BY BRIAN NEAL
PEPSI LEE COUNTY SPEEDWAY
DONNELLSON – It’s hard to believe that it is that time of the year, but Friday, August 23rd was Season Championship Night at the Pepsi Lee County Speedway in Donnellson, Iowa. KILJ Radio and Golden Eagle Distributing Company (Budweiser) would help to bring the packed house some great racing action to end the 2019 points season at the track. At the end of the night two driver’s found their way to victory lane for the first time this year at the speedway, while four others earned multiple wins. There was also five new champions crowned for the 2019 season, with another earning back-to-back titles.
The 15 lap Discount Tire & Service IMCA Sport Compact feature was the first to take to the track on the night, with David Prim and TJ Weyls leading the field to green after Ricky Miller Jr. choose to go to the rear. But it was seventh place starter Jason Ash who quickly shot to the front to lead lap 1 over Kimberly Abbott, who started 5th, and Cody Bowman. While Ash paced the field out front, Trent Orwig, who started 6th, was working his way up to challenge for the top spot. On lap 5 Orwig was able to slip past Ash to take over the top spot, and would then start to pull away from the battles going on behind him. Just when it looked like the 15 lap event would go caution free, Brandon Reu dropped fluids on the track coming off turn 4 when he lost an engine on lap 12 to bring out the first caution. On the restart Orwig jumped back out front, with Ash and Abbott glued to his back bumper. Another lap scored complete would produce another caution, as Ashton Blain slowed to a stop down the middle of the backstretch to bring out the yellow and set up a green-white-checkered overtime finish. Orwig once again grabbed the lead on the restart, with Ash and Abbott still close behind. But just after the lap was scored complete, Jared Heule spun in turn 4 to bring out the yellow and setting up anther green-white-checkered overtime finish. On the final restart Orwig jumped back out front, with Ash and Abbott following. Orwig would hold on over the final lap to score his second win in a row and fourth of the season at the track. Ash settled for 2nd, Abbott was 3rd, Bowman was 4th, with Ashley Reuman coming from 10th to round out the top 5. Despite Reu’s engine troubles, his 12th place finish was enough to earn him his second track title in the past three years at the track.
Up next was the 18 Lap 305 Sprint feature, with Tanner Gebhardt and Mason Campbell drawing the front row. Gebhardt took advantage of his draw by grabbing the lead on lap 1 over Campbell and Harold Pohren. Just like the Sport Compact feature, it looked like the 305 Sprint feature would go green to checkered without a caution. But when Jeff Wilke got into the guardrail in turn 4 and then pounded the concrete wall coming off turn 4, this would bring out the red. Wilke would climb from his car okay. On the restart Gebhardt jumped back out front, with Campbell and Pohren trying to keep pace. But without another caution to slow the pace, Gebhardt would pull away to pick up the win and the first ever 305 track championship awarded at the Pepsi Lee County Speedway. Campbell held on for 2nd, Brayden Gaylord got past Pohren on the final lap to come home in 3rd, with Daniel Bergquist recovering from engine troubles in hot laps to come from 9th to finish 5th.
Jim Powell and Joe Roller led the field to the drop of the green flag in the 18 lap Roberts Tire Center IMCA SportMod feature, with Powell edging out Brandon Dale at the line by inches to lead lap 1. Just after lap 1 was scored complete the first caution of the race appeared, as contact from Austen Becerra sent Steven Berry spinning in turn 4 to bring out the yellow. On the restart Blaine Webster, who started 7th, used the top of the track to grab the top spot away, with Adam Birck moving into the runner up spot. While Webster used the top of the track, Birck went low, as the two raced the next 5 laps side-by-side. Birck would edge out in front of Webster on lap 5, with the side-by-side battle for the lead being slowed on lap 7. Brian Bergheger would spin down the front stretch to bring out the yellow. On the restart Bob Cowman slowed to a stop in turn 3 to bring the yellow light back on. A third attempt of a restart resulted in Powell spinning down the front stretch to bring the yellow back out. Birck finally jumped back out front on the fourth restart, with Webster and Jim Gillenwater, who was making his 2019 season debut and started 10th, following close behind. Then just after the lap was scored complete, Kyle Hamelton and Bergheger spun in turn 3 to bring out the yellow. Once again Birck grabbed the lead on the restart, with Webster, Brandon Dale and Gillenwater battling for the runner up spot. While those three driver’s battled for second, this allowed Birck to start to pull away. But when Dale spun in turn 3 on lap 11 to bring out the final caution of the race, this would bring the field back to Birck’s back bumper. On the restart Birck moved back out front, with Webster and Gillenwater battling side-by-side for the runner up spot. With Webster and Gillenwater battling for the second spot, this would allow Birck to hold on over the final laps to score his first win of the season at the track. Gillenwater won the battle for 2nd, Webster was 3rd, Becerra recovered from his involvement in the lap 1 caution to come back up to finish 4th, with Daniel Fellows coming home in 5th and earning his first career track championship.
