Western Kansas racers looking in
By NICK SCHWIEN
BOONE, Iowa -- The clock had struck midnight. Actually, it was an hour past.
There stood Josh Appel, Dodge City, and Tyler Frye, Belleville, regulars on the western Kansas racing circuit, watching from a close range underneath the tech tent.
Despite the close proximity, the two Northern sport mod drivers were on the outside looking in -- as far as qualifying for the big show was concerned.
Appel and Frye came within a whisker of each qualifying for Saturday's main event during Monday night's first qualifier at the 31st annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.
The top eight finishers in the night's qualifier advanced to the main event Saturday. But Appel finished ninth, and Frye was right behind in 10th.
"It's pretty hard on somebody," Appel said immediately following the race.
Indeed, it was. Appel and Frye both won their respective heats to make Monday night's qualifier. That's a feat in itself considering there were 20 heats of sport mods and nearly 200 drivers.
Appel drew the pole for the qualifier, while Frye started 17th, one spot behind Jesse Levin, who also won his heat Monday.
But that's where the good fortune ended. Appel slowly faded back, settling into sixth on the final caution with only two laps remaining in the 25-lap race. Frye was pushed back to 11th after track officials ruled he was behind three other cars. He was in eighth -- the final qualifying spot -- before easing up out of turn four to avoid a spun car.
"We got caught up in a wreck at the end," Frye said. "We had an easy top-five car if we wouldn't have got caught up in that wreck. But we still finished 10th, and we're an alternate (if someone gets disqualified). We have a good points night going into Wednesday. Right now, we'll have the second best point average going into that. Hopefully we'll get another strong run tomorrow and if we don't make it in tomorrow, we'll have a good starting spot Wednesday."
Three drivers passed Appel in the final two laps of the Delaware double-file restart, where the leader starts single file and every other car lines up two-wide -- depending on their running position when the caution came out.
Frye maneuvered around one car to crack the top 10.
"Overall, the first day was pretty good for never coming before," said Appel, a regular at RPM Speedway in Hays and WaKeeney Speedway who hails from Dodge City. "I can't be too let down from it. It was a pretty good night."
Levin, Salina, finished 16th.
All three drivers will have a chance to qualify again today as the sport mods and hobby stocks take center stage again in the week-long event. Also on tap are the sport compacts and their feature event.