Ten drivers, in no particular order, I would like to share a trackburger and diet Mountain Dew with while watching a Bristol race:
1. JOE BLIVEN: To me, Joe epitomizes what Quincy Raceways is all about. He races for the love of the sport. It’s not about traveling to all corners of the earth, it’s about showing up every week at your home track and doing the best you can against the guys you call your friends.
2. JERRY WEISENBERGER: "The Hippie," or as he prefers, "The Redneck," has never won a track title and probably never will (although every fan in the stands at 8000 Broadway, including this writer, wishes he would before his career is over). He races hard every lap, every race and every week. I appreciate that, and so do all of those fans in the stands every Sunday night.
3. DUSTIN NEESE: Simply one of the nicest guys to ever frequent the Bullring. He doesn’t realize it, but there a lot of race followers who pull for him each and every week. They know he does not have a big budget or big crew, and they know there may not be a racer who gets more out of what he has than Neese.
4. MARK BURGTORF: I have never encountered an athlete with Burgtorf’s status who is as humble. He never dodges a question and always provides an intelligent, well-thought-out answer that is as educational as it is informative. Mark has proven for years that nice guys CAN finish first.
5. TONY DUNKER: OK, he may be a bit controversial, but what I admire most about him is his passion. He comes to compete each week, not simply ride around and collect a check. If he is second, he wants to be first. If he is 14th, he wants to be 13th. I admire that.
6. KEITH PRATT: He’s one of the young turks at the track, but he respects the tradition and the veterans who have made the place special. He’s also matured quite a bit the last few years and it shows in his on-track abilities. It’s guys like Pratt who make me think the late model division will be strong for years to come.
7. MICHAEL LONG: Controversy seems to find him for the strangest reasons. In his younger days, I seem to remember a memorable feud with Ryan Meyer. Nowadays, it because he’s winning too much. Whaaaat? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — let’s enjoy what he is accomplishing. We may never see another streak like this for a long, long time.
8. ROBBIE REED: He’s currently recovering from kidney surgery, so first and foremost we want to see him behind the wheel again more than anything else. I’ll always remember how he let me have it pretty good late in 2006 after I had written several late-season articles all but awarding another modified title to Hank DeLonjay. Lo and behold, Reed surprised us all and won that championship. I’ll never forget that stretch run of Reed’s — if for no other reason, because he won’t let me.
9. WYATT LANTZ: It’s great to see him running full time against at Quincy. A former track champ and, like Burgtorf, extremely humble. I had one of my most memorable post-race interviews with him a few years ago at the height of his dominance in the old "B" modified class. Wyatt tried to explain to me how he was killing everyone without coming off the least bit arrogant. That, my friends, is the mark of a true champion.
10. TERRY GALLAHER: Can you imagine the stories he has to tell? What a long and crazy ride it’s been for the silver-haired hotshoe from Hannibal. I’ve heard some of those stories, and I would like to hear more.
(To be continued)
Shannon Babb’s $40,000 victory in the Lucas Oil Diamond Nationals has vaulted him to No. 6 in the latemodelracer.com late model rankings. Here’s a look at the latest top 10, with last week’s ranking in parentheses:
1. (1.) Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
2. (2.) Jimmy Owens, Newport, Tenn.
3. (3.) Steve Francis, Ashland, Ky.
4. (4.) Scott Bloomquist, Mooresburg, Tenn.
5. (5.) Earl Pearson Jr., Jacksonville, Fla.
6. (9.) Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.
7. (6.) Josh Richards, Shinnston, W. Va.
8. (7.) Shane Clanton, Locust Grove, Ga.
9. (14.) Don O’Neal, Martinsville, Ind.
10. (8.) Ray Cook, Brasstown, N.C.
CENTRAL REGION RANKINGS
For races run inside Central Region only
1. (1.) Dennis Erb Jr., Carpentersville, Ill.
2. (4.) Todd Cooney, Des Moines, Iowa
3. (2.) Darren Miller, Chadwick, Ill.
4. (3.) Al Purkey, Coffeyville, Kan.
5. (7.) Ray Moore, Shreveport, La.
6. (13.) Shannon Babb, Moweaqua, Ill.
7. (14.) Brian Birkhofer, Muscatine, Iowa
8. (-) Lee Davis, Greenwood, La.
9. (5) Jeremy Payne, Springfield, Mo.
10. (6.) Billy Moyer, Batesville, Ark.
Other notable drivers
11. (-) Denny Woodworth, Mendon, Ill.
15. (8.) Boone McLaughlin, Mediapolis, Iowa
24. (-) Mark Burgtorf, Quincy, Ill.
31. (-) Justin Reed, Quincy, Ill.
46. (28.) Jason Frankel, Quincy, Ill.
NEXT BIG EVENT
The 16th annual O’Reilly Show Me Late Model 100 in West Plains, Mo., will offer an incredible $42,000 to win and $4,200 to start the main event. The total purse for the May 22-24 big show will exceed $200,000.