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NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News David Murray Jr., Oberlin, races down the backstretch during a modified heat race Thursday at the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.

NICK SCHWIEN â ¢ Hays Daily News Geoff Jermark, Beloit, loses his driveline after hitting the wall on the backstretch during a modified heat race Thursday at the 30th annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.

Qualifying down to the wire in Iowa

By NICK SCHWIEN

nschwien@dailynews.net

BOONE, Iowa -- David Murray Jr. knows you can't let a front-row starting spot result in anything but a win at the annual IMCA Super Nationals in Boone, Iowa.

After Thursday night, Murray was left wondering if another front-row opportunity would happen.

The modified driver from Oberlin started on the pole of the 22nd heat, only to run second to Tyler Prochaska of Iowa Falls, Iowa.

"I might have already missed mine," Murray said. "You never know. But it's just a tough place to guess everything right. I ain't hit the setup yet."

Prochaska started alongside Murray, who has more than 500 career IMCA feature victories and won a Super Nationals crown in 2004. He chased the leader the entire time, pulling alongside Prochaska coming out of turn four with a few laps remaining.

But a caution sent the field back to a single-file restart, and Murray never could get close enough during the final laps to make another run at the win.

"There's so many cars that you don't get a lot of opportunity to get on the track and race very much,"  Murray said. "You just have to hit everything right when you do."

More than 250 modified drivers competed in the annual event this year, and only eight were locked in to a qualifying spot for Saturday's big show. That included Brandon Blochlinger of Concordia, who won Wednesday night's A-main and will start on the pole.

Entering Thursday, Blochlinger was the only Kansas driver to qualify for Saturday's main event. Only the winner of the 30 modified heats Thursday qualified for the night's A-main in which another eight drivers would lock themselves into the middle row of the big show.

With the sheer number of drivers competing, starting on the front row is a rarity, meaning drivers have little chance at a golden opportunity again during the week.

Murray was one of three area drivers to start on the front row of a heat Thursday, the second day modifieds competed. The others were Falun's Brian Knoell and Bennington's Danny Morrison Jr.

Morrison started on the pole of the 20th heat and finished second, while Knoell started second and finished in that spot of the 30th heat.

"It don't mean nothing," Knoell said about finishing runner-up in a heat. "You just know when you do, it's like running second in a feature at home."

It does help accumulate points, though. Tonight, the eight starting spots on the outside row will be set after another A-main. The final nine spots in the field will be determined by a last-chance qualifier Saturday afternoon. Only the top few drivers in points accumulated throughout the week will get the chance to compete in the last-chance event.

"That's why I wished I would have capitalized on it a little better," Knoell said. "I had to start outside in the slick there, and he just got the jump on me. But the car was going good."

Murray, Morrison and Knoell will have to compete in heat races again today for another shot at an A-main later in the night.

That left a guessing game late Thursday night, not only about where they would be starting in heats, but also on how the track would be shaping up for those respective heats.

"The track changes from one race to the next, so you kind of see where they are at and guess where you can set it," Murray said. "Everybody's got to race on it, but everybody is guessing. It ain't like at home where when the track goes slick, you know how to tune it for the slick. So it makes it a whole lot tougher."