WEST LIBERTY — Many racers would’ve pulled off the track.
Tiffin’s Denny Eckrich was involved in a midrace caution during Saturday night’s IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Model main event at West Liberty Raceway in which he and Jake Neal collided in Turns 1 and 2 and left the left side of his car bent and battered, with the sheet metal up over the driver’s window.
Eckrich and Neal had been racing for second behind leader Jeremiah Hurst. Under caution, Eckrich turned his car back and forth, making sure the damage wasn’t severe enough to affect the handling of his car. Despite not being able to see to his left, the veteran Late Model racer stayed on track.
He was rewarded with his sixth career Summer Series victory — a second straight in the spring event in West Liberty.
“(The damage) just pissed me off more,” Eckrich said. “When someone hits you in the door, it just drives you nuts. But I had crew guys giving me signals it was OK and I knew it didn’t hit the front wheel. It’s a bad deal, but we’ll straighten it up.
“It does affect you, but you should be looking ahead anyway. We do what we can do. We’ll take it.”
Spring weather has played havoc on racetracks across Iowa, and West Liberty was no different, though less so than other events so far this season, Eckrich said. A rut formed in Turns 1 and 2, and a hole formed in Turn 3 that made finding a fast way around difficult.
After sustaining the damage, Eckrich raced hard with Jesse Sobbing for second while Hurst slowly grew his lead. If not for a caution with five laps to go, it likely would’ve been Hurst — in his first season piloting the flagship No. 58 for Roberts Motorsports, the seat previously filled by Ray Guss Jr. — taking his second career Summer Series win.
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But an aggressive restart by both Eckrich on the outside and Sobbing on the inside saw Hurst and Sobbing make contact in the first corner. Eckrich rode around the top and off to the lead, pacing the final five laps to the win.
While Eckrich was celebrating his $2,000 win in Victory Lane, Hurst was fuming and Sobbing defending his driving on that final restart.
Hurst ended up second ahead of Joel Callahan, defending series champion Tyler Bruening and Sobbing in fifth. When he climbed from his car, Hurst walked over to Sobbing, still seated in his, arms raised in frustration. Sobbing climbed from his car as the two exchanged heated words on the front stretch.
Hurst said he didn’t like how Sobbing raced him.
“I didn’t need that last restart; none of them,” Hurst said. “It’s just frustrating to have that good of a car and that stuff happens. He doored me, but it’s a rough racetrack so I guess that’s racing. It’s the heat of the moment and I’m pretty upset about it.”
Sobbing said he was going for the win and wasn’t going to give anything up if he saw a chance.
“I went in pretty hard,” Sobbing said. “I had to take a shot at it. I hit a rut, he ran it down the hill to cut the moisture like everybody was doing. I hit the rut and locked it down and wheel hopped, and we hit. So be it. It hurt me worse than him. We’re racing for wins, not to make buddies.
“I’m not going to give an inch; these guys aren’t going to give an inch. I’ve had a pretty fast hot rod. I’ve got just as much business being in the mix as they do.”
Racing can be fickle, as everyone who traded paint Saturday night was reminded.
Eckrich was able to laugh off the damage — even with a tinge of agitation still lurking — because of that final restart. He stayed with the high line because it was fast, but also because he couldn’t see out the left and didn’t want to drive across anybody and ruin his chances for the win.
He made the most of it.
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“Jeremiah’s crew guys were telling him to stay high because I was coming, and I knew (Sobbing) was going to dive in there,” Eckrich said. “(Sobbing) dove in there like (Neal) on me and when I saw them hit, I knew I had to go, and I kept it up there and went. We needed it.”
IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series
Late Model results
1. Denny Eckrich, Tiffin; 2. Jeremiah Hurst, Dubuque; 3. Joel Callahan, Dubuque; 4. Tyler Bruening, Decorah; 5. Jesse Sobbing, Malvern; 6. Jeff Tharp, Sherrill; 7. Cayden Carter, Oskaloosa; 8. Justin Kay, Wheatland; 9. Jake Neal, Omaha, Neb.; 10. Scott Fitzpatrick, Wheatland; 11. Luke Goedert, Guttenberg; 12. Curt Martin, Independence; 13. Jeff Aikey, Cedar Falls; 14. Chad Holladay, Muscatine; 15. John Emerson, Waterloo; 16. Matt Ryan, Davenport; 17. Darrel DeFrance, Marshalltown; 18. Andy Eckrich, Oxford; 19. Lyle Klein, Sherrill; 20. Kyle Hinrichs, Swisher; 21. Spencer Dierks, Davenport; 22. Jay Johnson, West Burlington; 23. Kevin Kile, West Liberty; 24. Nick Marolf, Wilton.
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