Past the Pit Gate
by Danny Rosencrans

July 8, 2012) -  When the UMP Summernationals Hell Tour late model schedule came out, Quincy Raceways was not on it, which was no surprise. The last time the tour rolled through QR was 2009, and the car count was not up to par. However that was when the track was IMCA sanctioned, with the weekly late models not competititive with the big engine travellers. So when Farmer City, Il Raceway lost their July 6 date, QR officials entered into negotiations with UMP officials, and when they were allowed to make some adjustments to the purse structure, the deal was sealed. Had track owners Paul and Bob known that Friday would be another in a string of 100 degree plus high temps, they probably would not have made the deal. However area race fans proved on Friday how pleased they were, as the mostly later arriving crowd was one of the best at the Bullring in a while. And even the power outage caused by the vicious lighning and the renegade rain shower that shortened the Summit Modified Nationals feature event from 30 laps to eight did not dampen the positive vibes from the enthusiastic gathering.

The late model count of 31 was right on with most predictions, although I was a bit surprised that only 16 mods showed up for the $650 to win event. Nine hobby stocks rounded out the field, not a surprise number considering the increased pit fee, and the fact that it was a non points night.

  The start time was pushed back, with hot laps at 6:45, a smart move as this night started out as the hottest yet at the speedway.

  Modified hot laps wre combined with time trial qualifying, with four cars on the track at a time. Track points leader Dave Weitholder, who came in third in national UMP points set quick time at 15.284 around the .29 mile oval. The late models qualified two at a time, with tour point leader Brian Shirley and local hot shoe Robby Warner the first two out. Shirley blasted out a quick time of 13.73 seconds, and no else came close. Clint Kirkham led group three with a time just over 14 seconds for the runnerup honors.

  It was annonced that the top eight mods were locked into the 30 lap $650 to win feature, but of course with a count of 16, all would be qualified. So they contested what amounted to two position races for the feature lineup. Late model heats went to Shirley, defending national champ Ryan Unzicker, early season track regular Brandon Sheppard in his new Rocket house car ride, and two time QR Summernationals winner Shannon Babb. With four drivers transferring from each heat, only the top two from the B-main moved on, with Mike " Opie " Spatola besting QR regular Jim Moon for the top two spots. Former Iowa City, Ia racer Matt Furman, who now calls Columbus, Ohio home was a surprise entrant and staged a valiant run in the B. Matt tried to run the top side of the speedway, but with the mostly absent cushion, he fell short by one spot. Four provisional starters were added, with Justin Reed securing a spot as the top QR points earner not already qualified.

  With potential storm clouds building, the hobby stock feature took to the track, having been cut to 15 laps from 20, due both to weather and car count issues. Although this was a non points race, the Powers team had hustled all week to make repairs to the # 0 car, which suffered heavy damge last Sunday . After a trip to the frame shop, master builder Jerry put in some late nights, saying he wanted Jake to shake the machine out on Friday so any unknown issues could be corrected before Sunday. The youngster did even better, winning a side by side duel with fast approching Jeff Delonjay in the main event. Behind the front two, Tanner Klingele and Jeremy Buss also crossed the line door to door.

  The late models then hustled to the track for 40 laps of action with Shirley and Sheppard drawing the front row. " Squirrel " as Shirley is known, beat " Rocket Shepp" to turn one, and from that point the race was behind them. Sheppard, whose father Steve Sheppard Jr, failed to make the starting field in his # 5s, made a couple of runs at the # 3s, but settled for 40 laps in the runner up spot. At the exact halfway point, a vicious ligtning strike knocked out the newer quartz lights at track, with turns three and four going totally dark. At this point, the race was one lap from being official. After about 20 minutes,the lights cooled down and came back up, and racing resumed, as a couple of raindrops plopped down. Babb had been hounding Unzicker for third, and moved around on the restart. After a couple early shots at Sheppard, he settled into third, while Unzicker held off the "Highside Hustler " Jason Feger, for fourth. Dennis Erb, Jr. who dropped by the spedway take a feature win earlier this season, won a spirited duel with Jason Mcbride for sixth, while Ohio driver Jon Henry took eighth. Mark Burgtorf edged 17th starting Spatola for tenth, while 21st starting Reed gained ten spots to finish eleventh.  14 of 22 starters took the checkers. The lone lady racer in the field, Kathy Jarvis of Park City, Utah, earned a provisional start as she has run the bulk of the tour to date.

  By now, rain looked like a sure thing, but the mods came to the track, with Michael Long and Steven Delonjay in the front row. Delonjay won the drag race to turn one, and led until lap six, when Long used a strong move in turn one to take the point. The caution then waved for Derrick Carlson, who dropped a drive shaft in his # 367x machine. Derrick, who has been a QR regualr in 2012, was involved in an incident on Tuesday at Jacksonville Raceway, with his blue # 7x suffering frame damage. So he jumped in the # 36 of his father in law, Steve Theivagt on Friday. As mentioned in an earlier column, Steve has been competing with a street stock quality engine after blowing his earlier this season, but running competitively none the less. With rain now coming down steadily, the race restarted, with defending modifed national champion Mike Harrison of Highland, Il. moving past Delonjay for second in his # 24H. With eight laps in the books, the caution waved as the track became too slick in the now steady rain, and after a short delay, the race was called. Citing the difficulty of several drivers returning to QR to complete the race, it was called complete at this point. Donovan Lodge moved from eight to fourth at the end, with Weitholder rounding out the top five.

  Racing resumes at the track tonight, Sunday July 8, and if you present your Friday ticket stub at the gate, you will receive a $2.00 discount

  See you there!




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