Past the Pit Gate
by Danny Rosencrans

September 24, 2012 - The temps really cooled off Sunday night at the Bullring, but track officials were on the ball, starting on time and running a quick, efficient program. Car counts were down a bit, not a surprise, with track points ending the week before. even though most drivers will tell you points don't matter, the numbers each fall speak for themselves. Of course it is also the time of year when if a driver has major issues, it is easier to park the hot rod early that it is to fix. National UMP points were still up for grabd for the late models and modifieds, and the mods turned out a nice count of 22 cars. The super late model count was only half of that number, but there had been a bevy of high paying races the three nights prior, which probably affected counts. Also, several of the locals sat out, some with issues, and some just taking a break. Clint Kirkham suffered quite a bit of damage the week before, and combined with his busy time of year, he decided to just " spectate. " Justin Reed was missing after suffering engines woes last week. and point champion Jason Perry just took a night off.

  The IMCA stock car count was low as well, with only six entries this week. But they continued there string of closely contested features, with 15 laps of caution free racing. Point champ Terry Houston looped his # 97 on lap nine, but kept the engine fired and did not stop, earning cheers from the crowd. Michael Larsen put his # 48 out front and held off a persistant Abe Huls for his second win of 2012. Darin Weisinger came home third in what is apparently his final race, capping what I believe is a 19 year run. Darin says he will stick around as a car owner with an as yet unnamed driver for 2013.

 The IMCA sport mods next did battle for 15 laps. A lap two caution sent Brad Holtmeyer to the hot pit, and effectively ended his night. Following a big pileup on the restart, Bobby Anders took command, and looked to be on his way to the win. But on the final lap, Anders came up behind a lapped car, and made contact, bringing out a yellow and spoiling his run. On the green, white checkers, restart, point champion Tony Dunker, who was headed for a third place finish, moved ahead of Joe Bliven and picked up another win. Bliven took second, with Brandon Dale third.

 The UMP super late models were up next. National points leader Brian Shirley was again in the house, and had set fast time at 13.943 seconds. He then rolled a " six " for the fast heat/dash invert, putting himself outside row three. He advanced to third in the ten lapper behind winner Jake Griffin and Jim Moon, who would make up the front row of the feature. When the green flag waved, Jake won the drag race to turn one, and pulled away in the top spot. Shirley fell to fifth before taking a look on the high side of the track. as the other cars ran the bottom groove, Shirley rocketed to second on lap five running the top by himself. He then began to run down Griffin, nosing ahead on lap eleven. Jake continued to stay close running around the bottom, while the " Squirrel " powered around the rim. As the leaders approached slower traffic, Shirley had a clear line, and pulled away slightly in the final ten laps. Jake held on to second, while Dustin Griffin grabbed third. Michael Long and Moon completed the top five in the non stop event.

 Next up was the hobby stock 20 lapper, and heat one winner Richie Wagy put his 1957 Chevy out front early. Justin Bevill took the top spot on lap six, and on lap eleven, with Wagy second and point champ Jake Powers challenging, contact send Wagy away on the wrecker and left Jake with a flat tire. Powers had dropped out of his heat, and had fought his way to the front pack before the incident. On the restart, Brandon Symmonds tried the top groove, but could not get his car to stick, falling back slightly. Bevill continued to drive a flawless race, surviving a lap 18 caution for Jeremy Buss. Tanner Klingele slipped by runnerup Brian Hoener on the restart before another yellow set up a two lap dash to the checkers. Bevill held on for his first feature win of the season follwed by Hoener and Klingele. Even last lap contact with Klingele could not deter Bevill. Former track champ Kelly Bartz dug out his drivers suit and took a sping in Justin Bartz # 43 for the night, coming home in sixth.

  All but one of the 22 UMP mods took the feature green, with former late model driver Chris Guerrero wheeling the Thompson # 3T, and former mod competitor Jim Leffew in the # 25L normally driven by son James. It took three tries to get in one lap, and each time pole sitter Steven Delonjay grabbed the lead. Point champ Delonjay grabbed the fast heat/dash win after fast qualifier Craig Spegal also rolled a " six."

  Mark Burgtorf was a two class racer on the night, wheeling the # 24V ride of Mark Van Winkle. Mark ran second before Dave Weitholder slipped by on a lap eight restart. Jake Griffin charged to fifth on the restart, and two laps late moved to fourth. Delonjay encountered slower traffic on lap 13, and survived a couple more cautions. By lap 22, Griffin had found the high groove he ignored in the late model main, and he moved around Burgtorf for third. A yellow with three to go set up a sprint to the checkers, and Griffin nipped Weitholder at the flag to give him runner up finishes in both UMP classes. Weitholder took third, and Jared Schlipman got past Burgtorf for fourth.

  Ten of the twelve entrants took the final feature green in the IMCA sport compact class. Point champ Seith Woodruff was in control early, but Austen Becerra kept up the pressure and picked up another win. Laine Van Zandt had a nice run to nab third, and Dennis Schulte made his first visit from Keokuk, Iowa, coming home fourth.

  The final checkers waved just before 9:00. There is one more night of racing at QR, this Sunday, so don't miss out, it will be a long winter!



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