WEBSTER CITY - A dip in the temperature and 30 mph winds didn't faze the drivers or fans as the Hamilton County Speedway opened for its 76th season here Saturday evening.
And a young Des Moines driver made a name for himself on the fast track.
Just 18 years old, Nick Roberts wowed the crowd as he earned his first win in a Modified just weeks before his graduation from Des Moines Lincoln High School. Roberts drew the No. 2 stating slot for the feature, and he forced the rest of the field to play catch-up as he led the entire race on his way to the checkers.
DFJ photo by Nancy Kayser
Des Moines teenager Nick Roberts (23JR) takes a corner during a Modified heat race at the Hamilton County Speedway on Saturday. He later took the checkers in the feature.
Roberts, who drives the No. 23JR, moved up to the Modified class this year following a successful Sport Mod career that included a win at the 2012 Super Nationals. He is considered a contender for IMCA Rookie of the Year honors.
Mark Elliott, No. 12 of Webster City, chased hard for second, while No. 14E Chase Ellingson of Iowa Falls took third.
Three drivers held the lead during the 15-lap Hobby Stock feature. The No. 25M of Callender driver Matt Mundt jumped to the lead from his pole position start before he turned it over to the No. 40 car of Randy Embrey of Granger.
By lap No. 5, eventual winner Myles Michehl, No. 21 of Fort Dodge, had moved up from his third row starting spot to catch Embrey. The two ran close with Embrey gaining in the stretch and Michehl catching him in the corners.
Michehl pulled ahead in the second corner on the 10th lap on his way to the win.
Webster City's Craig Graham, in the No. 13G, worked his way forward to claim the second spot and Embrey settled for third.
Jeff Deal, No. 22 of Fort Dodge, quickly moved from his third-row start position to take the lead on the third lap of the Stock Car main event, and he led the rest of the way to take the checkers.
Lance Deal - another Fort Dodge driver in the No. 22X - finished second with John Campbell of Belmond taking his No. 7J to third.
Sport Mod driver Jared VanDeest of Holland in the No. 80J grabbed the lead by the fifth lap of that feature and increased his cushion on each lap to claim victory.
The real battle went on between the cars behind VanDeest, as they jockeyed for position. Ending up in second was Bob Sutherland of Blairsburg in the No. 4ORD. He was patient throughout the run, waiting until turn No. 4 on the last lap to slingshot past eventual third-place finisher Brandon Toftee, a Webster City driver in the No. 85T.
Fort Dodge driver Tommy Beekman, No. 3T, kept his front-row starting spot throughout the Sport Compact feature on his way to Victory Lane. Lyle Oberhelman, another Fort Dodge racer in the No. M13, was second. Manson's Nick Hogan, No. 20TP, placed third.
A yellow flag brought the Late Model feature back for a second start, but it didn't seem to bother veteran Marshalltown driver Darrell DeFrance, as he gunned his No. 99D to the front and never wavered en route to the win.
Cruising in second was the No. 15C of Curt Schroeder out of Ames, while Webster City's Ryan Griffith, No. 15K, settled for third.
A total of 77 drivers from 37 Iowa communities came to the historic half-mile track to open the 2014 season.
Racing will resume, weather permitting, Saturday evening with hot laps at 6 p.m. The Mimi Mod cone races for kids ages 7 to 12 will also make their debut this weekend.