Past the Pit Gate
by Danny Rosencrans

 

May 8, 2012 - The weatherman threatened, but finally gave in so we could get night number three of the 2012 racing season in the books. At first glance, it looked as though there would be very few there to see it, but when the engines fired and the sprinkles quit, a nice sized crowd filed in for some great action.

By my count, 90 race teams signed in to compete in the six classes, with a quality field of 23 UMP late models leading the way. The early buzz in the pit area, and then the stands was the surprise apearance of national star Dennis Erb, Jr., from Carpentersville,Il. On second thought it was not a total surprise, as the veteran has formed an alliance this season with local driver Jerry Lierly. Both drivers are competing in Scott Bloomquist chassis, and Erb is carrying the JL Scrapmetals sponorship, and Jerry has been shadowing Dennis at several midwestern events. Many of the UMP tracks still use time trial qualifying, something Erb prefers, and drawing a row four heat race starting spot likely did nothing to change his mind. Erb is no stranger to the Bullring, having captured a pair of Northern All star events here in the mid 2000s, and he has also been on hand for Summernational events. Although the configuration of the speedway is somewhat differnt, one hot lap session and he was good to go. Heat one went to I-55 Raceway in Pevely, Mo. regular Dewayne Kiefer, a feature winner in 2012, followed by Clint Kirkham, back after blowing his engine in week one. Heat two also held a surprise for the QR faithful, as 14 time track champ Mark Burgtorf took to the track in a car sporting his familiar # 7B instead of his new ride, # 15. Former Burgtorf cohort Todd Nelson was planning to race the machine this season, but a change in employment will see the former 4 cylinder racer mocing to New York state, so he will have Mark in the car at least on sunday nights at QR. Mark came from row three to nab the heat win ahead of point leader Brandon Sheppard. Erb then came from the back to grab heat three ahead of Lierly. When the top two from the heats came to the track for dash, Erb and Burgtorf started on the front row. The two waged a side by side duel before Mark suddenly exited the track off turn four while leading. The main engine belt had broken, and the # 7B was done for the night. Erb took the win to earn the feature pole, with Sheppard second. The 30 lap main event was slowed five times by cautions, but Erb was able to build a lead each time. after a lap 14 restart, Kiefer wrestled the runner up spot from Sheppard. Meanwhile, 15 year old Bobby Pierce, who started third, spun in turn four on lap six, creating a multi car mess, and sending him to the back. The youngster then made a edge of your seat charge back to the front, riding the top side of the still tacky track. At the finish, it was Erb, Kiefer, Sheppard, Michael Long in the Jennings Racing # 56J, and Pierce. Michael started in row six, and turned in a solid performance. after the checkers flew, eighth running Keith Pratt broke something in his engine, hopefully nothing serious. Dustin Griffin was a scratch on the night, and Kevin Tomlinson and Gary Wilson made their season debuts. The news did not stop on race night, as the announcement came today that point leader Sheppard has signed on to driver the Rocket chassis house car on the World of Outlaw late model circuit for the remainder of the year. Mark Richards is the Rocket owner, and his son Josh - Kid Rocket - who is the driver of the # 1 made his NASCAR Nationwide debut last week in the # 39. We wish both youngsters the best of luck, but we will miss Brandon at QR!

  The UMP modifieds turned out 21 strong,ran the first feature, and absolutely dazzled the crowd with a side by side battle. Robbie Reed jumped to the early lead, holding on until Dave Weitholder slipped by on lap eight. One lap later, Reed retook the spot,with the caution coming out on lap eleven. The two raced side by side, as Michael Long looked for racing room up front. The yellow came out again on lap 15, and after a restart yellow, Long headed to the trailer. Reed held the low line, as Weitholder pounded the cushion. This night would belong to Robbie, with Dave nabbing second. Jake Griffin, the 13 year old, ran his best race to date to take third, followed by Steven Delonhjay, Shawn Deering and Jared Schlipman.

  Only seven IMCA stock cars checked in, but as usual the racing was excellent. Heat winner Michael Larsen was racing with a new set up and looked strong before breaking something in the rear end of his # 48 and flipping on the backstretch. Meanwhile, Abe Huls and Aaron Brocksieck dueled for the top spot, before Terry Houston charged to the front with his # 97 Ford after a side by side battlw with second finishing Brocksieck. Jerry Jansen scored a third place finish, and Huls, who made a trip to the hot pit area for a tire change, took fourth. Gabe Harrison was fifth.

  The IMCA sport mod class has yet to hit its stride with ten cars on hand. Kudos to track officials for only running one heat. I may be old school, but five car heats don't do it for me in any class! Keokuk, Iowa hot dog Jim Gillenwater has had nothing but bad luck in the early going, but he picked up the win on Sunday. Resurgent Tony Dunker took second, with Joe Bliven turning in a strong third. Second generation driver Tanner Klingle, and Rick Barlow, Jr. completed the first five.

  Jake Powers powered his way to the front of the hobby stock 20 lapper, leading Nathan Anders to the flag. Jeremy Buss, Brandon Symmonds, and Jim Brown were next in the 13 car field.

  The IMCA sport compact field is really showing signs of healty growth, with several new entries in the 16 car field. Andrew Davis made the tow from Keokuk, Iowa to grab the checkers after battling up front for several laps. Top contender Chuck Fullenkamp went pitside after a lap nine altercation, credited with a last place finish. Another Keokuk ace, Mike Hornung Jr rolled home second ahead of defending champion Seith Woodruff, Thomas Angelo, and Joe Mc Dannald. Congrats to previous feature winner Kimberly Abott on her high school graduation !

  We have one more week of regular racing before the Northern All Star late models invade the Bullring on Sunday May 20.

  See you at the track!

 

 

 

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