Monday, August 27, 2012

Chapman, Chesmore, Chandler chased to the checkers in Vinton

By the time the rain stopped at around lunchtime Sunday, an inch-and-a-half of precipitation had fallen in Vinton. After two straight weeks of rain outs, area fans wouldn't need to worry about the first-ever stretch of three cancellations on the quarter-mile. Don and Aaron Burkey went to work rolling in the track to prepare for 79 entries on Sunday night at Benton County Speedway. Complete results follow below.

Mike McDonald held the early lead in the 15-lap IMCA SportMod feature until the red flag waved for Russ Olson, who rolled on the front straightaway. Traffic became congested when Brandon Smith slowed after blowing an engine, which bunched the field. With no where to go, Olson launched over the #43 of Creston Williams, then rolled before coming to a rest on its wheels. Olson was uninjured.

When racing resumed, McDonald again set the pace with Ben Chapman in pursuit and Joel Rust making his way through the pack from a sixth row starting spot. Chapman ran on McDonald's rear bumper and unsuccessfully made bids for the lead on the low side while Rust raced his way into third on lap eight.

The leaders were running in tight formation when they came upon slower traffic exiting turn four on the 12th circuit. McDonald spun while navigating the backmarkers bringing an end to his strong run.

With 11 laps complete, Chapman inherited the point with Rust running second. Rust chased the leader over the final four circuits, however Chapman held on to score his first-ever win in Vinton. Rust came home a close second ahead of Rick Paulson. With the win, Chapman became the fourth first-time SportMod winner in Vinton this season and the 41st in track history.

Norman Chesmore led all 15 laps in the IMCA Stock Car feature, but not without a fight. From his outside front row starting spot, Chesmore assumed command at the drop of the green with second row starter John Emerson following him to the front.

Following an early caution, Curtis Roster joined the battle out front as he and Emerson put on a terrific show for second right behind the leader. Emerson eventually broke free in that battle and tried numerous times to work the low side of Chesmore for the lead.

Chesmore held off all challenges to score the win, his second of the season, ahead of Emerson and Roster. Chesmore has now won multiple Stock Car features four different years in his career in Vinton and has 14 career wins to his credit at the speedway. He sits fifth on the all-time list, five wins behind Dan Trimble.

Nathan Chandler became the first driver in track history to earn 10 IMCA Sport Compact wins in a season. Chandler chased his father, Merv, for three laps before working the low groove into the lead in turn two on lap four. Nathan pulled away from the pack to take the victory, the 34th of his career in weekly action in Vinton. Steve Miedke raced through the pack to take second ahead of Duayne Herb.

Scott Pippert continued his winning ways in the IMCA Hobby Stock division, however that outcome was very much up in the air until the final lap. Jacob Keiser assumed command at the drop of the green and extended his advantage to a straightaway margin in just five laps when the pace setter entered slower traffic. As Keiser encountered the lapped cars, Pippert made his way into the runner-up spot after starting in the fourth row.

Three laps later, Pippert cut his deficit to a single car-length as the leaders ran nose-to-tail through more traffic. Pippert tried numerous times to work the low groove past Keiser, but Keiser proved to be too fast off the corner each time.

Pippert continued to pressure the leader when Keiser went high in turn two on the final circuit, allowing Pippert to sneak by for the lead. Pippert led the final 1/8-mile to take the victory, his fourth straight and 11th of the season. For his career, Pippert now owns 46 Hobby Stock wins in weekly racing history at the speedway, two victories shy of the all-time record held by Vince Buchholz.

A number of cautions, including another rollover, cut the IMCA Modified feature short. On a lap one restart, Todd Jensen barrel-rolled into turn three and landed on his top. He walked away uninjured.

Tony Olson, who has struggled with mechanical problems all season, led the entire distance and survived the many stoppages to earn his first win in Vinton since June 12, 2011. Olson now owns six career Modified wins in Vinton, tying him for 24th on the all-time list. He shares that spot with Dave Venenga, Garry Stuber, Jim Schmuecker and Mike Krall. Olson now owns at least one Modified win in four of the last five seasons in Vinton. Troy Cordes, Scott Hogan and Jerry Luloff are the only other drivers who can boast that honor.

Due to the recent rainouts, a number of activities were part of tonight's program that were not originally intended to fall on the same night. Among them was a silent auction for the Alzheimer's Association, along with bike and backpack giveaways for the kids. There was a great outpouring for the cause as over $1,200 was raised for the Alzheimer's Association.

It was also Halloween Night which featured trick or treating for the kids on the front stretch with the drivers after the races. As part of the festivities, fans were invited to dress up in the costume of their choosing. (Here comes the explanation of a few facebook photos that popped up on my page Sunday night.) One fan in costume was Leslie Toothman, who sported a tutu, and asked during intermission if I'd try it on. Being the good sport I am, I briefly put on her tutu (a first for me, I promise you) and am now one of a select group who can utter the words, "I wore a tutu in August on Halloween Night at the Races." Thanks to Leslie and Cody Tharp for the laughs tonight!

Although the night did run a little longer than normal, props to Don and Aaron, along with promoter Mick Trier for their work in getting the track ready. While it had its rough spots, it was one of the fastest tracks all season and provided for some great entertainment.

My 70th race of the season will likely be Saturday night at Independence for the make-up of this weekend's rained out Season Championships.

Have a great week!

Feature - 1. T23 Tony Olson; 2. F7 Patrick Flannagan; 3. 91 Shawn Ryan; 4. 33D Scott Hogan; 5. 12D Joe Docekal; 6. 8 Tony Snyder; 7. 1XX Tom Hanson; 8. 18L Jerry Luloff; 9. 1J Jeff Streeter; 10. 15D Dustin Johnson; 11. 11B Mike Burbridge; 12. 22 Brandon Banks; 13. 80 Jerry Dedrick; 14. 7T Tim McBride; 15. 98 Jason Snyder; 16. 10K Ronn Lauritzen; 17. 7 Todd Jensen; 18. 96 Eric Tuttle; 19. 92 Shawn Bistline; DNS 17 Dawn Krall.
First heat - 1. McBride; 2. Luloff; 3. Docekal; 4. Olson; 5. T. Snyder; 6. Banks; 7. Tuttle.
Second heat - 1. Bistline; 2. 10K Lauritzen; 3. Burbridge; 4. Hanson; 5. Jensen; 6. Dedrick.
Third heat - 1. Flannagan; 2. Streeter; 3. Ryan; 4. J. Snyder; 5. Johnson; 6. Hogan; 7. Krall.

Feature - 1. 15 Norman Chesmore; 2. 87 John Emerson; 3. 8 Curtis Roster; 4. 99D Damon Murty; 5. 7H Phil Holtz; 6. 19J Jay Schmidt; 7. 4 Cory Tharp; 8. K17 Rick Kriegel; 9. 3T Scooter Dulin; 10. 4JR Russell Damme Jr.; 11. 76 Mike Galli; 12. 09X Cole Mather; 13. G1 Mike Padden; 14. 21DE Jason Deshaw; 15. 77 Andy Bryant; 16. 76X Chad Siems.
First heat - 1. Roster; 2. Murty; 3. Deshaw; 4. Holtz; 5. Tharp; 6. Kriegel; 7. Siems; DNS Damme.
Second heat - 1. Chesmore; 2. Bryant; 3. Schmidt; 4. Emerson; 5. Galli; 6. Padden; 7. Dulin; 8. Mather.

