Instant Jungle Night at the Rockford Speedway proved to be an eventful night on several fronts The night served as Round IV of the five-race Gilley’s Cool 5 Series while also serving as the second-to-last evening of racing for Rockford Speedway’s ‘Saturday Night divisions,’ the Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models, Bargain Hunter Sportsman, Miller Lite American Short Trackers and the Kickstart Roadrunners. When the curtain closed on the penultimate night of racing for the 2014 season, every points battle remained undecided, setting up an intriguing ‘Night of Champions’ on Saturday night September 6.
STANLEY STEEMER NASCAR LATE MODELS
The NASCAR Late Models provided the fans in attendance with a non-stop, action-packed 30 lap feature, including several side-by-side battles for the majority of the race. Veteran racer Mike Lloyd, in just his second start of the year, jumped to the early lead ahead of Justin Sellers and looked to be a tough out for anyone challenging him. Behind Lloyd, seven-time track champion Ricky Bilderback and Jake Gille charged toward the front of the field. Gille held the advantage through starting position, beginning the race four spots ahead of Bilderback and was able to get to Lloyd’s back bumper first to challenge for the lead. The two racers toiled for several laps, with Gille finally sliding past Lloyd on lap 15. Bilderback got past Lloyd a couple laps later and began the chase for Gille and the race lead. The two drivers raced bumper-to-bumper and fender-to-fender over the last several laps, with Gille holding off Bilderback for the win. The victory was Jake Gille’s first Late Model win since August of 2013.
2012 Late Model Rookie of the Year Mitch Garfield finished a season-best third in the 30 lap main event and was close enough to be in the conversation for a feature win as the race neared it’s conclusion. ‘Driver X’ Jon Reynolds Jr soldiered to a fourth place finish, outlasting three-time track champion Jerry Gille for the position. Reynolds’ fourth place run, coupled with Alex Papini not starting the 30 lap feature event, put Reynolds in the Late Model points lead while making the Late Model championship chase a three-driver race. Reynolds’ advantage on Papini is just 14 points, while Bilderback now sits just 30 markers out and is still mathematically alive for his eighth track championship.
BARGAIN HUNTER SPORTSMAN
Veteran racer Howie Ware has to wrestle his car and three-time track champion Doug Bennett for 25 laps, but when the checkered flag waived on the Sportsman main, it was Ware in front of the field, taking the checkered flag in the Sportsman feature race. Ware and Jason Bragg led the thirteen-car field to green, with Ware jumping ahead of the field from his pole position on lap number two. Bennett, who started the race in sixth place, picked his way to second by halfway and worked feverishly to cut down Ware’s lead. Bennett took multiple looks at Ware’s lead over the final eight laps, but was never able to mount a very serious challenge for the lead. Ware crossed the line in first, ahead of Bennett, while point leader Brett McCoy came home in third. Pat Featherston was fourth, followed by Daryl Gerke in fifth.
The third place finish coupled with an overall solid night from McCoy gave the Belvidere native a 30 point advantage over his nearest competition in the point standings. McCoy, seeking his fourth Rockford Speedway track championship, leads Featherston in the race to the championship. By virtue of his feature win, Ware kept his name in the points discussion, trailing McCoy by 41 points in third place overall.
MILLER LITE AMERICAN SHORT TRACKERS
Nick Cina Jr may not win a second straight Miller Lite American Short Tracker track championship, but it appears he will still have one of his finer years in a race car. Cina picked up his fifth feature win of the season, a career-high for the Belvidere native. Cina snagged the lead from David Russell on the eighth lap of the 25 lap race and sailed to the most lopsided win of the night, taking the checkered flag a full straightaway ahead of four-time feature winner Kelly Evink. George Sparkman finished the American Short Tracker feature in third, followed by Russell in fourth and Keith Pierce in fifth.
Another solid night from Evink kept the Machesney Park native ahead in the chase for the American Short Tracker championship. Heading into ‘Night of Champions,’ Evink leads Cina by 23 points. Evink is looking for his first Rockford Speedway track championship after seven years away from full-time racing.
Former Roadrunner track champion Terrance Robinson is looking like a champion late this year, despite rough luck which has plagued him for the balance of the year. Robinson collected his second feature win in three weeks, passing Jeff ‘Ace’ Allendorf halfway through the 20 lap feature race. Robinson built a modest lead after the pass and then watched the lead almost evaporate as point leaders ‘Bullet’ Bobby Frisch and Dennis Smith Jr closed in. Smith, who started just ahead of Frisch in the 19-car feature race, led the duo forward as the race wound down. but neither Smith nor Frisch could make a move for the lead before the checkered flag waved for Robinson.
The battle for the Roadrunner track championship stayed fairly stable, with Smith and Frisch once again shadowing each other throughout the night. With ‘Night of Champions’ looming, Frisch holds a 20 point advantage on Smith for the point lead.
– Rockford Speedway Press Release
Photo Credit: Jim Ambruoso