Although wet and sometimes violent weather hit much of the state on Friday night, the southeast corner of Iowa was spared Mother Nature's wrath long enough to complete the Mid-Season Championship program at Lee County Speedway.
Promoter Dewain Hulett changed the format for the mid-season showcase to provide more entertainment for those in attendance. The top 12 in each division's points were inverted over the first three or four rows, depending on the number of races, in the heat race qualifiers. The features were then lined up straight-up based on heat race finishes, placing more emphasis on the qualifying events.
First out of the gate was the 20-lap feature for the IMCA Modifieds. Lonnie Heap, the first heat winner and feature pole starter, assumed the early command with fellow front row starter Tyler Cale in pursuit. Heap hugged the bottom of the track while Cale repeatedly looked for racing room between the leader and the tractor tires in the infield.
Meanwhile, points leader Josh Foster came from a third row starting spot to settle into third as the lead trio broke away from the pack. Foster was able to get a run on the low side of Cale for second in turns one and two on the 12th lap. Foster put the nose of his #77 a little too deep in turn two, clipping the tractor tire and sending his ride into a spin. He then briefly went to the pit area, but returned to tag the tail of the field before another lap was complete.
Following another stoppage on lap 13, Jeff Waterman ran the high side into contention, making his way into the top three after starting in the fourth row. With only a few laps to go, Waterman continued to challenge Cale for second until the final caution flag waved with just two laps to go.
On the final restart, Heap again took charge running the middle to low groove of the speedway while Waterman went high. After Cale lost a number of positions when he bobbled in turn two, Waterman closed on the leader, but Heap held on to take his first victory of the season. Waterman ran second ahead of Cayden Carter, Brandon Banks and Bill Roberts Jr.
Foster, who pulled to the infield for a lap following his return, finished the event one lap down. By virtue of his second place run, Waterman ended the night as the new points leader.
Abe Huls won by a nose in a thrilling 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature. At the beginning, it was front row starters Huls and points leader Matt Greiner joined by Jeff Mueller in a three-wide battle for the lead. Greiner held the point when the race was slowed for caution on lap two. On the restart, Mueller swept to the inside of the leader to assume command before the next stoppage one lap later.
When racing resumed, Mueller and Huls ran the low groove until Huls opted for the higher line to make a run on the leader following a caution with just two laps to go. That allowed Jason Cook to close on the bottom side of Huls. Huls made the top groove work as he pulled alongside Mueller for the lead in the waning moments. Huls inched ahead at the line on the outside of Mueller to take the exciting win. Cook ran third ahead of Derek St. Clair and Cale Samberg.
Chuck Fullenkamp took command a short while into the 12-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature to drive to his fourth win of the season. Fullenkamp, who sits eighth in the national standings, crossed the line ahead of Kimberly Abbott, who is 10th in national points. Following an early spin, Austen Becerra made a nice run through the pack to finish third in the caution-free event ahead of Anthony Cassat and points leader Darin Smith.
First heat winner and points leader Tony Dunker started on the pole of the 15-lap IMCA SportMod feature. Dunker survived numerous caution periods to lead the event in its entirety, en route to his second win of the season. Jim Gillenwater came from a fourth row start to finish second ahead of John Oliver Jr. Rick Barlow Jr. and Chris Larson rounded out the top five.
Jake Wenig earned his third straight win to take the mid-season crown in the 15-lap Hobby Stock feature. From his pole position start, Wenig led the event in its entirety to take the victory ahead of Brian Hoener and Dan Wenig. Victor Hastings beat Dugan Thye to the line for fourth.
Tomorrow, it's more Mid-Season Championship racing, this time at Independence Motor Speedway. We plan a return to the traditional format of lining up all feature events straight-up by point totals. We'll also have a complete draw/redraw show for the IMCA Sport Compacts as they make their second appearance of the season. Hope to see you there!