czarapata. Brian Irvine, who started 14th, made an impressive run to finish fourth. Jay Schmidt completed the top five.

One night removed from his involvement in a bad wreck at Iowa State Fairgrounds Speedway that appeared to bend every bar on his IMCA SportMod, Racer Hulin dominated that 18-lapper to take the win. Hulin, who drew the #1 pill following his heat race win, quickly pulled to a straightaway lead in the main event to drive away to the win. Nick Roberts came home second ahead of Tracy Wassenberg, Andy Tiernan and Bryan LaRiviere.

Donavon Nunnikhoven led the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock feature in its entirety to take the win. Nunnikhoven was pressured by Devin Smith throughout much of the event until Smith spun in turn two on the final lap. Scott Pippert forged through the field from a seventh row start for an impressive second place finish. Smith rallied quickly from his late miscue to finish third ahead of Adam Armstrong and Eric Knutson.

Over 210 cars were on-hand tonight for a great night of racing at Marshalltown. The standing room only crowd was provided a fantastic kick-off to the 2012 season.

A scary moment delayed the program during Modified qualifying. On the final lap of the third heat, a number of cars vying for position at the line made contact, which forced one driver into the wall. Sheet metal flew off of the car, striking flagman Al Wolfgram in the neck. Wolfgram was taken to a local hospital and, remarkably, treated for his injuries in time to return to the speedway for the Modified feature. In his place, track announcer and jack-of-all-trades Jerry Vansickle flagged the races for the remainder of the program.

Up next for me is a trip to 34 Raceway in Burlington on Saturday for the Slocum 50 Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Model event. I hope to see you there!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Gustin tops return of IMCA racing at Southern Iowa Speedway

When the checkers waved, it appeared as though Andrew Schroeder was not only celebrating his first career IMCA Modified victory, but celebrating a win in his very first night competing in the division. Although Schroeder led all 20 laps, it was Richie Gustin who took home the hardware in the season opening Frostbuster event at Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa.

Schroeder, who drew the pole of the IMCA Modified feature following his win in the first heat, quickly settled into the top spot when the green flag waved. Gustin, who started to his outside, dropped into second with Kyle Strickler in tow. Following the race's only two stoppages during the first lap, the trio pulled away from the pack, leaving Lance Arneson and Mark Elliott to battle for fourth.

Although Gustin reeled in the leader a couple of times throughout the event, Schroeder couldn't be caught... until his machine failed post-race inspection, handing the win to Gustin.

It should be noted that late in the event Strickler made contact with Gustin as the leaders entered turn one. Although there was no severe damage as a result of the contact, the pair did a terrific job holding their positions, which, in hindsight, may have led to an even more significant difference in the final results. Elliott made his way around Arneson just shy of the midway point to come home third.

Rich Smith, Strickler, Tyson Turnbull, Jay Noteboom and NASCAR's Ken Schrader earned heat race wins while Eric Dailey, Jon Snyder and Joey Galloway won the B features.

1. 19G Richie Gustin
2. 8 Kyle Strickler
3. 12 Mark Elliott
4. 98 Lance Arneson
5. 10K Ronn Lauritzen
6. 9 Ken Schrader
7. 7N Jay Noteboom
8. 7 Eric Dailey
9. 69X Jon Snyder
10. 58 Marcus Yarie
11. 73 Dan Ratajczak
12. 8X Rich Smith
13. 13 Matt Waugh
14. 18 Jake Durbin
15. 62 Greg Cox
16. 21CZ Tim Czarneski
17. 10 Tyson Turnbull
18. 40 Scott Dickey
19. 01 Joey Galloway
20. 02X Kody Scholpp
21. 99M Tim Murty
22. 19V Eric Vaniten
23. 70 Jesse Dennis
DQ 02 Andrew Schroeder
(Non-Qualifiers): 10X AJ Fike, 66 Jared Siefert, 3M Josh Muller, 19 Jimmy Gustin, 36C Jeff Conner, 20DUB Shane Weller, 36 Russ Gladson, X3 Shawn Reed, 59 John Barber, 71 Derrick Big Eagle, K1 Kyle Krampe, 10C Cayden Carter, 11 Ray Cox Jr., 37 Sean Jerovetz, 1J Jeff Streeter, 51 Tyler Vandekamp, 99X Jeremy Christians, 25P Mike Petersilie, 2 Kyle Scholpp, 12H Dakota Hayden, 66X Bob Heffer, 77 Jim Lynch, 8R Jesse Richter, 00 Masen Big Eagle.

