Monday, July 28, 2014

Cordes, Murty, Gustin go back-to-back at Benton County Speedway

Three drivers who have been on a roll everywhere they have competed this season made their way to victory lane Sunday night at Benton County Speedway. It was the second straight trip to victory lane for all three drivers on the Vinton quarter-mile. (complete results follow)

In the 20-lap IMCA Modified feature, pole-sitter Jerry Dedrick held the early lead. Dedrick maintained the point through the first six circuits until Troy Cordes made the move of the night in turns one and two.

After crossing the line in fifth to complete lap six, Cordes rocketed to the low side of the corner to make his way past Dennis Betzer and Patrick Flannagan to take third. Exiting turn two, he swept to the outside of Mike Burbridge and Dedrick to take the lead going down the back stretch. Cordes quickly pulled away and then survived a late restart to take the win, his fifth of the year.

Cordes has five wins in a single season five times in his career in Vinton, but for the first time since 2009. He is the first Modified driver to win five times in a season since Scott Hogan did it in 2010. Cordes has won 13 times in the month of July and has 91 career IMCA sanctioned Modified victories.

Cordes, also the winner last week, has won back-to-back features in Vinton nine times in his career. He also scored two straight wins earlier this season. He has never won three straight at the speedway.

With Sunday night's victory, Cordes has 44 Modified wins in weekly racing history at the speedway, which ties him with Scott Hogan for the most all-time. Hogan has held or shared the wins lead since tying Jack Mitchell at the top of the list on May 10, 2009. His 1,904 days at the top of the list is the second most to Mitchell. Sunday night marked the first time Cordes has shared the wins lead.

To make next Sunday even more interesting, it will be the 500th Modified event in weekly racing history at the speedway. That dates back to the first-ever IMCA Modified feature on June 2, 1979 and includes all unsanctioned weekly Modified events from 1992-2000. Hogan and Cordes have won a combined 88 of 499 points races for Modifieds in track history - 17.6%. Impressive.

Since July 21, 2002, the date Cordes earned his first Modified win at the speedway, there have been 226 weekly points races for Modifieds in Vinton. Hogan had already earned 10 wins by that date so the two have won a combined 78 times in the last 226 events - a whopping 34.5%. Incredible.

Will the tie be broken by one of those drivers next Sunday night or will they remained locked at the top after night #500?

In the IMCA Stock Car division, Damon Murty settled for the top groove in that 25-lap feature. After starting in row five, Murty made his way into third on the fifth lap behind leader Michael Peterson and Justin Stander.

With the leaders working the low groove, Murty slid to the top groove and slowly reeled in the frontrunners. He edged past Stander on lap eight and then went to work on Peterson. Murty pulled alongside the leader a short time later as the two ran wheel-to-wheel for a couple of circuits.

A lap 12 caution slowed action with Murty at the helm. He paced the field when racing resumed to record his second straight victory and fifth win of the year.

With the victory, Murty owns a division-leading 66 Stock Car wins in Vinton. He has won at least five times every season for six straight years. Murty has also won consecutive events nine times in his career in Vinton and two of those times he won three straight. Eleven of his 66 wins have come in July.

Like Cordes, Murty's first Vinton win in a Stock Car came on July 21, 2002. Including the night they celebrated their first wins in Vinton, the two drivers have won on the same night 13 times.

Last Thursday, Jenae Gustin earned her first Vinton win in the IMCA Northern SportMod division during a points special for the Benton County Fair. It took her just a few days to pick up win number two.

Gustin worked past leader Kyle Olson on a lap two restart and pulled away from the pack until caution slowed action just past the midway point of the 15-lapper. She pulled away from Tony Olson when racing resumed to take the victory.

Gustin, the 49th different SportMod winner in weekly racing history at the speedway, is just the 10th driver to win consecutive features. She is one of 29 drivers with multiple Vinton wins and finished the night tied for 20th on the division's wins list at the track. Gustin, along with Troy Burkhart in 2007, are the only SportMod drivers in track history to sweep both Benton County Fair events in the same season.

Four different SportMod drivers have won multiple features so far this season. That is the most since six drivers (a division record in Vinton) won multiple times in 2011.

In what many considered the most exciting race of the night, Kyle Parizek earned his second win of the season in the 15-lap IMCA Hobby Stock feature.

Parizek worked past front row starters Matt Brown and Justin Wacha at the drop of the green before an early caution slowed action. On the restart, Parizek showed the way while Benji Irvine made his way into third.

The lead pair engaged in a battle for the lead while Brown raced his way back into contention. The trio ran nose-to-tail and door-to-door for multiple laps until Brown caught the leaders with just a few laps to go.

At that time, the leaders entered a terrific three-wide battle for the lead over the course of multiple laps with Irvine leading at the stripe as the flying green waved. Working beneath Irvine in the middle groove, Parizek powered ahead with one lap to go and held on at the stripe for the thrilling win.

Parizek, who has won nine times in weekly racing history in Vinton, finished the night tied with Todd Temeyer for 16th on the all-time list. He has won multiple features in four of the last five seasons. Five of Parizek's wins have come in July.

Gary Peiffer led all 10 laps to score the victory in the IMCA Sport Compact division. The win was the first for Peiffer in Vinton since season championship night in 2012 and was the 29th of his career at the speedway. He sits second to Nathan Chandler in all-time wins.

Like Peiffer, Don Erger led the entire distance in the 10-lapper for the BCS Micro Mods. Erger has won four of the division's eight events this season.

