Tuesday, July 26th marked the second installment of the 2011 Harris Clash. The evening would showcase the IMCA Deery Brothers late model series along with the Karl Chevrolet IMCA sportmods. Fifty-eight sportmods and thirty-eight late models filled the pit area in hopes of adding their name to the list of winners at the famed Knoxville Raceway.
In rare fashion, late model heats were run before the sportmod qualifiers. I would assume part of that might be due to the number of travelers, but that's just a guess on my part. In any case, I thought the heat races and b-mains provided plenty of racing action for those who dared to sit in the heat as drivers used the low, middle, and high grooves.
When all the qualifying events had been run, the late model feature rolled to the front stretch to line up for the thirty-five lap main event. Nate Beuseling and Todd Cooney redrew the front row with Beuseling taking the early lead. These two cars quickly broke away from the rest of the pack and the top ten positions were strung out single file using the low groove. At one point all but three cars were on the bottom, and unfortunately it stayed that way pretty much the entire duration of the distance. Beuseling would catch the backmarkers on lap fifteen, allowing Cooney to close in on the race leader. Beuseling attempted to go high in turn one to get around a lapped car, but opted instead to slingshot to the bottom upon exit of turn two to maintain the lead. That may have been his best move of the night as he was able to put some distance between he and Cooney once the first lapped car was passed. Further back in the pack Ray Guss Jr was the first to shy away from the bottom side as he used the next lane up to scoot by Darrel DeFrance for seventh at the halfway point. Guss Jr's pass prompted a couple more guys to venture up a lane and also make their way by "The Ironman" DeFrance, but that would be the extent of the passing in this green-to-checkered event as Nate Beuseling picked up his first career Deery Brothers late model series victory. Todd Cooney finished second, Mike Garland was third, Jay Johnson fourth, and Matt Strassheim rounded out the top five.
With the late models exiting the track, the IMCA sportmods made their way to the front stretch to line up for their twenty-lap finale. Beau Kaplan and Jesse Sobbing comprised the front row, and upon seeing this I turned to a friend of mine and offered a friendly wager on Sobbing. We didn't go through with it, perhaps a good choice on my friend's part. When the green flag waved Kaplan held a slim advantage in turn one, but Sobbing worked his way around the outside of turn two and rocketed down the back stretch to nearly an eight car length advantage immediately. Jim Gillenwater would hold down the second position at the completion of the first lap with Austin Kaplan and Beau Kaplan riding in third and fourth, respectively. Austin would work the outside of Beau to complete the pass for third while Sobbing demolished the field to open up a huge lead. Austin Kaplan went to the inside of Gillenwater to take over the second position, but by that time Sobbing was barely visible to his nearest competitor. Carter VanDenBerg, who redrew the twelfth starting spot, was on the charge as he passed his cousin Cayden Carter for fifth on lap nine before motoring by Beau Kaplan for fourth a few laps later. A trio of racers were battling it out for sixth in the closing laps as Tyler Droste, Doug Smith, and Cayden Carter worked their way around the big half-mile oval. Even lapped traffic couldn't slow down Jesse Sobbing as he picked up yet another win on the 2011 campaign and etched his name into the track's history books. Austin Kaplan finished second, Jim Gillenwater was third, Carter VanDenBerg fourth, and Beau Kaplan completed the top five.
I'd like to give a big thank you to Bob Harris for organizing this fine event every year and for the hospitality he has given me. It is definitely appreciated and I enjoy my time at Knoxville each and every trip I make. While the late models didn't provide much excitement, I thought the sportmod feature provided more passing then anticipated given the circumstances.
For a complete run down of the night's results, be sure to check out one of the following websites: IMCA, Knoxville Raceway, Harris Clash. As I am the last of the Positivelyracing.com bloggers to submit my viewpoints, be sure to check out Jeff Broeg's "Backstretch" entry along with Dick and Joyce Eisele's "4D Fan Report" for their perspectives.