Defending National IMCA SportMod champion Bryan LaRiviere (pronounced lah-REE-vee-air), earned the most convincing win of the night as he scored top honors in that 16-lap feature. LaRiviere, who started inside the second row, quickly worked past front row starters Clint Luellen and Racer Hulin to steal the lead just prior to the race's only caution following the completion of the first lap.

On the restart, LaRiviere pulled away from the pack to take the checkers ahead of Luellen and a hard-charging Ty Luellen, who started inside the seventh row.

Austin Lucas, LaRiviere, Bill Gibson and Clint Luellen were heat race winners. Ty Luellen and Bryan Weyer won the B features.

1. 2 Bryan LaRiviere
2. 3L Clint Luellen
3. 32L Ty Luellen
4. 505 Racer Hulin
5. 3K John Vandenberg
6. 81D Scott Davis
7. 7+ Jared Timmerman
8. 27 Bryan Weyer
9. 23K Ben Kates
10. 21L Brad Lautenbach
11. 1 Curtis VanDerWal
12. 72 Brett Lowry
13. 19J Jenae Gustin
14. 38 Bill Gibson
15. 8C Rob Charapata
16. 30X Josh Modde
17. 64 Casey Greubel
18. 198 Sam Wieben
19. 20 Brad Theys
20. 48 Blake Conant
21. 10H Jack Housley
22. 00 Brett Moffit
23. 7 Carter Vandenberg
24. 9X Austin Lucas
(Non-Qualifiers): 21 Matt Lettow, 01X Troy Jerovetz, 8T Tony Johnson, 30 Tracy Wassenberg, 75 Justin Medler, 36 Matt Pittman, 95J Jason Hall, 85 Jason McDaniel, 777 Jayme Dunink, 01 Brayton Carter, 10R Ryan Fullenkamp, 12 Eric Flander.

Although he started on the pole, John Heinz fought every step of the way to take the victory in the IMCA Stock Car feature. Heinz, who led the 18-lapper in its entirety, held off persistent challenges from a trio of drivers to take the checkers.

Jeff Mueller challenged for the lead early as he and fellow third row starter JC Howell worked their way to the front. Howell slipped past Mueller on the second lap and applied constant pressure to the #57 machine of Heinz while Justin Jacobsen worked his way through traffic from a fifth row start.

Jacobsen made his way around Howell just past the midway point and, despite a valiant effort, was unable to make his way past Heinz, who held on for the exciting win. Kyle Harwood made a nice run from a sixth row start to finish third.

Mueller, Jacobsen, Tom Killen and Corey Stout were heat race winners.

IMCA STOCK CAR (22 cars)
1. 57 John Heinz
2. 1330 Justin Jacobsen
3. 15K Kyle Harwood
4. 103 JC Howell
5. 77M Jeff Mueller
6. 22R Todd Reitzler
7. 99D Damon Murty
8. 93 Michael Jaennette
9. 1K Tom Killen
10. 94 Corey Stout
11. 29 Matt Greiner
12. 81X Randy Killen
13. 38 Rich Vogt
14. 52X Nathan Wood
15. 27 Gary Bass
16. 10 Matt Junio
17. 22 Jamie Suchocki
18. 49G LeRoy Groenendyk
19. 3 Joe Zadina
20. 73C Carl Yaw
21. 14R Jim Redmann
22. 00 Luke Lemmens

With the assist of a well-timed caution flag in the waning laps, Shannon Anderson drove to the win in the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock main event. Anderson, who chased race-long leader Bill Bonnett for the first nine laps, made his bid for the lead at the start/finish line to complete lap 10 just before the caution waved.

