Welcome back, Justin Reed.
To victory lane, that is.
Reed, who won the 2011 Quincy Raceways late model track title, has admittedly struggled with any sort of consistency since the start of last season. That’s when the track affiliated with UMP for its late model series. That meant a lot more horsepower and a lot more big-time competition at 8000 Broadway.
“This UMP stuff is no joke,” Reed says. “You better pack your lunch if you’re coming to race (in this division).”
Reed exorcised quite a bit of his year-plus frustration Sunday night when he rallied in spectacular fashion to get past 14-time track champ Mark Burgtorf and win his first feature of the season — and his first since July 8, 2012, a span of 13 main events.
While most of the field opted to go after the low line on the dry/slick track, Reed took his pursuit of Burgtorf upstairs and attacked from close to the cushion.
REED THINKS “EVERYONE PROBABLY THOUGHT I WAS NUTS”
“Everyone probably thought I was nuts at first, since everyone else was going low,” Reed said. “But I thought there was something up there.”
Reed feels too many drivers may psyche themselves out about the top groove, feeling the only way around the .29-mile oval is down low.
“Guys worry too much about that,” he said. “I think it can become their Achilles heel.”
Reed moved closer and closer to Burgtorf most of the first half of the 30-lap event, finally reeling him in on lap 20. Reed then opened up his lead over the closing 10 circuits to win by a comfortable 3.47 seconds, the widest late model margin of victory so far this season.
Reed also thrust himself back into title contention and now sits in second place in points, 13 behind (229-216) leader and 2010 track champ Denny Woodworth, who was a strong third in the feature. Defending track champion Jason Perry finished fourth and is third in points (210).
Robby Warner continued his strong early season run with a fifth place. Warner has not finished lower than sixth in the past three weeks.
DELONJAY, DUNKER KEEP ON ROLLING
Other feature winners were Steven DeLonjay in modifieds, Tony Dunker in sport mods, Terry Houston in stock cars and Lane Van Zant in sport compacts.
DeLonjay has won four of the five modified features as he goes after a third straight track title.
“When the car is great, you have a lot of confidence,” he said.
DeLonjay’s dad, Hank DeLonjay, a 13-time track champ himself, agrees the new car the team bought — a Pierce, for those who are interested in that kind of thing — has been magnificent, but says much of his son’s confidence (and success) stems from maturity.
DeLonjay, who despite being 21 just years old, is already a veteran of seven-plus seasons of full-time racing at the Bullring. With that comes a natural kind of maturity, Couple that with a fast car and the results can be what the No. 35 team is displaying. DeLonjay has won 97 career races, including 40 features, dating to his 2006 rookie season in the old hornet division.
“The car is awesome, but Steven has been doing an awesome job of driving it,” Hank said. “He has also done a great job of giving us feedback about the car, which is also important.”
LONG, DELONJAY HAVE BEEN DOMINANT
Steven said it was at some point last season he felt like he was finally on even footing with Michael Long, the two-time track champ who is as well known regionally as he is at his home track.
Steven said he learned a lot in the early years of his modified career “following” Long. The two have completely dominated the modified series since 2009 when the track went to UMP affiliation for that series, too. In the 80 modified features run in the past four-plus years, Long (31) and DeLonjay (25) have won a combined 56.
DeLonjay led all 25 laps of the feature, finishing 1.33 seconds ahead of Dave Wietholder in a caution-free race that took only 7 minutes, 10 seconds. Wietholder has finished second three times in five main events.
Robbie Reed, Long and Shawn Deering rounded out the top five. DeLonjay (340), Wietholder (321), Reed (297) and Long (274) lead the points.
Dunker emerged victorious in an entertaining sport mod battle with Jim Gillenwater, who made the haul for a second straight week from Keokuk, Iowa. Arguably the two finest sport mod drivers in the region, Dunker chased Gillenwater for the first 13 laps of their 20-lap shootout. Once Dunker worked both the high and low lines to eventually get around Gillenwater on lap 14, then pulled away for a 3.86-second win.