Feature - 1. 1JR Ben Chapman; 2. 26J Joel Rust; 3. 28P Rick Paulson; 4. K3 Kyle Olson; 5. S16 Kip Siems; 6. 81 Jesse Belez; 7. 3R Danny Dvorak; 8. 21 Brennen Chipp; 9. 00 Jim Buhlman; 10. J2 Dave Schulze; 11. 72 Mike Hogencamp; 12. 7D Dakoda Sellers; 13. 93 Josh Burrell; 14. 198 Sam Wieben; 15. 22H Curt Hilmer; 16. 57R Ryan King; 17. CH19 Colby Heishman; 18. 95 Mike McDonald; 19. 3B Brian Anderson; 20. 43 Creston Williams; 21. 11 Al Sweerin; 22. B3 Russ Olson; 23. 49 Brandon Smith.
First heat - 1. McDonald; 2. Siems; 3. Dvorak; 4. King; 5. Schulze; 6. Williams; 7. Wieben; 8. R. Olson.
Second heat - 1. Sellers; 2. Rust; 3. Belez; 4. Buhlman; 5. Smith; 6. Sweerin; 7. Hilmer; 8. Anderson.
Third heat - 1. Chapman; 2. Chipp; 3. K. Olson; 4. Paulson; 5. Burrell; 6. Hogencamp; 7. Heishman.

Feature - 1. 47 Scott Pippert; 2. 07 Jacob Keiser; 3. 78 Matt Brown; 4. 45 Justin Wacha; 5. 99 Erick Knutsen; 6. 25 Doug Laughridge; 7. 77 Rod Grother; 8. 09 Brayden Forbes; 9. 2 Nick Welch; 10. 21 Jonathan Jewett; 11. 46 Brian Happel.
First heat - 1. Keiser; 2. Knutsen; 3. Laughridge; 4. Welch; 5. Happel; 6. Jewett.
Second heat - 1. Grother; 2. Brown; 3. Wacha; 4. Pippert; 5. Forbes.

Feature -1. 22 Nathan Chandler; 2. 11 Steve Miedke; 3. 2 Merv Chandler; 4. 41 Dallas Chandler; 5. 83 Travis Ross; 6. 57 Duayne Herb; 7. 111 A.J. Witten; 8. 2S Craig Streeter; 9. 07 Joe Goodenbour.
Heat - 1. N. Chandler; 2. S. Miedke; 3. Herb; 4. D. Chandler; 5. M. Chandler; 6. Ross; 7. Streeter; 8. Goodenbour; 9. Witten.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Rain postpones season championships at Independence

As I mentioned in my blog last Sunday, rain on race day is never a good thing unless Mother Nature puts the kibosh on the program hours before it's scheduled to begin. Saturday, she wasn't that kind at Independence Motor Speedway. Rain showers that moved into the area after the 5 p.m. hour remained persistent to the point the season championship program was postponed to next Saturday, September 1. (Details are at

Throughout the afternoon, I received numerous text messages and phone calls regarding the scheduled program. The track's facebook page also lit up like a Christmas tree when I posted in the middle of the afternoon that we were on as scheduled. The track had not received any rain. We had no reason to cancel and we would not cancel based on a weather forecast. We hadn't done it all season and were not about to do it on the biggest night of the season.

Many callers questioned "what we were going to do" since it was raining in Mason City, Waterloo, Cedar Rapids and Dubuque. My reply to each of those callers was that we would not, nor could we, even address that concern until/unless it rained in Independence. You know, where the track is actually located.

While I understand that frustration of driving from a different town to take in the races when the radar doesn't look too promising, it isn't something any of us want to face. Drivers and fans lose money, promoters lose money and everyone is frustrated that their evening plans are ruined. Unfortunately, that stuff happens and we're forced to accept it.

I'd venture to guess (yes, this is an assumption on my part), that many of the individuals who were upset that we didn't cancel earlier in the day are also those who get upset when the weatherman is wrong because "that's the only job where you can be wrong all the time and still be employed." We, like everyone else, were hoping this was one of those cases. There were breaks in the radar and the rain changed paths so we were hopeful we would dodge the moisture... as we successfully did a couple of times in recent weeks without pulling the plug early.

The bottom line is, it wasn't raining in Independence and there was no reason to cancel when those calls came in. Everyone knows how it works - had we canceled and the rain chose a different course (leaving Independence dry), we'd have made the wrong decision by pulling the plug too soon. I'm sure those same complaints would resonate with race fans. Unfortunately, the rain started shortly after 5 p.m. - long after many of the race teams and fans had already arrived. We waited out the precipitation as long as we could until pulling the plug at around 6:40.

For those who arrived at the track at their normal times, stuck it out until word went out that we were postponed, thank you! Your patronage and commitment to Independence Motor Speedway are greatly appreciated. At the same time, we do not fault those who elected to stay home fearing the weather might get the best of us. Sometimes it does and sometimes, as proven multiple times earlier this summer, it misses us. Regardless if you had any intention of being there tonight, we appreciate your patronage all season long and hope to see you back next weekend.

To those who feel the need to write negative comments on our facebook page, I encourage you to take those thoughts to friends and family who share your opinions. They will be immediately removed from our facebook page. While we are sorry that we were unable to race tonight, we do not apologize that we attempted to wait out Mother Nature to crown our six track champions. It didn't work tonight, but we'll be right back there next Saturday night to give it another go.

Due to the rainout, I will have limited time next weekend to assemble my final Stats Blitz for Independence. It's a short turn-around time before Super Nationals that week, so the season-ending Stats Blitz will come sometime during the week of September 10.

Tomorrow, we'll try to beat the rain once again at Benton County Speedway. With the last two weeks rained out in Vinton, we're due for some action on the quarter-mile. In fact, rain has never canceled three consecutive weekly programs in Vinton. With any luck, that record won't be broken any time soon.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Track championship scenarios for Independence Motor Speedway

Of all the stats I put together during the course of the season, the Independence Motor Speedway track championship scenarios provide some of the more interesting numbers.

While the traditional list of things "this driver must do" and "that driver must do" to win a track title is always fun to put together, this year it has provided an interesting mix. It ranges from the typical runaway divisions where all a driver needs to do is take the green flag on championship night to take the crown, to one driver already locking up his championship with one week to go, to a couple of very interesting close battles that may ultimately be decided by the use of tie-breakers. While tie-breakers are rarely used at the track level, should they need to be implemented this season, it could make for a very intriguing championship night. 

Before looking at a division-by-division breakdown, I'll go over the points structure so it's easier to understand once I get into the specifics of each division. For those who may not be up to speed on how points are awarded, all divisions in Independence are IMCA sanctioned and all divisions are awarded points in the same manner. The winner of the feature receives 40 points, then dropping by one point per position through 24th place in the final running order. This means second place gets 39 points, third gets 38 and so on. If more than 24 cars start the A-main, every driver who finishes 24th or worse receives 17 points. In the end, the greatest number of points you can gain (or lose) in feature competition is 23. (Insert Jim Carrey movie reference here.)