Anderson was awarded the point for the ensuing restart and held off challenges from Eric Stanton over the final laps to score the win. Bonnett ran third.

Anderson, Danny Thrasher and Stanton won the heats.

1. 78 Shannon Anderson
2. 7B Eric Stanton
3. 19 Bill Bonnett
4. 84 Danny Thrasher
5. 33X Justin Hook
6. 2N Donovan Nunnikhoven
7. 69 Craig Brown
8. 24B Brandon Brinton
9. 31 Dale Porter
10. 4X Pete Hutzel
11. 27C Cory Adams
12. 33 Rick Kriegel
13. 20B Ben Bruck
14. 10G Dustin Griffiths
15. 53D Ron Downing
16. 57 Scott Shull
17. 224 Gina Greubel
18. 25 Robert VanBuskirk
19. 32T Bobby Greene

Wednesday night marked the first IMCA action at the Mahaska County Fairgrounds since 2003. Although it was a long time coming, new promoter Mike Van Genderen should be pleased with the evening's show. Despite the large car count and 25 racing events scheduled, the final checkered flag waved 10 minutes before the 11 o'clock hour on a great night of racing. The folks in southern Iowa should have an excellent season in store as Van Genderen looks to bring back the glory days at Osky.

The 125 entries on the night represented a good portion of the Midwest, along with other regions of the country and Canada. In all, nine states were represented, including Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Kansas, California, Wyoming, North Carolina and Texas. There were 38 drivers on-hand from out-of-state, all of whom plan to follow much of the Frostbuster tour through the weekend. You can probably expect even higher car counts in the next few days as more local drivers will join the mini-tour with the weekend approaching.

I spoke with one of those out-of-staters at length prior to the races tonight. I met defending National SportMod champion Bryan LaRiviere at last year's national IMCA banquet and we had a chance to catch up just prior to hot laps. While he still plans to race a fairly healthy schedule this season, he admitted that he has no plans to try to defend his championship run of last season. Other priorities have become his focus as he and his wife are expecting their first child in September. When asked how many nights of the Frostbuster he plans to hit, that, too, was an uncertainty. Like most other drivers hoping to make it all five days, he said the first few days will determine how deep into the weekend he will race. If tonight was any indication, it wouldn't be a surprise to see him make his first-ever trip to Benton County Speedway on Sunday. If you plan to attend any of the remaining Frostbusters, stop by LaRiviere's #2 SportMod in the pit area and say hello. Not only is he a champion on the track, but he is as nice of a person as he is a driver and represents all that is good of our sport.

I had the chance to chat with another driver who left his car at home Wednesday night. Regular Independence Motor Speedway, Benton County Speedway and Farley Speedway driver Patrick Flannagan left his IMCA Modified in the shop, but made the trip to Oskaloosa for the night's show. We sat together throughout the night (yeah, I have no idea how I was the "lucky" one) and we discussed his plans for the upcoming season. Flannagan indicated that he expects to run three nights a week this year, but those plans had a rocky start at this past Sunday's season opener in Vinton. He broke two pistons in his heat race, forcing him to work hard in the shop a little earlier than expected this spring. Despite his early misfortunes, Flannagan assured me that he'll be at Farley on Friday for the make-up race from last weekend's rainout. He also plans to return to Vinton for this Sunday's Frostbuster to get one more night in before the weekly battles begin on April 15. Flannagan did want me to let my readers know that he is accepting donations to help support his engine program and even nickel deposits from soda cans are welcome. Drink up!

