INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
Independence nearly matc ... »
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Welcome to the Inside Track's Eastern Iowa Driver Rankings. Each week of the racing season, the Gazette's Jeremiah Davis will rank the area's top 10 drivers across all divisions.
New this week: Tyler Bruening, Ronn Lauritzen, J.D. Auringer
Dropped out: Nathan Ballard, Hunter Marriott, Mitch Hovden
Others considered (in no order): Troy Cordes, Matt Ryan, Zach Less, Bryce Garnhart, Rob Toland, Jeff Aikey, Mark Schulte, Chris Zogg, Dan Hovden, Leah Wroten, Kyle Olson, Cayden Carter, Sam Wieben, Johnny Spaw, Jim Hanson, Troy Hovey, Joel Rust, Daniel Wauters, Brian Irvine, Jeremiah Hurst, Dalton Simonsen, Jenae Gustin, Corey Dripps, Ben Chapman, Richie Gustin, Kyle Brown, Mitch Morris, Troy Bauer, Joel Callahan, David Brandies, Nathan Ballard, Hunter Marriott, Mitch Hovden
|1||--||Tyler Soppe||Sport Mod||It's been a lot of fun covering the top two drivers in the area this season - although I didn't see nearly as much of either in the second half of the summer. Soppe takes the top spot in the final rankings for one simple reason: he went into Tony Olson Territory and left with a win. Soppe won at Davenport on Friday night and Olson was p2. Even with one less win to date (24 for Soppe), he gets the nod. He also was second at Dubuque Sunday and was racing for the win at Boone on Saturday before a DQ that has set the internet on fire. His slide job - which looked pretty darn run-of-the-mill to me - has since led to a ban on the move at the 1/4-mile. Super Nats should be interesting.|
|2||--||Tony Olson||Sport Mod||Like I said last week: the final rankings do not decide the Driver of the Year, so TO fans, have no fear, your voice will be heard. Olson was p2 at Davenport to Soppe, got win No. 25 of 2016 at Independence on Saturday, then was fourth at Vinton on Sunday. He (and Soppe) still has a real shot at the national title, so the final month or so, with specials and season championships, will be vital.|
|3||--||Damon Murty||Stock Car||I wish I had more words for what this guy continues to do in an IMCA Stock Car. He won again at Benton County Speedway in Vinton on Sunday, for the 1,293,205th time (number approximate). He's come up short the last few years at Super Nationals, and has left there with a bad taste in his mouth each time because of it. I'll be fascinated to watch from afar and see him go up against Mike Nichols, the Smith brothers and all the other Western Iowa guys.|
|4||+1||Tyler Droste||Late Model/Modified||No wins, but a much cleaner weekend this week for Droste in his No. 31 Late Model. He was third at Independence Motor Speedway on Saturday, then got a pair of top-five finishes in double features at Dubuque Speedway with a second and a fourth on Sunday. He's chasing wins the rest of the season, and my money is on him getting more than one the rest of the way.|
|5||-1||Justin Kay||Late Model/Modified||This guy, too. He was fifth in his Late Model in the only race he ran this weekend at Davenport Speedway, but his year is far from done. He's got the Late Model Knoxville Nationals coming up, and he and the Gheer'd Up crew have been getting ready for it for months. He's been on track less this summer, but has been just as potent. It was easy to forget, sometimes, because of the whole out of sight, out of mind thing. No forgetting in the final rankings.|
|6||--||Luke Goedert||Late Model||Call this the surprise of the summer. Goedert has been around for years, and I probably am guilty of overlooking him for far too long - especially into this year. He had a fantastic run to finish the season, with several wins and the most consistency of anyone in an IMCA Late Model in Eastern Iowa. He picked up two top fives in three races this weekend, finishing second to Tyler Bruening in one of the Dubuque mains, then was fifth at Independence. Helluva summer for Goedert.|
|7||+2||Benji Irvine||Hobby Stock||Another guy who quietly goes about his business, but his business is usually taking names and kicking you-know-what. He did that again on Saturday at Independence Motor Speedway, padding his track points lead with another win there. Irvine, like Murty, has had some bad luck at Super Nationals, but I'd bet he's going to have a strong showing this year.|
|8||NR||Tyler Bruening||Late Model||Bruening has been right on the edge of making the rankings all summer, and makes it thanks to a win at Dubuque Speedway on Sunday, combined with a fourth in the second feature. He's the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models points leader, and has done that while also running several Open Late Model shows. He'll be in Knoxville, too, and he likes the half-mile stuff. He's shown out well against the big boys in the past, too.|
|9||NR||Ronn Lauritzen||Modified||Uncle Ronn got himself a pair of wins this weekend, and couldn't be left out of these final rankings. He won at Independence on Saturday night, then backed it up at Benton County Speedway on Sunday, adding his name to that short list of drivers to pull off the Indee/Vinton sweep in the same weekend. Also, he has the best car number of anyone on this list (No. 10, duh), and the kids picked an awesome wrap for him this season (Star Wars).|
|10||NR||J.D. Auringer||Modified||Auringer had a lull mid-summer, but he's rebounded nicely the last few weeks, and has done so while racing two different style Modifieds. He got back in the win column two weeks ago, then stayed consistent this weekend. He was third at Independence on Saturday night, then got in his Open Modified and ran third at Mason City Motor Speedway on Sunday. He'll be competing in a bunch of USMTS stuff the rest of this year.|
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