WEBSTER CITY - Dirt track racing is a joint venture between the track and elements of Mother Nature. And so far in the 2012 racing season at the Hamilton County Speedway, Mother Nature seems to be winning the battle.
Rain and cold weather forced the cancellation of the first three races of the season. For the past two Saturday nights of racing, no rain, high temperatures and windy conditions have made each week's effort to prepare a perfect racing surface difficult.
Track officials applied load after load of water to the track every day last week. All day Saturday, up to the start of the hot laps, water was again sprayed on the track. But nature won another round, as high winds and sunshine quickly dried the surface - great for racing, but a challenge to keep the dust abated as the drivers went deep into the inside on corner four. However, the dry-slick track provided top-notch racing for everyone as racers utilized every lane going for the wins.
DFJ photo by Nancy Kayser
Late Model driver Al Johnson (8) and competitors kick up the dust during a heat race on Saturday at the Hamilton County Speedway. Johnson later won the feature.
Bryon Weyer of Des Moines in the No. 27 Sport Mod claimed first place again when he raced from a fifth row start position to take over the lead from pole sitter No. 41 Jeremy Embrey of Granger on the sixth lap. While Weyer gained momentum in his lead, the second through sixth cars fought it out side by side for the entire race.
Embrey, challenged by Joel Rust of Grundy Center in the No. 26J, managed to stay in second until Rust passed him on the next to last lap of the race to garner the runner-up honors.
Every one of the 21 Hobby Stock drivers were anxious to take the checkered flag; so anxious in fact, that it took three restarts of the first lap to get the race underway.
Austin Wolfgram, in the red No. 24 from Webster City, took the lead on the third lap and held it to the finish. Battling for second place was the No. 1R of Brad Ratcliff, Webster City, and the No. 40 driven by Granger's Randy Embrey. They both ran high and low on the track with Embry finally grabbing the second spot for good in a lap eight restart.
The fast paced Modified race went caution free. Greg Elliott of Webster City, in the No. 47, took the lead from his front row start, but was overtaken by Adam Larson of Ames driving the No. 2L on the third lap. Larson stayed out front the entire race, taking the checkered flag with more than a straight away lead.
Greg Elliott maintained his second spot to the end of the race.
Opening-race winner in the Sport Compact division, Jarid Kuchenreuther of Rockwell City in the No. 83, took the start lead in that class, but was pressured quickly by eventual winner Ruben Stansbrough of Aredale in the No. 7K, and second-place finisher - the No. 85S driven by Adam Strunk of Webster City. Strunk was unsuccessful in his attempt to get by Stansbrough as they headed to the finish.
Three caution flags slowed the Stock Car feature with Jason Vansickel, Webster City in the No. 37E, running in first for half the race. Eventual winner, Lance Deal of Fort Dodge in the No. 22X, passed Vansickel on the back stretch mid-race to take over the lead.
Two veteran drivers battled for the top spots in the Late Model feature. Multiple-time Hamilton County Speedway points champ Darrel DeFrance of Marshalltown, in his yellow No. 99D, grabbed the lead from the No. 5R driven by Riley Larson of Roland by lap No. 8. Al Johnson of Story City in the No. 8 - last week's feature winner - began picking off cars and settled in behind DeFrance by mid-race.
Johnson gained on DeFrance on every trip around the half-mile track, finally getting by him on the last lap to claim his second consecutive win.
Next Saturday's race is Fan Appreciation night with $5 admission. The Grandstand opens at 5 p.m.; hot laps will start at 6 p.m., with racing to follow.
Sponsor of this weekend's race is the Daily Freeman-Journal.