(By J M Hallas) Pleasanton, Tx.(April 28th, 2012) After a scheduled week off, and another weekend of the Vintage Dirt Track Racing Association motorcycles, I-37 Raceway returned to action for stock cars Saturday night. Over 80 cars and drivers signed in for the nights events on the ¼ mile, semi-banked, clay track just south of Pleasanton.
Warmer temperatures and high winds quickly dried out the racing surface making for some tricky track conditions early in the night. Drivers and crew were able to adapt with both the IMCA Modifieds and Southern Sportmods seeing a last lap pass for the lead.
Darin Leonard picked up his first IMCA Modified win of the season, while Frank Okruhlik, Landon Sowder, Greg Dinsmore and Jarrett Payton found their way back to the Winners Circle. Johnny Torres was awarded the IMCA Southern Sportmod victory after first time I-37 winner, John Heil couldn’t pass on the tech pad.
Leonard’s Last Lap Pass Secures Win
Darin Leonard(Sinton) saw his son Cody take his first IMCA Sportmod feature win one month ago. Not to be out-done by the youngster, Darin finally broke through to the winners column, but it wasn’t easy. Friend, Harris Chassis team mate and sponsor, Bill Pittaway kept the pressure on Leonard throughout the 20-lapper. Pittaway was able to sneak past Leonard for the lead on lap 19, but Leonard fought back to retake the point coming to the checkers.
Carson Bednarz led from the pole into turn 1, but it was Leonard, on the top side coming off turn 2 with the lead. Jason Borlace, Pittaway, Bednarz and Chuck Chesler fell in line with Greg Dinsmore, Jamie Campbell and Bednarz three wide on lap 2. Dinsmore and Campbell again went three abreast, this time with Chesler for fourth.
As the top five finally sorted out it was Leonard, Pittaway, Campbell and Campbell up front, while Borlace, Chesler and Dinsmore were fighting for fourth. The top three checked out by halfway leaving Borlace, Chesler and Dinsmore three wide behind them. In the waning laps Campbell took a look under Pittaway for second, but Pittaway held steady and put some heat on Leonard.
The leaders came up on slower cars with Leonard and Pittaway going three wide. Pittaway came away with the lead as the white flag waved, with Leonard on his tail. Leonard got inside Pittaway in turns 1-2, but Pittaway held the edge on the back stretch. Leonard used the bottom in turns 3-4 to creep ahead coming to the checkers in his CD Electric, CC Coatings, Ace Transmission, Coastal Diesel, New Vision Graphics, Harris Chassis.
“I had to show the kid his dad still had it,” replied Leonard. “Cody has been teaching me quite a bit. Traveling to other shows at other tracks has given me the ability to work on the set up for my car too. It’s helped me in the long run as well as helping him.”
“I’m glad I got to race with Bill(Pittaway) for the win. We’re good friends and it was fun. That lapped car made it interesting. When I threw it into the turn, I thought I was going to hit the lapped car, but he pushed and I missed him and was able to get back by Bill at the finish. It was a good race. Awesome.”
“Bill talks quite a bit with the Harris Chassis guys and that has helped me a lot with this older car. We’ve both been doing some experimental stuff. I’m incorporating some of the newer stuff into this car. The changes I made this week really helped the car. I have to thank my main pit guy, Cody, and my wife and family for their support.”
Torres Tops After Tech in Sportmods
Defending track champ, Johnny Torres(San Antonio) got edged out in the final laps by John Heil after a late caution, but Heil was unable to pass tech inspection. This gave the win to Torres who chased down and passed early leader Anthony Gordon with five to go. A green, white, checker finish set up the chance for Heil to get under Torres for the lead coming to the white flag. Torres tried to fight back, but fell short until inspection found Heil with illegally grooved tires.
Former ROMCO Super Late Model champ, Tommy Grimes was first into turn 1 at the start of the 20-lap, 18-car IMCA Southern Sportmod main. Anthony Gordon, who continues to be on the verge of his first ever Sportmod win, beat Grimes off turn 4 to lead lap 1. Grimes fell in line second followed by Greg Lackey and a three wide scramble between Robert Williams, Larry Jernigan and Talon Minton for fourth.
Wiliams’ night ended early after a tangle with JJ Jennings sent him sailing over an infield tire. T. Minten got third from Lackey, while Heil and Torres ran wheel to wheel for sixth. As T. Minten picked off second from Grimes, Heil took fifth from Jernigan in the mad scramble for fourth on back that saw position change in every corner.
As they sorted out coming to halfway it was Gordon, T. Minten, Heil, Torres and Grimes in the top five. As Heil tried low on T. Minten, Torres took the high groove going around both for second, with Heil following to third. Torres then reeled in Gordon and took over the top spot on lap 16 bringing Heil along to second a lap later.
Torres was on his way to the victory as the leaders came to take the white flag, but a spin by Robbie Minten in turn 2 prompted the flagman to throw a yellow before the leaders got to the corner. Heil used the restart to duck inside Torres in turns 1-2 and alongside on the back stretch, Heil got the lead coming off turn 4 to the white. Torres, in the 24/7 Towing, Tator Plumbing, Rising Star Bodies, Rays Auto & Truck, Swenson Racing Products, Screen Pro Graphics, Spreen Race Engines, Vato Chassis, tried a crossover move, but came up short leaving Heil to take the checkers, that he later gave up in tech.
“We’re still getting the bugs worked out of the new car,” said Torres. “I really haven’t gotten some of the breaks that it takes to win from the 6th row most nights. I felt like we had the car to beat till the hooking bumpers and banging on the green, white, checker, finish.”
IMCA Modifieds; 26 Darin Leonard, 37 Bill Pittaway, 29 Jamie Campbell, 21 Jason Borlace, 8g Greg Dinsmore, 49 Chuck Chesler, 37b Donald Banker, 16 Carson Bednarz, 10b Ellis Tracy, 31c Marlin Samford
IMCA Modified heats
Heat 1; 21 Jason Borlace, 8g Greg Dinsmore, 49 Chuck Chesler, 16 Carson Bednarz, 37b Donald Banker
Heat 2; 26 Darin Leonard, 37 Bill Pittaway, 29 Jamie Campbell, 10b Ellis Tracy, 31c Marlin Samford
IMCA Southern Sportmods; 66 Johnny Torres, 118 Anthony Gordon, 18 Larry Jernigan, 14t Talon Minten, 26g JJ Jennings, 9 Ray Doyon III, 2r Michael Hernandez, 2g Greg Lackey, 57 Jason Kelly, 37 Cody Leonard, 22 Randy Bennett, 60 Pat Lyon, 22t Tommy Grimes, 4r Robbie Minten, 11 Tom Grothues, 21(94) Allen Torres, 02 Robert Williams, D30 John Heil—DQ(Tech/tires)
IMCA SSM heats
Heat 1; 26g JJ Jennings, 66 Johnny Torres, 22t Tommy Grimes, 18 Larry Jernigan, 11 Tom Grothues, 57 Jason Kelly
Heat 2; 118 Anthony Gordon, 37 Cody Leonard, 9 Ray Doyon III, 2g Greg Lackey, 4r Robby Minten, 21 Barry Codling
Heat 3; 14t Talon Minten, 02 Robert Williams, D30 John Heil, 2r Michael Hernandez, 60 Pat Lyon, 22 Randy Bennett