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Two inches of rain on Friday and a soggy pit area on Saturday did not stop the show at Spoon River Speedway Saturday night, but a couple of showstopping feature wins did take place.
Quincy, IL driver Michael Long, leading the UMP National Modified Points Standings, made one of his occasional visits to The Spoon, and made it count in a big way, pulling away late to win his first feature at the legendary high-banked oval in the Zane’s Auto Service UMP Modified 20 lap feature.
“The track,” he said when asked in Perkins Seed House Victory Lane what the key to his victory was, “it was perfect up where I wanted to run the car. I haven’t always been good here, but I’m figuring it out. For the track to be this good after all that rain is impressive.”
The red-hot Long thanked his sponsors who are helping him make this run at the national title, Saturday’s win was his 4th in eight days at various Midwest tracks, he made it five feature wins in nine days with a win Sunday night in Quincy.
Long worked hard to get around mid-race leader Mark Johnson, who had earlier grabbed the lead from Brandon Roberts. Johnson, who gets closer each week to a feature win in his new car, was the only car able to keep pace with Long until the last five laps, when Long checked out. Johnson took second, followed by Josh Allen, Tommy Duncan and Brian Lynn.
Heat races in the division were won by Duncan, Roberts, and Long, Duncan had set quick time in qualifying early in the night.
The Farmington Locker E-mod Division saw a first-time Spoon River feature winner as well, as Manito’s Matt Dobey culminated his constant weekly improvement with a long-sought after win.
“Man, this feels good, we’ve been working hard to get one,” said a jubilant Dobey afterwards. Echoing Long’s thoughts from the Mod feature, Dobey said the track was a key to the win. “We’re a little better right now when the track has this much moisture coming up during the race, so that helped us a lot,” he said.
Dobey also felt the pressure from Richie Biswell, who continued to draw almost even coming off the turns, only to lose a bit of ground to Dobey on the straights.
“I knew Richie was there, I just kept saying ‘c’mon, Nellie Belle’ [a name his late mother gave to his race car], we can do this!” Dobey said smiling, “Richie gave us a great race, I was just trying to focus on my line and not make any mistakes.”
That he did, earning that elusive first feature win. Biswell came home second, followed by Kevin Morrow, Kyle Girard, and Mark Anderson. Trent Ross set quick time and won the first heat, Dobey won the second heat in the class.
In the Perkins Seed House Pro Late Model Division, a frequent feature winner visited Victory Lane, but ironically also for only the first time this year as Nick Bauman wheeled to the win.
“It’s been a long time coming here this year, that’s for sure,” said a relieved Bauman, “I just have to thank Scott May and this Mayhem car. We’ve been getting better and better, but these kids are so fast [referring to the talented posse of youngsters in the Division, several still in their teenage years], it’s not easy to beat ‘em. So we’re definitely going to be happy with this one.” In familiar Bauman fashion, once he wrestled the lead away from Jose Parga, he stuck the B1 on the bottom and never missed a beat, smoothly getting on and off the gas for the win. Parga finished second, followed by another teen star, Maverick Pillar, who earned his best career finish with a third. Brad Denney had his best run of the few times he’s gotten in the car this year, taking home fourth just ahead of Josh Jackson.
Parga and Denney won the heats, Denney’s win a thrilling duel with Bauman in which the two were never separated by more than a few feet, side by side for the entire eight laps. Parga turned quick time.
The IMRA/USAC Speed 2 Midgets had their makeup from the previously scheduled Summer Sizzler Week finale, and 22 cars put on a whale of a show in their 30-lap, $500 to win feature. Champaign’s Patrick Bruns got out front early and was never challenged, but the racing behind him was close and tight throughout, highlighted by Andy Baugh and Brent Burrows, from their dead-last starting spots of 21st and 22nd, weaving through the field for 5th and 6th, respectively.
“This division has great racing and it does it at such a low cost compared to the national guys,” said Bruns in Victory Lane, “we can run this little motor all season and be competitive, while those guys are using up a few motors in just one year. I love coming to this track, too, you can run fast with lots of room.”
Finishing behind Bruns were Ryan Probst of New Lenox, Chase McDermand, Austin Archdale, and the afore mentioned Baugh and Burrows. Mitchell Davis, who broke late while running in the Top 5, took home the huge trophy for being the overall winner of Summer Sizzler Week.
Heat race wins went to Bruns, Probst, and Davis.
In the Fulton FS Six-shooters, Mark Williams, Jr. solved the previous week’s issue that saw his Pontiac Grand Prix lose a right front tire in both the heat and feature to earn the sweep on the night.
This Saturday night, Spoon River Speedway hosts the always popular “Meet The Drivers” night, where all cars in all divisions are pulled out onto the track before the show and the fans are allowed to come down on the track to mingle. The Illinois Vintage Racing Association cars will be on hand, along with the Speed 2 Midgets, and all the regular divisions at Spoon River. Pictures, treats, hero cards, kids can sit in the cars, it will all be happening around 6pm Saturday night, gates open at 5pm, at Spoon River Speedway.