Even with Emerson Climate Technologies Scroll Compressor employees in the stands, the racing action and the chase for a NASCAR Whelen Lebanon I-44 Speedway Track Championship couldn’t be cooled down. Current NASCAR Missouri State and Lebanon I-44 Speedway point leader Kaleb Allison and points runner-up “Little” JC Newell ended-up splitting the Wheels For Warriors Twin 25’s Saturday during Emerson / Copeland Night at the “High-Banks” of the Lebanon I-44 Speedway in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Model Features.
Action in feature number 1 saw rookie Payton Lucas jump out to the opening lead with Steve Holt in tow. With Lucas setting a quick pace, the racing behind the leader was action packed. On lap 4, current point leader Allison shot to the 3rd place spot while young Kyle Donahue and previous week’s winner JC Newell were following. Lucas began to open a 5 car length lead over the veteran Holt and was looking for his first Pro Late Model feature win. On lap 9, Allison moved around Holt for 2nd place while Newell along with Kyle and Kevin Donahue gave chase. The pace slowed on lap 14 as Holt slowed on the backstretch with brake caliper problems ending his strong run. On the restart, Lucas fired quickly as Newell shot around Allison to gather-up 2nd place. Newell began to close-up the ground on the leader as Allison followed closely. On lap 18, Newell shot to the inside of Lucas in turn 2 and grabbed the top spot as Lucas drifted to the high side. Allison along with the Donahue Brothers quickly followed. Allison quietly closed-up the distance on the new leader Newell as tight action behind the lead duo kept the crowd watching all around the “High-Banks”. By lap 22, Allison had caught Newell’s number 15 and was looking for the lead. Heading into lap 23, Allison kept the low side hot and pulled even with the leader. The two leaders touched in turn four heading for the white flag as Allison took over the lead and recorded his 2nd win of the season while Newell, Kyle Donahue, Kevin Donahue and early pace-setter Lucas rounded out the top 5.
“This has been a long time coming”. Said the soft spoken 15 year old from Mexico, Mo, “My dad, family and friends have been working hard all year long on this car. We are looking hard at the track and state titles and some nights you have to point race, but we needed this win bad.” For Lucas, the early race leader, “We didn’t need that yellow flag. The car was good, but we lost some tire stagger on the caution. It caused the car to get loose and we lost forward bite. After the way the season started, to where we are now, has been a 150% improvement.” said Lucas. Allison then drew the row invert pill for feature number 2 which was a 1 placing Newell and Kyle Donahue on the front row while he had to start 11th.
For feature number two, the 25 lapper went caution free as Newell quickly jumped to the opening lead over Kyle Donahue and never looked back in grabbing win number 4 of the season. While the top 2 had checked out from the field, it was the action for 3rd place and back keeping the feature interesting. Terry Limberopolous was hanging strong in the 3rd place battle over Jimmy Van Zandt and Payton Lucas while all eyes were on Allison trying to slice through from deep in the field. By lap 9, Allison moved quickly to the 5th spot putting on pressure. On lap 13, Van Zandt moved around Limberopolous as Allison followed and the 15th lap saw Allison overtake the 3rd spot before the checkered flag would wave.
Newell’s team had brought a back-up car which was faster on the clock in the practice sessions. “We discussed which car to run tonight, and it was a tough decision, but we have a lot of laps in Black Betty and we knew what to do to it so we made the right decision. With 4 weeks left and 5 feature events, we need to keep going out and winning as Kaleb is always in the hunt for the point’s title.” Qualifying heat races went to Kevin Donahue and Steve Holt. Allison holds a 37 point advantage over Newell heading into Budweiser Night this weekend.
For the Budweiser Modifieds, it was the opening 3 laps which had everyone holding their breath as two and three wide tight pack racing started the night. Ricky Icenhower charged from his 10th starting spot and grabbed the lead on lap 3 to gather his 6th win of the season. Joe Bunkers grabbed the opening lead with Richard Lewis taking the lead on lap 2. After making some bold moves early, Icenhower positioned the car to take the lead on lap 3 as Lewis fell to 2nd place. The point contenders, Stephen Counterman and Tim Swearengin were glued together and by lap 5 had shot to the 2nd and 3rd place spots. Out front, Icenhower had built-up a 5 car length lead over Counterman and Swearengin as the race for 5th was close involving Bunkers, David Strode and Chris Johnson. The only caution flew on lap 15 as contact in the mid pack had Bunkers and Johnson spin around with both going to the rear of the field.
This allowed Counterman and Swearengin a chance to close in on the leader, but on the restart, Icenhower wasted no time in getting on the gas quickly to keep the advantage. From there, it was all Icenhower to take the win followed by Counterman, Swearengin, Lewis and David Strode. Counterman will head-up the point lead by only 6 points from the former 3 time Late Model Champion Swearengin going into the Roper Family classic next week as the Ground Pounders will take to the track for a special 54 lap feature event. Bunkers and Swearengin captured the heat race wins.
