Some thoughts about the late models, which begin their “regular season” Sunday night when points racing begins for the track’s marquee division:
1. I still like my pick of Justin Reed to win the track championship. He looks like he is poised for a title run after finishing second in 2009. Here are his points finishes since he was a rookie in 2003:
2006: 11th (missed three points features)
If you notice, Reed has improived his standing every full season he has raced. That 2006 finish is more of an anomaly than anything else, considering he missed 20 percent of the points races.
2. A name I think should be mentioned more for title consideration is Keith Pratt, who flirted with first place much of last year before a late-season slide. If Keith can keep No. 33 on the track the whole summer he will be a contender until the end.
3. No one is quite sure how many Sunday nights Mark Burgtorf will be in the pits — even Mark himself — but it is always a pleasure to watch No. 7 work his way through a field. I have been watching races full-time at the Bullring since 1999 and not once have I ever seen Burgtorf be involved in any sort of major crash. There’s a reason for that.
4. What might wind up determining the track championship is how many nights the likes of Burgtorf, Jason Frankel and Denny Woodworth frequent 8000 Broadway. Where they finish on those nights and the points they earn — and others don’t — could ultimately be the difference.
5. Has any late model driver improved more than Jason Perry in the past four-plus years? Check out his finishes since his rookie year in 2006:
6. Don’t overlook defending track champ Lonnie Bailey, who had car problems the first week and then got caught up in that nasty three-car melee on the front straight last Sunday. The only prediction I will make about Bailey is that he will win at least one feature this season. If you remember, he won two track titles in 2009 without winning a main event at either 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa or his home track in Quincy.
7. I certainly wish some of the Iowa drivers would frequent Quincy more often than they do. Only six times since Quincy became an IMCA track in 1998 has an Iowa driver run as many as nine points features at the Bullring:
Boone McLaughlin, Mediaopolis, 15, 1999
Tommy Elston, Keokuk, 14, 1998
Boone McLaughlin, Mediaopolis, 12, 2006
Jeremiah Hurst, Dubuque, 11, 2002
Sam Halstead, New London, 10, 2007
Matt Strassheim, Burlington, 9, 2004
8. The late models will also be in action this weekend at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson on Friday night and 34 Raceway in West Burlington on Saturday. Neither of those two Iowa tracks are running late models every show this year. The only Qujincy driver I know of for sure that is running all three tracks this year on a full-time basis is Lonnie Bailey (at least that was his plan a couple of weeks ago).
9. Those late model starting fields haven’t looked quite right this season without Jerry Weisenberger and his familiar No. 21J out there. No driver ever ran harder than the retired “The Hippie.”
10. I hope we see Dustin Neese Sunday night. Dustin, who has yet to run this year, has always raced for the love of the sport. He doesn’t have a fortune to sink into his late model, but loves to compete and is a nice guy. He’s been a regular at the track since 2001, finishing in the top 10 in points five times and winning 22 total races, including three features. His last checkered flag in a main event was in 2007.