Todd Cooney blew by Curt Schroeder on lap five and dominated the final 15 circuits to win the IMCA Late Model feature. In three visits to the speedway this season as part of the IMCA Late Model Sunday Series, Cooney has won twice.

Feature: 1. 71 Troy Cordes, Dunkerton; 2. 11B Mike Burbridge, Delhi; 3. 12D Joe Docekal, Dysart; 4. 10K Ronn Lauritzen, Jesup; 5. 00J J.D. Auringer, Waterloo; 6. 20L Zach Less, Hopkinton; 7. 81 Jesse Belez; 8. 8 Tony Snyder, Readlyn; 9. 33D Scott Hogan, Vinton; 10. 4 Ryan Maitland, Waterloo; 11. F7 Patrick Flannagan, Cedar Rapids; 12. 80 Jerry Dedrick, Vinton; 13. 14 Tom Hanson, Vinton; 14. 7 Todd Jensen, Waterloo; 15. 57B Dennis Betzer, Central City; 16. 77 Tim McBride, Denver; 17. 98 Jason Snyder, Dunkerton; 18. 21 Brennen Chipp, Waterloo.
Heat one: 1. Chipp; 2. T. Snyder; 3. Lauritzen; 4. Burbridge; 5. Hogan; 6. Hanson.
Heat two: 1. Less; 2. Betzer; 3. Docekal; 4. Cordes; 5. Belez; 6. McBride.
Heat three: 1. Flannagan; 2. Auringer; 3. Dedrick; 4. Maitland; 5. J. Snyder; 6. Jensen.

1. 30 Todd Cooney, Des Moines; 2. 77A Jeff Aikey, Cedar Falls; 3. 60 Dean Wagner, Evansdale; 4. 22 Charlie McKenna, Clear Lake; 5. 19 John Emerson, Waterloo; 6. 70 Jerry King, Waterloo; 7. 2P Jon Passick, Waterloo; 8. 1 Rick Dralle, Waterloo; 9. 32 Curtis Glover, Des Moines; 10. 23 Paul Conrad, Colo; 11. 5 Scott Welsh, Cedar Rapids; 12. 15C Curt Schroeder, Ames.
Heat one: 1. King; 2. Aikey; 3. Cooney; 4. Schroeder; 5. Dralle; 6. Wagner.
Heat two: 1. Passick; 2. Emerson; 3. McKenna; 4. Conrad; 5. Glover; 6. Welsh.

1. 99D Damon Murty, Chelsea; 2. 1X Micheal Peterson, Montezuma; 3. 15 Norman Chesmore, Rowley; 4. 67 Justin Stander, Shellsburg; 5. 19J Jay Schmidt, Tama; 6. 14 Shane Ebaugh, Evansdale; 7. 62G Adam Gebel, Cedar Falls; 8. 8 Curtis Roster, Vinton; 9. 171 Buck Swanson, Waterloo; 10. 74C Cole Mather, Dundee; 11. 8B Scott Beauregard, Brandon; 12. 76 Mike Galli, Urbana; 13. 8E Mitchell Evens, Independence; 14. 76X Chad Siems, Shellsburg; 15. 47 Scott Pippert, Elberon; 16. 31S Paul Shepherd, Marengo.
Heat one: 1. Roster; 2. Beauregard; 3. Murty; 4. Stander; 5. Ebaugh; 6. Swanson; 7. Siems; 8. Evens.
Heat two: 1. Peterson; 2. Gebel; 3. Shepherd; 4. Chesmore; 5. Pippert; 6. Mather; 7. Schmidt; 8. Galli.

Feature: 1. 19J Jenae Gustin, Marshalltown; 2. T23 Tony Olson, Cedar Rapids; 3. 72L Brett Lowry, Montezuma; 4. K3 Kyle Olson, Cedar Rapids; 5. 22H Curt Hilmer, Dysart; 6. 7SR Shawn Ritter, Keystone; 7. 1 Austin Kaplan, Ankeny; 8. J2 Dave Schulze, Keystone; 9. 30 Joey Schaefer, Waterloo; 10. 95 Mike McDonald, Cedar Rapids; 11. 3R Danny Dvorak, Vinton; 12. 22 Matt Petrzelka, Norway; 13. 57R Ryan King, Montour; 14. 339 Kevin Hurst, Janesville; 15. 00 Jim Buhlman, Cedar Falls; 16. 7D Dakoda Sellers, Vinton; 17. 10S John Schaefer, La Porte City; 18. 17 Dawn Krall, Evansdale; 19. 6K Lee Rouse, Atkins; 20. 15B Troy Burkhart, Urbana; 21. 199 Dave Burrell, Dysart; DNS/22. 95J Jason Hall, Grinnell; DNS/23. 42L Lon Mercer, Urbana.
Heat one: 1. T. Olson; 2. Krall; 3. McDonald; 4. Hilmer; 5. Kaplan; 6. King; 7. Petrzelka; 8. Rouse.
Heat two: 1. Burkhart; 2. Dvorak; 3. Joey Schaefer; 4. Ritter; 5. Buhlman; 6. Hurst; 7. John Schaefer; 8. Mercer.
Heat three: 1. Gustin; 2. K. Olson; 3. Burrell; 4. Lowry; 5. Schulze; 6. Sellers; 7. Hall.

Feature: 1. 17K Kyle Parizek, Belle Plaine; 2. 79 Benji Irvine, Stanley; 3. 78 Matt Brown, Dysart; 4. 46 Brian Happel, Vinton; 5. 4P Matt Pohlman, Keystone; 6. 55 Vince Buchholz, Tama; 7. 29 Nathan Ballard, Marengo; 8. 45 Justin Wacha, Vinton.
Heat: 1. Wacha; 2. Brown; 3. Ballard; 4. Irvine; 5. Parizek; 6. Happel; 7. Pohlman; 8. Buchholz.