All drivers must take the green flag in a competitive event in order to receive any points. This means if a driver never makes it off the trailer or blows up in hot laps and does not compete, they get no points for that night. In short, show-up points are not awarded. Since we are running features only on Saturday, it is essential that a driver takes the green flag in the feature if he or she expects to receive any points.

I won't get into the points structure for B features since the points earned by drivers in those races, if needed, will not affect the drivers competing for track titles on Saturday. 

Tie-breakers are simple. If two drivers end the season with the same number of points, the driver with the most 40-point feature wins will be declared the track champion. If the tied drivers have the same number of 40-point feature wins, the tie-breaker moves to the most second place finishes. If that still doesn't break the tie, it goes to most third place finishes and so on until the tie is broken and a champion is declared. Keep this in mind as this is where things may get interesting in a couple of our divisions in Indee.

Okay, onto the division breakdowns... 

Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. First off, congratulations to IMCA Stock Car driver Sean Johnson on already clinching his second straight points championship. With a 59 point lead entering the final night of racing, Johnson has wrapped up the Stock Car title. Since a win is worth 40 points, Johnson doesn't even have to get out of bed on Saturday to be awarded his championship trophy at the November 17 awards banquet. (Did you get that? Saturday, November 17 is the 2012 awards banquet at the Buchanan County Fairgrounds 4-H Building. More info will follow in the coming weeks.) 

Tyler Bruening needs only to take the green flag in Saturday's feature to earn his second Late Model title in the last three seasons. With a 35 point lead over Dean Wagner and a 36 point lead over Curt Martin, the guaranteed 17 points Bruening would earn by starting the feature is enough to win the title.

For some reason, if Bruening is unable to start the feature, Wagner would need to finish no worse than sixth (35 points) and within one spot of Martin to win the title. Martin, on the other hand, would need to finish in the top four and beat Wagner by two spots on the track to win the title.

As it stands, in the event of a tie, Wagner holds the tie-breaker with both Martin and Bruening while Bruening holds the head-to-head tie-breaker with Martin. Wagner has three wins, Bruening two and Martin one.

Should Bruening not start the feature AND Wagner finish seventh or worse AND Martin finish fifth or worse, Bruening would still win the title.

Having fun yet? 

Danny Dvorak is in a very similar situation in the SportMod division. With a 26 point lead over Dave Schulze and a 32 point lead over Jim Buhlman, Dvorak needs only to take the green flag to win the track championship.

In the event that Dvorak is unable to start the feature, Schulze would need to finish 14th or better and no worse than five positions behind Buhlman to win the title. Buhlman, on the other hand, would need to finish in the top eight AND beat Schulze by at least six positions to win the crown.

Of the three drivers still mathematically alive to win the title, Dvorak is the only one with a feature win so he holds all tie-breakers. When it comes to tie-breakers specifically between Schulze and Buhlman, Buhlman holds the edge as he has more second place finishes than Schulze (two to one).

Headache? It gets better... 

The Hobby Stock division is one of three that has been close at the top of the standings all season. Both points leader Justin Stander and Benji Irvine are in search of their first career track titles. Only 11 points separate the two drivers as they enter championship night. The easy thing about this division is one of these two drivers WILL be the 2012 IMCA Hobby Stock champion. No other driver in the division is mathematically alive to win the title.

With that said, Stander holds the edge in the standings, but in the event of a tie, he does not hold the tie-breaker. To avoid any extra math Saturday night, a top-11 finish (30+ points) will guarantee Stander his first track title. If he does not finish in the top 11, Stander has to finish within 10 spots of Irvine in the feature to clinch the championship.

Irvine, on the other hand, has to beat Stander by at least 11 spots in the feature. In the instance of a tie in the final standings, Irvine and Stander have each earned two wins and two second place finishes. Irvine holds the tie-breaker with four third place finishes to no third place finishes for Stander. This means Irvine needs to gain "only" the 11 points he trails Stander and does not have to "pass" him in the final standings to win the title.

Oh, it gets worse... 

The closest battle at the track this season entering championship night is in the IMCA Modified division. Mark Schulte and Ronn Lauritzen have been within single digits of each other at the top of the standings throughout most of the season and it will all come down to Saturday's finale.

As it stands now, Schulte leads Lauritzen by two points, however the tie-breakers are still very much up in the air.

First, here's a look at what needs to happen assuming there are no ties at the end of Saturday...
* If Schulte beats Lauritzen on the track, he will also wear the division crown.
* If Schulte finishes second, he will win the points title regardless if Lauritzen wins the feature.
* In the event that he does not beat Lauritzen, Schulte would need to finish no worse than one spot behind Lauritzen to win the title.
* Lauritzen needs to beat Schulte by three spots to win the title.

Should Lauritzen beat Schulte by exactly two positions in Saturday's feature, there will be a tie in the final standings and it... gets... messy.

The top-4 finishes Schulte and Lauritzen have earned this season are near mirror images of each other. In the event of a tie, the tie-breaker may not be determined until the checkers wave Saturday night. As it stands now, the numbers of top-four finishes for each driver are listed below: 

Finishes - 1 - 2 - 3 - 4
Schulte - 1 - 3 - 3 - 2
Lauritzen  1 - 2 - 3 - 4

Now, the scenarios in the event of a tie in the final standings...
* Should Lauritzen win and Schulte get third, Lauritzen would win the title by virtue of his two wins to Schulte's one win.
* Should Lauritzen finish second and Schulte get fourth, the number of first, second and third place finishes for each driver would be identical. That would take the tie-breaker clear down to fourth place finishes. In that instance, Lauritzen would win the title with four fourth place finishes to Schulte's three.
* If neither driver finishes in the top two, but Lauritzen beats Schulte by exactly two spots in the feature, Schulte would win the tie-breaker by virtue of his three second place finishes to Lauritzen's two.

Of course, in the rare instance that neither Schulte nor Lauritzen start the feature, there's an outside chance that one other driver could win the track title - defending track champion Adam Johnson. If neither Schulte nor Lauritzen take the green, Johnson can win the division by finishing sixth or better in the feature. Johnson owns all tie-breakers by virtue of his six feature wins.

Can you handle one more? 

The Sport Compact division is not only in its first season in Independence, but barely into it second month. There have been five track points races for the division this year and, based on average car count, two drivers remain in the hunt for the title.

Merv Chandler currently leads Steve Miedke by three points at the top of the standings. While Travis Ross and A.J. Witten are still mathematically alive, it would take more than 20 entries for them to have even an outside chance at winning the title. Since we've averaged right at nine Sport Compacts per night in Independence, I'll take the odds that either Chandler or Miedke will be crowned the first Sport Compact champion at the track.

For Chandler, a top-three finish would clinch the title. Otherwise, Chandler would need to finish no more than two positions behind Miedke on Saturday to take the championship. Miedke would need to beat Chandler by three spots in Saturday's feature to win the title.

