Can Tony Dunker, shown during his halcyon days in the "B" modifieds, make a run at Michael Long's record 16 feature victories?
Before you say it, I will. I know it’s early, but the starts Abe Huls and Tony Dunker are off to it’s getting close to the time we start saying “what if … ”
Both Huls and Dunker won their fourth features (in six tries) Sunday night at the Bullring, and with those kinds of starts it’s fun to see what kind of math is involved when it comes to chasing track records.
Let’s look at Huls first. Arguably even more impressive than the four features is that he’s won the last three in f lag-to-flag fashion. No driver has won back-to-back-to-back features in flag-to-flag style since I started monitoring that specific feat four seasons ago. To show how rare Huls’ current streak is, consider that in 2011 the stock car series had four flag-to-flag winners the entire season.
Now, as far the stock car record for features won in a season is concerned, that achievement belongs to Jeff Mueller. Old No. 77 won nine of them in the inaugural year for the stocks in 2008. The closest any driver has come to that was Aaron Brocksieck (7) in 2011.
There are 17 Sunday nights left in the season, so that means Huls has to win five more features to tie Mueller and six to own the record. That sounds workable to me, but before you hand Honest Abe the keys to the kingdom remember last season when Brocksieck won the first three main events and five of the first seven? Brocksieck’s second half of the season turned into a struggle.
Let’s look at Dunker. There’s a couple of things to consider in this case. I’m looking more at his chance of establishing an overall track record for feature wins, which belongs to modified driver Michael Long during his incredible two-year run between 2007-08. Long won 16 features in 2007, 15 in 2008. Can Dunker get that (overall) modified record?
What Dunker has going for him he is an established veteran in a class where (probably) one of four drivers will likely win the feature every week: Dunker, Vance Wilson, Bobby Anders and Joe Bliven. There are some talented younger drivers like Brad Holtmeyer, Brandon Dale, Tanner Klingele and a few others, but on most Sunday nights the favorites are going to be the veterans. (There were five established vets, but it appears Jim Gillenwater has said hasta la vista to Quincy.)
To get the record, Dunker would need to win 12 of the final 17 to tie and 13 to own the record. That’s how dominant Long was that one season. Possibly a more realistic goal would be to join the 10-win feature club. That’s only been done in four different years since stats started being kept in 1999, most recently in 2010 (Long, 10).
Dunker is off to his best start since he was a dominant force in the old “B” mods. He won back-to-back track titles in 2003-04 and was runner-up in 2005. The “B” mods were ended after that season when the track went to one modified series — until this season. (Not counting the four races the sport mods ran in 2011.)
There are also some drivers who appear poised to possibly set sail after overall victory records, but that’s another topic for another day later in the season.
One thing we did not discuss was rain. A few well-placed Sunday rainouts could really screw up these record pursuits. But again, that’s another topic for another day.
SUNDAY NIGHT FEATURE WINNERS
Late models: Mark Burgtorf, 1st. (Last week’s feature winner: Dustin Griffin)
Modifieds: Jared Schlipman, 1st. (Last week’s feature winner: Dave Wietholder)
Sport mods: Tony Dunker, 4th. (Last week’s feature winner: Tony Dunker)
Stock cars: Abe Huls, 4th. Last week’s feature winner: Abe Huls)
Hobby stocks: Brandon Symmonds, 1st. (Last week’s feature winner: Jake Powers)
Sport compacts: Chuck Fullenkamp, 2nd. (Last week’s feature winner: Nick Wilkerson)
Fast feature laps
Late models: Mark Burgtorf, 64.966 mph. (Last week’s fast lap: Dustin Griffin, 64.990 mph. UMP track record: Jeep Van Wormer, 78.284 mpg, July 3, 2009; IMCA track record: Justin Reed, 74.295 mph, Aug. 30, 2009.)
Modifieds: Jared Schlipman, 63.028 mph. (Last week’s fast lap::Dave Wietholder, 64.026 mph. Track record: Michael Long, 73.763 mph, Aug. 22, 2010.)
SUNDAY NIGHT HEAT WINNERS
Late models: Mark Burgtorf (4th), Jim Moon (2nd).
Modifieds: Jake Griffin (2nd), Shawn Deering (2nd), Steven DeLonjay (2nd).
Sport mods: Tony Dunker (3rd), Vance Wilson (1st).
Stock cars: Darin Weisinger (1st).
Hobby stocks: Jake Powers (2nd), Tanner Klingele (3rd).
Sport compacts: Brandon Lambert (1st), Casey Lambert (1st), Robert Thompson (1st).
Late model dash winner: Mark Burgtorf (2nd).
Past dash winners
April 1: Brandon Sheppard
April 8: Dustin Griffin
May 6: Dennis Erb Jr.
May 13: Dustin Griffin
May 20: Mark Burgtorf
SUNDAY NIGHT STARS
10 stars: Honest Abe Huls, who won his third straight flag-to-flag stock car feature. No other driver has led a stock car feature lap since May 6.
9 stars: Jared Schlipman, who won his first modified feature of the season and the 40th race of his Bullring career.
8 stars: Mark Burgtorf, who won his first late model feature of the year and pulled off the second trifecta of the young season. Burgtorf also won the late model dash and a heat race.
7 stars: Flagman Chris Miller, who waved Old Yeller a season-high 35 times Sunday night. The modifieds were especially crash-happy. The UMP mods (11) and IMCA sport mods (9) combined for 20 cautions.
6 stars: Tony Dunker, who won his fourth overall and second straight sport mod feature.
5 stars: Brandon Symmonds, who won his first hobby stock main event. Symmonds led the final 14 laps — the first feature laps he has led this season.
4 stars: Chuck Fullenkamp, who became the first sport compact driver to win two features.
3 stars: Darin Weisinger, who enjoyed his finest night in a stock car to date. Weisinger ran a strong third in the feature and also won a heat race.
2 stars: Denny Woodworth, for his second-place late model feature finish, his best of the season. Only Burgtorf’s car appeared stronger Sunday night.
1 star: Lon Tournear, for his interview remarks in the “Your Turn” section of Saturday’s Herald-Whig.
Late models: 16 (season average 19.0)
Modifieds: 18 (season average 19.8)
Sport mods: 13 (season average 13.0)
Stock cars: 8 (season average 8.8)
Hobby stocks: 11 (season average 13.3)
Sport compacts: 18 (season average 16.0)
Total: 84 (season average 89.3)
Late models: 23, May 6.
Modifieds: 23, May 13.
Sport mods: 18, May 13.
Stock cars: 12, April 1.
Hobby stocks: 16, May 13.
Sport compacts: 18, May 30
Late models: 5 (season average 6.3)
Modifieds: 11 (season average 7.5)
Sport mods: 9 (season average 7.2)
Stock cars: 3 (season average 1.7)
Hobby stocks: 0 (season average 1.2)
Sport compacts: 7 (season average 2.5)