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TIPTON — After days on end of rain, overcast and cool conditions, it looked bleak heading into the first racing weekend in Iowa. Multiple special events already had been canceled, but two racetracks stuck it out and worked overtime to get big money shows in as scheduled.
Cedar County Raceway in Tipton and 34 Raceway in West Burlington got their shows in, and while the racing surfaces were typical for a high-moisture week — a staple of racing in Iowa in April, anyway — high car counts and fan counts backed up the decisions to race.
The first edition of Darkside Promotions’ Spring Fling saw 221 cars in Tipton, with $3,000 going to IMCA Modified winner Jordan Grabouski, $2,222.22 to IMCA Sport Mod winner Tyler Soppe and $2,000 to Stock Car winner Elijah Zevenbergen.
While everyone there acknowledged the surface was a challenge — Darkside cut the originally scheduled 75-lap Modified main event to 50 laps because of it — it made the reward all the more gratifying.
“Tim (Current) and the guys (at Darkside Promotions) kept texting me saying I should come. I talked everybody into it and here we are,” Grabouski said Saturday night. “It just beat the crap out of you; physically demanding because you’re three wide in lapped traffic. It’s physically and mentally draining. You’ve just got to take a deep breath and stay focused — not get frustrated or flustered.”
Each of the three winners of the big money divisions — Micro/Mini-Mods, Outlaw Super Bombers and Sport Compacts also raced — were left breathing heavy and said 35- (Sport Mod and Stock Car) and 50-lap (Modified) main events were almost more of a workout than a race.
Soppe, who drove from 12th starting position to win Sport Mod, dominated the final stages of that main event. But even has the Sherrill driver led by a straightaway, he hoped for a caution inside the car so he could take a breath.
“I can’t feel my arms, man,” Soppe said after his win. “I wanted to caution at the end; I couldn’t breathe. I went up to the top because I knew no one else would. I might not be able to feel my arms, but man, I just had to go up and get it.”
Grabouski, a Beatrice, Neb. native, took the $3,000 check from the scores of locals who chased the big payday.
A multi-time IMCA national champion, Grabouski has the respect of most of his peers. Waterloo driver Tyler Droste and State Center driver Kyle Brown — who qualified through B-mains and started 18th and 15th, respectively — finished second and third to Grabouski, and both gave a nod to his ability to come to a track he’d never seen and win.
Grabouski, who races in Eastern Iowa for the other big money shows like the $10,000-to-win Aftermarket Nationals and $50,000-to-win Modified Super Weekend at Farley Speedway, gave a laugh when asked about being in enemy territory and taking the check.
He said he respects the guys in Eastern Iowa as much as they respect him — but he’s more than happy to take the money home.
“You come in their backyard, you’ve got to race them heads up,” Grabouski said. “I hear all the time that I don’t ever race anybody (back home); then you come to a bigger race and run up front and win — you try to earn your keep. You want to run better out of town than you do at home. When you come here you want to win to prove you’re for real.”
Regardless of track conditions, Grabouski, Soppe and everyone else asked at Tipton were both amazed and grateful they got to race.
It came down to an equal-parts physically and mentally demanding set of main events.
“Basically coming into this weekend, you knew it’d be rough because they had so much rain,” Droste said. “If you could hit the line right, it was awesome, but it was pretty tough to hit it. You’re just bouncing around in the holes otherwise. It was definitely a workout.”
MAROLF TOPS DEERY OPENER
While IMCA Modifieds, Stock Cars and Sport Mods were racing for big money in Tipton, the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models got its season started at 34 Raceway in West Burlington.
The Summer Series had its first event at 34 Raceway in 1987, and made its first trip back since 2013. Like the Spring Fling, the Summer Series event — run in tandem with a Sprint Invaders series race — didn’t have the best track conditions, but Moscow driver Nick Marolf was able to hold off the Summer Series Iron Man Darrel DeFrance for the $2,000 win.
Marolf broke a nearly five-year losing streak on the Summer Series tour — his last win coming in 2012 — after returning to 34 Raceway for his first race there since 2000.
“It was pretty wide open; the racetrack never lost any speed all night, and we made a small change after hot laps and didn’t make a change the rest of the night,” Marolf said. “I’d gotten close a couple times, but just couldn’t seem to knock one off.
“We caught a good draw when we got there, had good speed all night, but when you don’t have to start 10th or 12th, it makes life a lot easier. We got out front and it feels good to get another one. The bank account definitely needed it.”
Marolf got the win ahead of DeFrance, Chad Holladay, Matt Ryan and defending series champion Tyler Bruening.
Marolf traditionally runs West Liberty Raceway and Farley Speedway weekly, while hitting Summer Series races when he can. A win right out of the gate, coupled with all 13 Summer Series races being held in Eastern Iowa means chasing the Summer Series championship might’ve just moved way up his priority list.
“Our budget allows us to be basically two-night-a-week racers, and my dad and uncle really don’t want to travel much anymore, but with changes to the layout at Farley, we figured we’d give the Deery (series) the first three or four races a try and the first few nights at Farley a try; then make a decision,” Marolf said. “If we run really well in these next few Deery races, we’ve kind of got to be committed to that.”
FROSTBUSTER DATES SHIFTED
The annual four-race IMCA Frostbuster series got a schedule shake-up Monday, IMCA announced.
Originally scheduled to start Wednesday, the even has been pushed back by a day and will now start Thursday night at Lee County Speedway in Donnellson. The series moves on to Marshalltown Speedway on Friday night, Boone Speedway on Saturday and concludes Sunday at Benton County Speedway in Vinton. Benton County Speedway was originally slated for the Thursday night spot.
IMCA Modifieds will race for $1,000 to win in all four main events, while Stock Cars race for $500, Sport Mods for $400 and Hobby Stocks for $250 to win. Additionally, there’s a $1,000 point fund for each class, given to the driver with the most points if all four races are held.
Hot laps at Lee County Speedway are set for 7 p.m. Thursday. Marshalltown also is set for a 7 p.m. hot laps time, while Boone will get things started at 4 p.m. and Benton County Speedway will start at 4:45 p.m. on Sunday.
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