My next race will be Friday night at Marshalltown for the third night of Frostbuster action. For those who don't have plans on Thursday night, however, the second stop of the five-day whirlwind tour hits Iowa State Fairgrounds Speedway in Des Moines.

A number of Positively Racing's bloggers were in Oskaloosa tonight so be sure to check out their take on the evening, as well. Jeff Broeg, along with Dick and Joyce Eisele, were on-hand and will have their thoughts available on the Back Stretch and in the 4D Fan Report. Barry Johnson made an appearance, as well. Should he be so inclined to indulge us with his words of wisdom, they will be found at Running the High Side.

See you at the races!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Gustin, Murty, Dvorak among winners on opening night at Benton County Speedway

Benton County Speedway got the jump on this week's five-day Frostbuster marathon by opening the gates for the first time in 2012 on Sunday night. Although it was the first event of the season, the special was not IMCA-sanctioned and, therefore, not a track points event. The race program allowed drivers to shake down their cars, yet vie for purse money in the process.

A strong field of 19 Modifieds signed in for the draw/redraw show and it was Troy Cordes who drew the pole for the 20-lap main event. He, along with fellow front row starter Adam Johnson, held serve at the drop of the green while Joe Docekal and Mike Burbridge pursued. An early caution following lap one, which collected Ed Thomas, Scott Hogan, Tim McBride and Wayne Struchen, led to a quick restart.

When racing resumed, Cordes again took charge, pulling to half of a straightaway lead just shy of the midway point of the race. As Docekal challenged Johnson for second, Docekal suffered a flat tire, forcing him to the pits. Meanwhile, Richie Gustin, who started alongside Docekal in the fourth row, was working through traffic and settled into fourth at the time of Docekal's misfortune.

As the leaders were making their way through lapped traffic with five laps remaining, Burbridge, who was running third, spun out in turns one and two to bring out the next caution. Just prior to the stoppage, Mark Schulte snuck past Gustin and held the third spot for the ensuing restart. When racing resumed, Schulte struggled to navigate the low side of turns one and two and spun out to bring out the third and final caution.

On the final restart, Cordes continued to hold the point while Gustin challenged Johnson for second. Just after the completion of lap 16, Cordes slowed when the water temp sending unit worked itself out of the intake on his machine, forcing him to an early exit. Gustin quickly worked beneath Johnson in turns one and two to snag the lead. Gustin led the final three laps to drive to the season-opening win.

Johnson chased Gustin across the line in second ahead of Jerry King. Hogan raced his way through the pack following the lap one caution to come home fourth ahead of Burbridge, who made a strong run following his lap 15 caution.

Gustin, Schulte and Johnson were heat winners.

1. 19G Richie Gustin
2. 24R Adam Johnson
3. 70 Jerry King
4. 33D Scott Hogan
5. 11B Mike Burbridge
6. 1J Jeff Streeter
7. 27M Mark Schulte
8. 17 Dawn Krall
9. 34B Wayne Struchen
10. 15D Dustin Johnson
11. 71 Troy Cordes
12. 12D Joe Docekal
13. 91 Shawn Ryan
14. 1X Stephen Streeter
15. 1JR Ben Chapman
16. 01 Ed Thomas
17. 7T Tim McBride
DNS F7 Patrick Flannagan
DNS 26P Kevin Pittman

Outside front row starter and defending track champion Scooter Dulin took the early lead in the 15-lap Stock Car feature. He set the pace while Damon Murty worked the high side of Thomas Thompson for the runner-up spot.

Following an early mishap, the leaders encountered lapped traffic after only a couple of circuits, which allowed Murty to sneak past Thompson for second. A trio of backmarkers got back up to speed as the leaders came around turn four to complete lap three, littering the top few spots with lapped traffic.

As Dulin navigated a pair of side-by-side lapped cars, Murty snuck beneath the leader to take over the top spot. He proceeded to pull away from the pack to take the checkers by a straightaway margin ahead of hard-charging Austin Evens and Jason Deshaw. Evens was the heat race winner.

