Weekly Notebook presented by JRi Shocks
Notes: Michigan ace will avoid hoopla of WoO visit
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
Like most regional or weekly drivers the week before a national touring series visits one of their home tracks, Eric Spangler of Lake City, Mich., can’t help but to be excited for this weekend’s World of Outlaws Late Model Series doubleheader at Winston Speedway in Rothbury, Mich., and Merritt (Mich.) Raceway.
Unlike most other regional and weekly drivers, however, Spangler is doing his best to ignore the extra excitement and approach this weekend’s events just like he would any other race.
“I’m gonna try to not get caught up in the hoopla of all those big-time guys coming to town,” said Spangler, the reigning Merritt champion who leads the track’s Late Model standings. “This weekend is no different than any other weekend. I’m gonna go and just do my own thing just like I normally do.”
Normal has been pretty good for Spangler so far this season. He’s won five races at Merritt, including both of the 3/8-mile oval’s special events. His $4,000 victory in the UMP-sanctioned Wood Tic event on July 21 and his Aug. 4 win in the track’s inaugural Allstar Performance Michigan Dirt Cup event has the 43-year-old racer excited about his chances this weekend.
“We’ve been running really good all year,” said Spangler, who has followed the first-year Michigan Dirt Cup tour full time this year in addition to his regular racing at Merritt. “If we can just run this weekend the same way we’ve been running and not have any mechanical problems, I think we have a good chance at running really good against those guys.”
Spangler knows being competitive this weekend will require full focus. Along with keeping concentrated himself, he’s already briefed his race team that being distracted by the national stars of the WoO tour isn’t an option.
“What I’ve seen people do, myself included in the past, is you have these big races and get caught up in it all and start gawking over the bigger teams,” Spangler said. “You’re checking out what they’re doing and you fail to concentrate on your own program.
“We’ve talked about it in a little team meeting this week. ... I told my guys that when the racing gets done they can do all the gawking and looking they want. But while we’re there racing, all of those guys are just like anybody we run against every week.”
After a 14th-place finish in last year’s WoO event at Merritt, Spangler is looking for better performances this weekend. He’s confident that the experience of running the Michigan Dirt Cup this season should help him and many of the tour’s other regulars to be more competitive against the national touring invaders they’ll face this weekend.
“On a local night, all of our top drivers from around here are spread out at several different tracks. But when that Dirt Cup series comes around we bring them all together,” Spangler said. “That’s gonna make you a better driver because you’re getting the chance to race against a little better competition than your normal weekly show and you’re going to a few different tracks all year.
“I think that’s really gonna help out us guys that follow it where when you come into these really big shows, you’ve already stepped your game up quite a bit.”
• Hometown driver J.T. Spence earned $2,500 for his Limited Late Model victory in the Tony Armel Memorial on Aug. 11 at Winchester (Va.) Speedway. “It means a lot to win this race not only for the Armel family, but my dad,” Spence said. “Our families have been close forever and it means the world to win this race for them.”
• On a night when 33 Late Models crowded the pits, Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill., topped fellow front-row starter and hometown driver Scott Bull for an Aug. 11 feature victory at Fairbury (Ill.) American Legion Speedway.
• Eight-time and reigning Super Late Model champ Roy Deese Jr. of Odenton, Md., broke nearly a two-year drought at Hagerstown (Md.) Speedway with an Aug. 11 victory.
• Heading into this weekend’s special event, Brad Looney of Republic, Mo., notched his third straight victory at Caney Valley Speedway in Caney, Kan., on Aug. 11.
• Tony Gray of Coker, Ala., swept a pair of NeSmith Chevrolet Crate Late Model victories Aug. 11 at Magnolia Motor Speedway in Columbus, Miss.
• After mechanical issues struck Casey Vitale and then Russ Sell, John Duty of Happy Valley, Ore., captured Aug. 11’s DIRTcar feature at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, Ore.
• Don Smith Jr. of Norfolk, Neb., swept Aug. 11’s Limited Late Model doubleheader at Wagner (S.D.) Speedway.
• Canadian driver Greg Belyea of Frankford, Ontario, won Aug. 11 at Brighton Speedway for his second in a row and fourth of the season.
• Winning his fourth feature in his last five starts at Friendship Motor Speedway, Matthew Nance of Ronda, N.C., captured the Aug. 11 main event at the Elkin, N.C., oval.
