By NICK SCHWIEN
BOONE, Iowa -- With the overwhelming majority of drivers hailing from states other than Kansas, it's rare for two Sunflower State drivers to start on the front row of a heat at the IMCA Super Nationals in Boone.
But that's just what happened Monday during the first day of the 30th annual event featuring some of the best IMCA drivers in the nation.
Jacob Crowell and Brian Stich were lucky enough to earn that distinction for the 14th and final hobby stock heat Monday.
"I was very surprised," Crowell said. "I drew 220-something and was on the pole. I was really surprised. I thought I'd be dead last and have to battle my way through the pack."
Crowell and Stich were sluggish at the start, following back midway through the pack of the heat.
"I was hoping I'd get a top-four," Crowell said. "When I got out to my heat and saw who was all in there, I was nervous just seeing a past national champion in the heat with me. I just tried to stick with my guns and hold myself with everybody else. I guess once they got around me, I was a little bit relieved. At least I didn't totally screw myself up"
Crowell battled back, though, eventually moving back into a transfer spot, finishing fourth to qualify for one of two A-mains. The top four in each of the 14 heats qualified for one of the two features, and the top eight in those automatically qualified for Saturday's big show.
"I was scared," Crowell said. "All I could think about was, 'Don't screw up. Don't screw up.' And then, of course, I screwed up and they got around me. After that, I kind of figured, 'Well, they got by me now and I better just calm down.' That's what I did, and I drove better. I kinda wish I would have done that at the beginning."
Stich collected the front-stretch wall during the heat but still was able to finish sixth, not a qualifying spot, relegating him to one of the B-mains.
Crowell started last in his A-main early Tuesday morning and failed to make it into the top eight. He and the rest of the hobby stock non-qualifiers will have another shot today.
But just making an A-main on the first night was a surprise to Crowell, who was competing in his first Super Nationals.
"I was really hoping I would, but I didn't think I would make it right off the bat," Crowell said. "I figured I'd have to go through a B-main. But I'm really excited for where I am and what I'm hopefully going to do."
Hobby stocks and sport mods took center stage during the first day, which ended late this morning after a lengthy rain delay that push the start back four and a half hours. The only main event came in the late models on the first day, which Mike Murphy Jr. won. He won one of the two B-mains to make the field.
Tyrel Smith had a rough start to the day when his hobby stock lost key components after making only a lap and a half in hot laps. He failed to make the start in his heat race while repairing the car, forcing him into a B.
Brenden Damon started on the pole of his sport mod heat but failed to make a top-two finish, placing fourth. Only the first-place driver in each of the 20 heats automatically qualified for the night's A-qualifier, while the second-place car went to a B-main to earn a shot at the A.
The rest of the field went to C-mains.
Jason Nelssen was in second in his sport mod heat but got ran into by another driver, ending his heat on a sour note in sixth place.
Kurtis Pihl was fourth in his sport mod heat, while Jesse Levin was sixth in his and Kaid Calhoon was third in another.
Mike Wadel struggled to a seventh-place finish in his sport mod heat, while Jake Krone was third in his.