1. 99D Damon Murty
2. 9E Austin Evens
3. 21DE Jason Deshaw
4. 3T Scooter Dulin
5. 83E Thomas Thompson
6. 15 Norman Chesmore
7. 76 Mike Galli
8. 87 John Emerson

The pair of drivers who have earned the last three SportMods track championships were looking to make it a two-man race at the front of that 15-lap feature event as pole-sitter Austin Kaplan and outside second row starter Danny Dvorak quickly pulled away from the field.

Kaplan set the pace while Dvorak worked the low side of the leader, looking for a way to the front. After a handful of laps of working the bottom groove, Dvorak settled into the second spot as the leaders pulled to a near straightaway advantage. That lead was diminished when the caution flag waved on lap six.

On the restart, Kaplan again held the point, however he slowed as the leaders made their way off turn two. He pulled to the infield with mechanical problems, leaving Dvorak unchallenged out front. Dvorak led the remainder of the event to score the victory ahead of Kyle Olson and Jim Buhlman.

Dvorak and Olson won the heat races.

1. 3R Danny Dvorak
2. K3 Kyle Olson
3. 00 Jim Buhlman
4. 3 Dave McCalla
5. J2 Dave Schulze
6. 40J Jason Doyle
7. 11M Mike Mitchell
8. S16 Kip Siems
9. 1 Austin Kaplan
10. 30 Josh Modde
11. 86 Rod McDonald
12. 11 Al Sweerin
DNS 3B Brian Anderson
DNS 63 Matt McCahen

Defending Hobby Stock track champion Scott Pippert picked up where he spent much of 2011 - in victory lane. Pippert, who started outside of row two for the 15-lap feature, worked his way around the high side of front row starter Justin Stander on the second lap to drive to the win.

Pippert built a sizable lead by the time he entered lapped traffic on the fourth circuit while Stander worked to hold off Nathan Ballard for second. Ballard made his way into the runner-up spot just past the midway point of the event, and just before Stander dropped a drive shaft in turn two to bring out the race's only caution.

On the restart, Ballard was glued to Pippert's rear bumper until Ballard got his #29 sideways in turns one and two, dropping a handful of positions to the field. Although Ballard worked his way back into the second spot in the waning laps, Pippert showed once again that he is still the class of the field as he drove to the win.

Pippert and Laughridge were heat race winners.

1. 47 Scott Pippert
2. 29 Nathan Ballard
3. 25 Doug Laughridge
4. 2P Cale Petersen
5. 166 Justin Lichty
6. 55 Vince Buchholz
7. 09 Braydon Forbes
8. 67 Justin Stander
9. 77 Rod Grother
10. 12OZ No driver information provided... (Sam Adams? Spuds McKenzie? Stroker Ace? Bud Miller? Mike H. Lemonade?)
11. 45 Justin Wacha
DNS 26 Nathan Christie

Similar to much of the 2011 season, a trio of Chandlers filled out the top three positions in the Sport Compact feature. Nathan Chandler took command of the 12-lapper when he worked beneath Jacob McVay to steal the lead on lap three. Chandler led the remainder of the event to take the opening night win. Merv Chandler and Brad Chandler also made their way past McVay in the waning laps to complete the top three. Merv and Nathan Chandler won the heats.