The tie-breaker in the Sport Compact division will be determined a little differently than in the other divisions. It isn't because the rules are different, but because car count affects how the tie-breaker is applied. As I mentioned earlier, the number of "40-point feature wins" determines the tie-breaker. IMCA dictates that 10 cars are required to compete in a division on a given race night in order for the full 40 point winner's share to be awarded. In the event that fewer than 10 cars are entered, the number of points awarded are lowered accordingly. For instance, if only nine cars earn points on a given night, the winner's share is 39 points. The drop-off remains the same at one point per position in the feature. That means second place would receive 38, third place 37 and so on. If only seven cars earn points on a given night, the winner's share is 37, then 36 for second, 35 for third, etc. In essence, the number of points a winner receives on a night the car count is less than 10 equals 30 points plus one point for each car eligible to earn points.

Through five nights of weekly racing, Independence has seen one 40-point feature for the Sport Compacts. That winner, on July 7, was Steve Miedke. This means Miedke holds the tie-breaker if it's needed.

Based on recent history at the speedway, it's unlikely that we'll have to dig too deep into the tie-breaker procedures to determine the 2012 champions. In case we do though, you can follow along from the stands.

I don't want to jinx anyone, but in case you're wondering how drivers have fared on championship night in recent history, here's one more tidbit of information. Dating back 10 years, of the last 50 track champions to be crowned, only twice has a driver lost the points lead and title on the final night of racing. Being the pole-sitter on Saturday night tends to be a good thing.

Now, it's time to head to the dentist for a root canal. No lie. I think that will be less painful than trying to understand what I just wrote. Again, no lie.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Even if it isn't raining at your house...

When the weather looks questionable (and even when it doesn't) on race day, I'm often amused by the phone calls and text messages I receive asking if the races are on or if they've been canceled.

Frequently, those calls occur when the track hasn't seen a single rain drop. The voice on the other end of the line generally says, "Well, I live 30 miles south of the track and it's raining here. How long will they wait to make a decision?"

My reply is normally something like, "We're on as scheduled. If and when it starts to rain here, we'll address it." Or, as my brother likes to reply, "It's a good thing the race track isn't at your house."

Those callers often get frustrated because, well, they want an answer that nobody can provide.

I think most track managers and promoters would agree that the best rain out is a decision made well in advance of the program and following a significant amount of rainfall... No pesky showers, no late afternoon deluge (as was the case in Vinton today) and certainly not after the program has already started.

It gets frustrating - for promoters, racers, fans and track employees. In the end, there isn't much anyone can do except take whatever Mother Nature has in store if and when she wants to disrupt the flow of race day.

It often works the other way, as well. Sometimes a cloudburst right over the race track can send a scheduled program into a tailspin even if the sun is shining a few miles down the road. Those same callers question why the races are canceled when "The sun is shining at my house."

Something along those lines happened today in Vinton. Saturday night on my way home from Independence, the weather forecast I heard on the radio for Sunday was a 20% chance of rain. That 20% chance targeted Benton County Speedway at around 4 p.m. Sunday.

A number of drivers were already lining up on pit road and one was already in the pits before the rain started falling. Although the storm didn't last long, it hit hard. After the heavier part of the storm had run its course and after the hail stopped, the call was made to cancel the evening's program.

I quickly made my way back home to the other side of town as I started to receive text messages and phone calls asking about the races. I was surprised when I got home to see there had been minimal rainfall. It was especially surprising since the skies darkened and the thunder was rumbling at home before I even went to the track.

Once home and after replying to the text messages, I decided to venture back to the race track to take a few pictures. Since most people hadn't made it there before the show was canceled and since many probably got little, if any, rain, I figured pictures would give some indication of the rainfall in Vinton. Below are a couple shots of turns one and two, plus three and four at around 4:30 this afternoon. Keep in mind, this was taken after I made my way around the enormous four foot wide ocean-puddle that greeted me at the grandstand entrance.

The front stretch into turns one and two.
Turns three and four and the front stretch.
I don't know if there is a rain gauge at the track and I didn't bother to ask because, frankly, one wasn't needed. I live in town and was surprised at the difference in rainfall from one side of town to the other. I'm sure there are many out-of-towners who were just as surprised at Sunday's cancellation, however the pictures above tell the story.

Since the races were also rained out last Sunday, I figured August rainouts in Vinton had to be a rarity, let alone in consecutive weeks. Although I have the all-time results compiled for Vinton, I have yet to crunch all the data when it comes to rainouts, etc. I decided to take a look at August rainout trends once I got home. August rainouts are, indeed, rare.

I looked back at the "modern" era of the track, dating back to its reopening in 1990. The track had been closed since the end of the 1983 season, but I'm unaware how early and how late in the season races were scheduled back then. Since 1990, however, races had been scheduled for every Sunday in August.

From 1990 through the 2011 season, there were 98 Sundays on the race schedule. Of those, only nine rained out. That's a rough average of one August rainout every two-and-a-half years. Prior to today, the track had not even seen consecutive rainouts in the month of August. In fact, only one other time since 1990 had the month of August seen multiple rainouts in a single season. That happened in 1993 when the August 15 and August 29 programs were canceled. The only other August rainouts in the track's modern history came in single events during the 1990, 1996, 1999, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons. Prior to the August 12 rainout this season, 13 consecutive August programs had been successfully completed in Vinton.
Every year we talk about weather trends and how each year's weather is so much different than the year before it. Over time, it seems that "different" becomes the "norm." I mentioned a similar weather pattern for Independence Motor Speedway earlier this month when Indee rained out in the month of August for the first time in 20 weeks, dating back to 2007. This year also marked the first time since 1981 that the second half of the season in Independence suffered more rainouts than the first half. Yes, the weather continues to throw us surprises.
With that said, I hope everyone enjoys their Sunday night "off." Me? I'm going to find something to do to fill the Sunday night void. As I finish writing this with the clock approaching 5:45 p.m., I see the sprinkles are once again coming down... at least on my side of town.

Thanks for reading.

Johnsons share victory lane for fourth time at Independence

The Johnson train continued to roll through Independence Motor Speedway Saturday night. Brothers Adam and Sean each scored wins in their respective divisions on the final night before next Saturday's season championships.

For Adam, it was his fourth straight IMCA Modified win, his fifth in the last six weeks and his sixth of the season. For Sean, it was his second straight IMCA Stock Car victory, fifth in the last seven weeks and his seventh overall this season. To-date, the Johnson brothers have visited victory lane on the same night four separate times this year.

Adam Johnson took the lead eight laps into the Modified feature, then pulled away to dominate the 20-lapper. He won by a straightaway ahead of Shawn Ryan and Kevin Pittman.

Johnson joins Jack Mitchell as the only Modified drivers in track history to earn four straight wins in the division in weekly competition. Mitchell earned six straight wins to close out the 1984 season.

For his career, Johnson now has 14 Modified wins, which places him alone in seventh on the all-time list, five behind Mitchell. Johnson has earned 10 Modified wins in the last two seasons. The last driver to do that was Darin Duffy in 2009 and 2010. The last driver to exceed 10 wins over two consecutive seasons was in 2004 and 2005 when Vern Jackson won 11 times.

In his career, Johnson has 18 wins in weekly racing on the Independence oval. That places him in a tie with Joe Docekal for 27th all-time.