Feature: 1. 36DD Gary Peiffer, Troy Mills; 2. 00W Bill Whalen Jr., Riverside; 3. 3S Craig Streeter, Vinton; 4. 73B Andrew Bieber, Independence; 5. 321 Drew Nickell, Cedar Rapids; DNS 007 Adam Gates, Marion.
Heat: 1. Peiffer; 2. Bieber; 3. Streeter; 4. Whalen; 5. Nickell; 6. Gates.

Feature: 1. 6E Don Erger, Brandon; 2. 2 Brandon Maitland, Waterloo; 3. 71 Tristan Cordes, Dunkerton; 4. 111 Buster Pate, Hiawatha; 5. 18 Jeff Davis, La Porte City; 6. 111A A.J. Witten, Cedar Rapids; DNS 00 Brody Willett, Alburnett.
Heat: 1. Erger; 2. Pate; 3. Cordes; 4. Maitland; 5. Davis; 6. Witten; 7. Willett.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Snyder leads list of eight winners at Independence Motor Speedway

With Mid-Season Championships cut short due to rain earlier this season, the schedule and Mother Nature finally cooperated to allow the final make-up features to be run Saturday night at Independence Motor Speedway.

IMCA Late Models, IMCA Northern SportMods and IMCA Hobby Stocks had double features for the night, but it was an IMCA Modified driver who likely left Independence with the biggest smile on his face.

Tony Snyder led throughout the 20-lap Modified feature and held off Ronn Lauritzen following a trio of mid-race cautions to earn his first career win in the division. With the win, Snyder became the 84th different IMCA Modified driver in weekly racing history at the speedway. He is the 15th to earn his first Independence win during the month of July.

Kevin Rose led the entire 18-lap distance in the IMCA Stock Car feature to take his first win of the year and the second of his career at the speedway. He is now one of 27 drivers with multiple Stock Car wins in Independence and is tied with David Adams, Paul Shepherd and Robert Walters for 24th on the all-time list.

John Emerson dominated the 25-lap make-up feature for the Late Models. He pulled away from the pack in convincing fashion to earn his second win of the season. With the win, Emerson became the 66th Late Model driver in track history with multiple wins in the division. He is tied for 48th on that list.

Greg Kastli took a big early lead and then survived a late restart to earn the victory in the regularly scheduled Late Model main. Kastli, who has now won 42 Late Model features in weekly racing history in Independence, ranks fourth on the division's all-time list. His most recent win prior to Saturday came nearly three years ago on August 13, 2011.

Benji Irvine swept past Jim Ball on the 15th and final lap of the make-up feature for the Hobby Stocks to drive to his fifth win of the year. All-time, Irvine has 10 Hobby Stock wins in Independence, placing him in a tie with Ken Irvine, Nick Wroten and Rick Johnson for 10th on the all-time list. All of Irvine's wins have come in just over two years - his first win at the speedway was July 21, 2012.

Shawn Kuennen was the winner in the regular Hobby Stock feature. He took the lead following an early restart and then held off late pressure from Irvine to drive to his second win of the season. Kuennen has two career Hobby Stock wins at the speedway, making him one of 63 drivers with multiple wins in the division. He is tied with 15 other drivers for 48th on the wins list.

Tony Olson came from the eighth row to score victory in the make-up feature for the Northern SportMods. Olson took command after just three laps and then drove away to victory. The 2007 B Mod champion, it was Olson's first career Independence SportMod win. He became the 28th different SportMod winner in weekly racing history.

Olson also spent a few years behind the wheel of an IMCA Modified. Ironically, his first and only Modified win in Independence came exactly six years prior to Saturday night's win - July 26, 2008.

In the regularly scheduled Northern SportMod feature, Danny Dvorak crossed the line first after a green, white, checkered finish following a late caution, however Matt McCahen was awarded the victory after a bizarre chain of events.

After a handful of drivers took the checkers, the red flag came out when Lucas Lundry rolled in turn four while dodging a car that was sitting sideways on the track. The red flag came out and drivers were instructed over the RACEceivers to stop immediately. Dvorak ignored the command over the RACEceiver and drove through the crash scene on his way to victory lane where he was disqualified for the safety violation.

For McCahen, the win was the second of his career and first since June 2, 2012. He is now one of 13 SportMods with multiple wins in Independence and is tied with Rod McDonald for 12th on the all-time list.

The Dvorak disqualification was quite the conversation piece at the track following the program and it made some noise on social media, as well. While nearly everyone at the track appeared in agreement with the call, not everyone understood how a win could be taken away after the checkers waved. The answer is simple - safety trumps everything, especially when red flag conditions are present.

The situation with Lundry unfolded as the leaders were making their way through turns one and two after taking the checkers. When Lundry rolled in turns three and four, communication went out from the tower from Brett Whitson on the RACEceivers for drivers to stop immediately on the track. Those who had taken the checkers stopped in turn two with the exception of Dvorak who continued, at speed, into turn three. He proceeded to drive past the accident and track workers tending to the incident on his way to victory lane. His disqualification was called immediately.

Some folks questioned Dvorak's ability to see the red flag and lights since he had already taken the checkers, however there are traffic signals in turn three ahead of where the rollover occurred and the command to stop had gone out over the RACEceiver in plenty of time for him to stop short of the site of the accident. RACEceivers are safety devices required to be used by all competitors for situations just like this.

