If one thing has been made clear in the first month of the racing season at Rockford Speedway, it’s the fact that Michael Bilderback is the man to beat.
After lowering his own track record to start the night in qualifying, the South Beloit racer ended the night in victory lane, claiming his first Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model win of the year, his second overall win of the year and his third top-two finish to start 2016.
Bilderback’s road to the front started from the eleventh position in the 14-car, 30 lap feature event. Following three yellow flags in the race’s first seven laps, Bilderback and the rest of the field were finally able to stretch their legs and race for a majority of the laps to follow. In the race’s early stages, outside pole-sitter Pat Featherston held the advantage up fro, staying ahead of the crowd during the early race madness. Following the race’s third restart on lap 7, Featherston soon felt pressure from ‘Driver X’ Jon Reynolds Jr, who assumed the lead on the following lap. While Reynolds settled into the lead, Bilderback began to pick his way through the field, climbing to second place by lap 15. Just as Bilderback began to set sail for Reynolds, the fourth and final yellow flag of the race flew on lap 17 for an incident between Featherston and Kelly Evink, who came together off the second turn. The resulting contact sent Evink nose-first into the backstretch wall and both cars slid to a stop on the edge of turn three. With the track temporarily blocked, the red flag was displayed and clean up began.
When clean up wrapped up and the green flag was presented, Reynolds got the jump on the field, with Bilderback fighting away the challenges of Jake Gille and Alex Papini for second place. Over the course of the next five laps, Bilderback raced to the back bumper of Reynolds, with the two going side-by-side and bumper-to-bumper over the course of the final five laps. With two laps remaining, Bilderback was finally able to get even with Reynolds, claiming the lead in the third turn on his way to the white flag. When the race came to an end, it was Bilderback with a carlength advantage over Reynolds for the win, with Gille coming home a distant third. John Beinlich raced from the back of the field after an early race misfortune to claim fourth place, while Alex Papini rounded out the top five.
MILLER LITE AMERICAN SHORT TRACKERS
After seeing a win slip out of his fingers two weeks prior on Opening Night, Nick Cina Jr left little doubt on Saturday night, claiming a commanding victory in the 25 lap Miller Lite American Short Tracker feature. Cina stole the lead from pole sitter David Russell on the eighth lap and never looked back in the caution-free affair. Russell fell out of the event shortly thereafter, continuing his string of early season bad luck, Fast qualifier Aaron Rude claimed second place, with “Bullet” Bobby Frisch holding off a late challenge from Zach Rodriguez and taking third place. Rodriguez, the Opening Night feature winner, settled for fourth while Keith Pierce rounded out the top five.
Richie Schinderling claimed another closely contested Kickstart Roadrunner feature, claiming victory by sneaking into the lead on the last lap of the 20 lap race and besting a pack of seven cars who battled for the win over the race’s final laps. Paul Heth, who lead the race’s first 19 laps, ended up in second place, with Austin Fowler charging from deep in the field to claim third. Arlyn Roush, involved in an early caution flag, came back to claim fourth, while Chris McQuality finished fifth.
RACER GIRL WINGED WOMEN ON WHEELS
Former track champion ‘Sassy’ Cassy Frisch left little doubt in the Winged Women on Wheels opener Saturday night, winning both her heat race and the 12 lap main event. Frisch stormed to the lead on lap four and held back a late-race charge from Heather Stark, who ended up second. Kristen Jones finished third.