Opening night preview: Late models return to Salina
By DUSTY WIEGERT
Special to The Hays Daily News
SALINA -- Around twenty years ago an era of dirt track racing at the Salina Speedway seemed to have gone extinct. The Late Models, the marquee division for the Salina Speedway for decades had finally began out-pricing one another as the car counts began to dwindle. It got to the point that the Speedway cut them from the weekly show and moved to the Modified division as the headlining event.
After nearly twenty years of hit and miss appearances the Friesen Chevrolet Late Models presented by M&H Motors and Cave Diver's Liquor returns as a bi-weekly division in 2012. After a successful Late Model event last August it appeared that the popularity of the division was still present. The bi-weekly season will kick off this Friday night April 20 for the Late Models.
This season will also be the first back under the International Motor Contest Association (IMCA) sanctioning, of which has been absent since the track closed after the 2006 season.
The Late Models will join a nearly full house of divisions scheduled to compete on opening night of the 2012 season.
The Belleville Motorsports IMCA Modifieds will be a co-headlining division as usual with many of the area's top stars already registered to compete on a regular basis. Champion Danny Morrison Jr. will return to the Speedway to defend his title, as will most of the top 15 from 2011. Corey Lagroon, fresh off a great start last weekend with a runner-up finish, could be an early contender for the Championship along with a host of drivers with multiple track championships.
The Coors Light IMCA Stock Cars have their 2011 Champion back in action as well. Scot Granzella picked up back to back titles in the division, dating back to 2006 with the Super Stocks, and looks for a third title in a row in 2012. With the IMCA sanctioning officials are hoping the car count rises for the division after a handful of cars competed during the 2011 season.
Xtreme Motorsports has a slight name change this season from the B-Modifieds to the IMCA Northern SportMods. Josh Rice of Minneapolis will put in a bid for two in a row as he returns to defend his title. Last year's IMCA Northern SportMod National Champion Bryan Lariviere appears to have the 2012 season at the Speedway on his schedule as well, meaning a great crop of heavy hitters every week in the division.
The IMCA Hobby Stock division has obtained new sponsorship with Budweiser for the 2012 season and, as with the other divisions in competition, will return a Champion to compete for the title again. Mike Traskowsky strung together multiple feature wins last season to capture the title aboard his #23. He'll have a little more competition this season with the IMCA sanctioning but is still a favorite to win on any given night.
One division seeing some change this season is the 4 cylinder division, going from solely front wheel drive cars last season to a mixture of front and rear wheel drive cars and trucks for the 2012 season. The T&R Dirt Construction Mini Stocks have a mixture of rules to entice area 4 cylinder divisions to come together and compete. Last season's Champion, Wayne Juenemann, is poised to exit the division, leaving the Champion position vacant. Last week Wichita's Braden Stoner, barely old enough to have a driver's license, stole the show in capturing the win in the Spring Fling and looks to be an early season contender. Stacey Fuller, a veteran of the class, came home second and is also a favorite starting this weekend.
The Auto House Mod Lite division will have the night off, thus opening their season next Friday night April 27. Last year's champion, Justin Kinderknecht, will be back aboard a Late Model in 2012, likely vacating the throne for that division as well.
The pits open at 5:00 with Grandstands opening at 5:30, Hot Laps at 7:00, and Racing at 8:00PM.
Casey's General Stores admission tickets are $12 for Adults, High School kids with ID are $5, and kids 12 & under are FREE with a paying adult. All senior citizens (55 & Older) and Military Personnel receive $2 off upon showing ID as well. Pit passes are $25.
For more information on the Salina Speedway please visit http://www.racesalinaspeedway.com