By: Eric Huenefeld
There has been good and bad for ‘Insane’ Wayne Freimund at the start of the 2016 racing season at Rockford Speedway.
First came the good: a fourth place finish in the season opening Big 8 Late Model Series Spring Classic and leading 29 laps of the 69th NASCAR Season Opener.
Then came the bad: falling out of contention after a wild last-lap on Opening Night, going from first place to eighth and not even taking the green flag in the second feature of the season on May 7.
Freimund rode the roller coaster to its highest point on Saturday night, winning his heat race and commanding the 30 lap Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model feature event on Tractor Town Kids Night. Freimund claimed his second Rockford Speedway feature win in his last six attempts by racing ahead of the pack early and holding off a furious charge by Michael Bilderback in the closing laps.
Freimund began the race from the fourth position, behind the front row of Mike Coleman and Adam Peschek. At the drop of the green flag, Peschek sprung to the lead from the outside front row, with Freimund sprinting forward into the second position and wasting no time in battling Peschek for the race lead. The battle lasted just a shade over two laps, before Freimund moved into the race lead. As Freimund sped away, Peschek was locked into what became a six-car battle for second place. With the likes of Gille, Reynolds and Bilderback on his tail, Peschek held his ground for several laps, before falling from the runner up spot right around the race’s halfway point.
When the smoke cleared on the massive battle for second, Jake Gille and Michael Bilderback emerged in a two-way duel for the runner up spot. The seven-lap showdown ended with Bilderback wrestling second from Gille in the fourth turn of the 21st lap. Bilderback then began the task of cutting down Freimund’s lead of three-quarters of a straightaway. In a matter of just seven laps, Bilderback had charged to just three carlengths off the back bumper of Freimund. But as the checkered flag waved, the margin of victory was two carlengths for Freimund, with Bilderback settling for second, first fourth top-two finish to start the season. Gille claimed third, with ‘Driver X’ Jon Reynolds Jr in fourth and Peschek claiming his first Saturday night top-five, ending the race in fifth.
Not to be outdone, the Miller Lite American Short Trackers produced a frantic ten-lap scramble to the finish of their 25 lap main event, with defending track champion Zach Rodriguez making the right moves on his way to a second victory to start the season. Rodriguez whisked into the lead with under ten laps to go, getting past race-long leader Leo Bujak. After Rodriguez sailed into the lead, Nick Cina Jr motored into second and set his sights on Rodriguez. Despite a late-race charge, Cina had to settle for a second place finish. Bujak came home with a solid third place run, with rookie Kyle Voss coming home in fourth and David Russell rounding out the top five.
Cherry Valley’s Ross Lamont was dominant in the 15 lap Hornet feature, claiming the first race of the 2016 season for the four-cylinder machines. Tyler ‘Bubba’ Deschaine charged hard for the win, but ended the race with second place while Brent ‘Go Go’ Lowe was credited with third.
David Prince went down in the history books as the first-ever winner in the Original Sixer class at Rockford Speedway, earning a wire-to-wire win in the 15 lap main event for the six cylinder cars. Chase Dopkins of Cottage Grove WI was second, with Machesney Park’s ‘Smokin Joe’ Saldano taking third.