Some of the best Late Model drivers in the Midwest came together at Hawkeye Downs Speedway (IA) Friday night for the Big 8 Late Model Series “Clash at the Downs.” At the end of the night, the event lived up to its name when leaders Caleb Adrian and Michael Bilderback clashed on the final lap.
As Adrian and Bilderback battled side by side with one lap to go, the two leaders quickly caught a lapped car in turn one. As they tried to make their way around the slower car, the two leaders made contact sending Adrian into the foam walls. The caution signified the end of the race, leaving Bilderback ecstatic, and Adrian not pleased.
Adrian, a Hawkeye Downs weekly racer, emerged from his car and walked all the way down the straightaway to confront Bilderback. Upon arriving to his car, Adrian took a deep breath, shook his head and walked away.
“He kept pounding me over and over again trying to wreck me and we took the white flag and he just left reared me,” Adrian told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “He just turned me the second we got the white, I got turned and backed into the wall. I was trying my best to hold on to it and win the race. But, when you are left reared, you’re just along for the ride.
“Unfortunately, he had to wreck me to win, but it’s in the past and I can’t change it. I’m just going to have to move on, but I will surely race him differently now, that is for sure. I lost all respect for him.”
Although Bilderback was not in favor of how they finished, he was in favor of the extra $1000, another win, and extending his points lead with back-to-back wins in the Big 8 Late Model Series.
“Obviously (Adrian) wasn’t happy about that. I definitely apologize for him wrecking, it’s just one of those racing deals,” Bilderback said in victory lane.
All 48 laps of racing were exciting, starting with the leaders coming out of turn four, three-wide on lap one.
After the qualifying heat races, Mike Ehde (Prairie Du Chien, WI) and Brody Willett (Alburnett, IA) found themselves on the front row for the start of the feature, where they raced hard right from the green flag until an early accident brought out the caution.
On lap four, Michael Osdiek (Lakeville, MN) cleared Willett to take the lead, but he would not keep the lead for long as a hard-charging J. Herbst (West Salem, WI) would challenge Osdiek and score another lead change.
Although Herbst was fast, the top five could have been covered by a blanket for several laps until the field slowed due to a single car spinning off of the track. Upon going back to green, Herbst continued to lead the field however, Adrian, Bilderback and Osdiek remained close behind. History looked like it would repeat itself as the top-three leaders were the same top-three finishers from last year’s race.
As laps began to quickly wind down, defending race winner Adrian snagged the lead as Herbst lost several positions before fighting back to finish third.
“Our car just went away drastically like a flip of a switch. My spotter said just finish it off, and see if there is any fireworks that happen,” Herbst said after the race.
Herbst ended up seeing those fireworks he was waiting for when Adrian and Bilderback clashed on the final lap.
Another Hawkeye Downs native, McGrath, finished second, Herbst third, Jesse Bernhagen fourth, and polesitter Edhe finished fifth. The Big 8 Series takes the track next on June 24, at Madison International Speedway (WI).
-By Caleb Slouha, Speed51.com Midwest Correspondent
-Photo credit: Big 8 Series Twitter