Sean Johnson wrapped up the 2012 IMCA Stock Car track title with his win Saturday. Johnson ran the high side into the lead following an early caution to take the checkers ahead of Jarod Weepie and Jason Hocken.

His seventh win of the season, Johnson now has 24 for his career in Independence. Compared to drivers all-time, Johnson is tied with Tom Bartholomew for 16th. Saturday's win marked the fifth time in his career Johnson has strung together multiple wins.

Dean Wagner took advantage of a late caution to drive to a thrilling win in the IMCA Late Model division. Following a lap 21 restart, Wagner powered to the outside of Tyler Bruening and Greg Kastli to take his third win of the year in the 25-lap feature.

It was Wagner's eighth career Late Model win in Independence, moving him into a tie for 22nd all-time in the division with Dan Nesteby and Joe Schaefer.

Quinton Miller made his way past Vince Buchholz following an early stoppage to drive to his first IMCA Hobby Stock win of the season. For Miller, it was his eighth career win on the Indee oval, moving him into sole possession of 12th place on the division's all-time list.

Miller has now won at least one feature each of the last six seasons. That ties the all-time mark set by Patrick Stansbery who also won at least one Hobby Stock feature in six consecutive seasons from 1998-2003.

Joel Rust took the checkers in the IMCA SportMod feature. Although that event was slowed frequently for cautions, Rust proved to be the dominant car as he pulled away from the pack each time the green flag waved. It was his third SportMod win all-time in Independence, his first since season championship night during the 2009 season. His three SportMod wins place Rust into a tie for sixth with Chris Luloff and Ray Lundry.

Steve Miedke took the lead on lap two, then led the remainder of the 10-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature to drive to his third win this season. It was the fifth track points race for the division in track history and Miedke has now won three times to lead all drivers.

It was a great night of racing in Independence. A stellar count of 114 race teams signed in, the most since opening night on May 5.

I need to apologize to Stock Car driver Roger Ciesielski. During intermission, he handed me a $100 bill to award to the evening's Late Model feature winner in honor of the memory of his father, Jim, who passed away last year. I forgot to mention the kind offer during my victory lane interview with Dean Wagner, however I will make mention of it next Saturday.

Tonight, it's off to Benton County Speedway in Vinton where I'll be filling in for scorer Kevin Kemp. After last week's rainout, I imagine many in the area will be ready for another exciting night on the quarter-mile. I hope to see you all there!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Johnsons roll on at Independence Motor Speedway

The Johnson parade continued at Independence Motor Speedway on Saturday night. Adam Johnson added his name to an exclusive list in the IMCA Modified division while Sean Johnson picked up yet another win in IMCA Stock Car action.

After taking the lead two laps into the IMCA Modified 20-lapper, Adam Johnson held off Troy Cordes to earn his third straight win in the division and his fourth in the last five weeks. Johnson is now one of only eight Modified drivers in the 30-year history of the division at the track to earn three consecutive wins. He joined Tom Bartholomew, Troy Cordes, Darin Duffy, Greg Kastli, Jack Mitchell, Mark Noble and Duane Van Deest as the only Mod drivers with three straight wins. Only Mitchell has ever won four straight at the speedway during a six-win stretch in 1984. Unfortunately for Johnson, that mark in unattainable since only two weeks remain in the season.

The 13th Modified win of his career in Indee, Johnson is now tied for seventh on the all-time list with Van Deest and Steve Droste. While another win will move him into seventh alone, he is six wins behind Jack Mitchell for sixth all-time.

Saturday's win was Johnson's third career victory in the month of August and his fourth following a rained out event. All-time Johnson has won 17 times in his career in Independence, placing him alone in 29th on the career list. He is, get this, half of a win shy of Dave Gerner on the all-time list and a full win behind Joe Docekal. Gerner and Dennis Dugan were declared co-winners in a 1987 photo finish in the Sportsman division.

Sean Johnson inched one step closer to locking up his second straight track championship in the IMCA Stock Car division. After chasing race-long leader John Emerson, Johnson raced past Emerson late in that 18-lapper to score his fourth win in six weeks and his sixth win of the year. Johnson needs only to finish 11th or better next weekend to lock up the track title a week before championship night.

Johnson now has eight career wins in the month of August, more than any other month. He has also won six times in events following rainouts.

For his career, Johnson has 23 Stock Car wins in Independence, eight shy of Brian Irvine for second on the all-time list. His 23 wins place Johnson in a tie with Roger Ciesielski and Justin Temeyer for 17th in overall career wins at the speedway.

Lucas Lundry earned his first win of the season in the IMCA SportMod division. Lundry shot to the inside of Kip Siems to take command in the waning laps of that event to drive to victory. Lundry now owns one win in each of the last four seasons in the division at Indee. His four career wins place him alone in fifth on the all-time list, two behind Austin Kaplan.

After making his way past Greg Hunter midway through IMCA Late Model feature, Chad Lerch held off Curt Martin in the late stages of that 25-lapper to take the win. His second victory of the season, Lerch now owns five career wins in the division in Independence. He is tied for 28th on that list with Dale Hackwell Jr., Les Verly, Rick Dralle, Terry Neal and Travis Smock.

Benji Irvine raced to the win and the points lead in the IMCA Hobby Stock division. Irvine went from fifth to first in a single lap following a mid-race caution to drive to victory, his second of the season. He holds a one point lead over Justin Stander heading into the final two weeks of the season.

The second win of his career, Irvine became the 60th driver in division history at Independence to earn multiple wins. The Hobby Stock feature Saturday night was the 350th in track history and he became the third with the last name Irvine to win milestone Hobby Stock features at the speedway. Ken Irvine won the first Hobby Stock feature in 1989 and Josh Irvine was the 300th winner in 2009.

After Steve Miedke and Duayne Herb lost the lead due to mechanical problems, Merv Chandler assumed command to drive to his second straight win in the IMCA Sport Compact division. Chandler and Miedke have now each won back-to-back features in the division's brief four week existence in weekly racing at the speedway.

A question arose last night concerning the IMCA Modified feature lineup. "How can the 24R start in the second row when he's won the last two features and three of the last four?" The answer? His 11th, 19th and 20th place finishes during the first half of the season greatly affected his season average. For those who may not be aware, all lineups are based on inverting drivers based on their season point averages, meaning each driver's total points divided by his/her individual number of appearances for the entire season.

A lot of people believe lineups are done on a two week average. I'm not sure where people ever got the impression IMCA uses a two-week average. That simply is not the case. It is a season point average as it has been for many, many, many, many years. The only "two-week" item that applies is if a driver misses two consecutive points nights. In that case, those drivers are treated as new cars and start at the back of their respective heats and at the back of qualified cars for the feature, assuming they qualify. The week following a driver's return, his/her season-long point average is then reinstated. (On a side note, which has nothing to do with the drivers in last night's feature, for those who've made it a career habit of racing one week and taking the next week off to "work" the points system, it does nothing to help you. All it does is reduce the number of nights you race at a track, but does nothing to affect your point average. Again, YOUR total points divided by YOUR appearances.)

