Dispatches: Rice mourns loss of sponsor
The latest notes and quotes from Dirt Late Model special and sanctioned events in mid-June, including the Valvoline Iron-Man Racing Series event at Lake Cumberland Speedway in Burnside, Ky., Cedar Lake Speedway's Masters in New Richmond, Wis., the Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park's Charlie Swartz Classic (look elsewhere for Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series, DIRTcar Summer Nationals and Appalachian Mountain Speedweek coverage):
Rice loses friend
Josh Rice was racing with a heavy heart Saturday at Lake Cumberland Speedway, so when he reached victory lane, the sadness welling up in him over the loss of a sponsor and friend came pouring out.
His voice cracking as he tried to describe his $7,500 Hall of Fame 40 victory on the Valvoline Iron-Man Racing Series, Rice could only think about Eric Meade, whose Map-It-Right Engineering & Land Surveying in nearby London, Ky., was a sponsor of Rice Brothers Racing.
"We lost, we lost a really good sponsor. It's just crazy. He was a really good dude and he helped us out a lot," Rice said, trying not to break down.
"Eric Meade, he was a really good dude. He was a great friend. He helped us out a lot, like I say, and this one's for him, man. I know he'd have been here tonight and loving it. I'm sure he's here in spirit somewhere, but I've just got a great group of guys."
Meade, the owner and CEO of Map-It-Right, died unexpectedly on Friday at the age of 43. The Ohio native is survived by his wife, Richelle Meade, a son and three stepchildren, among others.
Rice's victory in his usual No. 11 was his second of the weekend. He drove a Gary Engle-owned No. 15 to victory 24 hours earlier at MRP Raceway Park in Williamsburg, Ky., for a $2,000 payday.
Redetzke's big payday
Two years ago at Cedar Lake Speedway's annual Masters weekend, Jake Redetzke of Eau Claire, Wis., won the two preliminary nights but fell shy in the weekend's main event. This time around the 35-year-old Redetzke left with the biggest paycheck.
Capturing his 16th career victory Saturday at the 3/8-mile oval, Redetzke inherited the lead near halfway when Cochrane, Wis.'s Lance Hofer departed, then outran Jordan Yaggy of Rochester, Minn., the rest of the 50-lapper to earn $11,000 on a weekend when more than 40 Late Model teams packed the pits.
When Hofer, who moved into the WISSOTA Late Model division after a successful run in USRA-sanctioned Limited Late Models, departed, Redetzke sneaked past Yaggy and was "running scared" in building a three-second lead in the second half of the race. He eventually settled behind 11th-running Greg Nippoldt, the last car on the lead lap, to pace his way to the finish.
"Normally Nippoldt runs good here and I just, my car kind of got on top of the racetrack. I didn't know if I needed to be (in the top groove) or I didn't know how good I was doing either," Redetzke said. "And I'm like, 'I don't want to screw this up and leave a lane open,' so I just was trying to judge myself off of him and just tried not to screw up."
Redetzke, who also captured Thursday's $3,000 prelim feature, didn't screw up.
"It's crazy. You're either a hero or a zero, a lot of good cars didn't make it tonight, unfortunately. We definitely deserve this," he said. "My guys have been working their butts off. It was kind of the start of a hell tour for us last week. We had some truck issues and just every day we're working on this thing trying to get it ready for this weekend."
Mitchell's rising status
With his flag-to-flag victory Saturday at Fayetteville (N.C.) Motor Speedway, Zach Mitchell of Enoree, S.C., became the second all-time winningest driver on the Ultimate Southeast Super Late Model Series with his 16th tour triumph. The victory broke a tie for second with Chris Ferguson of Mount Holly, N.C., and leaves him five victories behind all-time winningest driver Casey Roberts of Toccoa, Ga.
"Just to have my name up there it means a lot to me and, hopefully we've got many more coming," Mitchell said in victory lane.
Mitchell captured just his second flag of the season and first in Super Late Model action with the $10,000 triumph in the Wayne Gray Sr. Memorial, his first tour victory since Aug. 13, 2022, at Lake View Motor Speedway in Nichols, S.C.
Mitchell said his Longhorn Chassis felt good after restarts, but after a half-dozen laps "it just started feeling like it's sliding all over the place," perhaps because of his tire choice. He was able to keep fellow South Carolina driver Ben Watkins in check to finish off the victory.
"Just everything played in our favor tonight," he said. "It's been a while coming because we've had some bad luck this year."
Mitchell's victory didn't come quickly. The feature ended in the wee hours in part because of a first-lap wreck when Dustin Mitchell spun and collected several drivers with the cars of Mitchell and Jeff Smith toppling onto their roofs. No one was injured but a 23-minute red flag cleanup was required.
Papaw does it
In stretching a personal win streak to four Super Late Model victories in a row, 58-year-old R.J. Conley of Wheelersburg, Ohio, brought his young granddaughter Josie to victory lane. She's his racing coach, of sorts.
"She always says, 'Papaw, push the gas hard,' " Conley said Saturday night at Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park.
He followed Josie's orders well in overtaking Adam Stricker in traffic on the 19th of 30 laps to capture the Charlie Swartz Classic and a $5,000 payday. Conley is unbeaten in three Portsmouth starts and has a $3,000 victory at Atomic Speedway near Chillicothe, Ohio, in his last four starts going back to Memorial Day weekend.
"The track had some character. Turns one and two had some little ruts in it, man. It was really tough on us. But the car's working great. That's four in a row we've won and we're really proud about it. Everyone's working hard," said Conley, who thanked his crew and Ethan Burgess, who "has really picked our program up a lot. Ethan Burgess Motorsports Consulting, he's been helping us out all year and we've really got something figured out. If we just keep it going, we should have a good year."
Stricker, the Batavia, Ohio, driver his first full Super Late Model season, led the first 18 laps before Conley went past.
"I think he went softer on tires than we did and I was just trying to ride and bide my time and try to take care of my tires, because I knew the left rear tire was gonna be a little bit close on making it" to the end of the race, Conley said. "It worked out for us, you know. He got stuck behind that lapped car. I might not have been able to pass him, but it all worked out and we're just thankful it did."