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Welcome back to the second edition of A Typical Weekend. Bruce suprised me with the destination of our second road trip of the year. He told me not to plan anything for the weekend of January 17th and I didn’t. We packed a small carry on bag and headed for Philadelphia to catch a Southwest flight to St. Louis for our second race of the year.
Saturday, January 19 - Our Saturday afternoon flight left for St. Louis around 1 PM and arrived in the city with the arch around 3:20 PM. Remember it is a hour earlier in St. Louis so we had just enough time to take the rental car shuttle to Alamo and pick up our Pontiac G5 for the trip into Illinois. The Southern Illinois Center located on the fairgrounds in DuQuoin was hosting the POWRi midgets and 600 cc micro sprints on a 1/6 mile dirt oval located inside the center with the scheduled starting time of 6 PM. We arrived at 5:40 and found a grand looking building where the racing was to take place. Upon entering the lobby you were impressed by the tile floor and the bright lights inside. There were a series of doors to enter the arena part of the building where the track was located and when you entered you were located off of turn two. The stands stretched the entire distance of the backstretch and were probably about 18 to 20 rows high. The seats themselves were hard plastic which had molded areas to form individual seats. The micro sprint pits were located outside of turns one and two and behind the flagger on the homestretch. The midgets pits seemed to be located outside of turns three and four but a tarp wall blocked the viewing into the back area of the arena. The building was chilly but with proper clothing (sweat shirt or winter jacket) it was fine. It was much warmer than the 6 degrees outside!!!
Warmups were underway as we arrived and continue until after 6 PM. The midgets were doing wheelies on the tacky surface as they hit the gas. It was a great sight to see!!! Racing began at 6:17 with ten heats for the 71 micros on hand which included Reading Pa’s own Michelle Miller who missed qualifying for the feature on a last lap pass in the B main. These heats took over an hour and forty five minutes to complete and included at least one flip in each of the first six heats. The POWRi midgets had four heats for their 27 car field which wrapped up at 8:58. During the evening the track crew worked on or “farmed” the track as it is referred to in the midwest for three sessions of a half hour each. The tearing up of the surface surely helped the racing but the hour and a half it added to the length of the program was the downside of the preparation. Two micro sprint C mains were next with the midget B and then two micro B mains. All qualifying was concluded by 10:02. Bruce and I were starting to get tired as we had been up since 8:45 this morning Eastern Time with no more than 6 hours sleep during the week. The last farming of the track was next before moving to the 25 lap 600 cc micro sprint feature which went green at 10:30. We do not understand why promoters run their support divisions before the main class and don’t give the main class the best track possible. Also with the length of this show it would give people the option of leaving after seeing what the majority of them came to see. Rob Johnson took off from the pole and led the entire distance though he was challenged many times through six cautions but he prevailed at the 10:55 PM finish over Tyler Robbins and Ryan Guyett.
The 30 lap POWRi mdiget main was ready to go with their 20 car field taking the green at 11:30. The defending POWRi point champ, 20 year old Brad Loyet (who we first saw race in Florida in 2001 at a micro sprint race at Orange County Speedway in Bithlo), blasted to the lead but it was anything but a runaway. Tim Siner first battled with Tracy Hines for second in the closing laps before passing him and setting his sights on Loyet. The last three laps were worth the $12 admission with Loyet trying to hold off Siner. Loyet opened the door down low coming off the final turn and Siner dove low to challenge. By just inches Loyet was able to hold on for the win over Siner and Hines with Brent Beauchamp fourth and Dereck King (the defending POWRi micro sprint champ) taking fifth. The final checker waved at 11:45.
The facility was top notch, the racing for the most part was good but the length of the program needs to be worked on. Five and a half hours for a two division show is much too long. Maybe limiting the number of micro sprint entrants or having time limits on the micro heats could tighten the show up. And cutting out one of the track farmings would be a half hour savings. Overall we felt it wass indeed worth the trip and at $12 admission it was truly a bargain ($10 if you bought your tickets early at an O’Reilly’s store.)
That’s it for this installment and the next blog will come from sunny (hopefully) Florida where we will be traveling to this Thursday. Until next time as the people in the northeast gear up for the start of the 2008 racing season take care and have a great day.
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