Sunday, May 3, 2009

Familiar Faces Back in Victory Lane at Mason City

Sunday May 3 capped another 3-race weekend for Tapfan's Tours as I traveled north to the I-35 Speedway in Mason City. It was great to be back at my Sunday "home away from home" as Mother Nature provided a two week hiatus with her tantrums. Tonight, however, she provided with a great night of racing action that saw a good field of cars in each of the classes of cars.

Ken Winkowitsch would take home the novice hornet feature win as he would be the only repeat winner from opening night. He was followed across the line by Blake Cole in an identical finish from the previous race. Patrick Barrett improved upon his finish on opening night as he took home the checkers in the "pro" hornets. Opening night winner Jesse Harang came home second.

Eighteen hobby stocks were next up on the big half-mile track. Mick Meyers quickly raced to the lead from his outside front row starting spot. Behind him, however, both Stac Schroeder and traveler Daniel Hilsabeck were making their way to the front from their respective starting spots of sixth and seventeenth. In fact Hilsabeck was up to eighth when the caution flag waved on lap three. Schroeder took advantage of the situation and took command of the race a lap later. Meyers tried to battle back, but Schroeder's car proved to be better on this night in taking the win. Meyers finished second, Cory Gansen third, opening night winner Heath Tulp fourth, and Chad Gentz rounded out the top five.

Up next would be the 360's (bmods). Twenty-three cars were on hand, but unfortunately a few cars suffered mechanical issues earlier in the night and were not able to make the call for the feature. Tim Marzen used his second starting position to take the early lead, but Zach Patterson had other ideas he wrestled the lead away on the next lap. Patterson maintained the lead until Adam Ackerman muscled his car past on the bottom side of turn two. Ackerman was making his season debut at I-35 and started 11th on the field, but his car was a rocket as he pulled away from the rest of the field and had half a straight away lead when the checkered flag waved. Patterson would settle for second and Marzen held on for third. Nate Chodur worked his way through traffic from his tenth starting spot to finish fourth while Shane Swanson started shotgun on the field (2oth) and rounded out the top five. Swanson was unable to make it out for his heat race, thus starting at the tail of the feature.

Eighteen IMCA stock cars took to the track next as they prepared for their fifteen lap feature event. Merlyn Hegland and Bert McDaniel set the pace from the front row, and it would be McDaniel getting the advantage early on. A few laps into the race, Kevin Opheim charged from his sixth starting spot to challenge McDaniel. Opheim ducked low in turns one and two as McDaniel was running a lane up, but McDaniel caught a rut in turn two and the car pushed up and off the backstretch as the field raced by, ending McDaniel's race. This bunched the field back up and Hegland applied pressure to Opheim. Hegland took advantage of Opheim's bobble to regain the lead, but Opheim would reclaim the top spot with just two laps to go. Opheim held off Hegland at the finish, followed by Rick Mees, Travis Shipman, and Ryan Hiscocks.

A good field of IMCA modifieds were on hand as eighteen cars were set to battle the track. Ryan Ruter jumped out to the early lead from his front row starting spot and appeared to be on his way to victory until the caution flag waved when JJ Wise made heavy contact with a tractor tire on the inside of turn two. After contact, Wise's car spun around and hit the ground in a way that almost flipped his car. In talking with JJ afterwards, he informed me that the tire had concrete inside it. Wise would be okay. After that caution, the battle for second was heating up as Alex Yohn, pole sitter Shane Monson, and Rich Lewerke were battling it out, sometimes three-wide. Lewerke, who started eleventh, took control of second and quickly set his sights on front runner Ruter.

After receiving the "five laps to go" signal from the flagman, it was as if a time bomb went off as Lewerke quickly caught Ruter going into turn one. It would take Lewerke a lap to complete the pass coming off turn four as Ruter would resort back to second. A lap later there was action spread out on the track as Jeremy Mills suffered a flat tire on the front stretch, Jake Durbin blew a motor in turn two, and race leader Rich Lewerke dropped a driveshaft on the backstretch. The yellow flag came out for the driveshaft, giving Mills enough time to make it to the work area to change the flat tire. Ruter led the field on the restart and pulled away to the four car length win. Alex Yohn got by Shane Monson for second and third, respectively. Rookie modified driver Jesse Hoeft finished solidly in fourth and TJ Stalker rounded out the top five. Mills made his way back to sixth.

Overall the racing action was good tonight in Mason City. The track was fast, although it did get a bit on the rough side a couple lanes up as the modifieds found out. The program was run straight through without any delays and fans were on their way at an early time for a Sunday night.

- Racing may be a hobby, but it's DEFINITELY addictive!!

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