(Today continues a week-long look at different aspects of competition at Quincy Raceways as we head toward opening night on Sunday.)
A storyline from each of the classes I’m extremely interested in watching unfold early this season includes:
Late models: I find it fascinating that two of the households names from the modified series, Tony Dunker and Vance Wilson, will also be turning the wheel in a late model. It’s no secret both have histories as aggressive drivers in a modified, so I’ll be curious to see how that transfers to the big-bodied cars, especially the first few weeks of the season. What’s equally compelling is both are accomplished drivers (with a combined three track titles between them) and used to success, so I wonder how patient they will be in their new surroundings? It will only be a matter of time until they are successful in a late model, but I’ve got a hunch that learning curve is going to be interesting.
Modifieds: There have been quite a few names thrown around in the offseason as favorites for the mod championship. Think about who we have discussed at great length: Justin Reed, Steven DeLonjay, Tony Dunker, Vance Wilson, Robbie Reed, Shawn Deering, Dave Wietholder, Jared Schlipman and a handful of others. Who has slipped under the radar? How about Donovan Lodge? Lodge led the series in second-half points and was fifth in improvement points en route to a strong fourth-place finish in the overall standings. Don’t forget about the guy from the Quad Cities.
Stock cars: Same thing in this class. There’s a name that has kind of gone unnoticed in all of the preseason title chatter, and he’s probably the one stock car driver who can legitimately say he has the Bullring figured out. Track officials have indicated Jeff Mueller will be returning to run for the title he won in 2008, and if so he will definitely be the guy to beat. In the few times Mueller was on hand in 2009 it was obvious he still knew how to get around the track quicker than anyone else in the division. If Mueller does make a run for the crown, he’ll be tough to stop. And don’t panic if he’s not in hand Sunday night, points racing does not start until April 11 for all classes except late models.
Hobby stocks: What is forgotten about this series a year ago is how much veteran Jim Powell dominated, but did not win the championship. A late-season penalty for rough driving, which cost him dearly in points ultimately cost him his first track title. Powell won more features, heats and total races than any other driver, but that one night he could not control his temper cost him the championship. He might very well be the driver who should be favored when this year’s points start to count.