Big Bucks Shootout @ I-37 Speedway, 11/3-4/17
By JM Hallas
Pleasanton, TX.,(Nov. 3Rd, 2017)
Full moon Friday night at the races.
After a successful re-opening, the I-37 Speedway season winds down with its annual Big Bucks Shootout on the ¼ mile, semi-banked, dirt track. While most season ending, multi-day shows are set up to qualify one day then run features the next, I-37 split it shows up with both nights being separate shows, with separate payouts.
This gives drivers the chance to pick up some money on two nights and give those unable to make a Friday night show the chance to run on Saturday only. An added twist is any driver who can win both nights picks up some bonus cash for the weekend sweep in the four classes running both night.
Friday gave the Sport Modifieds the chance to headline the show with $500 to win up for grabs. Also in action are the Street Stocks, Pure Stocks and Sport Compacts, all eligible for the sweep bonus. The Limited Late Models are scheduled for a single night of racing, Friday only. The Modifieds return on Saturday night for their one night of racing.
Mikulencak Motors to Sport Modified Money
In a race that will make the body panel sales soar, it was Marcus Mikulencak(Corpus Christi) getting his first ever Sport Modified win on dirt. The young Mikulencak was challenged early by his dad, Lawrence until he was involved and send to the tail.
Tanner Whitmire was next in line to give M. Mikulencak some pressure, but Whitmire tried to go airborne over an infield tire. In the latter stages in was Vince Louden taking up the charge, getting the nose out front for a lap. In the end it was M. Mikulencak in the Hudgeons Paint & Body Shop, Mattress Firm, Partners, Swenson Racing Shocks, Waitschies Crank Service, Rush Chassis hanging on for the win.
Did I mention a full moon?
As the 21-car field fired off it was M. Mikulencak first into turn 1 was L. Mikulencak, Whitmire, Louden and Cody Leonard in pursuit. Dad put the heat on son until Ray Doyon slowed for an early caution. On the ensuing restart the pack stacked up in turn 2 scattering the field. Robert Stewart got the worst of that as he turned over on his lid on the turn 2 hill. Stewart was uninjured.
After a couple minor spins and restarts, L. Mikulencak got loose in turn 2 collecting Whitmire and Ryan Doyon. No sooner than the racing resumed, Chris Swenson slapped the front stretch wall. While challenging M. Mikulencak for the lead Whitmire clipped an infield tire sending him airborne, but continuing on loosing many spots before pulling off.
After a quick yellow for a John Witzsche spin, Robby Minten and Trent Beaver made contact with R. Minten spinning and collecting Mickey Helms. Finally the race made it to halfway showing M. Mikulencak, Leonard, Louden, JJ Jennings and Talon Minten in the top five. Louden and Leonard battled side by side with Louden getting second. Jennings was able to follow to third.
Jennings and Leonard then began swapping the spot, nearly corner for corner as the laps clicked off. Up front Louden was reeling in M. Mikulencak for the lead catching him on lap 15 Louden looked low off turn 4 and got the nose out front on lap 17. M. Mikulencak fought back retaking the top spot on lap 18. At the checkers it was M. Mikulencak snagging the hard earned victory by a car length.
“It was handful,” replied Mikulencak. “It was a lot of fun. The track had two grooves. I don't that you ask for more than that. I was really trying to keep dad behind me at the start. I think he was about to blow the doors off us all. We got lucky on that end.”
“I saw Vince(Louden) there stick his nose in once or twice. I could see him on (corner) entry. I think that being on the top I was making it up on corner exit. That was good enough. He kept me on my toes.”
“I was worried before the start of the feature that I'd be a sitting duck starting up front. You have no clue what line to really run. I was worried about the bottom coming in at the end. It seemed to be, I think we got lucky on that.”
“This is my first win in a dirt Sport Mod. I've won on pavement in one and won in Street Stock on dirt, but this is my first in a Sport Mod on dirt. I can't thank Mr. Holcomb, Randy and his wife and of course my parents, without them I wouldn't be doing this. Everyone's put so much hard work into this car. Chris Swenson has helped us out with some shocks.