As for the event already being official since the leaders had taken the checkers, as I mentioned earlier, safety trumps everything. A winner can be disqualified in post-race inspection for a safety violation and they can and will be disqualified based on the incident described above. It makes no difference if it was the winner or the 10th place finisher, failing to stop under red when the command is given is an immediate disqualification.

I spoke with promoter Todd Summers this morning about Saturday night's program and he summed it up best. He asked, "Have you ever been standing on a race track next to a race car that just rolled, is leaking fuel and a race car comes driving by you?"

He continued by saying, "It's scary and it's dangerous down there. The driver in that car wants to get out as soon as possible. With fuel leaking, you can't blame him. There are track officials and safety crews working down there. The red was out for a reason and the call had to be made. There was no other choice than to disqualify him."

And that call will be made every time no matter who it is or where they finish the race. For the few who think a driver was robbed of a win last night, you're right. The track didn't take away the win, though - the driver gave it away himself.

Tonight, it's back to Benton County Speedway where IMCA Late Models will be joining the weekly program for the third time this season as part of the IMCA Late Model Sunday Series. Although the midway portion of the Benton County Fair has wrapped up, the Beef Producers and other food vendors will still be under the grandstands for one more evening. This means the main stairs to the grandstand will not be accessible and wristbands for grandstand admission will be required. The ramps on the north and south ends of the grandstands will be available for access to the grandstands.

Get there early to enjoy points racing in seven divisions as we close out the 2014 Benton County Fair!

Friday, July 25, 2014

From Alta to Independence, a fun and busy week is underway

I received a call a week ago to fill in for regular track announcer Chad Meyer at Buena Vista Raceway this Wednesday, so I ventured to Alta for what has become a yearly trip after hitting the Hawkeye Dirt Tour special there each of the last two seasons. My only other visit to the speedway was a 4th of July special in 2002, so it was my first trip there for a weekly program.

BVR boasts some quality race car drivers who have earned a long list of accomplishments through the years, including national and Super Nationals titles. Wednesday's great racing reflected their impressive field of drivers.

The 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature topped the list Wednesday night as Chris Ullrich, David Smith, Devin Smith, Stefan Sybesma, Brian Blessington and Dan Hanselman vied for top honors throughout the event.

Ullrich held off hard-fought pressure from both Smiths to take the victory, his first of the season at the speedway. In fact, he was the first non-Smith to win in the division through 11 weeks as David and Devin had shared trips to victory lane through the first 10 nights.

Chris Abelson continued his recent dominance in the IMCA Modified division - not just at BVR, but everywhere he's raced this season. The Harris Clash winner and current national points leader destroyed the field to earn his fourth straight win at the speedway and fifth of the season.

In fact, Abelson has won every night he has pulled to a race track since his visit to Alta last Wednesday. I believe he ended the night with six wins in his last six outings. Impressive.

Matt Frederickson was a first-time winner this season in the IMCA Northern SportMods. Frederickson led throughout that 15-lapper and withstood pressure from Doug Smith, Tony Pogeler and Keagan Scott to take the checkers.

Justin Nehring inherited the lead late in the 12-lap IMCA Hobby Stock feature to drive to his fourth win of the season. Nehring remains the only driver in the division to earn multiple wins in 2014 in Alta.

Jay DeVries held off a hard-charging Nate Coopman to earn his third win of the year in the IMCA Sport Compact division and Sarah Nelson drove to her first-ever BVR Bomber victory in that eight-lap event.

A few folks from Vinton questioned why I'd drive three hours on a Wednesday night to go racing, but the trip to Alta is well worth it. Promoter Jeff Herrig and his crew put on a top notch show and the fantastic crowd in the grandstand was indicative of that.

I also have to tip my hat to scorer Kay Schurke. No race fan or driver likes long delays during caution periods and those delays feel even longer when you're in charge of realigning cars. Kay, hands down, is one of the best in the business. Not only does she do a fantastic job scoring, she also runs the RACEceivers in Alta and takes no more than a single lap to get the field realigned. I couldn't even count how many times the green flag would wave one lap after a race was slowed for caution. Amazing.

Thanks to Jeff, Kay, Eric Blum and the entire BVR staff for a fantastic night Wednesday. The season championship program in Alta is next Wednesday, July 30. Details on BVR are available at

Thursday night, Independence Motor Speedway hosted the World of Outlaws Late Model Series for the fourth straight year, along with the XSAN Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds.

Darrell Lanigan topped a field of 25 Late Models to earn his third straight win in Independence and his 10th WoO victory in only 22 events this season. His performance on that tour has been nothing short of dominating.

Troy Cordes raced from row six and took advantage of a late caution to work around race-long leader and defending tour champ Ronn Lauritzen to earn the first HDT win of his career.

If anyone has ever had the inkling to question the quality of our weekly Modified competition in Independence, any doubt should have been quieted Thursday night. Despite the best drivers in the region converging on Independence the last two seasons for the HDT, four of the top five finishers each of those last two years have been weekly drivers.

As promoter Todd Summers said to me earlier today, "We don't just have the best Modified drivers in the area in Independence, we have the best Modified drivers on the planet." You hit the nail on the head, Todd. Every Saturday night, our Modified program in Independence is HDT-quality.

The story and complete results from Independence are available at Fellow Positively Racing bloggers Dick and Joyce Eisele and Brian Neal were also in attendance Thursday night. Check out their thoughts at The 4dfan Report and Midwest Racing News.

Cordes has been the man to beat in the Modifieds in eastern Iowa in recent weeks. Along with his $1,000 payday Thursday night, Cordes earned the $10,000 winner's share at the Aftermarket Nationals earlier this month in Farley and is the current points leader at both Independence and Benton County Speedway in Vinton.

