Past the Pit Gate
by Danny Rosencrans

 

  April 3, 2012 -  A new chapter began sunday night as Quincy Raceways opened the gates for the 38th consecutive season of racing. Late models have competed in all but one of those seasons, starting as a non sanctioned class, followed by NASCAR affiliation, one season again non sanctioned, and then under the IMCA banner. But now for the first time, the class will follow the UMP - United Midwest Promoters - weekly rules. In reality, UMP has very few rules, and is generally considered an " open " class. UMP is the dominant late model as well as modified sanctioning body in Illinois, and the recent success of the modifieds at Quincy Raceways helped lead to the switch in the late model division. If opening night was any indication, the change will be a good one. Depending on your perspective, roughly half of the 21 car late model field consisted of drivers who did not race regularly  - some not at all - during the IMCA years. Add to that the fact that there are at least three local cars not yet finished, and the potential remains for some outstanding fields as the season goes along. The uniqueness of UMP racing is that most drivers focus on national points more than indidual track points, and drivers can accumulate national points at any sanctioned track. As a result, there is a lot of movement between tracks, but with QR being the only Sunday night track running UMP lates in Illinois, the potential is there to see the points chasers show up quite often. I may be wrong on this , but I believe late model drivers use their best 30 finishes during the season towards the national points title. While some of the cars and drivers in the pits Sunday may have been unfamiliar to some fans, I can assure you they were a talented group. One name that many fans did recognize was third generation Springfield area ace Brandon Sheppard. He is the son and grandson of Steve Jr, and Steve Sr., both outstanding racers in their day. Steve Jr was still at the top of his game when he pretty much hung up his helmet to help young Brandon, who is also competing for World of Outlaws late model rookie of the year honors in 2012. When he landed the pole position in Sundays 30 lap main event by virtue of his win in the six car position dash, he became the favorite to pick up the first win of the season. However defending track champion Justin Reed had other ideas, and after chasing Brandon for a few laps, JR snuck inside the # B5 car to grab the lead and the $1,000 top prize.In fact, after a mid race restart, Sheppard dropped to third when 14 time track champion Mark Burgtorf used the high line to move into second. Yes, that was Mark, sporting a new number, as he has hooked up with Lynn Richard out of Mt Pleasant, Iowa for the 2012 campaign. The Richard Realty and Auction cars always carry the

# 15, and it will indeed take some getting used to seeing Burgtorf in something besides his signature # 7. Hopefully we will see a lot more of Mark in 2012. Sheppard eventually regained the runner up spot  ahead of Burgtorf. Matt bailey showed the doubters that an IMCA spec engine could run with the big power plants, at least on a dry slick track, as he started 11th on the grid and charged to fourth, while double duty Michael Long brought the Jennings Racing # 56J home in fifth. Michael has resumed driving duties in the 56J as Justin Jennings attends NASCAR tech school.

 The UMP modifieds drew 19 cars on opening night including some new faces and some out of towners. After a first lap restart, the mods clicked off a dozen green flag laps before a handfull of cautions slowed the action between laps 13 and 15. By then Michael Long had built good sized lead. But defending champion Steven Delonjay survived the caution flag and took advantage of Michael coming back to the field, overtaking the # 18L with three laps to go and stretching out a lead to the checkers. Robbie Reed, Moline, Il driver Donovan Lodge, and James Leffew trailed the top two. Tony Dunker was forced to enter his # 3 sportmod in the UMP feature as well, as he awaits the power plant for his familiar # 4 UMP mod.

  The IMCA stock car class had 12 entries, as Dallas Center, Iowa driver Ty Hill, winner of the best appearing car award at the mall show made good on his promise to tow down to race at QR. While Ty turned in a fifth place run, he could only watch as Jerry Jansen, Abe Huls and Terry Houston duked it out for the first checkers of the season. Jansen led the early laps before Abe took over, then held off the Fords of Houston and Jansen for the win. Jeef Mueller moved from row five to capture fourth, while defending track champ Aaron Brocksieck finished sixth.

 Although the warm temps and southerly breeze created a problem with dust during the heat races, things were going along smoothly and those few folks who left after the first three features had run were no doubt impressed with the smoothly run program. It was not until the IMCA sport mods came to the track that things went downhill. after a first lap caution, a couple banks of lights on the backstretch went out, causing about a 30 minute delay. When racing resumed, the mods did what they too often do - create multiple yellow flags. the race turned in to a bit of a marathon. In the end, however, Tony Dunker and his # 3 ( Dunker in 3, Burgtorf in 15, what is going on! ) stayed out of trouble to pick up the win. Another double duty driver, Tanner Klingele, came on late to nab second. Tanner is carrying his Dads old number, 73 on his sport mod while keeping his # 3 on his hobby stock. Fort Madison, Iowa driver Dean Kratzer challenged early for the win, and settled for third ahead of the # 20 cars of Bobby Anders and Joe Bliven. The night was a rewarding one for Kratzer who only recently got out of the hospital with health issues which put his planned new sport mod on hold. 14 cars checked in on the first night.

  After watching the sport mods, the hobby stocks tried to outdo them in the yellow flag count. Multiple incidents pared the 13 car field quickly. What is definitely one of the best looking cars at the speedway, the # 0 of Jake Powers, overcame an early race incident and moved through the field to the top spot. Jake nabbed the win ahead of Jeremy Buss, Travis Booher, Nathan Hays, and Jamie Bevill. Incidently, Booher has his # 38 for sale already if you have the urge to go racing. Defending hobby stock champion Steve Carlin was the only 2011 titlest not in attendance.

  The final race of the night was the 12 cat IMCA Sport Compacts ( don't call'em Wild Things! ) Fortunately the 4 cylinder hot shoes restored some order to the eb=vening, running a quick and entertaining 12 laps. Another Fort Madison pilot, Chuck Fullenkamp, picked up the win in his # 48. Defending track champion Seith Woodruff ran second, and newcomer Andrew Davis from Keokuk, Iowa was third. Brandon Lambert high scholl senior Kimberly Abbott rounded out the first five.

  Even with the delays, the program ended before 10:00 PM, and hopefully the large crowd got thier moneys worth.

  Racing resumes this Easter Sunday with hot laps at 4:45 and racing at 5:30, and Sunday April 15 will bring the first special event of 2012 as the UMP travelling Northern All Star late models will come do battle with the locals for a $2,000 top prize.

  See you Sunday!

 

Updated and Maintained by