Marolf and McCarl Prevail at 34 Raceway – SATURDAY, APRIL 1st

Marolf and McCarl Prevail at 34 Raceway – SATURDAY, APRIL 1st

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Marolf and McCarl Prevail at a Muddy 34 Raceway


“Herculean” was how my colleague Bill Wright perfectly described the effort put forth by the track crew headed up by Jeff Laue at 34 Raceway Saturday and he would be the first to tell you that it would not have happened without the help of several friends and racers who loaned out their equipment and their time. More than four inches of rain had fallen at the speedway during the week and with cool temperatures and only some filtered sunshine on Saturday they somehow got the facility to a point where the season openers for two long running regional racing series could take the green.

This amount of effort would not have been put forward had this been a weekly show. This was a highly anticipated first time pairing of the Deery Brothers Summer Series for IMCA Late Models and the Sprint Invaders, two series that were started right here at 34 Raceway some sixteen years apart. When we arrived at four o’clock the race haulers were lined up all the way back to the railroad tracks and it would be another half hour before they started to pull them into the pits and, when one of the first large haulers to give it a try got stuck, it took several minutes for a four-wheel drive tractor to pull it out of the muck. Lessons were quickly learned though and soon the race cars were steadily making their way to the pits with 33 Sprinters and 31 Late Models on hand.

In their Facebook announcement that the races would go on, the track stated that conditions will be less than ideal and while the track itself was definitely a challenge for the drivers and one that they are likely feeling the effects from on this Sunday morning, for the most part it stayed raceable throughout the night with roughest parts, as they so often do, developing in the fastest line. Cowboy up if you want to win!

The night got off to rough start for defending Sprint Invaders champion Chris Martin who tangled with Christian Bowman as the green flag waved on the first heat race and both cars got upside down on the front stretch. That would end the night for Bowman who was trying to make his first laps in a 360 after winning the 305 title at the Knoxville Raceway in 2016. Martin was able to make repairs and return for a B-Main where he had raced his way into the final transfer position only to have a right front tire go flat in the closing laps. If there is going to be a title defense in 2017, Martin will need to return to the dominance that he exhibited in his championship season to make up the points that he lost out on in this DNQ.

It was also a rough start to the season for Late Model driver Andy Eckrich who was racing for a transfer spot in his heat race when he and Jesse Sobbing made contact entering turn three. This made Andy’s car climb to the top of the wall and then do a nose stand before it tumbled onto its roof. The incident was very similar to the one that happened here a few years ago when World of Outlaws driver Brad Sweet had his sprint car split in half, but since then a change in how the wall rises from the back stretch to the entrance of turn three kept the same from happening to Eckrich.

Another scary incident happened during the first Sprint Car B-Main when contact at the front of the field sent Justin Bucholz for spin just past the flagstand and when Levi Michener made an evasive move he lost control and veered into the infield striking the sponsor signs just in front of the scales where several of the track officials stand during the races. The impact shattered two large signs and knocked one the employees to the ground, but fortunately he was only shaken and not injured.

Two of the three Phillips brothers in action on the night would start from the front row in the 25-lap Sprint Invader feature with Tasker taking the lead at the start. When he bicycled in turn four on lap eleven though older brother Rager was there to accept the lead that he would hold for three laps before an incident with Jamie Ball. As the leader was trying to put Ball a lap down he ran out of room on the front stretch and jumped the right rear wheel sending Phillips over the top of turn one somehow staying upright. This would allow Carson McCarl to assume the lead for the restart and while Jon Agan was able to keep pace he was not able to mount a serious challenge on the leader as Carson joined his father Terry and grandfather Lenard as feature winners here at 34 Raceway. Agan finished second ahead of Jake Blackhurst, fourth went to Josh Schneiderman as Ryan Jamison completed the top five. Look for Blackhurst to be one of the many drivers on hand here next Saturday night, April 8th, when the IRA 410 Outlaw Sprint Cars return to 34 Raceway.

 It has been four years since the Deery Series has been at 34 despite the fact that is got its start here back in 1987 and it was only fitting that two drivers who were at that first-ever event would draw the front row for tonight’s 35-lap feature. Darrel DeFrance was on the pole and not only was he at the first Summer Series race, he has been at all of them over the past thirty years and starting next to him was the winner of that inaugural race, Jay Johnson. And even though the track conditions would not be considered favorable for the older guys their cars looked like they had teenagers behind the wheel in the opening laps as DeFrance would set a fast pace. Nick Marolf had started in the second row and after dominating his heat race earlier, he knew that he had a setup where he could leave the preferred bottom line and make it stick and he did just that driving around DeFrance for the lead. The race would be for second after that as Marolf would drive away from the field after each restart leaving the veteran to fight off challenges from Johnson, Matt Ryan and Tyler Bruening. This was a race of attrition as less than half of the field made it to the finish with Marolf taking his second career Summer Series victory ahead of DeFrance who was an impressive runner-up. Chad Holladay made a late move to finish in third ahead of Ryan and Bruening. The Summer Series returns to action next Saturday night at the West Liberty Raceway.

The wet conditions made this show a challenge for all, including the fans who had to look for a dry parking spot in the grassy lot, but the fact that this night of racing happened at all was triumph. Let’s hope that we can do it again to kickoff the 2018 season under more ideal circumstances!  

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