I believe the reason the question came up Saturday is because many of the drivers who made the point invert haven't been at Indee every week, so it's common that hit-and-missers actually have better averages than some of the weekly guys. People just don't realize it because those drivers aren't near the top of the standings. The drivers who made the invert on Saturday, but have missed at least one night at the speedway this season include J.D. Auringer, Darin Duffy, Vern Jackson and Troy Cordes. In addition, two qualifiers were considered new, including Justin O'Brien, who was making his first appearance in weekly racing at the speedway this season, and Chris Snyder, who had missed the previous two weeks and was considered a "new" car. Both O'Brien and Snyder started at the back to the 12-car invert. The point averages of the remaining 10 qualifiers, listed in order of inverted season point averages and how they started Saturday night, follow below:

26P Kevin Pittman, 23.67
98 Jason Snyder, 28.50
75 Josh Sherbon, 30.22
24R Adam Johnson, 33.67
71 Troy Cordes, 34.00
F7 Patrick Flannagan, 34.17
64 Vern Jackson, 35.11
19D Darin Duffy, 36.50
00J J.D. Auringer, 37.00
10K Ronn Lauritzen, 37.00

I hope that helps clear up some of the confusion. Thank you to those who asked the question and didn't realize how lineups were made.

It was great to have Las Vegas Motor Speedway announcer Chet Christner in attendance last night. Chet, who lives in Vegas, spent recent weeks driving cross-country to visit family in Maryland. He was making his way back to Vegas and included Independence as one of a handful of race track visits on his way home.

Next month, Chet will be back in the Hawkeye State for the IMCA Speedway Motors Super Nationals. I will join Chet and Boone Speedway announcer Jerry Vansickle to call the action at the six-day event. I'm looking forward to another great week in Boone!

Tonight, it's back to Benton County Speedway in Vinton for another night of weekly action. Although the prognosticators are calling for rain today, minimal moisture has fallen at the race track and we should be good to go for tonight's event. Chet will be on-hand tonight in Vinton, as well, so I hope Mother Nature allows for some racing tonight! Tomorrow, it's off to Iowa State Fair Speedway for the annual fair race, which includes the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models.

Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Five familiar faces in victory lane at Benton County Speedway

A pair of all-time wins leaders and three drivers enjoying recent hot streaks made their way to the winner's circle Sunday night at Benton County Speedway.

Nathan Chandler (IMCA Sport Compact) and Damon Murty (IMCA Stock Car) extended their career wins leads in their respective divisions while Scott Pippert (IMCA Hobby Stock), Curt Hilmer (IMCA SportMod) and Mike Burbridge (IMCA Modified) continued their recent success on the Vinton quarter-mile. (Complete results follow at the end.)

Feature action began in the IMCA Sport Compact division in an event that forced Nathan Chandler to borrow the car of fellow competitor Bill Whalen Jr. Chandler, who destroyed his car a week ago, was shaking down a new machine during qualifying. After mechanical problems forced him to trailer his #22 after his heat, Chandler borrowed Whalen's #00W for the 12-lap feature.

Per IMCA rules, a driver is allowed to borrow a fellow competitor's car for the feature as long as there is not a track rule prohibiting driver changes. No such rule exists in Vinton, so Chandler was allowed to drive Whalen's car, providing, A) Chandler start at the tail of the feature (which is where he lined up before a fellow competitor elected to start at the tail), and B) Whalen agree to give up all points for the event and not be awarded an appearance toward his season point average.

Travis Ross held the early lead when the green flag waved until he slid high in turn two on the second lap. That allowed Merv Chandler to pass for the top spot exiting the corner. While Merv led, Nathan was quickly working his way through the pack and into second on lap four.

By the time Nathan made it into the runner-up spot, Merv was enjoying a few car-lengths over the field. Nathan cut into that deficit and pulled onto the leader's rear bumper when the flying green waved. On the white flag lap, Nathan dropped to the low side as the leaders ran door-to-door before Nathan escaped with the lead and eventual win.

It was Nathan Chandler's ninth win at the speedway in weekly racing this season. He now stands alone with the most Sport Compact wins in a single season in Vinton, surpassing the previous record of eight wins held by Jena Barthelmes and Gary Peiffer. That pair of drivers established the mark in 2007. For his career, Chandler now has 33 Sport Compact wins in weekly racing history in Vinton. That number is six more than Peiffer, who is second in that category.

Pole-sitter Justin Wacha held the early lead in the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock feature. He paced the field until Doug Laughridge worked the low side into the lead one lap later. Following a lap two caution, Laughridge held the point while Scott Pippert was making his way through traffic from a fourth row start. Pippert worked the low side into the top three until the next stoppage on lap six.

On the restart, Pippert quickly worked past Wacha for second while Laughridge ran out front. Running the low side, Pippert reeled in the leader, completely erasing the gap on lap nine. With Laughridge running the high side, the front pair ran side-by-side until Pippert escaped turn two with the lead on lap 12, moments before the event's final caution.

On the restart, Pippert held off Laughridge for his third straight win and his sixth in the last seven events. The victory was Pippert's 10th of the season in weekly racing at the speedway. He joined IMCA Modified driver Jack Mitchell as the only drivers in track history with 10-plus wins in multiple seasons. Pippert's 10-win seasons have come in back-to-back years, as did Mitchell's in 1982 and 1983. All-time Pippert now owns 45 career weekly points wins in the division in Vinton. With five weeks to go, he is now within three victories of Vince Buchholz atop the all-time list.

Prior to the night, when IMCA SportMod driver Curt Hilmer was asked if he could win for the third Sunday in a row, his simple reply was, "I doubt it." Prior to next Sunday's event, I imagine he'll be asked if he can make it four straight Sunday drives to victory lane.

A trio of cautions slowed the first couple of laps in the 15-lap feature. Jesse Belez held the top spot while Hilmer chased him from a third row starting spot. Hilmer settled into second on lap two, then worked the low side of Belez to take the lead before another caution on lap four.

When racing resumed, Hilmer again went to work on the low side of the smooth, slick oval, while Belez ran up top. Although Hilmer pulled ahead by a few car-lengths, Belez stayed close and occasionally closed the gap on the leader until the final caution waved on lap eight.

On the final restart, Hilmer pulled away from his pursuers to take the win, his second straight at the track, becoming the 10th SportMod driver in track history to earn consecutive wins. While it was his third straight win on Sundays, it was Hilmer's third win in the last four points events, a stretch that includes the Thursday, July 26, points race during the Benton County Fair. Had a flat tire not ended his run early during that event, he may very well have been celebrating his fourth straight win Sunday night.

In his career, Hilmer has won six times in the SportMod division in points racing at the speedway. That places him in a tie for fifth on the all-time list with Kurt Hogan and Racer Hulin. He sits two wins shy of Drew Fish for fourth.

Prior to Sunday night, Damon Murty hadn't been to victory lane in two-and-a-half months. When the final checkers waved in the IMCA Stock Car feature, Murty returned for the fourth time this season to the place with which he is very familiar.

Russell Damme Jr. held the early lead in the 15-lapper while his nearest competitors ran four-wide behind him for second. Norman Chesmore took over that position until he went around in turn four to bring out the race's only caution on lap three.

