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As the 2017 UMP DirtCar season draws closer to an end, several area drivers in the hunt for national points championships picked up much needed victories and solid finishes at Spoon River Speedway on Meet the Driver's Night.
In the Perkins Seed House Pro Late Model division, three of the top four and five of the top 20 cars in the nation were in attendance Saturday night. Allen Weisser entered the weekend leading the National points chase, ahead of Jake Little, the only Top 4 driver who does not regularly run Spoon River, with defending National Champ AJ May third, just a few points ahead of a surging Myles Moos, riding a recent hot streak and the winner of the two previous features at Spoon. Weisser took control early in the 20 lap event and looked set to add to his lead, but mechanical problems in his Osborne Racing #29 shut him down on lap 4, his car leaving an ominous trail of fluids down the long backstretch. On the ensuing restart, May inherited the lead, a lead he would never give up in claiming the victory, all the while doing it in a car he had never driven before the weekend, a machine normally piloted by Jason Wagner. With their regular car shut down as it appears to be sold, May and his crew went to work on the unfamiliar ride.“These cars all drive pretty much the same,” he said in Victory Lane, “so it really isn’t as big a deal as it looks, but yeah, we made some minor changes throughout the night.” When told how impressive it was to hop in a strange car and win, May reminded the crowd of the bad luck other drivers had.“Well, thank you, I appreciate that,” he said, “but Weisser was really good, don’t know what happened, but that’s a bad break for them, not sure we could have caught him. Then Moos went out, and then Josh [Jackson] was really strong, but had the rollover…I hope he’s okay…so we just kind of made sure we stayed out there and survived.” Moos exited near the halfway point when, after going to the back of the pack following an earlier spin, he drove deep into turn one hoping to slip by the car of David Marlow, but the cars made hard contact and Moos’ machine careened up over the top of the track, from there he drove it straight to the pits. With the two Top Five competitors out of the way, May was holding Jackson at bay when Jackson and Chris Osborne, Jr. ran out of front stretch real estate and made contact, Jackson’s car - on the inside at the time - eventually getting turned sideways before the driver’s side tires dug into the clay surface and flipped the car into a barrel roll at the end of the grandstand near turn one. Jackson was okay, the car was a total wreck. For his part in the melee, Osborne was disqualified, barred from racing the rest of 2017 at Spoon and scored in last place. Heat race wins earlier in the night went to Moos and Weisser.
In the Zane’s Auto Service Modified Division, Weisser, continuing his double-duty season and currently sitting 4th in the National Standings, resumed his weekly duel with Ray Bollinger (2nd in the country) as they try to chase down Southern Illinois star Mike Harrison for the National crown. On this night, it was Weisser’s night, jumping out to an early lead after getting by his dad Butch Weisser, multiple time track champion at Spoon who now only races occasionally while serving as crew chief for Allen’s Modified effort. “It’s hard enough to beat Ray and Brandon [Roberts] out there,” the younger Weisser laughed in Victory Lane, “but then I had to get by Dad, too. But it’s always a blast to race with him, he’s still got it.” Weisser, like May in the Pro Lates, used the high side almost exclusively throughout. Bollinger eventually got by Butch Weisser and put heavy pressure on the younger Weisser in the race’s final laps, but could not get by. “Good clean race with Ray,” Allen Weisser said, “I could hear him a couple of times, but I was trying to pick my spots with the lapped traffic and try to get them in between us when I could.” That strategy worked on a couple of occasions, enough to force Bollinger to fall back two or three car lengths before making another move. Bollinger finished second, followed by Roberts. Strong runs by Floyd Jordan, Jr and Todd Bates rounded out the Top 5. Heat races went to Weisser and Bollinger.
The VRI Vintage Cars made their annual appearance at Spoon River Saturday, and had a wild show that had fans checking to see if the moon was full. Spins, heavy contact, cars, getting a bit of air, jumped restarts and a rollover were all part of the feature race, which was scheduled for 15 laps but shortened to 10 when drivers and track officials agreed the race was running long on time. The cars are all a blast from racing’s past, with bodies from the 40’s through the 70’s, but they don’t just coast around and have a parade, they race and they race hard, and Saturday, according to veteran Vintage driver Ron Wilson, they raced a little harder than usual. Princeton’s Randy Lucas took the victory on the night in a ‘64 Chevelle.
In the Speed2 Midgets, Adam Taylor ended his string of near-misses with a thrilling victory over Andy Baugh as the two drivers put on a display of talent and bravery over the last five laps that had fans coming to their feet. With each “slide job” attempted by Baugh, moving from low side to high side in one swoop, Taylor calmly let him by, then drove back underneath in a classic “crossover” move. “Andy is the best there is at this place,” said Taylor, “the first slider actually surprised me, I didn’t think he was close enough, but I was ready for the second.” As he spoke Baugh came jogging up to Victory Lane along with third place finisher Robby McQuinn, each driver giving Taylor a bear hug and congratulating him on his win. “Yeah, they are great guys to race with,” Taylor continued, “lots of respect and give and take, and on this smooth track we can race like we want to.” Brock Hunnell (who came back from a rollover the previous week to charge to a 4th place finish) and Chase McDermand finished in fifth.
Mark Anderson got back into Victory Lane in the E-mod class, holding off Jake Montgomery and Kevin Morrow for the feature win. “I keep sounding like a broken record,” he said, “but it gets tougher and tougher to win in this class every week. So many good cars.” Anderson then thanked the fans who had come out on “Meet The Drivers Night” and were treated to an on-track session with all drivers and teams and cars before the races started. Anderson, Montgomery, Morrow, Matt Dobey and young Dawson Cook made up the top five of the Fulton FS E-mod Feature.
The Hornet division feature went to Craig Bangert in his first trip to the Speedway this season. He was followed across by Kyle Dearing, Brandon Lambert, Brett Ragon and Brett Pratt. 6-Shooter feature winner was Mark Williams Sr.
This Saturday Night August 26th will be Fan Appreciation Night with General Admission only being $5. Also all pit passes will be $20 with driver’s running for 100% of the back gate. Check Spoon’s Face Book page and website for more information