03 Marcus Mikulencak, 6 Vince Louden, 26g JJ Jennings, 4 Talon Minten, 12 Cody Leonard, 9 Ray Doyon III, 174 Mickey Helms, 11t Tom Grothues, 14 Trent Beaver, 97 John Witzsche, 24 Jim Blevins, 5r Ryan Doyon, 25t Michael Keylich, 24r Robby Minten, 77 Cody Beddoe, 101 Tanner Whitmire, 87 Lawrence Mikulencak, 48 Chris Swenson, 32 Robert Stewart, 15 Bruce Beddoe, 27 Mike Morris
Sport Modified heats
Heat 1; 03 Marcus Mikulencak, 6 Vince Louden, 26g JJ Jennings, 9 Ray Doyon III, 24r Robby Minten, 25t Michael Keylich, 24 Jim Blevins
Heat 2; 101 Tanner Whitmire, 12 Cody Leonard, 77 Cody Beddoe, 32 Robert Stewart, 27 Mike Morris, 11t Tom Grothues, 15 Bruce Beddoe
Heat 3; 87 Lawrence Mikulencak, 5r Ryan Doyon, 4 Talon Minten, 48 Chris Swenson, 14 Trent Beaver, 174 Mickey Helms, 97 John Witzsche
Victory for Votion in Limited Late Model Finale
Despite coming up short in his title defense after missing two races, Trey Votion(San Antonio) ended his season with another victory. In a race that took its toll on equipment, Votion made a mid-race pass on Robby Minten to get the lead, then hug the bottom to secure the win in his ZDT's Amusement Park, Champion Signs, Mission Race Engines powered, Kelly Racing Chassis, Ford
At the start of the scheduled to 20-lap feature it was Minten getting the lead followed by Votion, Howie Marcx, Tommy Grimes and Jason Kelly. On lap 2 Quentin Henderson got into the front stretch wall then was drilled by Ron Sprayue. Both driver were shaken after the grinding crash, but able to hobble away during the red flag.
On the restart Marcx and Grimes had contact with Marcx taking evasive action and catching Cody Leonard as he was going by. With only five cars left, officials cut the distance to ten laps. Once back to green, Votion dove under Minten to grab the point on lap 4 and inch away the final half for his eight win of the season.
“I hate to see guys get their cars torn up,” stated Votion. “Hopefully everyonr can get there's fixed for next season, I know we've got some other cars coming next year too.”
“The track was good, the track was fast. My car works well on top or bottom. I always try to hunt out the moisture. It seemed like there was more on the bottom. I started down and was making my way there so I didn't see any reason to leave it.”
“I was up space on Robby(Minten) who was running the top before that caution. I tend to go where they're not anyway. He was staying on top so I just stayed on the bottom. If I had to move up I would, but luckily the bottom worked. It felt like there was more bite off (turn) 4 than (turn) 2.”
“It's been a great year despite missing the championship. This is the eighth win of the year. There's no doubt we would have won the championship, we just missed too many races.”
Limited Late Models
99v Trey Votion, 43 Robby Minten, 57 Jason Kelly, 15 John Owens, 22 Rene Mares, 99 Tommy Grimes, 13 Howie Marcx, 8 Cody Leonard, 44 Quentin Henderson, 42 Ron Sprayue, 93 Aaron Leddy---dns
Limited Late Model heats
Heat 1; 43 Robby Minten, 13 Howie Marcx, 99v Trey Votion, 57 Jason Kelly, 15 John Owens, 93 Aaron Leddy
Heat 2; 8 Cody Leonard, 99 Tommy Grimes, 44 Quentin Henderson, 42 Ron Sprayue, 22 Rene Mares
Trigg Tops Street Stocks
In the Street Stock feature it was a wire to wire win for Mike Trigg(Lake Hills), but it wasn't easy. Trigg had to hold off challenges throughout the 20-lap event from Jason Fitch, Frank Okruhlik and track champ Wade Jones. Trigg was briefly slowed in the waning laps by a slower car, but Jones couldn't capitalize as Trigg held on for the victory.
