Unfortunately, because of what Dunker accomplished the two preceding years, this summer has seemed rather pedestrian.
But that kind of thinking may be about to change.
Dunker’s second straight sport mod feature victory Sunday night at Quincy Raceways served further notice that the series’ most dominant driver since its late 2011 inception is hardly ready to accept second-class citizenship.
“I feel we’ve advanced (our program) from last year, even though the wins might not show it,” Dunker said. “We actually cracked the top 20 in (IMCA) national points a few weeks earlier this year than we did last year.”
In addition, Dunker has been able to maintain a comfortable points lead in his pursuit of a third straight sport mod track title. That’s been overlooked by many because of Dunker’s lower number of feature wins, especially when compared to 2013 and 2012 when he won a combined 28 main events and 52 overall races at 8000 Broadway.
This year, Dunker has two feature victories and two heat wins, but what has been lost by some in the fall-off in those categories is that his consistency has remained strong.
Granted, the wins have not been there (until the last two weeks), but it’s not like Dunker has not been close. He’s been runner-up in six of 10 features and finished lower than third just once. The points add up quickly with that kind of week-in, week-out consistency.
At the local level, Dunker commands a healthy 19-point (388-369) margin over closest challenger Bobby Anders. Nationally, things are looking up, too.
“We (entered the weekend) 15th in national points, and probably over the next week or so we’ll climb to around fourth or fifth,” Dunker said. “Those seconds all add up. We have six victories overall and 17 second-place finishes.”
A driver’s top 30 finishes (out of a maximum of 35 races) provides his IMCA national points total. Dunker said many of the drivers currently ahead of him have or are near maxing out their races and he has plenty of chances remaining to climb the ladder.
The 41-year-old Dunker is trying to be only the fourth modified driver in the 40-year history of the track to win three or more consecutive track titles. If he hangs on to his points lead, he’ll join such household names as DeLonjay and Burgtorf:
Consecutive modified championships
Hank DeLonjay, 4 (“A” modified, 2002-05)
Steven DeLonjay, 3 (UMP modified, 2011-13)
Sam Burgtorf, 3 (“A” modified, 1998-2000)
Dunker is also trying to secure a fifth overall track title (he won “B” mod crowns in 2003-04), which would make him just the sixth driver in Quincy Raceways history to own five or more championships. Here’s that short list:
Most titles won at Quincy Raceways
Mark Burgtorf, 14 titles (all late model)
Hank DeLonjay, 13 (10 “A” modified, 3 sportsman)
Steve Fraise, 9 (all late model)
Steven DeLonjay, 5 (3 modified, 2 hornet)
Steve Carlin, 5 (3 hobby stock, 2 bomber)
“It is great to just be mentioned with guys like that,” Dunker said. “I grew up watching a lot of of them race.”
Dunker said it means a lot to him when established veterans like Mark Burgtorf or the retired Hank DeLonjay pay him a compliment about his consistency.
“(Racing) goes deeper than what people see from the stands,” he said.
As good of a night as it was for Dunker — again, it was equally as frustrating for runner-up Tanner Klingele — again. Klingele has finished second to Dunker the past two shows, and just like the first time Dunker rallied late to deny Klingele his first sport mod victory.
Klingele led 14 of the first 15 laps of the 18-lap feature, only to see Dunker move through the field and eventually run him down and get past him.
“Tanner’s running hard, he’s going to get a win,” Dunker said.
‘SMOOTH OPERATOR’ GETS ANOTHER WIN AT QUINCY
Bobby “The Smooth Operator” Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., earned a second big payday this season at Quincy when he captured the $2,000-to-win, 30-lap late model special. He earlier won the Scottie 40 memorial race in May, which also paid $2,000 to win.
Pierce led the final 21 laps after going high on lap 10 to secure the lead from Ricky Frankel. Pierce, who wound up fifth in points in the recent six-week UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour marathon, has four wins in Quincy over the past two seasons.
Pierce will likely be making more appearances in Quincy in the coming weeks. He’s the UMP national points leader and Quincy is the only Sunday night UMP track in the region.
Brandon Dively, Gordy Gundaker, Frankel and Denny Woodworth rounded out the top five. Woodworth’s fifth-place showing allowed him to cut points leader Mark Burgtorf’s lead in half. Woodworth now trails Burgtorf, who finished 17th, by 26 points (444-418).