First things first
First-time occurrences in Dirt Late Model racing:
• Winning Aug. 9 at Grand Rapids (Minn.) Speedway, Mark Heinle of Wirt, Minn., notched his first career WISSOTA Late Model victory.
• Dover, Pa., driver J.R. Rodriguez made a last-lap pass Aug. 11 at Susquehanna Speedway Park in Newberrytown, Pa., for his first career Late Model victory. Rodriguez led the first 22 laps, gave up the lead to Chase Billet for two circuits, then went back ahead to win the 25-lapper.
• Winning Aug. 11, Billy Rezutek of Big Bend, Wis., notched his first career victory at Wisconsin’s Manitowoc County Expo Speedway in WDLMA action.
• Derek Rogers of Spelter, W.Va., won his first career Crate Late Model feature Aug. 10 at Elkins Raceway in Kerens, W.Va.
• At Montgomery Motorsports Park in New Florence, Mo., 13-year-old Jake Griffin of Quincy, Ill., notched his first career Super Late Model victory. He made a late-race pass on cousin Dustin Griffin before taking the checkers.
Weekly points chases
UMP DIRTcar (Super Late Models): Brian Shirley of Chatham, Ill., holds nearly a 100-point lead through Aug. 12 events over Kevin Weaver of Gibson City, Ill.
UMP DIRTcar (Crate Late Models): Nick Bauman of New Berlin, Ill., is still in control with 1,460 points through Aug. 5 followed by Evan Fink (1,378) and Bobby Dauderman (1,371).
IMCA: Todd Cooney of Des Moines, Iowa, crept a bit closer to two-time and reigning champ Ray Guss Jr. of Milan, Ill. Guss holds a two-point lead, 792-790. Tyler Bruening of Decorah, Iowa, is third at 767.
ULMA: Jason Russell of Henley, Mo., stills holds a commanding lead with the Missouri-based Limited Late Model organization. His 1,786 points lead Brandon Imhoff of Lake Ozark, Mo., who has 1,691 points.
WDLMA: The 12 victories of Russ Scheffler of Waukesha, Wis., keep him out front in the title chase. He has 401 points, 30 more than Craig Schueffner of Sheboygan Falls, Wis.
WISSOTA: Chad Becker of Aberdeen, S.D., has a 74-point margin on two-time and reigning champ Ricky Weiss of Winnipeg, Manitoba, through Aug. 5 races. David McDonald of Huron, S.D., is 83 points behind Becker in third.
NeSmith Chevrolet Series: With 21 victories, Mickey Trosclair of Luling, La., maintains his points lead through Aug. 12 races. He’s got three-point edge on Chase Washington of Houlka, Miss., and a four-point margin on Jeremy Shaw of Millport, Ala.
Upcoming weekly specials
Among non-touring and independent special events coming up at dirt tracks around the country:
I-94 Speedway, Fergus Falls, Minn. (Aug. 16): Tonight's King of the Dirt pays $2,500-to-win for WISSOTA-sanctioned Late Models.
Moler Raceway Park, Williamsburg, Ohio (Aug. 17): The Ike Moler Memorial pays $5,000-to-win for Super Late Models.
Fiesta City Speedway, Montevideo, Minn. (Aug. 17): A NAPA Auto Parts-sponsored makeup from June 1 pays $2,000-to-win for WISSOTA Late Models.
Raceway 7, Conneaut, Ohio (Aug. 17): Super Late Models make the second appearance of the season with a $2,000-to-win event.
Bubba Raceway Park, Ocala, Fla. (Aug. 17-18): Back-to-back $3,000-to-win events for Late Models are on the schedule.
Portsmouth (Ohio) Raceway Park (Aug. 18): The Fred Dillow Memorial winner carries home a $5,000 paycheck for Super Late Models.
Lake Cumberland Speedway, Burnside, Ky. (Aug. 18): The fourth annual Harold Hardgrove Memorial pays $4,000-to-win for Super Late Models. Proceeds from event T-shirts will go to the American Cancer Society.
Caney Valley Speedway, Caney, Kan. (Aug. 18): The third annual James House Memorial pays $2,066-to-win for DIRTcar rules Late Models.
I-77 Raceway Park, Ripley, W.Va. (Aug. 18): The Big Dawg 30 pays $3,000-to-win for AMRA Late Models.
Peoria (Ill.) Speedway (Aug. 18): A $2,000-to-win Super Late Model event is part of the track’s Budweiser-sponsored specials.
Correction: Removes Jake Redetzke as the track champion at Red Cedar Speedway; Scott Gilberts won the championship.