(The following is the fifth of our annual mid-winter looks at the coming Quincy Raceways season, plus a look back to see how we fared with the previous year’s picks. Today we examine the IMCA modifieds.)
UMP modified driver Steven DeLonjay will be putting the pedal to the metal this season in pursuit of a twofold piece of Quincy Raceways history. And I wouldn’t bet against him.
First of all, DeLonjay will be going for his fifth track championship, which would put him in some mighty elite company. Only four other drivers since the track opened in 1975 have accomplished that:
Most track championships
Mark Burgtorf, 14 (all late model)
Hank DeLonjay, 13 (10 “A” modified, 3 sportsman)
Steve Fraise, 9 (all late model)
Steve Carlin, 5 (3 hobby stock, 2 bomber)
Active drivers with 4
Steven DeLonjay (2 UMP modified, 2 hornet)
Terry Gallaher (all late model)
Active drivers with 3
Tony Dunker (2 “B” modified, 1 sport mod)
Lonnie Bailey (2 late model, 1 sportsman)
Secondly, DeLonjay is trying to become the third modified driver with three or more consecutive championships.
Consecutive modified track championships
Hank DeLonjay, 4 (2002-05, all “A” modified)
Sam Burgtorf, 3 (1998-2000, all “A” modified)
Drivers with 2 consecutive modified track championships
Steven DeLonjay (2011-12, UMP modified)
Michael Long (2007-08, one-class modified)
Tony Dunker (2003-04, “B” modified)
Lonnie Carter (1995-96, “B” modified)
Hank DeLonjay (1994-95, “A” modified)
Here’s how we see the UMP modifieds finishing at this point in the preseason:
1. Steven DeLonjay: Challengers better hope hoe does not pick up where he left at the end of last season. DeLonjay won seven second-half races, including four of the final seven to pull away from Jared Schlipman and Dave Wietholder. DeLonjay finished first or second in 14 of 22 features.
Why he’ll win: He’s been there and he knows how to “points race” late in the season.
Why he won’t: It’s hard to win even one track title, let alone three in a row.
2. Dave Wietholder: He was the top modified driver for almost half of the season, then fell victim to the DeLonjay Smackdown.
3. Michael Long: He finished sixth a year ago and missed five points weeks. If he’s on hand for a couple of more weeks this summer, well … you can do the math.
Dark horse: Jake Griffin. He’s not old enough to drive to the track, but he can certainly drive at the track.
Comeback of the year: Troy Grotz. He got buried in the points early in 2012 due to some wrecks that were not his fault. Look for better results this season.
A LOOK BACK AT HOW WE SAW THE 2012 PRESEASON
This is what we said a year ago at this time, plus with updated comments:
1. Steven DeLonjay: A year ago in this space I said, “I think we are about to see the beginning of the second era of DeLonjay dominance at the Bullring.” Steven proved that forecast true. This year could be chapter No. 2 in what will be an ongoing serial.
(Count one for Stevie Dirt.)
Why he will win: He’s tasted the fruits of that championship and knows what it takes to reach that level. He also has a 13-time track champ as crew chief — his dad, Hank.
(Hank’s on hand again, so watch out, world.)
Why he won’t win: Because there are at least a half dozen other capable drivers of winning the championship Steve-O now possesses.
(True, but DeLonjay was still the best — again — in 2012.)
2. Jared Schlipman: Jared won the 2010 title and it appears he and DeLonjay are developing a great rivalry.
(Hopefully, that rivalry is not over. Is Jared moving to a late model for 2013?)
3. Dave Wietholder: Dave had a solid season in 2011 but was overshadowed by DeLonjay’s exploits. No. 05 should be part of a great points pursuit this summer.
(I just realized I picked Delonjay, Schlipman and Wietholder 1-2-3 a year ago at this time and that’s how they finished. I guess hanging around Joe Bliven for 15 years has helped.)
Dark horse No. 1: Shawn Deering may have made more of a statement last year than he did if not for that horrible month when everything that could have gone wrong did. The law of percentages should be in his favor this time around. Plus, he has a great looking car!
(Shawn had a solid season, finishing fourth in points. He was just overshadowed by the Big Three.)
Dark horse No. 2: If Michael Long races enough to challenge for the championship he’s obviously our choice. But we’ll have to wait and see what happens with that development. Michael has his eyes on championships outside of 8000 Broadway.
(Only Michael Long could miss five points weeks and still finish sixth points.)
Comeback of the year:Tony Dunker. He was my pick in this space a year ago, but did not race that much. This year will be different, and with that winless feature streak monkey off his back I look for Dunker to challenge for the title, not only in this class but the sport mods as well.
(Well, I got part of this right. Dunker owned the sport mods, but said farewell to the UMP mods.)
2012 POINTS LEADERS
Steven DeLonjay, 1,224
Jared Schlipman, 1,140
Dave Wietholder, 1,136
Shawn Deering, 975
Jake Griffin, 962
2011 POINTS LEADERS
Steven DeLonjay, 1,121
Jared Schlipman, 960
Dave Wietholder, 946
Shawn Deering, 919
Jake Griffin, 741
2010 POINTS LEADERS
Jared Schlipman, 869
Michael Long, 819
Steven DeLonjay, 816
Dave Wietholder, 786
Justin Reed, 770