After one aborted start that saw Matthew Hawken end up on the nose pf Bryan Meredith it was Trigg charging from row two to beat Fitch to line to lead lap 1. Fitch, Okruhlik, Chris Shafer and Cody Leonard fell in line behind Trigg. After a couple cautions for solo spins, Jones got by Fitch for third while Okruhlik began to challenge Trigg for the lead.
At halfway it was Trigg, Okruhlik, Jones, Fitch and Heath Stewart in the top five. Jones and Okruhlik then began to battle for second giving Trigg some breathing room. Once Jones cleared Okruhlik he closed on Trigg and got to his bumper in traffic. That was as close as Jones could get on the final lap as Trigg in the Sames Ford, 1560 Storage, Willie Cotton Race Engines, Sniper Chassis was taking the checkers.
“I got lucky on that false start,” said Trigg. “I knew there was some bite up there and needed to take advantage of it while it was there. We tightened the car up because I felt like the track would go away early. Probably should have done it more, we were pretty free. I just don't have enough laps here to get a good baseline yet. We're good. But could be a lot better.”
“I've got good notes for Corpus, I struggle in Edna, 281 we unloaded good and had a good weekend. I still still struggle here. Don't get me wrong, we're good, just not where we need to be. I knew there was someone under me at times, but also knew there wasn't anything there.”
4t Mike Trigg, 36 Frank Okruhlik, 41 Wade Jones, 23f Jason Fitch, 7 Cody Leonard, 2 Heath Stewart, 77 Chris Shafer, 18 Shawn Moore, 933 Cody Henderson, 31 Jeff Hendricks, 2x Dennis Hilla, 00 Matthew Hawken, 30 Bryan Meredith, 94 Allen Torres---dns
Street Stock heats
Heat 1; 23f Jason Fitch, 36 Frank Okruhlik, 2x Dennis Hilla, 30 Bryan Meredith, 00 Matthew Hawken, 18, Shawn Moore, 933 Cody Henderson
Heat 2; 77 Chris Shafer, 4t Mike Trigg, 7 Cody Leonard, 41 Wade Jones, 2 Heath Stewart, 31Jeff Hendricks, 94 Allen Torres
Heinaman Heroic in Pure Stock
In a race that had several plot twists and turns throughout the 20-lapper it was track champ Dakota Heinaman(Corpus Christi) coming out victorious. Heinaman came from the fourth row to battle with Trent Beaver for the win. Using a late restart, Heinaman powered around the outside of Beaver to get the point then held off Beaver on a final green, white, checker finish.
At the start of the 22-car feature it was Beaver off the front row getting the lead trailed by Sean Ward, Jamie Dear, Josh Sewell and Heinaman. Beaver and ward stayed side by side until lap 2 when Ward clipped an infield to bring out a yellow and have to restart at the tail. Sewell got by Dear on the restart for second leaving Dear three wide with Dillon Gaither and Heinaman.
Coming to halfway with the top three pulling away it was Beaver, Sewell, Heinaman, Aaron Leddy moving to the front, and Gaither. Sewell spun from his top spot on lap 12 just as Beaver caught lapped traffic and moved John Ramirez and Scott Ball out of the way. On the restart Leddy got second from Heinaman and was challenging Beaver for the lead.
Leddy was able to grab the point on lap 14 while in the pack Dear spun and was hit head on by Kevin Sullivan in turn 2 to bring out a red. Both drivers were alright, but Leddy was unable to refire and was pushed to the pits. This Handed the lead back to Beaver. Heinaman was just starting to pressure Beaver when Jesse Sandoval and Ben Mikulencak hooked bumpers and collected Daniel Preston.
As the race resumed Heinaman took the high road and powered past Beaver for the lead on lap 16. Gaither moved in to battle Beaver for second, but gave up a spot to Preston in the process. A late spin on the last lap in front of the leaders set up the final shootout that saw Heinaman and Beaver get away. Heinaman held his ground to grab the victory in the Davids Automotive, Ace Transmissions, Ace Automotive Machine, Chevy.
“We were just searching around the first ten laps or so,” said Heinaman. “I found were the fast line was and moved to the top. I just found the lane quicker than they did and moved my way to the front. We were able to get 'er done.”
