Past the Pit Gate
by Danny Rosencrans

September, 26 - The 2011 racing season at Quincy Raceways came to what by all accounts was a successful conclusion Sunday night, September 25. What started out as a year with many question marks transformed around mid season into one of the “feel good " stories of 2011. In no small part, the track preparation work by co owner Paul Holtschlag helped spur the revival, and we saw some of the best side by side racing in the history of the speedway. In fact, one of the inaugural Quincy Raceways Hall of Fame inductees on hand told me that the third UMP modified heat race was one of the best races he had ever seen at the Broadway Bullring. And that endorsement came from none other than the legendary late model ace Steve Fraise. The highlight of the evening, at least for this veteran reporter may indeed have been the induction ceremonies at intermission of this first class of Hall of Famers. Although as a board member I was unable to attend the final vote, the six finalists fit in perfectly in my humble opinion. I was given the honor of presenting the first plaque to the Scott family, founders of the speedway back in 1975. Given that I have been associated with the track since the beginning as a car sponsor, pit crewman, fan in the stands and for these many years as a pit reporter and father of the former track announcer, my roots go deep with this family. Although Albert, " Scotty " Scott is no longer with us, the legacy preserved by his son Bob, Bob’s wife Jan, son Jeff and daughter Becky was vital in keeping racing alive in the community, and I was pleased to make the presentation to Bob, Jan, and Jeff, who now keep busy at Scotties Fun Spot, at the north end of the track entrance. Also honored was long time track employee, jack of all trades, Don Hummel, who likes to tell the story of carrying the tape measure while Albert carried the stakes as the track was plotted out on Dons second day on the job. The Quincy Pepsi Cola Bottling Company was given the award in the sponsor class. There may have been a time when QR presented a mid season championship sponsored by someone other than Pepsi, but if so, I sure can't remember when. In the driver class, there was little question that for all the standout competitors we have seen in the tracks 37 year history, three stand out for accomplishments and longevity. From almost the beginning days of the late model division through the early 1990s, no one came close to the domination of the “Flyin Iowan, “Steve Fraise. Steve captured nine track titles as the facility navigated the early years of NASCAR weekly racing, and he was a force throughout the Midwest as well. Fraise also introduced Quincy Raceways to fabricated race cars, as he ran a Harris Trackstar chassis as “store bought “race cars began to replace street machines in the late model class. I have always counted this affable gentleman as a friend, even in the days when the driver I sponsored and crewed for was trying to find ways to run with the # 45. Fraise has always been, and continues to be unassuming and gracious, and seemed pleased and perhaps a bit embarrassed by the attention he received on Sunday. Now retired from his job with the railroad, Steve and wife Debbie keep busy with children and grandchildren. Until the middle of the 2010 season, their son Tony also enjoyed a stellar racing career, but family time has taken center stage for now. The second driver honored was Henry, " Hank the Crank " DeLonjay. Hank made his early mark in the old sportsman division at track, wheeling a white and red # 35 Chevrolet to three track titles. Looking back at the roster of up and coming drivers that he outran on a weekly basis makes those days even more amazing. When the modified class was introduced at QR, Henry made a smooth transition, and became even more dominant, netting ten track championships. Again, he was also a feared performer at other tracks in the area, and was a consistent winner throughout his career at other venues. Henry spent a short time in a late model with some success before returning to the class he knew so well. His battles over the years with drivers such as Mike Karhoff and Sam Burgtorf are still talked up when race fans gather. Like Fraise, Henry stepped aside at the top of his game to make way for his son. While proud of his induction, the long time Gardner Denver employee was even more pleased that son Steven captured both the UMP modified season championship feature, and the track title on this same night. For Steven it is his third track title overall, as he carves out a path that may some rival that of his Hall of Fame father. The only controversy surrounding the final inductee was if he should be honored while still driving full time. The answer was a resounding " yes! " There is simply no way this mission could begin without Mark Burgtorf being part of the initial class. Still at the top of his game, Mark chose this night to compete in both the IMCA late model and UMP modified classes, and brought home a runner up finish in both, by a combined margin of less than a car length! In fact, the ceremonies were delayed slightly as we waited for Mark to unstrap from his modified after the aforementioned final heat race. His accomplishments have been well documented in this column, but certainly bear repeating. a simply unbelievable 14 late model track championships, covering both the end of the tracks NASCAR affiliation and the beginning of the IMCA years. 2007 was the last of these titles, and that streak was perhaps only slowed as Mark began to venture out to other venues, delving more and more into " open motor " racing. Although I do not have the exact number of years in my files, I can say with confidence that Burgtorf has recorded late model feature wins in each of the last 20 seasons at QR, an astounding achievement. He also has IMCA Summer Series championships, IMCA national championships, out of town track championships, and perhaps his greatest crown of all, the NASCAR Central Region title in 1994. Mark is absolutely proof positive that nice guys do finish first. He always has time for fans or those who just want to talk, and his accessibility to the media never wavers, even on a less than perfect night. While it would be special to have Mark back at QR on a regular basis, the longtime Blessing Hospital employee has pretty much " done it all " at home and can hardly be faulted for spreading his wings in the racing world. Like his fellow inductees, he has proven time and again to be a threat to win as he travels the Midwest in whatever division he chooses to run. I am certainly proud to think of all these folks as friends, and only hope they think charitably of me. Congratulations to the Hall of Fame class of 2011, the first ever at Quincy Raceways.