With success, however, comes more than all the deserving accolades and words of congratulations. Yes, grumbling also starts to surface from people who think "the guy who wins all the time must be cheating." Stop it. Just stop it.

Every once in a while you'll see a driver who has his program dialed in and he reels off a number of wins during the season. In the case of Cordes, he's had both weekly racing and special events go his way. It isn't due to luck. And it isn't due to cheating. He's just that good.

The way a number of fans seem to see things, a consistent winner is a cheater. I guess that means there aren't any "good" race car drivers left anymore. There are drivers who don't/can't win and there are cheaters who do/can win. So now we're in a sport full of cheaters and losers? How insane does that sound? Get real. This sport has a great number of winners and Troy Cordes has proven he's one of the best.

For all the naysayers, I suppose they think the guy who finishes second is the best non-cheating driver? Ok, then, let's go with that. Congratulations to Ronn Lauritzen for his second place finish last ni... wait a minute. Wasn't it Lauritzen who was the dominant driver in weekly racing last year and the defending HDT champion? Nah, he must be a cheater, too. Alright then, congrats to Thursday night's third place finisher Vern Jackson! Yeah, he hasn't won in a while so he must have been the only legal guy in the top three! Yes, folks, your logic is astounding.

Rather than assume a proven winner must be cheating, why don't we sit back and appreciate the talent we are able to witness by the accomplishments of successful drivers we are able to watch week in and week out? Yes, this sport is full of good drivers - hell, great drivers - and it is their talent that gets them there. Like I said, the Mods who race weekly in Indee are among the best anywhere. Enjoy that luxury!

Tonight, I'm headed across town for the Night of Destruction during the Benton County Fair in Vinton. It will include a roll-over contest, trailer race, a wall of fire(?) and who knows what else. All I know, the havoc will be enjoyed by all.

If you plan to head to Vinton, the event is scheduled to start at 7, however you'll want to get there early. I promise you it will be standing room only. Avoid the long lines and find yourself a seat. I'll be helping put on wristbands at the main gate so be sure to say hi!

Tomorrow, I'll return to Independence for the weekly program which will include double features in the IMCA Late Model, IMCA Northern SportMod and IMCA Hobby Stock division. It's been a month now since mid-season championships were cut short due to rain. Pesky weather since then and a night off during the Buchanan County Fair have delayed the completion of those events. Eight features are in store Saturday night so it will be a great night to head to Indee!

As always, thanks for reading and have a great weekend!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Racing in Wisconsin - notes from a weekend in the Badger State

When I found out this spring that we wouldn't be racing at Independence Motor Speedway the weekend of July 16 due to a concert during the Buchanan County Fair, I made plans to do some traveling. I spoke with Chet Christner, the new Operations Manager at 141 Speedway in Francis Creek, Wis., about plans to head to northeast Wisconsin during my weekend off.

I stuck to those plans this past weekend, made the six hour trip to the Green Bay area and took in two nights of racing, along with some sightseeing along Lake Michigan in Manitowoc plus a trip to Lambeau Field.

Initially, I was hoping to watch the races at Luxemburg Speedway Friday night, however they, too, were off due to the Kewaunee County Fair. After talking it over with Chet, we decided to venture to a track new to both of us - Manitowoc County Expo Speedway.

After visiting a friend in northern Illinois Thursday, I ventured north and made my way to Manitowoc by the middle of the afternoon Friday. I played it by ear and hadn't made any hotel reservations prior to arriving, so I settled for the Super 8 just off the highway.

After discovering Manitowoc had a population of nearly 35,000, I figured I'd have to dial in the GPS to find the track - which isn't always an easy task. Race tracks and GPS don't always go hand-in-hand.

Upon checking in, I asked the hotel attendant if the race track was in the vicinity.

To my pleasant surprise, she replied, "Yep, it sure is. Actually, it's within walking distance."

After a brief hesitation, she said, "Although I wouldn't actually walk if I were you."

I must have given her a puzzled look because she continued to say there were heavy traffic areas and driving would make the trip easier. It was less than a mile away so I was good to go.

After a quick trip to the lake to snap some pictures, I met Chet at the track. Listed as a 1/3-mile clay oval, the track was relatively flat, but provided for some great racing all night. The fact that the WDLMA Late Models were on-hand for a $1,500-to-win special made the show that much better.

A nice field of 27 Late Models signed in and it was Nick Anvelink parking his #15 in victory lane after some impressive driving through lapped traffic in what I believe was a 50-lap feature.

I heard reports that the crowds in Manitowoc were generally very low, with typical numbers hovering around the 100 mark for grandstand spectators. The crowd Friday night was fantastic, which many locals attributed to the Late Model special.

Manitowoc also had a Grand National division (which reminded me of the Pro Stocks and Limited Late Models from past years on Iowa ovals), a local SportMod division (which had some crossover with local IMCA sanctioned tracks) and Sport 4s (the local four cylinder division).

Apparently, recently low car counts led the track to remove 360 Sprints from its weekly schedule, but that didn't keep the crowd home Friday night.

After the races concluded at around 10 p.m., I made my way back to the hotel to rest up for a busy Saturday. That following morning, I made the 30 minute trip north to Green Bay to get a close-up look at Lambeau Field before heading about 20 miles back south to Francis Creek for that evening's races.

