Joey Gower wasted little time establishing himself as a bona fide threat to Tony Dunker’s two-year stranglehold on the sport mod division at Quincy Raceways.
Gower, making a return to the modifieds after an 18-year hiatus, won Sunday’s sport mod feature in his series debut. Gower held off Dunker, a two-time defending track champ in the sport mods and a winner of 29 of the previous 42 features in the series’ relatively brief history in Quincy.
Gower’s victory helped christen the track’s 40th anniversary season on a picture-perfect evening at 8000 Broadway.
Other opening night winners were Ryan Unzicker in the Sunoco American Late Model Series (ALMS) special, Jacob Poel in the modfieds, Abe Huls in stock cars and Austen Becerra in sport compacts.
Gower was contacted in the offseason by local car owner Chuck Ancell, who also fields sport mods for series regular Tanner Klingele.
“Chuck asked me if wanted to drive for him,” Gower said.
Obviously, that answer was yes.
And now Gower has new lease on a racing career that includes a spot among the late model victory leaders in the track’s modern era (since 1999), a period that includes the facility’s affiliation first with IMCA, then UMP (since 2012).
That was then, this is now.
“I think this (sport mod relationship) will last for quite awhile,” said Gower, who raced full time in the late models — with an occasional modified run — from 1996 through mid-2012.
Even though Gower had not raced competitively for 1 1/2 years, he entered the season fourth in total modern-era late model victories at Quincy with 48.
Gower led 16 of 18 feature laps and beat Dunker to the checkered flag by a comfortable 4.521 seconds. Bobby Anders was third and Aaron Brocksieck fourth in his sport mod debut.
UNZICKER CAPITALIZES ON PIERCE’S MISFORTUNE
Unzicker, of El Paso, Ill., led the final nine laps of the 40-lap ALMS event, roaring past Bobby Pierce, who exited to the infield at the start of lap 32 with engine woes. Pierce, of Danville, Ill., was going for a sixth straight feature victory after building the streak to five with Saturday’s win in the Slocum 50 at 34 Raceway in West Burlington, Iowa.
Ironically, Unzicker made the switch this season to a Pierce chassis, built by Bobby Pierce’s dad, the legendary Bob Pierce of UMP racing fame.
“Bobby’s been on a helluva roll,” Unzicker said. “I hated to take advantage of his bad luck, but that $2,000 (winner’s check) is not too bad.”
Kevin Weaver finished 2.283 seconds behind Unzicker, followed by Jason Riggs, 2013 Quincy track champ Denny Woodworth and Mark Burgtorf.
There were only 13 late models on hand, including just six Quincy regulars. Track officials blamed the Easter holiday, some drivers not having their cars ready yet and some drivers having torn up their equipment earlier in the weekend. Justin Reed, the 2011 Quincy track champ, was one of those who had major engine issues Saturday night at West Burlington.
A year ago in April, the ALMS race drew 33 late models.
BECERRA KEEPS ON KEEPIN’ ON
Austen Becerra, who is not quite 20 years old, won his 20th sport compact feature feature in less than two full seasons at Quincy. Even more impressive is his overall feature victory count in that time — 41 at various tracks in southeast Iowa and West-Central Illinois.
Becerra is to the sport compacts since mid-2012 what Dunker has been to the sport mods in that same time frame.
I’ll have more on Becerra later this week. I was able to spend some time with him after the races Sunday. I think you’ll appreciate his outlook and how he goes about stockpiling his growing victory total.
Kim Abbott was runner-up and Mike Hornung Jr. third in the four-cylinder finale.
HULS BUILDS HIS STOCK CAR LEGACY
Huls led the stock car main event flag to flag for his 28th career feature win. Huls has finished first or second in 50 of the 103 stock car features since the series debuted in Quincy in 2008.
Huls’ victory was only the second flag-to-flag win in the stock cars since 2012.
Jim Lynch was second and Jerry Jansen third.
Only six stock cars were on hand, matching the lowest car count since late in the 2012 season.
ANOTHER TRAVELER TAKES THE CHECKERS
Jacob Poel of Spring Lake, Mich., was the second traveler to win a feature Sunday night. He led the final 15 laps of the modified feature, finishing 0.926 of second ahead of Michael Long. Steven DeLonjay was third, Robbie Reed fourth and Shane Lewis fifth.
Gold medal: GMF
“Ya know i hear all the ladies love a bad boy…. to all the villains out there keep up the great work, we’re cheering for you!!!”
Silver medal: LK
“I like the black hat fellows. They’re actually pretty nice guys & talented to boot”
Bronze medal: sameolesameole
“How about qualifying in your group, works a lot of other places?”
Late models: Ryan Unzicker (1st).
Modifieds: Jacob Poel (1st).
Sport mods: Joey Gower (1st).
Stock cars: Abe Huls (1st).
Sport compacts: Austen Becerra (1st).
Late models: Jason Perry (1st), Ryan Unzicker (1st).
Modifieds: Shawn Deering (1st), Jared Schlipman (1st).
Sport mods: Tanner Klingele (1st), Bobby Anders (1st).
Stock cars: Jim Lynch (1st).
Sport compacts: Pat Dunker (1st).
Late models: No dash.
Heat winners: Michael Long (1st).
Late models: Jason Perry, 76.143 mph.
– Overall track record: Will Vaught, Crane, Mo., 82.406 mph, 12.669 seconds, July 3, 2009. (UMP Hell Tour qualifying.)
– UMP weekly series record: Brandon Sheppard, New Berlin, Ill., 79.361 mph, July 28, 2013.
Modifieds:Jacob Poel, 69.987 mph.
– UMP weekly series record: Dave Wietholder, Liberty, Ill., 70.365 mph, July 28, 2013.
FAST FEATURE LAPS
Late models: Jason Perry, 73.294 mph.
– Overall track record: Jeep Van Wormer, Pinconning, Mich., 78.376 mph, July 11, 2010.)
– UMP weekly series record: Brian Shirley, Springfield, Ill., 77.754 mph, 2012.
Modifieds: Jacob Poel, 68.437 mph.
– UMP weekly series record: Michael Long, Quincy, Ill., 73.763 mph, 2010.
Sport mods: Joey Gower, 65.336 mph.
– Track record: Tony Dunker, 65.976 mph, Sept. 30, 2012.
SUNDAY NIGHT STARS
10 stars: Joey Gower. Has a new rivalry been born at the Bullring? JGow vs. The Villain?
9 stars: Michael Long. Even though he could not overtake Jacob Poel, Long looked strong.
8 stars: Tony Dunker, who extended his streak of first-/second-place feature finishes to 32.
7 stars: Austen Becerra. Stop and think about his accomplishment at the Bullring. Twenty feature wins before he was 20-year-old.
6 stars: Ryan Unzicker. Too bad Bobby Pierce had to drop out in the latter stages. That might have been quite a late-model feature finish.
5 stars: Jacob Poel. It would be nice to see more of him, but that Spring Lake, Mich., residence might put a damper on any regular road trips to Quincy.
4 stars: Denny Woodworth, whose fourth-place late model showing was the best among the local drivers.
3 stars: Abe Huls. Unless some more stock cars show up, Honest Abe might be able to main in this year’s championship.
2 stars: Bobby Anders, who won a sport mod heat and then ralleid for a strong third-place showing in the feature.
1 star: Aaron Brocksieck. It was nice to see the former stock car track champ back at the Bullring.
Late models: 14
Sport mods: 16
Stock cars: 6
Sport compacts: 12
Late models: 1.
Sport mods: 6.
Stock cars: 1.
Sport compacts: 3.