NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Brandon Blochlinger leads his modified heat race Wednesday night at the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.
Jeff Tubbs rounds turns three and four during a stock car heat race Wednesday at the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.
By NICK SCHWIEN
BOONE, Iowa -- The window of opportunity is as small as it comes at the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals in this small Iowa town.
Brandon Blochlinger, though, threw a wrench through that window and shattered it, letting the north wind blow right through.
It resulted in a once-in-a-lifetime experience Wednesday. Blochlinger, a key component at BMS Mods in Belleville and a regular at Kansas dirt tracks, started on the front row of his modified heat race and won it.
Then, he drew the pole position for the night's A-main. From that race, only the top eight of the 30 drivers would qualify for Saturday night's big show that highlights the week-long event.
Blochlinger used that second front-row starting spot to lead every lap, qualifying for his second big show in his racing career.
"It's crazy," he said. "I said I'll probably never have a chance to do that again in my lifetime. And here we are on the first night. Two years ago, we made the show the first night. Never again did I think I would make the big show again. It's a tough deal, but here we are -- winning the first night. It's unbelievable. It's an awesome feeling."
It's a rarity for a Kansas driver to start on the front row of a heat race, and it's even more rare for a driver from the Sunflower State to start on the pole for a qualifying feature.
And having a driver from the state stay out in front the whole race almost is unheard of.
"It's tough. It's the toughest thing there is," Blochlinger said. "Every one of these guys are fast, and they're good. They're here for one reason, to make that field. And most of these guys will do what it takes to do it. That's what makes it tough."
Blochlinger started outside the front row of the 22nd heat and dominated the field. He started alongside Josh Most in the A-main.
"Me and Josh Most were on the front row, and I thought it's one of those deals of who's going to get to (turn) one first," Blochlinger said. "Whoever was going to do that was going to have a chance of winning the big deal. It's hard on the driver to make stuff happen."
Blochlinger beat Most to the corner and led the first lap before the first of six cautions in the 25-lap race. Then he put together an impressive run during the next 11 laps of caution-free racing in which he distanced himself from the field by nearly two seconds before another caution.
"It was long. Every time I saw a caution come out, I was like, 'Gosh darn it. Here we go again,' " Blochlinger said. "I knew I was kind of stretching out on them for a little bit, but then there were cautions. It gives you a chance to relax a little bit, then get lined back up and get up on the wheel, tighten the seat belts back up and go at it. You just want to make sure you keep smooth and hit your marks. You just don't want to make a mistake."
Laps 13 through 16 saw Blochlinger weather four cautions. During the final nine laps, his pursuers battled for position as he hit his marks lap after lap to take the win.
The victory also gave him the pole position for Saturday night's big show.
"This is the Super Bowl of racing, and we are on the pole of this thing," Blochlinger said. "I'm excited, and it will be fun."
Blochlinger was the only Kansas driver to win a heat Wednesday. A total of 251 modified drivers were divided into 30 heats, with only the winners advancing to the night's A-main.
"Now we can kind of walk around and help others out," Blochlinger said. "Hopefully we can get some more BMS cars in the big show and see if we can make a show out of this deal."
Jordan Grabouski from Beatrice, Neb., who won last year's Fall Nationals crown at RPM Speedway in Hays, finished sixth in the race to grab a qualifying spot.
Jeremy Frenier of Fort Morgan, Colo., who soon will be the son-in-law of David Murray Jr., started seventh but was caught up in an early accident and was unable to finish the race. He was credited with 27th.
Dylan Smith of Osceola, Neb., who won the Mod Mania event at RPM when Clint Bowyer and Kenny Schrader were in town in early August, started 25th and finished 10th.