Realistically, can Michael Long be stopped from another dominating season at Quincy Raceways?
Actually, “dominating” is being kind to the modified opposition. “Smothering” might be more accurate.
A week ago in this space, I asked if late model legend Mark Burgtorf could be beaten if he ran a full points schedule. It’s more or a less repeat of that same query, except insert “Michael Long” in place of “Mark Burgtorf.”
In the 10 years I have covered dirt-track racing in this area, I have not seen anything comparable to what Long managed to accomplish in 2007-2008. The twentysomething Long put together a career year in ’07 — and then matched it in ’08. Long won more races (71) in those two years than all but two other drivers — Hank DeLonjay (134) and Dunker (86) — had in the previous 10 seasons combined.
Whatever he is doing and whatever he has figured out has placed him at an entirely different level than any other modified driver at the Broadway Bullring.
For the most part, Long’s accomplishments completely overshadowed guys like Tony Dunker, Steven DeLonjay, Robbie Reed, Dave Wietholder, Wyatt Lantz and others. And those “other” guys are quality drivers who, if not for the presence of Long, were all capable of winning a track championship. (In fact, as I look at that list, they all have in one class or another.)
Let’s examine who has the best chance of uneathing Long, who if he opts to run a full points schedule will be trying for a third straight track championship. Only two other modified drivers, Hank DeLonjay and Sam Burgtorf, have managed to win as many as three in a row. Both DeLonjay and Burgtorf are now retired.
Right now, four guys are capable of wrestling the title away from Long if the stars are aligned properly:
Tony Dunker: He was the No. 1 all-time “B” modified driver, according my rankings for The Quincy Herald-Whig, and had won two championships when the “A” and “B” mods were combined into one class prior to the 2006 season. Dunker has been steady, a contender and consistently run up front in the three years of the combined mod series, but he has not won a feature since 2005. To supplant Long, Dunker has to find victory lane, which is easier said than done. Long has won 31 of the last 46 features at the cathedral of commotion.
Steven DeLonjay: This will only be his second season in a modified, but “Little Crank” is definitely a gem in the making. DeLonjay was actually in position to win the track title in his rookie season after Long took a week off late in the year to run a big-money race at another track, but the teenager was unable to hold off Long upon his return. Two numbers to remember entering the ’09 season: DeLonjay is 17 years old, and he has already won 37 races.
Robbie Reed: The Quincy-Mexico, Mo.-Quincy resident is the ultimate points racer. He knows how to win a championship (see 2006) without winning a ton of features, and he will always be a contender with his plethora of top-five finishes. Reed will be the guy hanging around at second or third in points going into August, waiting for Long (or whoever might be leading the parade) to make a mistake.
Dave Wietholder: This guy is one of my favorites to watch. At one point in his career it was because I never knew what car he might be bouncing off of, but now it’s because I have enjoyed watching him mature as a driver. Wietholder is getting close to putting all the pieces together and if he gets off to a fast start he might be the most capable of the challengers of riding a wave of momentum to a commanding position.