DELONJAY REMAINS HOT
Modified points leader Steven DeLonjay got around Michael Long on lap 17 of the 25-lap main event and never relinquished the lead. DeLonjay’s second straight victory boosted his points lead to 55 over Dave Wietholder, who finished fourth.
HUL-ACIOUS WIN FOR ABE
Abe Huls’ last-lap pass of Brandon Savage gave him his third stock car feature victory in the last four shows and boosted his points lead to six (369-363) over Jim Lynch, who finished sixth.
ANOTHER STREAK FOR BECERRA?
Austen Becerra won his third straight sport compact feature and eighth of the season. Earlier this season, Becerra had a 13-feature win streak (that dated to 2013) snapped.
SUNDAY NIGHT RECAP
Late models: Denny Woodworth (3rd), Bobby Pierce (2nd), Ricky Frankel (1st).
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay (5th), Dave Wietholder (2nd).
Sport mods: Tanner Klingele (5th), Joey Gower (1st).
Stock cars: Beau Taylor (3rd), Terry Houston (1st).
Sport compacts: Bryce Baker (3rd), Brandon Lambert (3rd).
Points leaders (unofficial)
Late models: Mark Burgtorf 444, Denny Woodworth 418, Ricky Frankel 366.
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay 606, Dave Wietholder 551, Michael Long 505.
Sport mods: Tony Dunker 388, Bobby Anders 369, Brad Holtmeyer 366.
Stock cars: Abe Huls 369, Jim Lynch 363, Brandon Savage 360.
Sport compacts: Austen Becerra 392, Kim Abbott 373, Bryce Baker 352, Brandon Lambert 351.
Late models: Justin Reed, 77.391 mph (fastest of season).
– 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: Michael Long 70.650 mph (fastest of season).
– UMP weekly series record: Michael Long, Quincy, Ill., 70.650 mph, July 20, 2014.
Late models: Ricky Frankel, 72.319 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, Sept. 16, 2012.
Modifieds: Dave Wietholder, 65.246 mph.
– UMP weekly series record: Michael Long, Quincy, Ill., 73.763 mph, Aug. 22, 2010.
Sport mods: Tony Dunker, 65.250 mph.
– Track record: Tony Dunker, 65.976 mph, Sept. 30, 2012.
SUNDAY NIGHT STARS
10 stars: Tony Dunker, who for the second straight week found an exciting route to victory lane.
9 stars: Abe Huls, who stole that stock-car checkered flag from Brandon Savage and/or Jake Powers with that last-gasp pass right before the finish line..
8 stars: Steven DeLonjay, who has two straight feature wins and has not finished lower than third since June 1.
7 stars: Bobby Pierce, who once he got out front Sunday night was long gone in the late model feature.
6 stars: Austen Becerra, who not only won a track-best eighth feature, seems to be developing a nice little rivalry with Brandon Lambert.
5 stars: Jake Powers, who had his strongest overall feature run of the season in the stock car division. The Snake finished a close third behind Abe Huls and Brandon Savage.
4 stars: Brandon Lambert, who is battling Bryce Baker for the most improved sport compact driver. Lambert now has three straight second-place feature finishes and has led each of the last three main events.
3 stars: Tanner Klingele, who obviously does not own any four-leaf clovers.
2 stars: Michael Long, who finished second in the mod feature after establishing a season-fastest qualifying lap of 70.650 mph.
1 star: Justin Reed, who later encountered mechanical problems, but not before establishing the No. 1 late model qualifying effort of the season at 77.361 mph.
Late models: 21 (second-highest total of year), 13.4 season average.
Modifieds: 13. Season average 13.8.
Sport mods: 12. Season average 14.2.
Stock cars: 11. Season average 9.4.
Sport compacts: 12. Season average 10.5.
Total: 69 (highest total of season for five weekly series, and the second week in a row each of the five weekly classes had 10 or more cars.)
Late models: 7. (After having only 12 for the entire season heading into Sunday night.) Season average 2.4.
Modifieds: 5. Season average 5.3.
Sport mods: 4. Season average 5.2.
Stock cars: 2. Season average 3.3.
Sport compacts: 2. Season average 1.6.