For Monster Energy Sportsman driver Justin Blake, he has gotten as hot as the weather lately as he came out of a very tight 3 car battle for the lead on lap 3 with point leader Paul Jepsen and Jimmy Fohn to take his 2nd straight win of the season. Fohn jumped to the opening lead as Jepsen moved down low to challenge and Blake was riding the top of the “High-Banks”. With Fohn extremely quick early, Jepsen closed and attempted to take the lead on lap 2 as Blake swung up high and the leaders went three wide into turn 3. Heading out of turn 4, tight racing forced contact as Fohn and Jepsen both went spinning around while Blake kept his foot in the gas and came out the leader. From there, Blake went untouched as the 2013 Road Warrior Champion is excited about his late season surge to the front. Point leader Jepsen rallied by lap 7 to move around JC Newell and take the runner-up spot as Rookie Adam Johnson, Newell and Fohn completed the top 5. Next week, the Sportsman get a chance to run their special distance event as a 40 lap feature is on the Budweiser Night along with the special Roper Family Classic. Blake also captured the heat race win.
The Keyser Manufacturing Road Warriors were ready for the special 30 lap feature with a surprise winner as the checkered flew. Former Champion Mike Scott jumped out to the opening lead with Lebanon’s Michael Juergensen and Tony Johnson following closely. With Scott was setting a quick pace, current point leader Carl Harlow and Geoff Ledford were coming through the pack as Harlow moved to 2nd place on lap 5. On lap 6, Scott went around in turn four while leading with contact as the front pack was tight. Harlow would now take over the top spot with Geoff Ledford following. On the restart, Ledford made a move around Harlow to take the lead with Harlow trying to get back around him as Juergensen and Riley Sharp in the Station-Wagon battled it out. Contact between the leaders in turn 1 between Harlow and Ledford forced both cars up the track in turn 2 as Riley Sharp had no place to go and he went off of the high banks ending his night. This placed Juergensen up front on the restart with Les Mallard in 2nd place. On the restart, Ledford powered around the outside as he went to the front quickly. Juergensen pulled into the pits with problems ending his chance for a win.
Ledford would take the lead but it was ruled that he passed Gary Barrows before the start line in between turns three and four and would serve a one spot penalty either at the finish of the race or on the next caution flag and restart. The caution never flew again as the race stayed green the entire distance while Les Mallard and Rick Sharp were side by side for position as Scott and Harlow were joining the fun. While the leader board had Ledford out front but the pack including Mallard, Sharp, Scott and Harlow were going to decide the win as Tony Johnson began a surge in the pack on lap 25. Mallard began to slow on lap 27 with motor issues and Sharp, the former Modified track champion pulled ahead into 2nd place as Johnson was the fastest car on the track and coming quickly. The white was displayed to Sharp as the leader while everyone was thinking it was Ledford looking to take the win. The final finish saw Sharp taking his 1st win of the season as Ledford, Johnson, Mallard and Harlow completed the top 5. Qualifying heats went to Tony Johnson and Ledford.
The Coca-Cola Chargers always provide interesting racing and tonight Lauren Buhr grabbed the opening lead and withstood Ben White’s constant charges in taking her 3rd win of the season. Buhr started on the outside of the front row and grabbed the opening lead as White, Jason Walls, and Jordan Nisbett followed in a tight pack. On lap 2, point leader Jimmy Poindexter joined the fun by moving into 4th place. With Buhr running the top side, White tried several times to move around on the inside, but Buhr would not be denied. Only 1 caution waved on lap 10 when previous winner John Huhn spun on the backstretch bunching the field even tighter. On the restart, White again went take the lead but the 19 year old lady driver held steadfast forcing White to finish in the runner-up spot as Walls, Poindexter and Japheth Nisbett completed the top five. Walls takes over the point lead by only 4 points while Huhn is only 70 points back. Walls captured the heat race win.
Action continues this Saturday night with Budweiser Night At The Races featuring the Roper Family Classic as the Modifieds race for a 54 lap feature event and the Sportsman compete in a 40 lap feature with a full show for the Pro Late Models, Road Warriors and Chargers at Missouri’s only active Asphalt oval and NASCAR sanctioned track.
Grandstands, Party Deck and ” Wildside” Tier Parking open at 5PM as drivers will already be practicing on the track. Qualifying for the Roper Family Classic with the Budweiser Modifieds will begin at 7PM with racing action to follow. For more information visit the website at www.i44speedway.net and join the thousands of others for daily updated information on the I-44 Speedway Facebook page. Adult admission is only $ 10 for adults in the grandstands with military, junior and senior discounts while kids 10 and under are FREE. Tier parking is $15 for0 adults with discounts for military, juniors and seniors and be sure to take advantage of the 6 pack special which is 6 adults in the same vehicle for only $75 or buy five and get one free.
-Lebanon I-44 Press Release