JOHNSTON RETURNS TO VICTORY LANE IN XTREME MOTOR SPORTS CLASH ON THE HILL
By Troy Harrison
Sometimes, things come full circle. When Thunder Hill Speedway opened in 1994, it was under IMCA sanction for the Modified class. And, in those early years, one of the stars of the IMCA Modified Division was Kurt Johnston, of Concordia. Johnston made several trips to the Pit Stop Liquor Victory Lane in those days, and when IMCA made its return in 2010, so did Johnston. However, he had been stymied in his attempts to win until Saturday night, when an ecstatic Johnston scored the feature win in the BSB Manufacturing IMCA Modified feature. Joining him in Victory Lane was Brian Labonte (Heinen Repair Service IMCA Stock Cars), Eddie Schwope Jr.(Kansas National Guard IMCA Northern SportMods), Dominic Thyfault (BuyRaceParts.com IMCA Hobby Stocks), and Scott Spellmeier (IMCA SportCompacts).
Kurt Johnston has been making the tow from Concordia every weekend, and running well enough that he’d become a fixture in the top 5 in BSB IMCA Modified feature – but it had started to appear that the years away had made Johnston lose his way to the Pit Stop Liquor Victory Lane. It all came right for the veteran on Saturday night, as he won a hard fought feature win. Polesitter Kyle Stallbaumer took off at the start as if he planned to let everyone else have their own race while he moved away from the field, but after an early restart, Jeff Herbers was able to move his machine to the front. Meanwhile, Johnston had followed Herbers’path through the top ten, and past halfway, he slid below Herbers in turn four to take a lead he never relinquished. Herbers finished second, with Allan Halderman making a magnificent charge from 14th starting spot to finish third. Mat Stallbaumer recovered from an early spin to finish fourth, with Richard Spriggs having his usual smooth run into fifth. Herbers’ second place finish has propelled him into a tie for the division point lead going into the final race of the season with Jesse Richter; whoever scores the highest finish between those two will be the 2012 Champion.
The Heinen Repair Service IMCA Stock Car feature was a battle between two drivers determined to score their first wins of the year. At the start of the race, Kyle Vanover quickly assumed the lead over polesitter Tim Lange on lap one, but he couldn’t shake Marvin Griffith Jr. Griffith, who had won a clean battle with Vanover in their heat race, was out to prove that he had the speed to outrun Vanover, who had dominated the season. He did so, powering past Vanover on lap seven and moving out to a straightaway lead. Meanwhile, Brian Labonte also passed Vanover for second. When a yellow allowed Labonte to close to Griffith’s bumper, Labonte took advantage to pass Griffith for the win. Griffith finished second, with Jim Powell Jr. third, Greg Deters fourth, and Bob Arnold fifth. Vanover retired with mechanical difficulties. Vanover’s misfortune coupled with Powell’s great run has cut Vanover’s point lead to five, meaning that Powell has a very good chance at capturing the point title on the last night.
While one points tie was created in the BSB IMCA Modified Division, another was broken in the Kansas National Guard IMCA Northern Sport Mods. Eddie Schwope Jr. and Kyle Oberding entered the night tied in points, and Schwope left with a 22 point lead in his quest to repeat his 2010 title. When the green dropped, Brian Neiberger edged out to a slim lead which he held for a handful of laps. Moving past him, however, on a quest for his first ever Thunder Hill win was popular second generation driver Adam Patch. Patch looked like a winner for most of the race, but the cagey veteran Schwope was able to pass Patch and extend an insurmountable lead while moving through lapped traffic. Schwope held on to win the feature, with Patch finishing second, Brenden Damon third, Bryan Rigsby fourth, and Rick Dreasher fifth. As good as Schwope’s night was, Olberding’s was bad. After suffering suspension problems in the heat, Olberding had the left rear suspension collapse in the feature, resulting in a 23rd place finish and a 22 point deficit to Schwope.
Dominic Thyfault continues to have the hot hand in BuyRaceParts.com IMCA Hobby Stock action, taking another feature win on Saturday night. Thyfault was only really challenged by polesitter MikeTrasowsky, but was able to fend Trasowsky off. Point leader Jacob Crowell never really found the handle on the car and did well to finish third, with Kelly Pihl fourth and Larry Hunter fifth. Crowell’s point lead over Mallory Walters is 39 points; Crowell needs only to start the feature on the final night to clinch his first Thunder Hill point title.
Scott Spellmeier returned to Thunder Hill, and to Victory Lane in the IMCA Sport Compact division. Spellmeier outdueled Wade Heller for the feature win. Dan Canaday was third, with Allen Guthrie fourth and Kaylee Diekman fifth. Diekman has now mathematically clinched the first Thunder Hill IMCA Sport Compact championship.
The Xtreme Motor Sports Clash on the Hill continues Saturday Night, September 22, with the Wunderfest which memorializes former Thunder Hill champion Tom Wunder. This will also be the Season Championship night. Gates open at 5:00 PM, driver’s meeting at 6:30, hotlaps and races to follow. Adult General Admission is $10.00, kids 12 and under are free. Coolers are allowed (Canned beer only – no glass bottles) for a $10 charge. Pit passes are $25.00.
Thunder Hill Speedway is located at 11995 NW 142nd Road (2 miles West of US-75 on NW 142nd Road), in Mayetta, KS. For more information, please visit www.racethunderhillspeedway.com.