The 20 lap I-Smile Silver IMCA Late Model feature took to the track next, with Nick Marolf and Gunner Frank leading the field to green. Marolf took advantage of his draw to jump out front on lap 1 over Frank and Jay Johnson. While Johnson and Frank battled for the runner up spot, Marolf would start to pull away from the field. With Marolf setting a fast pace out front, all eyes were on Tommy Elston, who started 10th. Elston would use the top of the track to climb into fourth on lap 5, and then would take over third on lap 10. But going into turn 3 to complete lap 11 disaster would strike Elston. Something in the right front would break and cut the tire, as a result Elston ended up into the turn 3 guardrail to bring out the yellow. On the restart Marolf moved back out front, with Johnson and Frank resuming their battle for the runner up spot. With the battle for second going on, Marolf would pull away over the final laps to score his second win of the season at the track. Frank won the battle for 2nd, Johnson was 3rd, Matt Strassheim was 4th, with Sam Halstead finishing 5th. The 2019 IMCA Late Model points came to an end in July, with Elston claiming his second title in a row at the track.
Brandon Savage and Jerry Jansen led the field to green in the 18 lap Donnellson Tire & Service IMCA Stock Car feature, with Savage grabbing the lead on lap 1 over Jeremy Pundt and Abe Huls. The lead for Savage lasted until lap 3, when Pundt got under him to take the top spot away. One lap later, lap 4, Abe Huls moved into the runner up spot and then went to work on Pundt for the lead. Huls tried the middle to top grooves to try and get the lead away from Pundt. But when he couldn’t make those lines work, he would try to get under Pundt. These two drivers would race side-by-side over the final 10 plus laps. But Pundt was able to hold off Huls on the final lap to score his fourth win of the season, as a result it would give him his first career Stock Car track title. Huls settled for a close 2nd, Chad Krogmeier came from 7th to finish 3rd, Kyle Boyd was 4th, with Louis Lynch making his season debut at the track bringing it home in 5th.
The final feature to take to the track on the night was the 18 lap Budweiser IMCA Modified feature, with Dean McGee electing to go to the rear on the start this would move Jeff Waterman and Bill Roberts Jr. to the front row. Waterman used his front row start to jump out into the lead on lap 1 over Roberts Jr. and John Oliver Jr. While Waterman paced the field out front, Oliver Jr. moved into the runner up spot on lap 4 and then went to work on battling Waterman for the top spot. On lap 11 Oliver Jr. had momentum coming off the top of the track in turn 2, but when Waterman slid up the track this would cause Oliver Jr. to get into the guardrail and loose some ground. But Oliver Jr. got back up on the wheel and would chase Waterman back down with two laps to go. Coming off turn 4 to get the white flag Oliver Jr. used the momentum off the top to race Waterman side-by-side down the front stretch. Oliver Jr. would emerge off turn 2 with the lead and then held off Waterman coming off turn 4 to claim his third win of the season at the Pepsi Lee County Speedway. The win also secured Oliver Jr.’s first Modified track title in his rookie year in the class. Waterman was 2nd, Roberts Jr. was 3rd, Dennis LaVeine was 4th, with McGee coming up to finish 5th.
The next event at the Pepsi Lee County Speedway will be on Saturday, September 14th. The second and final visit of the year by the Iowa Sprint League Non-Wing Sprints will take place. Plus the make-up for the rained out 305 Wing Nationals earlier in the year. The Midgets and maybe a few other classes will be in support.
For more information about this event and the remaining 2019 fall schedule at the Pepsi Lee County Speedway, please like their Facebook page or visit the tracks website at www.leecountyspeedway.com.