Prior to Sunday night, Chad Simpson had never been to Quincy or its famed postage stamp-sized dirt track at the east end of town.
Judging by his first visit, there’s a good chance he will be back.
By the time Simpson left Quincy and started the long trek north to Mount Vernon, Iowa, he was $3,000 richer — his reward for dominating the “Clash for the Cash” at Quincy Raceways.
Simpson led all 40 laps of the UMP-sanctioned event and was never seriously threatened en route to his flag-to-flag victory. The 32-year-old parts manager for a truck company near Cedar Rapids, who had to be at work at 7:30 Monday morning, insisted the win was not as easy it may have appeared to the naked eye.
“It’s never easy,” Simpson said. “There were a lot of capable drivers out there, and we didn’t know what to expect since this was our first trip here.”
Simpson is obviously a quick learner.
He also demonstrated little problem navigating his way through a labyrinth of lapped traffic over much of the second half of the race. The only interruptions in the feature were two early cautions.
“Lapped traffic is always a concern, especially on a one-groove track like this was was,” he said. “But we got through it.”
The West Burlington and Quincy races were initially scheduled as the final two legs of the three-part “Clash” concept, but opening night at Tri-City Speedway near Granite City, Ill., was canceled due to wet grounds.
The weekend series brought together representatives from of the American Late Model Series (ALMS), Midwest Auto Racing Series (MARS) and the Cornbelt Clash Series to race against local UMP talents at the three host tracks.
Rounding out the top five were Brandon Sheppard, Shannon Babb, Brian Shirley and the top local finisher, Jason Perry, the defending UMP Super Late Model track champ at Quincy.
The 33 cars represented the largest field of late models at Quincy since 36 were on hand in April 2011 for an IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series tour stop. The last time the late model car count reached 40 was April 2009, also for a Deery Brothers race.
LONG HOLDS OFF WIETHOLDER
Easily the most exciting feature of the evening was 25-lap UMP Modified finale when Michael Long thwarted several late charges by Dave Wietholder to earn a 0.183-of-a-second victory.
Long and Wietholder were door-to-door for most of the final two laps. Wietholder was stronger in turns one and two, but Long had the edge in three and four, and that was ultimately the difference.
“That was a good race,” Wietholder said. “I think my car just needed to be a few inches longer.”
The two longtime rivals are also longtime friends and often exchange information.
“I’m always picking Michael’s brain,” Wietholder said. “He’s going to probably stop talking to me.”
Long’s first feature win of the season at Quincy could arguably have been his second. He was leading a week earlier on opening night when distributor problems forced him to the pits.
Long led all 25 laps by hugging the low line on a night when the track was dry slick, despite all of the wet weather only several days before.
“I just had to keep the car on the bottom, and I’m not usually a bottom feeder,” Long said. “We’re still searching with this car.”
Robbie Reed ran a strong third, followed by Jimmy Cummings and Shawn Deering.
Last week’s winner and two-time defending track champ Steven DeLonjay, who had won the Fast 6 Dash earlier in the night, was forced to the infield after seven laps with mechanical problems.
TRIFECTA FOR “THE PEOPLE’S CHAMPION”
Pat “The People’s Champion” Dunker became the first local driver of the year to win features at Quincy, West Burlington and Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa, when he roared to an easy sport compact victory in Sunday night’s final race.
Dunker, like Simpson and Long, led flag-to-flag in the 12-lap feature. Kim Abbott finished a distant second, followed by Craig Bangert.
The sport compacts provided the season’s first rollover when rookie Gary Stephenson went over turn one and rolled to a stop at the bottom of the embankment. He was not injured.
NOTE: We’ll have more from Sunday night in the coming days, including interviews with Brian Shirley and Tyler “The Califgornia Kid” Reddick, the 17-year-old wunderkind who seems destined to be one of the The Next Big Things in dirt track late models.
SUNDAY NIGHT FEATURE WINNERS
Late models: Chad Simpson (1st)
Modifieds: Michael Long (1st)
Sport compacts: Pat Dunker (1st)
SUNDAY NIGHT HEAT WINNERS
Late models: Chad Simpson (1st), Brandon Sheppard (1st), Shannon Babb (1st), Tyler Reddick (1st).
Modifieds: Shawn Deering (1st).
Sport compacts: Brandon Lambert (2nd), Pat Dunker (1st).
“B” MAIN WINNERS
Late models: Terry Phillips (1st), Justin Mitchell (1st).
Late model top qualifier: Chad Simpson, 71.326 mph.
Modified top qualifier: Steven DeLonjay, 65.838.
Late model dash winner for pole position: There was no dash Sunday night.
Modified dash winner for pole position: Steven DeLonjay (1st).
SUNDAY NIGHT STARS
10 stars: Michael Long, for the 0.183-of-a-second victory over Dave Wietholder in the UMP Modified feature. Now that was exciting.
9 stars: Dave Wietholder, for his part in that fantastic finish.
8 stars: Chad Simpson, a classy guy who posted a classy victory in the $3,000-to-win UMP Super Late Model feature.
7 stars: Pat Dunker, who established himself as a bona fide title threat in the sport compacts with a decisive feature victory.
6 stars: The track crew, for getting the Bullring ready to race following some serious flooding only a few days earlier.
5 stars: Joe Bliven, for putting new light bulbs in the scoreboard on the backstretch.
4 stars: Jason Perry, the top local finisher in the late model feature.
3 stars: Robbie Reed, whose strong third-place run in the modified finale went unnoticed to many because of the battle between Long and Wietholder for first.
2 stars: Announcer Doug Mealy, who pointed out the the fans that Pat Dunker “has cool hair.”
1 star: The concession crew in the pits, who make the best hamburgers in Adams County.
Late models: 33.
Sport compacts: 12.
Late models: 9.
Sport compacts: 2.