Sunday, June 21, 2009

Hejna Continues Winning Ways in Decorah

As of late, Al Hejna has been one of the hottest modified drivers in the upper Midwest. He has only had one DNF in his string of top five's in the past several races that also includes three wins. That was, until he found victory lane again at the USMTS race at the Upper Iowa Speedway in Decorah Saturday night.

Zach VanderBeek used his pole to jump out to the early lead of the forty-lap feature while Ryan Dolan and Steve Wetstein followed in his tire tracks. Dolan would later take the second spot away from Wetstein before the caution came out as Ryan Gustin looped his Skyrocket in turn two. Gustin wasted no time making up the ground as he passed seven cars in two laps after the restart as he rode the cushion.

Up front Al Hejna began his quest towards the front as he too used the high side to grab third. VanderBeek separated himself by several car lengths while Hejna, Dolan, and Tesch were grouped together fighting it out for second. Hejna would get around Dolan for second just before Steve Wetstein's car came to a stop to bring out a caution. The restart was just what Hejna needed as he went to the outside of VanderBeek to take the lead. Dolan and Tesch would also get by VanderBeek the next couple laps as Hejna appeared to have things in hand until a caution came out with just two laps remaining. During the caution, Ryan Gustin's run back to the front came to an end as he went pitside. He had made his way back up to sixth before being sidelined.

Tesch went to the outside on the restart to see if he could muscle up a run on Hejna, but he came up a little short as Al Hejna took home his fourth win in six races with the USMTS. Jon Tesch finished a close second, Zach VanderBeek got back by Dolan for third and fourth (respectively), and Darrin Walch rounded out the top five. Only twenty-two cars were on hand tonight, and Layne Meyer was unable to start the feature.

Just before the USMTS cars hit the track, the USRA stock cars put on one of the best races I've seen all year. Jake Ludeking jumped out front early as Mitch Hovden fell into line behind him. Cars were three-wide for third and one of those cars, Austin Curtin, used the cushion to his advantage to grab the lead. Seven cars were all in the lead pack, bunched up in rows of two just like the parade lap. This pack remained in tact for a good portion of the race until a yellow came out when Ludeking's car got loose and Hovden had no place to go. Ludeking's great run came to an end while Hovden was able to continue. The outcome came right down to the line as Kurt Krauskopf took home the win followed by Austin Curtin, Tory Reicks, Kyle Falck, and Brian Gjere. As I said, definitely one of the better races I've seen all year!!

Twenty USRA hobby stocks were on hand last night, and it would be Danny Sacquintne taking the early lead. Scott Spilde would get by Sacquintne, but the caution flag negated the pass. Several cautions later, track officials decided to make the restart a single-file formation rather then double-file. That move helped a lot as no more cautions waved the rest of the race. Spilde would grab the lead away on the inside groove and Kyle Anderson would follow him to second. Steve Larson got by Sacquintne for third while Mark Lewis would also get by as Sacquintne continued to backslide. But up front it was Scott Spilde taking home the win. Kyle Anderson was second, Mark Lewis third, Steve Larson fourth, and Troy Hovey fifth.

Brian Schrage took command early on in the USRA bmod feature, but Matt Jones was working his way through the field on the top side to get into the top five. A caution came out, and Jones wasted no time as he found himself in second on the next circuit. Jones made slight contact with Schrage to get his loose coming out of turn four, but Jones tapped the brakes to allow Schrage to straighten up and continue on. Jones would make a clean pass on the backstretch going into turn three to snag the lead away, but a caution came out before the pass would count and handing the lead back to Schrage.

Jones again looked to the inside of Schrage on the restart and snatched the lead away, but Greg Mitchell was using the high line to make his way to the front as he got by Schrage. Mitchell and Jones battled side by side for several laps before Mitchell's momentum off the top side gave him the advantage for good with three laps to go. Greg Mitchell would go on to take the win as Matt Jones settled for second. Eric Vertheim was third, Junior Boyer fourth, and Brian Mahlstedt rounded out the top five.

While the night's races were some of the best I've seen all year, there was another added attraction on this night. During intermission, a concrete company poured the Victory Lane pad while track officials graded the track from top to bottom. The process only took two trucks as one truck had the ingredients and mixed it together before pouring it into a "boom truck" that sent it to the location of the pad. The process actually took less time then the grading of the track did because of the new technology of the "mixer" truck.

The grading of the track was definitely for the better. It widen out the track as cars were racing three and sometimes four-wide in the corners. I can definitely see why there was a capacity crowd on hand last night after what I witnessed last night. If you get the chance, be sure to check out a show at the Upper Iowa Speedway in Decorah.

The USMTS was scheduled to race in Worthington, Minnesota tonight (Sunday). However, that show has been cancelled already. So they will make the trip to the Iowa State Fairgrounds Speedway in Des Moines on Monday night and follow that up with stops at the Mineral City Speedway in Fort Dodge on Tuesday. Then on Wednesday they move north to the I-35 Speedway in Mason City for their inaugural appearance on that fast half-mile track.

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

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