Drivers battle for chance at big show in Boone


BOONE, Iowa -- Come race day in northwest Kansas, there's usually a caravan of vehicles from Thomas County making their way to the track.

Those pickups and trailers usually are hauling IMCA stock cars belonging to Bruce Plumisto, Jeff and Nick Tubbs, B.J. Wagoner and Wheat Lippelman.

This week, the action was more than eight hours away for a majority of the Colby drivers.

Three of them -- the Tubbs brothers and Plumisto -- made the long trek to Boone, Iowa, to compete in the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals, the Super Bowl of racing for dirt-track drivers.

The five Colby drivers are used to running door-to-door at tracks such as RPM Speedway in Hays, WaKeeney Speedway and their hometown track, Thomas County Speedway. It's a rare night when one of those drivers doesn't make it into tech lane.

But when Super Nationals rolls around, the drivers all are trying to represent northwest Kansas as one.

"It's like that for everybody," Jeff Tubbs said. "You race against everybody, and now you cheer for them up here. You always want to beat them back home, but now you're wanting as many guys from home to do as good as they can."

Hundreds of stock car drivers competed in Boone this year. From Wednesday through Friday, those drivers battled it out in 20 heats per day for the chance to make Saturday night's big show.

The biggest challenge for the Tubbs brothers and Plumisto was starting positions in those heats.

"We tried," Plumisto said. "And I'm sure it's true for a lot of guys who come up here that are fast at home. You come up here and you just can't get nowhere."

Only the first-place car in each heat advanced to the respective night's A-feature. The second-place finishers went into a B-main to round out the field of the night's A-main. The remaining cars were divided into C-mains for points. The top point-getters after the three days of racing had one final chance in the last-chance qualifier Saturday afternoon.

But none of the three Colby drivers made it.

"We just had a rough week ... " Nick Tubbs said. "Nothing major, just bad draws between us or things didn't go our way. But that's racing. Sometimes you have to make your own luck, and we didn't have it this week."

The highest any of the three drivers ever started in a heat race was third. Nick Tubbs had that distinction Thursday and finished fifth. In fact, he finished all three of his heat races in fifth, with an averaging starting spot in those races greater than sixth.

Plumisto had his best heat race Friday, finishing fourth after starting ninth. Jeff Tubbs finished each of this three heats in fourth, moving up five spots each of the first two nights stock cars competed.

The Tubbs brothers also qualified for the Race of Champions heats. Nick finished 11th after starting eighth, and Jeff finished third after starting ninth. Only the top two in each qualified for Saturday's ROC feature.

"It's been difficult," Jeff Tubbs said. "We've started every one of our races at the tail end -- drew 11th twice and eighth once (in the C features). In the Race of Champions (heat), we started ninth. We tore up a bunch of stuff. There's not been a single race where we haven't went forward, though. So i can't complain too much. I just guess I wish I had a little better draw, and I guess that's what Iowa is about. You have to have a lot of luck and be halfway decent, too."

All three drivers have been more than decent this year, with each claiming victories in northwest Kansas.

In fact, Nick Tubbs has all but wrapped up the track championship at RPM with one points race remaining. He's third in national points as well, 20 points behind Mike Nichols. Jeff Tubbs was 11th in the nation, only 10 points behind the 10th-place driver.

Nick Tubbs also is third in the region and first in the state, while his brother is 10th in the region and second in the state.

"It's hard," Nick Tubbs said. "We've had such a good car all year. I don't really like messing with it for just one week of racing. You can mess up eight months of work after you get the car how you want it for just one week. Then you have to switch it all back. I know you can do it, and we tried a bunch of things, changed a bunch of things. It's not like we weren't trying and chasing it. It was just whatever we tried didn't work."

Wagoner is fourth in state point, and Lippelman is fifth, giving Colby drivers four of the top five spots in the state.

"We root for each other," Nick Tubbs said about his fellow hometown drivers competing in Boone. "I don't like starting next to somebody from my hometown. If I wanted to race him, I'd stay home. I kind of like racing new people and getting to know them and stuff like that."

Only once this week did a pair of Colby drivers square off in the same race. That came in the final race for Plumisto and Nick Tubbs, a C-main Friday night.

They started alongside each other, with Plumisto finishing one spot ahead of Nick Tubbs in third.

"It's great having your friends here," said Plumisto, who has raced sparingly this year. "It gives you more people to go watch and cheer for. And Nick Tubbs being in that last C-feature was kind of fun. I actually got to race a buddy here. It was a C-feature, but I'm going to let him know that I beat him."