Dunker stretched his streak of consecutive features finishing first (14) or second (4) to 18 and boosted his series points lead to 12 (159-147) over Bobby Anders. Joe Bliven (146) is third.
Anders, Tanner Klingele and Brad Holtmeyer, who bounced back from an early race crash, filled out the top five.
HOUSTON BOUNCES BACK; SPORT COMPACTS ARE TIGHT
Houston, the defending stock car track champ, rebounded from a 14th-place feature finish the previous week to win Sunday’s main event over Steve Carlin, Brandon Savage, Abe Huls and Jake Powers.
The stock car points tightened considerably. Powers (149) holds the lead for a second straight week, but right behind him are Huls (146), Houston (143), Carlin (141) and Jerry Jansen (140).
Van Zant won his first-ever sport compact feature, leading flag to flag in the evening’s 12-lap finale. Austen Becerra, Pat Dunker, Brandon Lambert and Kim Abbott rounded out the top five.
The sport compacts boast the tightest points race of any of the five weekly series. Abbott (189), Dunker (188), Craig Bangert (185) and Becerra (182) are all bunched atop the standings.
SUNDAY NIGHT RECAP
Late models: Justin Reed (1st)
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay (4th).
Sport mods: Tony Dunker (3rd).
Stock cars: Terry Houston (2nd).
Sport compacts: Lane Van Zant (1st).
Late models: Robby Warner (1st).
Modifieds: Craig Spegal (1st).
Sport mods: Jim Gillenwater (1st), Bobby Anders (2nd).
Stock cars: Abe Huls (4th), Terry Houston (3rd).
Sport compacts: Lane Van Zant (1st), Kim Abbott (2nd).
FAST FEATURE LAPS
Late models: Mark Burgtorf, 63.643 mph.
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay, 62.650 mph.
Sport mods: Jim Gillenwater, 61.3214 mph.
Late models: Mark Burgtorf, 72.409 mph.
Modifieds: Michael Long, 66.709 mph.
Late models: Mark Burgtorf (1st).
Modifieds: Steven DeLonjay (3rd).
SUNDAY NIGHT STARS
10 stars: Justin Reed, who won his first late model feature since July 2012 after he shaved his beard off Sunday for the first time since “around Thanksgiving.”
9 stars: Steven DeLonjay, who has won four mod features in five weeks. The only week Steve-O didn’t win he was running for the lead with Michael Long when he encountered ignition-wire problems.
8 stars: Tony Dunker, whose patience was the key to his sport mod feature win over wily veteran Jim Gillenwater.
7 stars: Lane Van Zant, for winning his first first-ever sport compact feature, and doing so in flag to flag fashion.
6 stars: Terry Houston, whose stock car feature victory not only erased the memory of the week before but put him back into the points race.
5 stars: Mark Burgtorf, who looked like the No. 7 of old in the late model feature.
4 stars: Dave Wietholder, who was second in the modified main event and has yet to have a disappointing run on Sunday night.
3 stars: Denny Woodworth, whose comeback season continues. He was third in the late model feature and still owns the series points lead.
2 stars: Jim Gillenwater, who was second in the sport mod main event and runs the low line as good as anyone in the region. Many don’t know Jim won back-to-back bomber championships in 1996-97.
1 star: Steve Carlin, who as a rookie in the stock cars, has quietly become a contender. Carlin finished second in Sunday’s feature and is now just eight points away from series leader Jake Powers. The five-time hobby stock track champ is also closing in on 100 career wins at the Bullring. He currently sits at 96.
Late models: 10 (19.0 season average)
Modifieds: 13 (15.6)
Sport mods: 14 (12.5)
Stock cars: 11 (12.0)
Sport compacts: 14 (13.0)
Late models: 2 (5.2 season average) Late models have not averaged 5 cautions a night since 2006 (6.4).
Modifieds: 0 (4.4) Lowest caution average for mods since we started tracking has been 6.3 in 2011.
Sport mods: 9 (8.0)
Stock cars: 5 (5.3) Series record is 4.1 in 2008.
Sport compacts: 4 (3.6)