What started as a comfortable spring evening turned into a windy, chilly night at Spoon River Speedway, but Moline's Donovan Lodge didn't feel a bit of the cold, coming from a 7th place starting spot to win the Perkins' Seed House UMP Modified Feature Saturday night.
On a smooth, slick track, it became apparent early in the 20-lap Modified feature that the inside line was the dominant line, as Allen Weisser, AJ May, Scott May, and Butch Weisser all took turns making power moves in the first half of the caution-filled feature on the bottom side of the race track when drivers in front of them slipped out of the low groove.
As several early cautions mid-pack and farther back happened in the first six laps, Lodge started to pick his way through the front running pack, and by mid-race, he was solidly in fourth. Lodge then picked a line about a groove off the bottom, and made that second groove work, passing the leaders on the outside to eventually wrestle his way into the lead. From there, he pulled away for a relatively easy win considering the closeness and competitiveness of the 22-car field in the first half of the event.
Allen Weisser held off his dad Butch for second, Butch Weisser third, AJ May finished fourth, and Brian Lynn rounded out the top five. A strong early run for veteran Scott May ended when he glanced off a mine tire in turn one, damaging the front suspension and forcing him to retire just before the halfway point. Metamora's Tommy Duncan came home sixth, and last week's feature winner Richie Biswell took home seventh.
Modified heat race wins went to AJ May, Lynn, and Allen Weisser. Prior to the event, Pekin modified driver Floyd Jordan, Jr. circled the track slowly while holding the checkered flag in a last victory lap for his late father and longtime fixture at Spoon River, Floyd Jordan, Sr., who passed last October after the 2013 racing season ended.
In the Monical's Pizza Pro Late Model Division, Mt. Vernon's Aaron Heck had issues under the hood that forced him to miss his heat race, and had to start 13th in the 14 car feature field, making a repeat of last week's feature win appear unlikely. But after Heck flew from 13th to 4th in the first six laps of the race, a repeat wasn't such a longshot. Like Lodge, Heck used a higher line, just off the bottom groove, to make repeated passes as he worked towards the front. Several drivers, including Heck, Canton's Brad Denney, and Brian Lynn, tried to go all the way to the top of the speedway at various points to see if they could find some forward bite, but eventually all had to drop back down to stay in the lead pack.
Heck worked hard to get by Logan Moody and Nick Bauman to move into second, and eventually caught leader Denney, and with Denney standing on the gas but still giving him plenty of room, Heck made a strong move down the front stretch after a big run off turn four, and completing the pass in turns 1 and 2.
Moody got by both Bauman and Denney late to finish 2nd, another strong showing for the Catlin, IL teenager. Bauman got under Denney for third as Denney's tires started to go away, and he settled for fourth. Heck's brother Charlie Heck rounded out the top five, finishing just ahead of a charging Jose Parga. Earlier, Denney and Bauman had won the heat races.
Defending Farmington Locker UMP Pro Modified Division champ Mark Anderson got his first heat and feature win of the year, and like the other winners ran a much lower line than he's used to to get it done. In the feature, Anderson held off a late charge from DePue's Josh Smith, who was the fastest car on the track for the last half of the event. Canton's Todd Bates took third, ahead of Andrew Schooley and Matt Parrott. Manito's Matt Dobey made an impressive 2014 debut with a sixth place finish in the feature. Along with Anderson, Schooley was a winner in the heat races.
Canton's Derick DeFord dominated the Fulton FS UMP Hornet feature, completing a double for him as he also won his heat. Cliff Howard won the other Hornet Heat. Finishing behind DeFord in the feature were Dallas Strauch and Thomas Angelo.
During intermission, Hard Charger awards were handed out from the April 19th races. The Zane's Auto Service Modified Hard Chargers were Dale Munson and Steve Theivagt, and Mark Ross and Josh Smith shared the KB Action Photos Pro Modified Hard Charger prize.
The next event at the Speedway is this Saturday, May 3 and will feature a $250 winner's purse in the UMP Hornet Division. Due to the extreme winds, the planned intermission event this past Saturday involving drivers coming into the stands to raise funds for Autism Awareness will happen this Saturday night as well.
By BJ Stone