Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Vern Jackson Scores First Hawkeye Dirt Tour Win

The JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt Tour invaded the Benton County Speedway on Tuesday night with ninety-plus degree temperatures and a southerly breeze. Forty-four modifieds were on hand to try their luck at the small 1/4-mile bullring that is known as the "home of the IMCA modified". Five heat races and three b-main events were run to dwindle the starting field down to twenty-four cars, including one HDT and one track provisional.

The IMCA sport compact feature was first up with twelve cars taking the green flag. Bill Whalen Jr used the pole to jump out front in the early going, but Brad Chandler would stay glued to his rear bumper. Chandler, driving a borrowed machine from Bryce Bailey, ducked to the inside of Whalen Jr and took over the race lead at the halfway point in the race. Chandler would pull away late in picking up the win. Whalen Jr finished second and Nathan Chandler was third.

The modified b-mains were run, and at the completion of those three events the IMCA sportmods took to the track for their fifteen-lap main event. Outside front row starter Carter VanDenBerg got the jump on pole-sitter Danny Dvorak to lead the first lap, but Dvorak raced to the inside and took the top spot away on lap two prior to a caution flag. Following another caution, Austin Kaplan took advantage on the restart and made a great pass on both Joel Rust and Jake Strayer to advance two spots up to the third position. Kaplan continued running the top groove pretty much by himself as he passed VanDenBerg for second before setting his sights on Dvorak up front. Kaplan would pass Dvorak on the white flag lap and appeared to be on his way to scoring the win, but he left the door open for Dvorak on the bottom and Dvorak capitalized. Dvorak would get enough forward momentum to pull off the win on the final corner while Kaplan settled for second. Carter VanDenBerg finished third, Joel Rust was fourth, and Jake Strayer finished fifth.

The time had come for the thirty-lap JR Motorsports Hawkeye Dirt Tour feature for the IMCA modifieds. Larry Herring used the pole position to lead the first lap prior to a yellow flag slowing the action down right away. Restarting in the fourth position on the double-file restart, Vern Jackson used the inside line to sneak past Jeff Waterman and Mitch Morris for the runner-up position. Jackson later would grab the lead away as Herring faded back to fifth. Morris then picked up the challenge on Jackson as he used the cushion to snare the lead away. Ryan Dolan used the bottom groove to work past Jackson for second as the halfway point was shown, but Jackson immediately took it back the following lap.

A caution with twelve laps remaining bunched the field tightly. Kellen Chadwick took full advantage of the restart, taking his Rage Chassis #83 to the top side and passing a couple cars to move into the top five. While Chadwick was making strides on the top, Jackson found a bite on the bottom side and again took command out front when he passed Morris for the lead. Jackson opened up a little breathing room late in the race as he picked up the big payday and win. Mitch Morris finished second, Ryan Dolan was third, Kellen Chadwick was scored fourth, and Mark Elliott rounded out the top five. Richie Gustin finished sixth after starting nineteenth. Inaugural and defending tour champion Mike Jergens qualified for the main event, but failed to make the call with assumingly mechanical failure.

Overall I'd have to say it was a good night of racing. The sportmod feature was thrilling to the final corner and provided plenty of two and three-wide racing throughout the field. The modifieds were extremely competitive throughout the early parts of the feature, but the bottom groove quickly became the place to be as the laps wound down. The track appeared smooth from the stands, which is always a plus at this point of the season.

For more information regarding the Hawkeye Dirt Tour, check out their website.

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

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