Past the Pit Gate
by Danny Rosencrans

August 13, 2013 --  Sunday night at the Bullring was the second visit of the season for the American Late Model Series. The first in April was tri sanctioned, with the Corn Belt Clash and Mars series also awarding points, and the car count was down a bit for this stand alone show. It was the third consecutive night for the series following stops at Kankakee and Fairbury, and that had a lot to do with the lower than expected count. Still the 17 cars on hand put on some good racing for the $2,000 top prize. Late model qualifying used a bit different format than the weekly show. The cars timed one at a time, and received only one lap. They also used a group qualifying format, with the first nine cars out filling heat one, and the second eight in heat two. 16 year old Bobby Pierce turned the best lap in group one to earn the pole in his heat, while 20 year old Brandon Sheppard set overall quick time with a 14.006 second lap in group two. The two drivers, who are one and two in UMP national points, with Sheppard on top,both cruised to heat race wins to set the front row for the 40 lap finale. Pierce charged to the early lead, and Denny Woodworth slipped past Sheppard for second. On lap two, Denny pulled alongside Bobby briefly before falling back. As Pierce built his lead, Sheppard took back the second spot on lap six. Meanwhile veteran Kevin Weaver was on the move. Weaver had qualified poorly and had heat race issues, relegating him to an eighth row start. By lap six, he had advanced five spots to tenth, and when Michael Long went pitside on lap ten, he moved to eighth. Following a lap ten restart, the only one of the race, Weaver powered to seventh, and on lap 13 he drove around Mark Burgtorf for sixth. About this time, Sheppard found something on the top side of the oval and closed in on the low riding Pierce, the two youngsters racing side by side. On lap 20 Weaver took fifth from Rickey Frankel, and Sheppard bobbled slightly, allowing Pierce to extend his lead. As the front runners caught slower traffic around lap 26, Weaver began to fade, with Frankel and Burgtorf regaining their spots. Pierce had considerable trouble putting the ninth running Clint Kirkham a lap down, but Sheppard could not take advantage. When the checkers waved, Bobby had a sizable lead and his first ever QR checkers. Sheppard held second, with Jason Perry having a strong run in third. Woodworth, Frankel, Burgtorf, Weaver and Ron Elbe followed on the lead lap, with Kirkham, Brian Dively, Steve Thorsten, Brandon Thirlby, and Billy Genebacher finishing one lap down to the leader.

 Keith Pratt made his return to the track with his brand new modified, while Jake Griffin debuted a plain unnumbered black mod that was reportedly a Kenny Wallace car. With Justin Reed wheeling the Mike Begley # B4 mod, and Terry Gallaher suffering a hard crash in qualifying, the story behind the lower late model counts comes in to focus. Shawn Deering turned the fastest modified lap at 15.844 seconds, rolled a " one " and started front row in the dash. Dave Weitholder topped Shawn in the ten lapper, setting the front row for their 25 lap finale. 18 cars took the green, with Troy Grotz an early casualty and the only car unable to start the feature. Gallaher had scratched from the event, but with some help from other crews, he was able to make the start. Weitholder jumped to the lead, and soon Steven Delonjay charged from row two to challenge. Beginning on lap four, the two front runners raced door to door, and by lap 14 they were in heavy traffic, with Steven finding a way past. From that point he opened a big lead, as the event went green to checkers caution free! Weitholder, Deering, Chris Spaulding, and Reed completed the top five, with Pratt and Adam Birck the only other finishers on the lead lap. It was win number ten for the second generation hot shoe.

  Brandon Savage has been on a roll of late, but had to work hard for his second win of 2013 in the IMCA stock car main. Darin Lambert led early, but when the yellow waved on lap three, Abe Huls had moved from his tenth starting slot to third. On the restart, Terry Houston took the top spot, and was challenged by Abe until a lap nine caution. Following that restart, Savage took over second, and moved ahead of Terry one lap later. Once more the caution waved on lap 12, but Brandon was in control, cruising to the win as Houston and Huls slugged it out for second. Houston took the runnerup honors followed by Huls, Lambert, and Jake Powers. For Savage it marked two firsts, three seconds, and a third on a broken wheel in the past six races.

 The IMCA sport mod 20 lapper looked a lot like a repeat of the week before. Joe Hooper in the # 20BA was a no show with brake issues. Nathan Anders led laps one and two, but rolled to a stop in turn two on lap three. On the restart, Tanner Klingele took over the lead but by lap five, Tony Dunker had moved to second. On a lap nine restart, Chandler Owens and Dunker got together, with both going to the back of the pack. Although Dunker was now ninth, in one lap he was up to fifth, on lap 11 he was third, and he regained second on lap 12. By now, however, Klingele had a straightaway lead. As happened the week before, the caution waved on lap 16, and although it took a couple tries to complete a restart, Dunker took over the lead. Klingele again took the runner up spot, with Brad Holtmeyer and Trevor Hagerbaumer following. Charles Vanzandt grabbed fifth, although Taylor Lear had the spot before spinning out of turn four coming to the checkers.

 The IMCA sport compact count was down to only eight, but their 12 lap feature was a fun one. Brandon Lambert took the initial lead, with Austen Becerra charging from eighth to second on lap one. On lap three, Jeffrey Delonjay lost a tire as Becerra moved to the lead. Although he had to go back to second, he regained the point on the restart. On lap five, the hottest 4 cylinder at QR, Laine Vanzandt, moved to second. For the next six laps, Becerra and Vanzandt dueled side by side, and they took the white flag in a virtual dead heat. Austen held on for the win, followed by Laine, point leader Kimberly Abbott, Skip Dunker, and Alex Baker. With a minimum of stoppages, the final checkers fell well before 10:00!

 We have one more night of racing before we revert to the earlier start times of 4:45 hot laps and 5:30 racing. Coming up Labor Day weekend, Sunday September 1, the MOWA 410 sprint cars will join the card for what was to have been their second appearance of the season, with the first rained out Memorial Day weekend. So mark your calender, and we will see you Sunday!


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