As track owner Toby Kruse said Saturday night, the atmosphere is unique. The layout of the facility alone, which includes a full-service bar overlooking the race track, and an egg-shaped 1/3-mile oval (some say it's closer to 1/4-mile), makes the visit to 141 a fantastic experience. Add to that, the people in Wisconsin are incredibly friendly and welcoming and made the visit that much more enjoyable.

Turns one and two offer up a lot of racing room, however the back stretch carries you down to a narrow turns three and four, which makes for some intense racing. Two and three-wide racing was common throughout nearly every heat race and feature Saturday night. It's simply a great place to watch a race and there really is no bad seat in the house... assuming you can find a seat. The stands were packed and I understand that is typical for a Saturday night at 141.

The IMCA Modified feature was a thrilling 21-lap event. Benji LaCrosse eventually came out on top after Jeremy Jacobs and Brad Lautenbach battled and swapped the lead.

Dustin Loberger earned the IMCA Stock Car win after holding off a slew of drivers in that 21-lapper and Robbie Thiel got his first IMCA Northern SportMod win of the year. The Grand Nationals also compete at 141 and Charlie Sancinati (pronounced Cincinnati... how's that for the perfect name for a racer?) took top honors while Mike Conard won in Street Stocks and Matt Brehmer earned his seventh win of the year in the Sport 4s. Angie and Brian, I'm still upset I didn't see the fist pump!

Although I'd been to other tracks in Wisconsin, there were a few nuances about the programs in this past weekend that I've never seen in Iowa. Rather than tractor tires, Manitowoc used a dozen garbage barrels (much like you see at most dirt tracks that people are expected to, but rarely do, use to throw away their trash) as their barriers. The barrels were stationed next to tires that were buried in each set of turns.

The barrels offered a clean, crisp appearance, however they did get in on the action throughout the show. Yes, they created minimal damage to cars that may have driven into them, but they were light in weight and made their way onto the track on occasion. While the locals said they cause more cautions than they're worth, I don't believe the yellow flag waved once Friday night for a barrel on the loose.

A second unique thing I noticed at both Manitowoc and 141 was the lack of victory lane interviews. I know most folks in Iowa are used to hearing the winning drivers interviewed in victory lane, however that wasn't the case this weekend.

Actually, according to Chet, victory lane interviews don't occur much at all in Wisconsin. He found out first-hand that race fans in the area aren't interested in hearing their favorite winning drivers talk about their wins. After attempting a victory lane interview earlier in the season, Chet said it was a one-and done deal. The folks in Wisconsin want their racing and don't feel the need to be interrupted by hearing the winning drivers speak.

Rather than interview the winners, the winning drivers are asked to help open the show the following week. At both Manitowoc and 141, last week's winners were given American flags and followed the pace car around the track during the national anthem. I have to admit, that was pretty sweet.

One other interesting thing I noticed was that the feature for the four cylinder division was the last event on the schedule both nights... and very few people left until the entire show was over. Yes, Wisconsin race fans really do love their racing and they respect the competitors in every division taking part in the show.

Thanks to Chet, Toby and the entire 141 crew for their hospitality Saturday night. I had a great time and have already made plans to return for the Creek Classic in October.

The only concern I had about the show (other than the missing fist pump) was the mysterious mustard stain that appeared on my shorts. Like I told Angie Moeller and Brian Lautenbach in the scoring booth, I don't remember table dancing on the condiment table, but the weekend was kind of a blur, so anything is possible!

Next up for me is a mid-week trip to Buena Vista Raceway in Alta this Wednesday where I'll be filling in on the mic for Chad Meyer. I've been to BVR three times before - once for a July 4 special around 12 years ago and Hawkeye Dirt Tour races in 2012 and 2013. I'm looking forward to seeing my first weekly program in Alta.

Thursday is the first of two big shows this week at Independence Motor Speedway. The World of Outlaws Late Model Series and XSAN Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds will take center stage July 24. Details for that event are available at Reminder: That event will not be broadcast live so if you want to see it as it happens, we invite you to Independence this Thursday. The Modified portion of the show will be available on video at at a later date.

Saturday, make-up features in the IMCA Late Models, IMCA Northern SportMods and IMCA Hobby Stocks are scheduled in Independence. That will be followed by a complete program for all five weekly divisions.

It's a busy week all over the region and the weather looks great. Be sure to support a track in your area as the second half of the season is in full swing.

Have a great week and, as always, thanks for reading!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Ballard, Happel split double IMCA Hobby Stock features in Vinton

A pair of IMCA Hobby Stock features awaited race fans Sunday night at Benton County Speedway. Severe weather cut the July 6 program short, leaving the Hobby Stock division to make up the remaining 12 laps of its 15-lapper Sunday night. A complete show in all six weekly divisions was also part of Sunday's schedule. (complete results follow)

Nathan Ballard picked up right where he left off July 6. He held the point when rain cut action short and took command when the event resumed Sunday night. Ballard held off pressure from Brian Happel and Justin Wacha to score the victory, his division-leading fourth of the season in Vinton.

All-time, Ballard has 10 Hobby Stock wins in weekly racing history at the speedway. He sits tied with Danny Dvorak and Frankie Dulin for 13th on that list. Ballard now owns two wins each during the months of May, June, July and August, along with a win in April and one in September.

In the regular 15-lapper, a half dozen drivers were poised to take home top honors, however Brian Happel broke free from traffic late to drive to victory.

Outside front row starter Shawn Kuennen held the early advantage with Vince Buchholz and Wacha in tow. As that trio battled, Happel, Benji Irvine and Ballard made their way into contention as the front-runners ran in two and three-wide formation throughout the event.

Running the low and middle grooves, Irvine unseated Kuennen out front on lap seven with Ballard and Happel making their way into second and third a short time later.