On the restart, Damme set the pace with Jason Deshaw in tow. Deshaw wasted no time making his way to the inside of the leader to take over the top spot entering turn one. Deshaw held the point while Murty was battling through traffic from his fifth row starting spot.

Murty closed in on Deshaw at the nine lap mark, then swept to the outside to take the lead one lap later. Deshaw remained close and was able to pull alongside the leader numerous times over the final laps, including the final corner, however Murty held on at the stripe for victory.

The triumph marked eight consecutive seasons of four-plus wins for Murty in Vinton, the most of any Stock Car driver. He also holds the Stock Car record for wins during the month of August, which now stands at 13. Sunday night's trip to the winner's circle was Murty's division leading 54th in Vinton alone.

The IMCA Modifieds rolled onto the speedway for the evening's finale on a smooth track that was as slick as glass. The surface was ideal if you possessed two qualities - the ability to wheel a race car and the patience to endure the 20-lap distance.

Outside front row starter Jerry Dedrick took the lead at the drop of the green while Shane Burbridge, Tom Hanson and Mike Burbridge raced for second. Hanson ran the top side into the runner-up spot on the third circuit, leaving the Burbridges to fight for third. Mike Burbridge won that battle on lap four while Hanson was closing in on Dedrick.

Hanson motored to the outside of Dedrick on lap six while Mike pulled away from Shane in the Burbridge battle. With Hanson leading in the top groove, Mike Burbridge ran the low groove past Dedrick for second just shy of the midway point. Burbridge then quickly reeled in Hanson and dropped to the inside of the leader on the back stretch. Burbridge held the lead at the line just prior to a lap 10 caution.

On the restart, Burbridge again went to work down low with Hanson up top. The leaders ran wheel-to-wheel over the final half of the event, swapping the lead numerous times before Burbridge inched ahead in the waning moments to take the win. Jerry Luloff and Ronn Lauritzen, who both started in row five, made impressive runs through the pack to finish third and fourth, respectively.

It was Mike Burbridge's second straight win in Vinton and his third in the last four weeks. He became the first driver to win three times in four weeks since Scott Hogan won three straight features in May of 2010. His division-leading fourth win of the season, Burbridge now owns back-to-back seasons with at least four wins. Hogan was also the last to do that during the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

Burbridge now owns eight career Modified wins in Vinton, which ties him for 17th on the all-time list with Joey Schaefer, Kevin Pittman and Mike Sampson. He is two wins behind Darin Duffy, Don Erger and Jeff Barkdoll, who are in a three-way tie for 14th on that list.

While some may not like a slick track, tonight's surface showcased the drivers who possess what it takes to compete. Two, three and sometimes four-wide racing was common throughout the night. Another terrific job by Don Burkey on his track prep. Let's hope for another excellent surface tomorrow in Independence!

Monday is the big day for race fans at Independence Motor Speedway as the World of Outlaws Late Model Series will be making its second-ever appearance on the 3/8-mile oval. A $10,000 prize will be awarded to the winner of Monday night's 50-lapper. A number of drivers who competed at this weekend's USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway indicated their plans to attend Monday's show. In addition to the Late Models, IMCA Modifieds will be competing for a $1,000 winner's share and $200-to-start in that 25-lap event. Monday promises to be a memorable night in Independence so make plans to join us! Gates open at 4 p.m., hot laps at 6:45 with qualifying and racing to follow!

Feature - 1. 11B Mike Burbridge; 2. 1XX Tom Hanson; 3. 18 Jerry Luloff; 4. 10K Ronn Lauritzen; 5. 33D Scott Hogan; 6. 21K Kyle Brown; 7. 12D Joe Docekal; 8. T23 Tony Olson; 9. 80 Jerry Dedrick; 10. 1J Jeff Streeter; 11. 7S Robbie Schmuecker; 12. 14B Shane Burbridge; 13. 7 Todd Jensen; 14. 17 Dawn Krall; 15. F7 Patrick Flannagan; 16. 98 Jason Snyder; 17. 7T Tim McBride; 18. 57B Dennis Betzer; DNS 71 Troy Cordes.
First heat - 1. Docekal; 2. McBride; 3. M. Burbridge; 4. Luloff; 5. Schmuecker; 6. Olson.
Second heat - 1. S. Burbridge; 2. Lauritzen; 3. Flannagan; 4. Betzer; 5. Krall; 6. Snyder; 7. Jensen.
Third heat - 1. Hanson; 2. Dedrick; 3. Brown; 4. Hogan; 5. Streeter; DNS Cordes.

Feature - 1.  99D Damon Murty; 2. 21DE Jason Deshaw; 3. 19J Jay Schmidt; 4. 8 Curtis Roster; 5. 7H Phil Holtz; 6. 4JR Russell Damme Jr.; 7. 9E Austin Evens; 8. 76 Mike Galli; 9. G1 Mike Padden; 10. 17 Jason Niedert; 11. 52 Nathan Wood; 12. 4 Cory Tharp; 13. 09X Cole Mather; 14. 15 Norman Chesmore.
First heat - 1. Roster; 2. Holtz; 3. Damme; 4. Murty; 5. Deshaw; 6. Padden; 7. Evens.
Second heat - 1. Schmidt; 2. Chesmore; 3. Wood; 4. Galli; 5. Mather; 6. Tharp; DNS Niedert.

Feature - 1.  22H Curt Hilmer; 2. 81 Jesse Belez; 3. 00 Jim Buhlman; 4. 21 Brennen Chipp; 5. S16 Kip Siems; 6. J2 Dave Schulze; 7. 1JR Ben Chapman; 8. 3R Danny Dvorak; 9. K3 Kyle Olson; 10. B3 Russ Olson; 11. 42C Larry Clausen; 12. CH19 Colby Heishman; 13. 28P Rick Paulson; 14. 7D Dakoda Sellers; 15. 57R Ryan King; 16. 42L Lonnie Mercer; 17. 35C Casey Heil; 18. 95 Mike McDonald; 19. 16K Brandon Morris; 20. 3B Brian Anderson; 21. T17 Tom Rawlins.
First heat - 1. Chipp; 2. McDonald; 3. Belez; 4. K. Olson; 5. Morris; 6. King; 7. Heil.
Second heat - 1. Dvorak; 2. Paulson; 3. Buhlman; 4. Chapman; 5. Clausen; 6. Heishman; DNS R. Olson.
Third heat - 1. Hilmer; 2. Schulze; 3. Rawlins; 4. Siems; 5. Mercer; 6. Sellers; 7. Anderson.

Feature - 1. 47 Scott Pippert; 2. 25 Doug Laughridge; 3. 46 Brian Happel; 4. 78 Matt Brown; 5. 2P Cale Petersen; 6. 45 Justin Wacha; 7. 14J Jacob Floyd; 8. 2 Nick Welch; 9. 07 Jacob Keiser; 10. 12J Jeremy Floyd.
Heat - 1. Laughridge; 2. Wacha; 3. Keiser; 4. Brown; 5. Happel; 6. Petersen; 7. Jeremy Floyd; 8. Welch; 10. Jacob Floyd.