1. 22 Nathan Chandler
2. 2 Merv Chandler
3. 00W Brad Chandler
4. 8M Jacob McVay
5. 11 Steve Miedke
6. 35 Brett Vanous
7. 75 Louis Trachta
8. 12 Duane Herb
9. 18J Jaycee Floyd
10. 9 Toby Denning
DNS 007 Adam Gates

Opening night tidbits: The car count was assisted tonight when Farley Speedway twice-delayed its season opener. Originally scheduled for Saturday night, the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models event was rescheduled for Sunday due to wet grounds. Sunday's make-up was pushed back to this Friday, April 6, for the same reason. A number of Modifieds who planned to make the trip to Farley for the Modified portion of that show made the trip to Vinton on Sunday... Kevin Pittman is making his return to IMCA Modified racing this season. After a claim refusal a couple of seasons ago, Pittman had his familiar #26P at the Vinton oval on Sunday night. Unfortunately for Pittman, engine problems during his heat prevented him from making the call for the feature... Hobby Stock veteran Rod Grother, who has had tire demons in past seasons, suffered through a pair of flat tires during the opener - one in his heat and another in the feature... Sport Compact driver Louis Trachta changed his number for the 2012 season, in honor of former BCS driver Ron Tharp. Tharp, a former Hobby Stock champion at the speedway, passed away unexpectedly during the off-season. A memorial race for Tharp will be held later this season... Hobby Stock driver Justin Stander was planning on taking off at least the 2012 season. That is, if he sold his car. Stander didn't sell the car this off-season so he plans to run the 2012 season at area tracks... Jason Deshaw is the new driver of the Dominator Chassis house car. Justin Temeyer formerly piloted that machine as the #56T, however Deshaw will be competing all season at BCS in the #21DE. Deshaw has spent some time behind the wheel of a Stock Car over the years, primarily at BCS. For area fans who may not remember, he and Shane Manson split duties between Vinton and Independence in their own #21 in recent years. If you're not familiar with Deshaw, he has had some great runs at Vinton in the past. You can expect to see his name at the top of the results all season in Vinton... A pair of Sunday night's feature winners finished 2011 at the top of their divisions. Richie Gustin and Nathan Ballard, both victorious on Sunday, were feature winners at the IMCA Super Nationals last September.

Traditionally, a practice session follows the annual car show in Vinton. While the annual car show was held in downtown Vinton on Sunday, rather than just practice, officials opened up the track for the actual race event this afternoon. Many of the drivers at the car show also competed Sunday night. While I didn't take a peek at the complete list of car show winners, nor did I pay attention when announcer Bucky Doren announced them (sorry, Bucky!), I do know that five of the 10 award winners were all wrapped by the same company. Those included Danny Dvorak, Joe Docekal, Troy Cordes, Justin Wacha and Scott Pippert. If you take a look on the right side of my page, you'll see a link to the facebook page for Wrap'd Up Designs, a new graphics company owned by Modified driver Joe Docekal and former/on-again/off-again/supposedly-on-again-for-2012 SportMod driver Travis Brown. If you still need your car lettered or if you need other graphics work done, get a hold of them. Not only did they letter half of this year's top award winners at the car show, two of their designs finished opening night in victory lane. Sharp looking and fast. What more do you need?

That will take care of opening night in Vinton. A busy few days is in store week. After trying to lock up our bowling league championship on Tuesday night, I plan to hit a trio of this week's five Frostbuster events, with a Late Model show in between. I hope to make it to Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa on Wednesday night as the five night Frostbuster swing kicks off at the Mahaska County Fairgrounds half-mile. Although I'll miss Des Moines on Thursday night I plan to make the trek to Marshalltown Speedway on Friday for night three. On Saturday, I'll stray from the Frostbuster swing and head south to 34 Raceway in Burlington for the annual Brent Slocum Memorial/Deery Brothers Summers Series for IMCA Late Models event. I'll close the weekend back home in Vinton for the Frostbuster finale at Benton County Speedway.

I should add that I plan to do a little more blogging about Vinton this season. Since most (if not all) of my Sundays will be spent taking in action at BCS, I hope to compile a bunch of statistics throughout the season. Many of the stats I keep for Independence Motor Speedway I also hope to put together for Vinton this season. Of course, those statistics will include only weekly racing so numbers from tonight and next week will not be included. Check back throughout the year for statistical updates on your favorite Vinton drivers right here at Positively Racing.

Have a great week!