Happel swept to the high side as the leaders ran in three-wide formation off turn two with one lap to go. Happel surged ahead down the back stretch and held off pressure and contact from his nearest pursuers to score the thrilling win.

The victory was Happel's third of the season in Vinton and 12th of his weekly racing career at the speedway. He finished the night tied with Paul Shepherd for seventh on the all-time list. With four wins all-time during the month of July, this month matches August as the most successful months of Happel's career at the speedway.

A pair of drivers who have seen a lot of success through the years in Vinton found victory lane Sunday night. For each of them, it was one day shy of the 12th anniversary of their first career wins at the speedway.

Damon Murty earned his first IMCA Stock Car win at the speedway July 21, 2002 and Troy Cordes got his first Vinton win in the IMCA Modified division that same night nearly 12 years ago. Murty drove to his 65th Vinton Stock Car win Sunday night and Cordes earned his 43rd Vinton Modified win a short time later.

Second row starter Kaleb Bentley enjoyed the early lead in the Modified 20-lapper. He set the pace while Patrick Flannagan and Ronn Lauritzen gave chase.

Both drivers worked past Bentley on the third circuit and then battled for the lead for numerous laps while Cordes, J.D. Auringer, Joe Docekal and Scott Hogan worked their way into contention.

Running the low groove, Flannagan held Lauritzen at bay until Lauritzen worked around him on the fourth circuit. Lauritzen started to extend his advantage until Flannagan fought back down low to regain control on lap eight.

While the leaders continued to wage war out front, Cordes was running the middle and high grooves in a battle with Auringer for third while Docekal and Hogan shared a similar fight for fifth.

Meantime, Flannagan regained the point with five laps to go. Cordes broke free from Auringer long enough to sneak to the inside of Lauritzen for second. Once he secured that position, Cordes returned to the top side to challenge Flannagan.

Cordes pulled even with the leader as the white flag waved and rocketed ahead of the field down the back stretch. Cordes sped to victory in lapped traffic to earn his fourth win of the season. Hogan surged around Flannagan to steal second at the line in the exciting finish.

The 43 wins of his weekly racing career in Vinton place Cordes just one win shy of all-time leader Hogan. He has earned 12 of those 43 wins in the month of July.

Adam Gebel and Paul Shepherd shared time at the front of the 15-lap IMCA Stock Car feature before Murty powered into the lead on lap three.

Murty pulled away from the field to score the dominant win, his fourth of the season. Murty has now won a minimum of four Stock Car features in each of the last 10 seasons in Vinton. His 65 career Stock Car wins at the speedway leads all drivers.

Tony Olson continued his hot streak in the IMCA Northern SportMod division. Olson, who returned to racing weekly in Vinton June 15, has competed only five nights and has won three times, including Sunday night. He has finished no worse than fourth in those five events.

Pole-sitter Travis Peterson took the lead at the drop of the green in that 15-lapper and quickly pulled away from traffic. Peterson showed the way while Olson was running the low side through the pack after starting in row six.

Peterson built a sizable advantage by the time Olson made his way into the runner-up spot after only five laps. Olson quickly went to work and reeled in the leader just past the midway point of the event. With five laps to go, Olson worked the low side off turn two to steal the lead from Peterson on his way to victory.

His 12 career SportMod wins in weekly racing in Vinton is third-best in the division. All but five of those wins have come in the month of July.

Brody Willett used a last lap pass to earn his second win of the year in the BCS Micro Mod division. Buster Pate held the point throughout that 10-lapper until Willett closed the gap in the waning moments. He worked around Pate on the final circuit to steal the victory.

Bill Whalen Jr. dominated the eight-lap IMCA Sport Compact feature to earn his second straight win and seventh of the year. Whalen has now won a minimum of two straight races four separate times in his career in Vinton.

With five wins during the month of July, Whalen has 18 in his career in Vinton, placing him third on the all-time Sport Compact list.

My weekend travels took me to the Green Bay area for two nights of dirt track racing. If time allows, tomorrow I'll post some thoughts on my travels and trip to northeast Wisconsin.

I plan to head to Buena Vista Raceway in Alta this Wednesday to fill in on the mic and then return to Independence Motor Speedway Thursday for the World of Outlaws Late Model Series/XSAN Hawkeye Dirt Tour for IMCA Modifieds double dip. All of that is before double features in three divisions Saturday night in Independence.

It's a busy time of year all over the region so be sure to get out and support your local track. Have a great week!

Feature (made up July 20): 1. 29 Nathan Ballard, Marengo; 2. 46 Brian Happel, Vinton; 3. 45 Justin Wacha, Vinton; 4. 79 Benji Irvine, Stanley; 5. 78 Matt Brown, Dysart; 6. 17K Kyle Parizek, Belle Plaine; 7. 1 Scott Siems, Cedar Rapids; 8. 357 Brett Vanous, Quasqueton; 9. 07 Jacob Keiser, Marengo; 10. 91 Chris Moore, Fairfax.
Heat one (completed July 6): 1. Happel; 2. Wacha; 3. Irvine; 4. Brown; 5. Siems.
Heat two (completed July 6): 1. Ballard; 2. Keiser; 3. Parizek; 4. Moore; 5. Vanous.

