Officials at the “High Banks” of the Lebanon I-44 Speedway have adjusted the race schedule for the final 3 weeks in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Action as it is stretch drive time in the Monster Energy 2014 Chase for the Championship at Missouri’s only active Asphalt and NASCAR Sanctioned short-track.
This Saturday night, Sept. 6th, is United Insurors Night at the Races and will feature the Roper Family Classic. The Budweiser “Ground-Pounding” Modifieds will prepare to travel the 3/8ths mile oval for a 54 lap feature as the drivers and the speedway help honor the famed Roper family, Dean, Dale, Tony and Dale Jr. The race will feature a mandatory competition yellow at lap 25 for fuel only and then the 29 lap shootout to the checkers. The Roper name and Modified racing go hand in hand so this should be one of the best races of the season.
The Coca-Cola Chargers also will be involved in their season special event as very tight points battles still exist in the pro Late Model, Modified and Charger divisions. Racing action will also include a full regular show for the O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Models, Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors and Monster Energy Sportsman along with Baby Grands.
“The Roper’s were one of the first families associated with NASCAR in the Midwest. Dean and then Dale raced on asphalt and dirt all over the Midwest followed by both of their boys Tony and PeeWee. There isn’t a family in racing in the Midwest that is any more respected than the Ropers and it will be great to let Dale represent that family here at I-44 on Saturday night” said General Manager Kevin Greven.
Even though Dean never officially turned any laps at I-44, his smooth driving style on pavement and ability to wheel a stock car earned him the name “Pudding” because of being so smooth. Dean was known as a master of the ARCA events held at the mile tracks on the circuit whether it was dirt or pavement and also won the national championship in the USAC Stock car Division during the 1981, 1982 and 1983 seasons. Dean was a driving force to his son’s Tony success in the area and on the National level.
Tony, who started his oval track career at I-44 and Monett in an IMCA Modified earned rookie of the year at Monett in 1986. Tony made the smooth transition to the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series in 1989 by gathering NASCAR Late Model Rookie of the Year awards competing at both Lebanon I-44 Speedway and Bolivar Speedway. The transition seemed easy with father Dean’s and Uncle Dale’s experience. Tony was able to etch the Roper name in the Springfield Fairgrounds rich history by winning the last ever event held on the ½ mile oval by capturing an IMCA Modified feature in 1988. In the “Ground-Pounding” Modifieds Tony was always a threat to win every night out while running a Late Model part time. Tony graduated to the ASA National Series and up the ladder to a nice career in the NASCAR Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Dale Roper has been a mentor, friend, and top notch driver for many seasons on both Dirt and Pavement. One of the most respected drivers in the area, Dale was one of the first ever IMCA Modified drivers when the class started in Missouri in 1985 along with Rex Merritt carrying the Dirt Works name. Always known to be an intelligent driver, Dale was always up front in the big money events saving the car for the latter part of the race. Dale drove cars for many different owners through the years including a Modified for friend and well known NASCAR Champion Larry Phillips in 1990 at both I-44 and Bolivar. Dale won the Modified track championship in 2002 at I-44 while driving for friend and car owner Donnie McCarthy. Roper, who used to compete in car number 54 for many seasons, has always been behind the scenes in helping younger drivers get around the track as “The Flying Postman” could deliver the mail with a victory anytime he took the green flag.
Dean, Tony and Dale are all members of the Springfield Area Sports Hall of Fame and Dale is a founding member of the Ozarks Area Racers Association. Dale Jr “PeeWee” has also won dozens of races in the area along with many track championships.
“For me what says the most is when I have current and past racers come to me with ideas to honor Dale and the Roper family. This event was an idea internally last season that never came about but this year I had numerous racers come to me with the same idea. That tells you the respect that is felt for this man and his family in the racing community” said Greven. “To help honor the entire Roper family, who has given a lot to Stock-Car Racing, we are running the Modifieds a 54 lap feature on the 30th instead of the scheduled 50 lapper.
Saturday Sept. 13th has the Monster Energy Sportsman competing in a 40 lap special event and the Pro Late Models will be putting on another special show as the NASCAR Missouri State Championship Chase is still up for grabs along with the State Rookie of the Year Battle. Drivers look to rack-up very important Track and State Points along with a full show for the Modifieds, Road Warriors and Chargers.
Officials are holding off to see what wild things Mother Nature has in store the next two weeks and then will decide the final format for the Saturday Sept. 20th Season Championships as the High Speed Pro Late Models along with the Modified, Sportsman, Road Warrior, and Charger 2014 Champions will be crowned.
The Start time for all events in September will be 6:30pm as Grandstand, Party deck and “Wildside” Tier Parking Gates will open at 5pm. Cars will already be on the track practicing with regular Admission prices prevailing.
Admission for the event in the Monster Energy Grandstand and Budweiser Party Deck will be only $10 for Adults with discounts for Military and seniors. Kids 11-15 are only $4 while kids 10 and under are Free. The Budweiser “Wildside”tier parking to get the tail-gate party started is $15 for Adults with discounts for Military, juniors and Seniors. Take advantage of the 6-pack special as 6 Adults in the same vehicle is only $75 or buy 5 get 1 Free.
Information on Missouri’s only Active Asphalt Oval and NASCAR Sanctioned Facility can be gathered by visiting the website at www.i44speedway.net or join the thousands of others by liking the Lebanon I-44 Speedway Facebook page for up to minute information.
Story & Photo: I-44 Speedway