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Weekly Notebook presented by JRi Shocks

Notes: Wisconsin driver chases uncle's success

June 19, 2014, 6:44 am
By Todd Turner
DirtonDirt.com managing editor

Personally, professionally and racingwise, Mitch McGrath is glad to have a pattern to follow in his uncle and car owner Russ Scheffler.

The 27-year-old McGrath from Neosho, Wis., could do worse than Scheffler, a 12-time Hales Corners Speedway champion who this fall will be inducted into the Southeastern Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame.

In his first full season in the Late Model division, McGrath is already a solid contender for the Wisconsin Dirt Late Model Association weekly crown, helping him get featured in DirtonDirt.com’s Weekly Notebook presented by GRT Race Cars.

“The car’s been really good so far,” said McGrath, the modified standout who showed signs of success in just a handful of Late Model starts in the second half of 2013. “We’ll just keep up the hard work and get after it.”

So far, McGrath has a WDLMA-leading three victories and is atop the association’s points, in a tight battle with Tim Buhler and Jim Schmidt. He’s leading the weekly points at Plymouth (Wis.) Dirt Track and is just two points behind Buhler at Manitowoc County Expo Speedway heading into Friday’s $1,500-to-win Manitowoc Late Model June Invitational at one of his home tracks.

McGrath comes to Late Models after six successful modified seasons with more than 30 feature victories and the 2013 Badger Modified Tour championship. The transition to the full-fender division has been relatively smooth.

“You’ve gotta learn to manage tires and stuff like that, but it’s a little easier to go to a Late Model, actually,” McGrath said. “The speed was a little bit tough to get used to, but otherwise, the traction is automatically there. You’re not searching as much.”

Along with facing WDLMA’s spec-engine competition, McGrath even stepped up June 15 to enter his first career UMP DIRTcar Summernationals, finishing 10th in a solid field at Wilmot (Wis.) Raceway as he adjusted to fielding Scheffler’s open-competition engine car.

“(He struggled a little with) inexperience with these guys on these tires, and we didn’t hit the setup quite right. It was fair. I’m happy with it,” McGrath said. “I run with these guys hardly ever, and these kind of tires, we always run a hard spec tire, and I run a spec motor, so I don’t run an open motor all that often. Just a combination of everything … I’m happy with it.”

Scheffler, of Waukesha, Wis., is a former WDLMA champion and has been among Wisconsin’s winningest drivers over the last 20 seasons, with occasional forays to Florida Speedweeks and to major races in northern Illinois. The owner and operator of Suburban Drywall’s career is something McGrath admires, and something he’d like to duplicate.

“That’s my goal. He’s my hero,” McGrath said. “As far as racing goes, he concentrates on business first, and then goes racing, and he’s always been very successful at it. He’s my idol.

“I can. I’ve gotta eventually run the family business, so I’m going to be doing that, I’m not going to be a full-time racer ever, but I’m going to be as good as I can on the weekends.”

Weekly highlights

• Michigan had a two-race winner June 13-14 with David Hilliker of Midland, Mich., grabbing victories at Tri-City Motor Speedway in Auburn and Merritt Speedway.

• With car counts topping 30 on June 13-14, Evan Ellis of Plantersville, Miss., and Ashley Newman of Ripley, Tenn., grabbed NeSmith Chevrolet Series-sanctioned Crate Late Model victories at Magnolia Motor Speedway. The Columbus, Miss., oval was also hosting the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series.

• Picking up a two-victory weekend in his home state, Nick Marolf of Moscow, Iowa, won June 13 at Farley Speedway and June 14 at West Liberty Raceway. Marolf's Farley victory came when Jerry King’s breakdown eliminated him with 10 laps remaining.

• Iowa also had a four race winner over five day with IMCA standout Justin Kay of Wheatland, who won June 13 at Davenport Speedway, June 14 at Jackson County Speedway, stayed perfect at Dubuque Speedway on June 15 and won June 17 on the undercard of the UMP DIRTcar Summernationals event at Farley Speedway.

• Continuing a hot streak that started in early May, Victor Lee of Danville, Ky., earned $3,000 with his June 14 victory in 201 Speedway’s Walter “Peg” Combs Memorial. He topped Dustin Linville and Michael Wright, who also led in the 40-lapper.

Devin Moran of Dresden, Ohio, won at a pair of sometimes-confused Ohio ovals. He won June 13 at Marietta’s Legendary Hilltop Speedway, then on June 14 at Millersburg’s Hilltop Speedway.

• Speeding to a June 14 victory at Selinsgrove (Pa.) Speedway, hometown driver Dylan Yoder lowered the 25-lap record with a caution-free victory in 9 minutes, 3 seconds.

• Making his first Late Model start at Ponderosa Speedway in six years, Timmy Yeager of Harrodsburg, Ky., led every lap June 13 in his Bullock-powered Rayburn Race Car No. 10.

Ryan Markham of Ashland, Ohio, clicked off two more victories June 13-14 during his standout season with wins at Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park and NAPA Wayne County Speedway in Orrville, Ohio.

• In Crate Late Model action in Kentucky, Tait Davenport of Benton nabbed a $3,000 victory at Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway on June 14, and followed it up with a UMP Crate Speedweeks victory at Windy Hollow Speedway near Owensboro on June 15.

• At Oakshade Raceway, Michigan native Rusty Schlenk raced to victory June 14 for his third in a row at the track in Wauseon, Ohio. He also won the previous night at I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich.

First things first

First-time occurrences at the dirt track:

• Part of a two-victory weekend, Max Blair of Centerville, Pa., on June 15 notched his first Super Late Model victory at Eriez Speedway in Hammett, Pa. Blair also won June 14 at McKean County Raceway’s Dave Lundgren Memorial.