Feature - 1.  22 Nathan Chandler; 2. 2 Merv Chandler; 3. 22T Travis Losenicky; 4. 11 Steve Miedke; 5. 83 Travis Ross; 6. 3S Craig Streeter; 7. 03 Neil Nabholz; 8. 111 A.J. Witten; 9. 57 Duayne Herb.
DNS 07 Joe Goodenbour.
Heat - 1. Ross; 2. Miedke; 3. Streeter; 4. Losenicky; 5. M. Chandler; 6. 00W Bill Whalen Jr.; 7. Nabholz; 8. Witten; 9. Herb; 10. Goodenbour; 11. N. Chandler.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Wieben drives to first career IMCA SportMod win at Marshalltown Speedway

I'd be crazy to say I had anything to do with what happened Friday night, but I did have a Leroy Jethro Gibbs moment Friday morning. For those of you who aren't NCIS fans, I had a gut feeling Friday morning, which led me to send a Facebook message to IMCA SportMod driver Sam Wieben.

A change of plans for the day on Friday also led to a change of plans Friday night. With my evening schedule empty, I messaged 14-year-old Wieben to ask if he was planning on racing at Marshalltown Speedway that night. He replied to confirm that was indeed the plan, so I told him I'd be there to see him get his first feature win.

After a healthy number of top-three finishes this season, the current leader in IMCA Northern SportMod national rookie points was still in search of his first career win. He recently started collecting heat wins and was getting ever-so-close to that elusive win. Friday night just felt like it was "time."

At the drop of the green in the 18-lapper, Wieben chased front row starters Travis Peterson and Gatlin Leytham. Peterson took the lead with Wieben pursuing from the low side. Just prior to a lap five caution, Wieben ducked beneath Peterson to take the top spot.

With Wieben out front, Peterson restarted in second to the inside of Racer Hulin, who made his way into the top three from a fifth row starting spot. When the green flag waved, Hulin chased the leader until he worked the top side into the lead at the completion of the seventh circuit. Hulin held the point until he uncharacteristically spun to the low side of turn two on the 15th lap to bring out the final yellow.

When the green flag waved a final time, Wieben ran the low side to perfection to score the win ahead of Ty Luellen and Jake Strayer. Points leader Scott Davis and Joel Rust completed the top five.

As humble in victory lane as he is in person, Wieben was less than animated during his interview with announcer Jerry Vansickle. In the pits afterwards, when asked why he wasn't showing a little more emotion, Wieben stated he was "still taking it all in." Don't worry, Sam. Save that emotion for another win. Friday night's win was the first of many!  By the way, I'm still confused how I "jinxed you to the win." If that's the case, I hope I'm your bad luck charm for the rest of the season!

In other action, a trio of features ran green to checkers without a single caution. Among them, IMCA Stock Car driver Trent Murphy led the distance in that 18-lapper.

From his third row starting spot, Murphy quickly made his way to the front of the pack to snag the lead by the end of the first lap. Running the high side, Murphy pulled away from Trevor Titus, while Michael Murphy raced through traffic from his fourth row start.

With his older brother setting the pace, the younger Murphy ran the low groove past Titus for second on the fifth circuit, then attempted to chase down his sibling. With Trent up top and Michael down low, the gap shortened to a car-length before Trent pulled away to a more comfortable lead.

The gap briefly closed when the leaders encountered lapped traffic over the final four circuits, however Trent held on for the win over Michael. A race-long battle for third allowed the leaders to sneak away by a straightaway before Tracy Gienger worked the low side past Titus and Jeff Wollam. Gienger powered to the third place finish. Steve Meyer, who started in the fifth row, came home fourth ahead of Derek Reimer.

Travis Brandt took the early lead in the 15-lap Mod Lite main. While he set the pace, ninth starting Josh May made quick work of the field to settle into second after just two laps.

Running the top side, Brandt held the point while May worked both high and low to keep pace with the leader. While they battled, the front pair pulled to a straightaway margin over the rest of the pack at the midway point.

With just three laps to go, May swept to the inside of Brandt to take command off of turn four, then pulled away to score the victory in the caution-free event. Brandt ran second ahead of a hard-charging Mike Morrill. Andy Hennigar and Randy Bryan completed the top five.

The other feature with no stoppages was in the IMCA Sport Compact division. Pole-sitter Duayne Herb held the early lead in that eight-lapper while Merv Chandler gave chase from his second row starting spot.

Chandler worked the low side past Herb in turn two on the third lap to take command, then drove to his 12th win of the season on the Marshalltown quarter-mile. Herb ran second ahead of Travis Losenicky, Travis Ross and Trent Orwig.

A wild start to the 12-lap IMCA Hobby Stock feature saw a five-wide battle (yeah, those never end well), along with the points leader being forced to make up a whole lot of ground after getting collected in a mishap.

After pole-sitter Dustin Lynch took charge, the race was on not far behind him as a group of his pursuers went five-wide in turn two in a battle for position. Because nobody wins on the first lap (try as they might), the five-wide formation turned sour as the field made its way out of turn three and into four. Although there was some paint exchanged and some drivers weren't moving southward to eastward in a fluid motion, everybody continued on. That is, until Lynch looped his machine in front of the pack in turns one and two. That left Josh Saunders out front until caution slowed action on lap three.

When racing resumed, Eric Larson, who started in the fourth row, was on Saunders' rear bumper. Larson chased the leader until he worked the low side to the front at the midway point. Larson drove away from Saunders to take the victory with Tyler Prickett coming home third. Points leader Scott Pippert, who was caught up in a mishap on the first lap, raced back through the 20-car field to run fourth ahead of John Watson.

Luke Wanninger drove the low groove to the front in the 20-lap IMCA Modified feature. From his third row starting spot, Wanninger raced past Kyle Brown to take control on the first lap. He pulled away while Jimmy Gustin maneuvered through traffic from a fourth row start.

With Jon Snyder up top and Ronn Lauritzen working the low side, Gustin hugged the tires and made it a three-wide battle off turn two for second. Gustin escaped down the back stretch with the position, however he ran a full straightaway behind the leader with little more than half of the race to go.

While Gustin worked to cut into the lead, Wanninger raced through lapped traffic to take the win by half a straightaway. Snyder crossed the line in third, a full straightaway behind Gustin. Adam Larson and Kyle Krampe completed the top five.

Following feature action, a King (Queen?) of the Hill event was held for eight competitors in the IMCA SportMod division. When all was said and done, Jenae Gustin took home the bonus money after beating Racer Hulin, Jared Van Deest and Jake Strayer in the bracket challenge.

Thanks to the folks in Marshalltown for another fun night of racing. Saturday, it's back to Independence Motor Speedway for the 13th night of weekly racing. It's Veridian Credit Union Night at the Races as we enter our last month of weekly competition for the season. On Sunday, I'll be at Benton County Speedway in Vinton before returning to Independence on Monday for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series and $1,000-to-win IMCA Modifieds. If you plan to hit the WoO show on Monday and want to get grandstand tickets in advance, be sure to take advantage of early ticket sales this weekend. They will be available at the track on Saturday and I will have what's leftover in Vinton on Sunday.

Have a great weekend and I hope to see you at the races!