"A TYPICAL WEEKEND" - 52nd Opener at Grandview & Money In The Mountains At Big Diamond - Races # 16 & 17

      04/19/14 11:21, by Bruce & Pat Eckel, Categories: Main category

    First we need to apologize for getting behind but this blog with catch us up to the current weekend.

    Saturday, April 5 – It was a sunny day but that would be the best report on the weather today. The temperature barely reached 50 degrees and there was a constant stiff wind blowing. It was cold. But it was also the 52nd opening night at the Grandview Speedway and after being rained both last Saturday and last night we were hungry to go to a race. We did take the easy way though by sitting in the press box to get away from the weather. We arrived at 5:45 and I scaled the steps, which to me are very scary, up to the press box. Here we were greeted by Harry Garman, young son of race director, Mark Garman. Harry is one of the most pleasant and polite children we have the privilege to know. It was also the first night for Grandview’s new track announcer. Jeff Ahlum was taking over the reins from long time announcer Ernie Saxton. Jeff is the announcer for the Thunder on the Hill series at Grandview but this would be his first night stepping into the foot prints of Saxton. Jeff is a close friend of ours as well as our current landlord. We wanted to be up in the press box for moral support or maybe just to harass him a bit. No, who am I kidding we wanted to be out of the cold!!

    Warm-ups started at 6:35 and were over at 7:05 but track maintenance held up the start of the heats until 7:40. The winter took its toll on this surface and turn three and four were quite rough. Despite the attempt by the track crew it could not be fixed. It was 43 degrees when the green fell on the first of a total of nine qualifying heats for the three divisions running on the card. There were two late model heats, three sportsman heats and four modified heats that were spun off in under an hour. The car count for the modifieds was 34 which I thought was low. These events were immediately followed by the 25 lap late model feature. This race was a good race despite the 7 cautions. Sean Merkel won, after starting 7th, followed by Sam Schlosberg and Jason Miller. The two modified consolations followed and at 9:35 it was intermission.

    This would be the only night when the features would not be lined up by points. It was a straight up line-up from the heats. The most notable change/addition to tonight’s modified field was Stewart Friesen, driving one of the Norm Hansell’s 357s. He won the first heat and at this point I would have bet on who the feature winner would be. Intermission was long as the track crew once again tried to repair the holes in turns three and four. It was 10:20 and 38 degrees when the 30 lap modified feature began. I was getting extremely cold sitting in the press box so I cannot imagine how cold it must have been for the fans sitting out in the grandstands. There would be 7 cautions before the checkered fell, mostly for flat tires and minor tangles. The most notable was the final caution on lap 25 when second place runner, Craig VonDohren, tangled with a lapped car and spun in turn four. This moved Duane Howard up to second for the final 5 circuits. Howard actually challenged Freisen for the lead on the final circuit but in the end it was Friesen winning with Howard, Meme DeSantis, Mike Gular and Kyle Weiss rounding out the top five.

    After the victory lane interviews, the grader came back out on the track and made one last attempt to fix turns three and four prior to the final event, the 25 lap sportsman feature. It was 11:13 when the green fell on the final event and we were surprised at how many of the brave fans stayed for this event. It was run off in 20 minutes and there were only three cautions. Brett Kressley, who started 11th, took the lead from Jordan Henn on lap 12 and never looked back. Kressley won followed by Henn and Jared Umbenhauer.

    All was complete by 11:35. A bit late on a very cold night but we will give them a pass because it was opening night and they did try desperately to correct the issues in turns three and four. As for Jeff in his first official night as the Grandview announcer, he did great and will only get better as the crowd gets to know him.

    Sunday, April 16 – Friday’s bad weather brought up a conflict between Big Diamond’s rain date for their big Money In The Mountains paying $7500 to win plus lap money for the big block/small block challenge race with the Brett Deyo promoted Hard Clay Open paying $5000 to win at the Orange County Fair Speedway. Sunday dawned with bright sunshine with temperatures pushing into the 60’s making for a perfect race day. The crowd was good at Big Diamond, our choice for the day, sitting with my two brothers, Bob and Glenn, who saved us seats as I had lockup at church and we were no able to make it to Big Diamond before 2:45. The three division program with the big block/small blocks drawing 36 entrants, the roadrunners bringing in 20 and the late models adding a disappointing 12 to the pit area got underway at 3:05 with two good roadrunner heats to kick off the 2014 Big Diamond racing season. The four modified heats were entertaining with the third heat producing the buzz of the day when Kyle Merkel drove by Jeff Strunk to win the heat. It is not often when you see Strunk get passed when he is leading a race. Two late model heats followed and by 3:55 all heat qualifying was completed. The track was holding up well especially for a day time surface. It was smooth with minimal dust.

    Just twenty minutes after the last heat race the 20 lap roadrunner feature was green flagged and a good battle for positions carried on. When the checkered waved 19 minutes later Tom Hablett came home the winner over Jeremy Becker, Chris Holland, Glenn “Buckshot” Rowan and Joey Brennan. Two modified consies were next and then it was intermission time. One big mistake a race announcer can make is assigning a time restraint and Tim Pitts made that big mistake. He announced a 20 minute break and everyone knew when the water truck started laying down water and the grader dropped the blade that figure was out the window. We didn’t have a problem with them working on the track but don’t announce a twenty minute intermission which doubles in length.

    The green flag waved on the 40 lap modified feature with Jeff Strunk taking the early lead. Ryan Godown in his #747 big block caught and put on an entertaining battle for the top spot until a caution waved on lap 9. On the restart Godown powered into the lead and would not be challenged the remainder of the race. That doesn’t mean that the race was not good as fine racing for spots three through ten developed in the field. Erick Rudolph making his first Big Diamond appearance ever was driving one of Randy Chrysler #21’s and raced up front all day long holding off many challenges for his third position. When the checkered waved at 6:14 it was Godown in for the big paying win over Strunk, Rudolph, Keith Hoffman and New Yorker Billy Decker from the 16th starting position. Positions six through ten were filled by Billy Pauch Sr., Sammy Piazza, Pat Ward, Matt Sheppard and Craig VonDohren. We still had the 20 lap late model feature to run and many of the crowd on hand stayed to watch them. Sean Merkel took the lead late in the event to win his second race of the weekend over Andy Haus, Billy Wampler, Scott Haus and Drew Weiser. The final checker waved at 6:35 on a good day of daytime racing on the dirt.

    Check back in a few days for our races witnessed in our trip to the house in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

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