The first “hot” race of the spring, with temps in the high 80’s at the start of the night, happened Saturday at Spoon River Speedway outside of Canton, and surprisingly it was the veteran drivers that handled the heat of the track and the heat of the competition to take victories at the 3/8-mile high banked clay oval
The USAC/IMRA Speed 2 Midgets were in the spotlight for the Aaron Hull Memorial, honoring the driver from the Galesburg area who lost his life while working on his race car last year. Another memorial race happens this coming Saturday, June 17th, at the track when the E-mods will run their annual Bill Anderson Memorial Race, honoring the longtime car builder/owner/sponsor/track supporter who still has one of three racing sons going at it each week when Mark Anderson takes to the track.
In Saturday’s Midget Main, Mason City’s Andy Baugh, with multiple wins over the last few years at Spoon River in both midgets and sprints, grabbed the early lead in the 24 lap feature (24 laps to honor the late Hull’s car number), but he was quickly challenged by a cadre of machines running the high side and picking up ground rapidly on Baugh as he worked the slick inside groove.
Alex Watson, charging from his 8th starting spot, worked his way past Baugh and into the lead as the race hit the 6 lap mark, but Havana’s Gedd Ross, from 12th on the grid, ran down Watson and eventually got underneath and around him on the backstretch. It looked like Ross’ race the rest of the way until his #51R machine went up in a huge puff of smoke on the last lap coming out of turn two, allowing Tyson Hart to swoop by and pick up the Hull Trophy and a $700 first place check.
As frustrating as it was for Ross, the first thing he did after getting out of his car was to compose himself enough to do a quick interview over the PA and then hustle to Perkins Seed House Victory Lane to congratulate Hart on his win.
“I could tell the engine was laying down a couple of laps before the finish,” Ross said “I was just hoping it made it to the end, but it didn’t. Hate to lose one that way, but congratulations to Tyson.”
Hart echoed those sentiments for Ross. “I feel awful for him, he had that race won, we were going to settle for second,” the winner said, “but that’s unfortunately how it goes in racing and we will take the win. Aaron (Hull) was a great competitor and gone too soon, I’m honored to win this race named for him.”
The entire Hull family joined Hart for an emotional Victory Lane gathering and a couple of group photos.
Brock Hunnell, another of the drivers to work the top of the track, followed Hart across the line, Ross was able to drop to the bottom of turns 3 and 4 and coast across the line 3rd, followed by Adam Taylor and Aaron Schuck.
In the Perkins Seed House Pro Late Model Division, the all-time leader in career wins at Spoon River Speedway added another to his total, as Brad Denney grabbed the lead on Lap one and held off hard-charging Allen Weisser for his 299th career feature win at the track on his family’s property.
“I knew I had to get up high as quick as I could and get the lead,” he said afterwards, “because it would have been hard to pass Allen if he got out there in front. It was a fun race, always fun to race with Allen and he drove his usual clean race. I haven’t won one for awhile, so it’s good to finally get number 299. I think if I get number 300 might be a good time to hang ‘em up.”
Denney got the win in just his second night behind the wheel this year, having concentrated on promotion, concessions and track prep all throughout the spring. But it didn’t take the wily vet long to return to Victory Lane.
Weisser finished second, followed by Josh Jackson in a strong run, AJ May, and Chris Osborne, Jr.
Kewanee’s Ray Bollinger topped a field of 18 to win the Zane’s Auto Service Modified feature race, but he had company at the end of the race.
“Whew, happy to get that one,” said Bollinger, “I tell you what, Josh [Allen] was coming, man, I could hear him back there and knew he was creeping up on us. Just glad to get to that flag first.”
Josh Allen, his car the best of those trying to run the bottom, powered his way to second and might have been able to challenge if there had been another five laps of racing. Zac Oedewaldt, Brandon Roberts and Todd Bates rounded out the top 5.
In the Fulton FS E-mod division, Canton veteran Mark Anderson was running well behind leader Kevin Morrow at mid race, and had made his mind up that it would take a caution to win, or he would end up second, until he started to do the math as he suddenly made up huge chunks of ground.
“Yeah, I thought it would take a caution…then I gain about two car lengths two laps in a row and I’m doing the math and looking at the laps on the scoreboard, and I said to myself ‘I’m going to catch him at this rate’,” Anderson said, “so I told myself to stay calm and drive my line, and maybe we’d reel him in. Of course, passing would be a different story, but I knew when I got that run that I had to make the pass right when I did it, because if I let up and waited a lap, Kevin was going to move up and protect.”
Anderson wheeled around Morrow just before the white flag and then pulled away in the final lap for the win, Morrow finishing second ahead of Matt Dobey, Dawson Cook (who earlier won his first ever heat race) and Bob Goodin.
The Farmington Locker Hornet feature win went to Brett Ragon, ahead of Joey Davis and Kyle Dearing, who had a physical battle that had officials watching closely, only to find out later the two buddies were bumping and banging and having fun racing together.
All results and upcoming events are available at www.spoonriverspeedway.com.
After Saturday’s 8th Annual Bill Anderson Memorial for E-mods, the next event at the track will be the annual visit from the UMP Super Late Model Summer Nationals Tour, coming to the track Thursday, June 22nd, and bringing the top Super Late Model drivers from around the Midwest to the track, along with the UMP Modified Summer Nationals tour, which has attracted NASCAR drivers Kenny Wallace and David Stremme in recent seasons. Filling out the racing card Thursday night will be the E-Mods.