“When you first get out there you can tell within the first few laps if you have something and the car to win. I felt like about lap 5 the car started coming to me. We just kept getting better and better throughout the race. We were a little tight, I think everyone else was too.”
“I've got to tip my hat to Colt Beaver for driving me clean. That's what racing is all about. I was just hanging back when we caught those lapped cars. I saw him get into one and go to the bottom. I went by on top but the caution came out. I was glad I didn't pass him that way and we were able to race for the win. I wish Dakota Hurley was here so I could beat him too.”
441 Dakota Heinaman, 20 Colt Beaver, 6 Daniel Preston, 5 Dillon Gaither, 889 Sean Ward, 66 Adam Torres, 8m Joshua McCain, 44k Michael Keylich, 38x Josh Sewell, 15b JW Blocker, 98 Brandon McCall, 7 Jesse Sandoval, 95s Jeff Rabedeau, 13 Kris Workman, 93 Aaron Leddy, 53 Treyler Caulfield, 73 John Ramirez, 156 Scott Ball, 87 Ben Mikulencak, 58 Jamie Dear, 54 Kevin Sullivan, 28M Mason Casteneda
Pure Stock heats
Heat 1; 889 Sean Ward, 38x Josh Sewell, 441 Dakota Heinaman, 28m Mason Casteneda, 66 Adam Torres, 44k Michael Keylich, 13 Kris Workman, 156 Scott Ball
Heat 2; 20 Colt Beaver, 5 Dillon Gaither, 93 Aaron Leddy, 6 Daniel Preston, 7 Jesse Sandoval, 98 Brandon McCall, 73 John Ramirez
Heat 3; 58 Jamie Dear, 15b JW Blocker, 87 Ben Mikulencak, 8m Joshua McCain, 54 Kevin Sullivan, 95s Jeff Rabedeau, 53 Treyler Caulfield
Bettis Best in Sport Compacts
After chasing track champ Robert Kelm and GB Carter all season, Trevor Bettis(San Antonio) finally picked up his victory in Sport Compacts. Bettis got the benefit of Roy Easler breaking while leading to get out front early. Kirk Ball caught Bettis during the final laps in traffic, but came up short as Bettis hung on for the win.
At the start of the 15-car Sport Compact feature it was Easler getting the jump on green chased by Bettis, Casey Lowe, Sergio Hexsel and Gordon Dowdy. Bettis got the lead on lap 3 as Easler slowed and stop with a broken transmission. Hexsel got by Lowe for second on the restart while Ball took fourth from G. Dowdy, then third from Lowe.
Jamie Garner was next to put Lowe and G. Dowdy back spots getting fourth. Ball and Garner, in their VW Sciroccos, then chased down Bettis in his Pontiac Grand Am as he worked traffic. Ball gave Bettis some looks on top but couldnt find a way past as Bettis grabbed the checkers.
“I took a lot of focus,” exclaimed Bettis. “I just had to hold my line on the bottom and pray a lot. It was on my mind that Robert(Kelm) and GB(Carter) weren't here and it sucked was that (Roy) Easler had trouble and broke the transmission. I guess it is was it is. I kinda saw the 38(Kirk Ball) behind me at the end. I wondered who was bumping me.”
57 Trevor Bettis, 3 Jamie Garner, 44 Sergio Hexsel, 63 Gordon Dowdy, 117 Casey Lowe, 5 Ronnie Schoenfeldt, 56 Treyler Caulfield, 53 Caleb Dowdy, 34 Dylan Budnik, 16 Bobby Velaquez, 13 Hannah Wood, 33 Lizzy Blackstock, 23 Sean Terry, 12 Roy Easler, 38 Kirk Ball----dq(tech-tires)
Sport Compact heats
Heat 1; 12 Roy Easler, 57 Trevor Bettis, 63 Gordon Dowdy, 5 Ronnie Schoenfeldt, 3 Jamie Garner, 13 Hannah Wood, 33 Lizzy Blackstock
Heat 2; 117 Casey Lowe, 44 Sergio Hexsel, 38 Kirk Ball, 53 Caleb Dowdy, 56 Treyler Caulfield, 23 Sean Terry, 16 Bobby Velasquez, 34 Dylan Budnik---dns