  Those of you who read my columns here or on Positively Racing. com knows that my preference is for a quick moving show with as little dead time as possible. So I found myself trying to lead the charge off the track Sunday night after the ceremonies so that we could get to the business of racing, especially on a chilly night with seven (?) classes on the card. Factoring in trophy presentations to the top three in the divisions whose point battles ended, and it was easy to see it would be a long Sunday night. Fortunately, with the smooth, fast track, all the classes were on good behavior, and the features clicked off in a timely manner. The IMCA stock cars ran first, with defending track champion Terry Houston doing all he could to capture another track title. Terry, who did not really take an interest in the points chase until later in the season, simply dominated the main event, winning by half a lap over Abe Huls and Gabe Harrison. Still Aaron Brocksieck turned in a fifth place run, good enough to nab his first stock car title by one point over Houston. Aaron also has a hobby stock championship on what is becoming an impressive resume, and he took a turn this night in the back up # 05 UMP modified of Dave Weitholder.

  The four race IMCA sport mod series finished up next, with locals Joe Bliven and Tony Dunker tied for the points lead. An anticipated battle between the two never got off the ground, as Dunker appeared to blow an engine in dramatic fashion on the first lap of the finale. That left Bliven only needing to run one lap to secure the crown, but after a trip to the hot pit for a tire change, he did much more. While former two time bomber track champ Jim Gillenwater of Keokuk, Iowa cruised to his second win in the series, Bliven charged to third at the stripe behind another Iowa driver, Rick Barlow, Jr. The championship was the first for Bliven, and also earned him Illinois state honors.

  The IMCA/crate late models ran third on the card. with no points on the line. Joey Gower grabbed the pole starting position on the redraw, and paced the first 19 laps after dueling early with Keith Pratt. A restart came for debris on lap 20, and following that it was Burgtorf on the move. When the yellow waved, Mark was in fifth, and seemed to be stuck there. On the restart, however, he moved up to the heavy cushion at the top of the track, and set sail for the front in trademark fashion. Although  he was able to advance to second and put pressure on Gower, Joey held his line and drove to the stripe less than a car length in front for his second win in a row, and third overall. 2010 track champ Denny Woodworth advanced six spots to grab third, while track champion Justin Reed was MIA as he had been on the road with the rained out Summer Series. Incidentally, with no make up of that event, Justin finished fourth in the touring series points chase.

 The KIDZ Modz were again added to the card, and again featured three participants. While I am all for getting young folks involved in our sport, three cars does not a race make. Logan Michell, of Palmyra, Mo. took an easy win in the eight lap event.

  Second half sensation Jake Powers charged to feature win number four in the hobby stock class, with Bobby Anders trying to find a way by. Veteran Jim Powell ended the season with a nice run in third, and Steve Carlin used an uneventful sixth place finish to close out his fifth track championship, putting him fourth all time behind the three Hall of Famers in that category. With Steve saying he will not chase points in 2012 and Anders looking to move up, Powers becomes an early favorite in the chase for the hardware next season.

  Kimberly Abbott is another driver that has been on fire of late, and the young lady from Camp Point rolled to her third straight main event win at QR and fourth overall. Craig Bangert finished second, with Austin Uppinghouse third. Nick Wilkerson, who crews for late model driver Tom Darbyshire, made his first visit as a driver to QR and finished fourth ahead of Seth Woodruff, who still walked off with the track championship.

  The final event of 2011 was the UMP 25 lap finale. All but two of the 19 cars signed in took the green flag, with Steven DeLonjay perched on the front row. Dave Weitholder was not about to give the new champion another victory, and led the early and mid portion of the race. Robbie Reed also stayed within striking distance, and soon Burgtorf joined the fray. As the laps wound down, Steven regained the point, and edged Burgtorf by less than a second  with Reed third as the curtain came down on the 2011 season. The win gave DeLonjay his first modified title, and tied him with Michael Long in mod feature wins with eight. For those wondering, Michael, who had raced his mod the three nights previous, left it at home, and competed in the Justin Jennings late model again. Justin has settled in at  college in the Carolinas.

  Track Co owner Tony Rhinberger announced at the drivers meeting that the Sport Mods will be added to the card for the 2012 season, the only announced change as of now, which would give the track six weekly classes. Keep an eye on Quincy Raceways.com throughout the offseason for any other announcements, and don't forget to check out Positively Racing.com as well. Thanks for reading, have a great off season, and we will hopefully see everyone at the 2012 car show next March! Hope everyone enjoyed the races! 

 

 


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