We are finally getting some nice weather here in southern Wisconsin, and the Columbus 151 Speedway has been able to get a couple of shows in since I last wrote. Late model rookie John Beale looks to learn the ropes in this new division, as he moves up from the four cylinder Bandit division. It is quite a step up to be sure, but he has shown a lot of driving talent, and I think he will do quite well. “It’s a lot different, that’s for sure,” stated Beale. “With the Bandit, you could just throw it into the corner on the outside and go by people. In the late model you would think I would stick to the inside groove, but I’m actually more comfortable on the outside. I’m not worried about passing anyone, just trying to stay out of trouble and do what I can do.” Hobby stock racer Jay Bergin is chasing gremlins in his car, and not the American Motors kind. “It runs just fine at home, but I get it here at the track and it just cuts out on me when I need it to get going. It’s getting real frustrating; you just keep trying different things and hope you find it. Last year I had an old junkyard motor in it and it ran just fine, now I’ve got a fresh motor and I have had nothing but trouble. We will keep at it until we get it.” Street stock racer Terry Wangsness was present on opening day. “I won my very first feature here,” said Terry. “I ran in front of Chico Riedner, and kept moving up in the groove just enough so that he couldn’t get in his groove. I won, and afterward, he came up to me and said, “You really wanted to win that, didn’t you?” I said, “Of course.” He just smiled, shook my hand, and said, “Way to go, good job.” Terry won the feature on this day as well, and didn’t have to push anyone up out of the groove, as he is a very clean racer. I have to tell a story that Late model veteran Jerry Eckhardt told. “I was in the pits on race night, and was waiting for time trials to begin, just sitting there, and a young driver came up to me and asked, “Why don’t you go out to practice?” to which Jerry replied, “I’ve been racing since the early 1960’s... Do you really think I NEED to?” Truth be told, Jerry could probably race blindfolded at Columbus, Slinger and Jefferson, and still beat the pants off most of the others! The regular Friday opener at Columbus saw Tiffany Desjarlais take the popular win in the street stock feature. Some pretty good competition behind her throughout had nothing for her, as she won her first career in this division. She joins Bobbi Bishofberger and Jeni Westargaard as the only female feature winners in this division. She was pulling double duty, as she raced a late model as well on this night. There has never been a female feature winner in the late model class here....Could she be the first? We also took in the regular Thursday season opener at the State Park Speedway near Wausau. It was a very cold night out there, and they ran without an intermission, which was appreciated by all. Todd Handrick is racing in the newly formed limited late model class this year. When asked the lineage of his car, he said, “It was built back in 1980, by Lefthander, probably before they were known as Lefthander. It was raced by John Paszek, and a bunch of other people owned it as well who never raced it.” It is nice to see older cars being brought back out on the track, and Todd ran really well with it tonight, leading most of the feature. The race itself was a caution plagued affair, with the end result of all the fracas being Jeff Nowak taking the win after officials had had enough and called the race complete after a final caution with two or three laps to go. This is called being in the right place at the right time, and Mr. Nowak definitely was. Nice job by newby Jeff Spatz, who may have been the only car not to sustain any damage! Scott Hoeft made the long haul up from Watertown to race in the Mini-mod class. A regular at the Rockford Speedway, Scott has been fighting with fuel starvation problems recently, but thinks he finally found the culprit, changing several things at one time to try to solve the issue. Fuel pump and fuel filter were the order tonight, and the car seemed to run great, netting a fifth place feature finish for him. Brad Conant is absolutely dominant this year here, recording a clean sweep in a full field of cars. Jeremy Lepak took the super late model feature win, passing up M.G. Gajewski for the lead and win. Mark Mackesy slowly picked away at passing cars one by one, and made it up as far as second, where he finished. It is always fun to watch him, as he is methodical in his approach. Super late model racer Jesse Haase was present again, but isn’t sure how much longer he will race, stating, “I was ready to call it quits last year, but then we won the Lodi (Wayne Lodholz) race, and were having fun. I’m looking at running this year, and then my son is getting to the age where he can do it, I’d like to convert it to a limited late model and have him start out the way I did. I learned so much racing at different tracks that way when I started out.” Burton Brown has a neat looking car this year, painted gold and black in tribute to Smokey Yunick. He even has a picture in the back window of the car of himself standing with Yunick in front of his shop. The one thing that won’t happen, however, is the running of Yunick’s number, thirteen. Burton plans to stick to his usual number 07! Mariah Gajewski scored a clean sweep in the mini-stock division, with Josh Opper making a strong run to finish second. Karl Genett won the pure stock feature over Nick Erickson Jr. and Travis Volm. Seems like some of the former Tomahawk area pavement racers switched to dirt, and now back to pavement, as Steve Brown and C.J. Hedges Jr. are back racing paved tracks again. Took in the weekly show at the Rockford Speedway this past Saturday. Steve Rubeck won the feature by doing something few people have been able to do this year, finish ahead of Alex Papini. In my “99 Chronicles” where I report each time on how both number 99 cars fared in the sportsman division, Johnny Robinson stated before the races, “We put the spring setup in the car that we used in the hobby stock back in ’03 at Jefferson. We are trying some things for racing at Columbus. The car really isn’t too bad with this setup.” Johnny made the fast dash, where he finished second, then won his heat, and finished seventh in the feature. His number “99” counterpart, Justin Sellers noted after the races, “We had a coil go bad in time trials, and that is why I timed so bad, We’re hoping to time in much faster next week and run up front in the feature.” Justin also won his heat, and finished sixth in the feature. Brett McCoy was the dominant factor in the sportsman division tonight, setting fast time, winning the dash, placing a close second in his heat, and winning the feature. That is as close to a clean sweep as you can get without actually getting it.
Daryl Gerke makes the long trip down from his home near Appleton, WI., to race here. In talking to his Dad, Brad, he noted that the cost of gas is the big issue, as it just seems to keep going up in price, making the long haul more difficult as time goes on. They field an absolutely beautiful car in this division, and take pride in keeping it looking that way. The Roadrunner challenge race this week was simply a smokey burnout contest. Terry Van Hise won the event by utilizing a rolling burnout, with Raymond Hardesty adding a little fun as he did his, throwing his steering wheel out the window, and nearly running it over as he let the tires spin. Jason Van Hise put out quite a display of spinning donuts while smoking the hides. No mosquitoes were present during or after this event! Dennis Smith Jr. won the regular Roadrunner feature. Jason Bragg took the American Short Tracker feature win, with a pack of six cars doing battle at one time. Nick Cina Jr. looked to take the win away, but Bragg had none of it. very good racing amongst the whole field. Adam Cartwright closed the show with a win in the figure eight, which rarely runs on Saturdays, with the complete show being finished before ten o’clock, giving everyone time to visit after, in what was the first actual pleasant race night, weather-wise.