BOONE — Two years ago, the IMCA Late Model main event at Super Nationals was one of the best championship races the weeklong event has ever seen.
IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models’ all time wins and title leader Jeff Aikey got the win ahead of Justin Kay and Richie Gustin, and the trio put on a show that’s still talked about. The forgotten piece of the battle for that win is Des Moines driver Todd Cooney, who was a huge part of the first half of that race, and was putting on a show with Gustin initially.
But a mechanical failure ended his race and removed him from the memory most have of that race.
He’s never forgotten, though, rest assured. On Thursday night at Boone Speedway, the veteran racer made sure no one else would forget him, either. Cooney led flag to flag from the front row, picking up his third Super Nationals win.
“There’s been so many I felt I was close and felt I gave them away or circumstances just didn’t go my way,” Cooney said. “So tonight is an unbelievable feeling. I can’t even explain it. If it wasn’t for my guys who work on this car, I wouldn’t be nothing.
“I was just hanging on thinking, ‘Come on baby, just click those laps off.’”
Thinking about the ones he lost is a pretty common occurrence among racers — the races you lose stand out in memories more than some wins.
Another common occurrence among racers? Hearing things with a lead and just a few laps remaining. Many a racer will tell you that little devil on their shoulder tells them things are going wrong. Cooney heard it Thursday night — but this time it wasn’t just a voice in his head.
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Cooney said something in the rear end of the car was giving up, and he had to nurse it home ahead of Gustin, Matt Ryan, Chad Holladay and Cayden Carter. If not for building a sizable lead despite several cautions throughout the race, Cooney might not have held off Gustin.
He said whatever prayers and asked whatever he could inside the car as the laps wore out, and his No. 30 Late Model made it. The always-colorful Cooney was grateful.
“With two to go, something started letting go, and I was thinking, ‘Oh no, don’t do this to me now,’” Cooney said. “My stomach did drop out on me. I didn’t know what to think. I’ve had so many things bite me.
“It wasn’t a make believe feeling. It was really happening. I just kept thinking, ‘Just get me across that line.’”
CARTER BECOMES FIRST TO QUALIFY IN THREE DIVISIONS
The fifth place finisher in Thursday’s Late Model main event also made Super Nationals history.
By virtue of making the Late Model main event, Carter secured a starting spot in championship A-mains in three divisions at the same Super Nationals, which is the first time that’s happened in the 35-year history of the event.
Carter won his A-main qualifier in Stock Car and finished fourth in his Modified qualifier, locking him into those championship races as well. Carter will start on the inside of Row 2 in Stock Car and the inside of Row 8 in Modified.
The understated Oskaloosa racer gave his trademark half-smile when asked about making history.
“I’m just thankful,” Carter said. “Most people would love the opportunity to get to race one class. I’m fortunate to have good car owners and family that allows me to do it. I’m sure many others are capable if they had the chance to run three cars.”
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Carter’s Stock Car entry actually is Chelsea racer Damon Murty’s backup car. Murty, a well-known legend of the Stock Car class, helped Carter scale the car and had it ready for him, and Carter said it’s just another example of how lucky he is to be able to drive high-quality equipment in every division he competes.
The versatility he showed in being able to make IMCA history, he said, comes down to something simple: seat time.
“That Stock Car is feeling pretty good,” Carter said. “I’ve got good equipment and people might not realize I’ve been racing since I was four years old. I’ve got more years than some of these people who are 40 years old. I’ve got a lot of laps in go-karts and other cars. I’ve been all over racing. I’ve got seat time. That’s what helps me adjust.”
EASTERN IOWA RACERS LOCKED IN
While central Iowa natives who come to race in Eastern Iowa fairly regularly — Carter for the myriad specials and Cooney for a few Deery shows and weekly at Vinton — Eastern Iowa natives are sitting in good shape in other divisions.
In IMCA Hobby Stock, Marengo’s Nathan Ballard won his A-main qualifier earlier this week and will start in the middle of Row 1 in the championship main event. He’ll start right beside Oelwein driver and Independence Motor Speedway track champ Benji Irvine. Farther behind them, Vinton’s Justin Wacha will start 21st and Waterloo’s Jeremiah Wilson will start 28th.
In IMCA Sport Mod, current national points leader and Sherrill native Tyler Soppe is locked in and will start fifth (middle of Row 2), while the defending national champ and Cedar Rapids native Tony Olson will start eighth (middle of Row 3). Tony’s cousin Kyle Olson qualified for the championship main event and will start 26th while Dysart’s Joe Docekal, who ran much of the season at Benton County Speedway, will start 27th.
IMCA Stock Car and Modified will lock in their starting fields with final qualifying races Friday.
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