Feature: 1. 71 Troy Cordes, Dunkerton; 2. 33D Scott Hogan, Vinton; 3. F7 Patrick Flannagan, Cedar Rapids; 4. 10K Ronn Lauritzen, Jesup; 5. 00 J.D. Auringer, Waterloo; 6. 12D Joe Docekal, Dysart; 7. 10 Kaleb Bentley, Fairbank; 8. 4 Ryan Maitland, Waterloo; 9. 57B Dennis Betzer, Central City; 10. 415 Josh Barta, Cedar Falls; 11. 14 Tom Hanson, Vinton; 12. 23 J.J. Scott, Iowa City; 13. 7 Todd Jensen, Waterloo; 14. 17 Devin Trumbley, Dunkerton; DNS/15. 80 Jerry Dedrick, Vinton.
Heat one: 1. Cordes; 2. Hogan; 3. Lauritzen; 4. Bentley; 5. Barta; 6. Betzer; 7. Trumbley.
Heat two: 1. Auringer; 2. Docekal; 3. Flannagan; 4. Jensen; 5. Maitland; 6. Hanson; 7. Scott; 8. Dedrick.

Feature: 1. 99D Damon Murty, Chelsea; 2. 67 Justin Stander, Vinton; 3. 99 Erick Knutsen, Cedar Rapids; 4. 15 Norman Chesmore, Rowley; 5. 47 Scott Pippert, Elberon; 6. 8 Curtis Roster, Vinton; 7. 76 Mike Galli, Urbana; 8. 14 Shane Ebaugh, Evansdale; 9. 8B Scott Beauregard, Brandon; 10. 62G Adam Gebel, Cedar Falls; 11. 31S Paul Shepherd, Marengo; 12. 3 Ryan Coleman, Vinton; 13. 76X Chad Siems, Shellsburg; 14. 18 Heath Evens, Independence.
Heat one: 1. Pippert; 2. Beauregard; 3. Roster; 4. Stander; 5. Knutsen; 6. Siems; DQ Coleman.
Heat two: 1. Chesmore; 2. Murty; 3. Shepherd; 4. Gebel; 5. Ebaugh; 6. Evens; 7. Galli.

Feature: 1. T23 Tony Olson, Cedar Rapids; 2. 3R Danny Dvorak, Vinton; 3. 25T Travis Peterson, Gladbrook; 4. 72 Brett Lowry, Montezuma; 5. 00 Jim Buhlman, Cedar Falls; 6. 7SR Shawn Ritter, Keystone; 7. 17 Dawn Krall, Evansdale; 8. 95 Mike McDonald, Cedar Rapids; 9. J2 Dave Schulze, Keystone; 10. 40J Jason Doyle, Cedar Rapids; 11. MR09 Kurt Hogan, Vinton; 12. 10S John Schaefer, La Porte City; 13. 57R Ryan King, Montour; 14. 339 Kevin Hurst, Janesville; 15. 22H Curt Hilmer, Dysart; 16. 199 Dave Burrell, Dysart; 17. 22 Matt Petrzelka, Norway; 18. K3 Kyle Olson, Cedar Rapids; 19. 15B Troy Burkhart, Urbana; 20. T17 Tom Rawlins, Kellogg; 21. 7D Dakoda Sellers, Vinton; 22. CH19 Colby Heishman, Brooklyn; 23. 19J Jenae Gustin, Marshalltown; 24. 6K Lee Rouse, Atkins.
Heat one: 1. Peterson; 2. Sellers; 3. Krall; 4. Ritter; 5. Dvorak; 6. Burrell; 7. Heishman; 8. Rawlins.
Heat two: 1. K. Olson; 2. Gustin; 3. Lowry; 4. Burkhart; 5. Hogan; 6. Buhlman; 7. Schulze; 8. Hurst.
Heat three: 1. T. Olson; 2. McDonald; 3. Doyle; 4. Hilmer; 5. Schaefer; 6. King; 7. Petrzelka; 8. Rouse.

Feature: 1. 46 Brian Happel, Vinton; 2. 29 Nathan Ballard, Marengo; 3. 79 Benji Irvine, Stanley; 4. 45 Justin Wacha, Vinton; 5. 23X Chad Albert, Cedar Rapids; 6. 55 Vince Buchholz, Tama; 7. 35B Shawn Kuennen, Hazleton; 8. 58B Randy Byerly, Tipton; 9. 81M Travis Merical, Marshalltown; 10. 1 Scott Siems, Cedar Rapids; 11. 78 Matt Brown, Dysart; 12. 17K Kyle Parizek, Belle Plaine; 13. 20B Matt Burmeister, Dunkerton; DNS/14. 53 Ray Fish, Oelwein; DNS/15. 19B Jim Sheldon, Marion.
Heat one: 1. Irvine; 2. Parizek; 3. Brown; 4. Burmeister; 5. Kuennen; 6. Albert; 7. Siems; 8. Merical.
Heat two: 1. Happel; 2. Ballard; 3. Wacha; 4. Buchholz; 5. Byerly; 6. Fish; 7. Sheldon.

1. 00W Bill Whalen Jr., Riverside; 2. 36 Dave Reed; 3. 3S Craig Streeter, Vinton; DNS/4. 07 Joe Goodenbour, Garrison.
Heat: 1. Whalen; 2. Reed; 3. Streeter; 4. Goodenbour.

Feature: 1. 00 Brody Willett, Alburnett; 2. 111 Buster Pate, Hiawatha; 3. 2 Brandon Maitland, Waterloo; 4. 71 Tristan Cordes, Dunkerton; 5. 18 Jeff Davis, La Porte City; 6. 6E Don Erger, Brandon; 7. 35 Jason Gorman, New Hampton; 8. 111A A.J. Witten, Cedar Rapids.
Heat: 1. Erger; 2. Pate; 3. Cordes; 4. Willett; 5. Gorman; 6. Maitland; 7. Davis; DNS Witten.