Corey McPherson of Tarentum, Pa., won June 14 at Pittsburgh's Pennsylvania Motor Speedway for his first Crate Late Model victory, topping Steve Beatty and Mark Moats.

• In a rare Late Model event at Rolling Plains (Kan.) Motor Speedway on June 14, Daniel Smith of Wichita, Kan., topped his father Delbert for his first Late Model victory.

• In becoming America’s Motorsport Park’s fifth winner in five races, John “Buddy” Brady of Clearfield, Pa., won his first Late Model feature at his hometown track.

Weekly news briefs

UMP Crate Speedweeks continue through June 29 with Cedar Ridge Speedway in Morgantown, Ky., hosting June 20-21 events while Clarksville (Tenn.) Speedway hosts June 22, June 25 and June 28 races. Winning purses range from $500- to $1,500-to-win.

Dog Hollow Speedway in Strongstown, Pa., added a Fourth of July special for its Late Model division paying $4,000-to-win.

• Benton (Mo.) Raceway Park has added the June 27 Jim Hall Memorial to honor the late engine builder and racer from Charleston, Mo. Winged sprints will battle for $5,000-to-win, Crate Late Models for $3,000-to-win and modifieds for $2,000-to-win.

Weekly points chases

AMRA (Super Late Models): Tyler Carpenter of Parkersburg, W.Va., has 713 points to maintain his lead on Andy Bond (688), Chris Garnes (650) and division rookie Jeremy Berwanger (636).

IMCA (Limited Late Models): Through June 8, Todd Cooney of Des Moines, Iowa, has a dominating lead with 734 points over Curt Schroeder (595) and Curtis Glover (566).

ULMA (Limited Late Models): Chris Cox of Jefferson City, Mo., continues his season-long lead with 1,204 points while Dwight Niehoff (1,131) moved into second. Payton Looney (1,054) holds the third spot.

UMP DIRTcar (Super Late Models): Bobby Pierce of Oakwood, Ill., has 1,143 points to lead Rusty Schlenk (1,111) and Kevin Weaver (1,073).

WDLMA (Limited Late Models): Mitch McGrath of Neosho, Wis., has 179 points to lead Tim Buhler (168) and Jim Schmidt (164) through June 8 events.

WISSOTA (Limited Late Models): Scott Ward of Watertown, S.D., is back on top of a pair of Minnesota drivers with 586 points. Zach Wohlers (495) and Harry Hanson (467) are giving chase.

UMP DIRTcar (Crate Late Models): Myles Moos of Hartsburg, Ill., moved atop the standings for the first time with 953 points. He’s ahead of Logan Moody (942) and last year’s champion Aaron Heck (905).

NeSmith Chevrolet (Crate Late Models): Adam Gauldin of Talladega, Ala., had his 10th straight week with a top-five finish and has 570 points to lead Daniel Bridgmon (523) and Shannon Lee (499).

Sweeney Chevrolet RUSH (Crate Late Models): Michael Lake of Uniontown, Pa., has 1,443 points with Nico Dabecco (1,323) and John Imler (1,253).

Southeastern Crate Association (Crate Late Models): Ross Bailes of Clover, S.C., has 536 points for an edge on Ron Parker (519) and Timbo Mangum (504).

Upcoming weekly specials

Among non-touring and independent special events coming up for Late Models at dirt tracks around the country:

Manitowoc County Expo Speedway, Manitowoc, Wis. (June 20): The Manitowoc Late Model June Invitationals pays $1,500-to-win for WDLMA-sanctioned entrants. The race is a benefit for Project Angel Hugs.

Southern Ohio Speedway, Wheelersburg, Ohio (June 20): On Meet the Drivers Night, Super Late Models battle for a $3,000-to-win purse.

Attica (Ohio) Raceway Park (June 20): The fourth leg of the Attica-Wayne County Late Model Challenge pays $1,500-to-win.

Cherokee Speedway, Gaffney, S.C. (June 20): In conjunction with the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series-sanctioned Grassy Smith Memorial, Cherokee’s SECA-sanctioned Crate Late Models will chase a $1,500-to-win purse.

Kentucky Lake Motor Speedway, Calvert City, Ky. (June 21): UMP DIRTcar Super Late Models chase a $3,000-to-win purse in a race that, if the track can draw larger car counts than normal, would start up to 30 cars. Crate Late Models and the Kentucky Vintage Racing Association are among other divisions.

Beckley (W.Va.) Motor Speedway (June 21): The Eye in the Sky 40 in Memory of Larry Stacy pays $2,000-to-win for Super Late Models. The track is also covering one-way highway tolls and providing a free transponder. The track is also in action June 20 with Crate Late Models on the card.

Lafayette County Speedway, Darlington, Wis. (June 21): One of just three Late Model races this season, IMCA-sanctioned drivers will chase a $1,250-to-win payout.

Florence Speedway, Union, Ky. (June 21): Super Late Models battle for $2,000-to-win in a race program that includes the American Modified Series.

Delaware International Speedway, Delmar, Del. (June 24): The annual Camp Barnes Benefit includes Super and Crate Late Models with a $25 per lap leader bonus paid in all features for the Tuesday night special.

Correction: Updates Justin Kay to four victories from June 13-17.

Mitch McGrath file

Age: 27 (birthdate May 25, 1987)
Hometown: Neosho, Wis.
Family: Fiancee Paige Radtke and a 5-year-old son, Tucker
Chassis/engine: Wild Inc./Pro Power
Sponsors: Spancrete, Sorce Services, Johnny Manhattan’s, Matco Tools and Behling Racing Equipment, Diamond Jim’s Auto Sales
Crew members: Ryan Gross, Dylan Reinhardt and Neil Zirbel
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