VINTON — Tyler Soppe came up just a few points short of an IMCA Northern Sport Mod national championship last season.
The Sherrill driver had 31 wins in 2016 and battled Cedar Rapids driver Tony Olson down to the final week — and into the bonus points of track championships and car-count averages — for the crown. He won all over Eastern Iowa and on various track types and sizes.
Soppe won Sunday’s IMCA Frostbuster Sport Mod main event at Benton County Speedway in Vinton to make it four wins in five races so far this season. He has wins at Scotland County Speedway in Memphis, Mo., the Spring Fling at Cedar County Raceway in Tipton and the Rebel 5K on Friday at Davenport Speedway.
He’s picked up right where he left off.
“Obviously you don’t want to go backward,” Soppe said. “We didn’t want to buy a new car and not work the same as last year.
“We didn’t really do a lot different from last year headed into this year. We just improved a little bit parts-wise and a little bit lighter this and that. With these things, you’ve got to stay basic. We’re fast on half-miles and little tracks. I don’t want to be a one-track guy. I want to be able to race everywhere and win.”
Soppe credited help from Bob Harris Enterprises and Harris himself on his work with the new shocks Soppe invested in for this season as one of the most important reasons his No. 3T Sport Mod has been so consistently fast right out of the box.
His wins this season have come at different tracks, but also in different ways. He started from the pole Sunday and dominated at a track against racers with which he doesn’t always race.
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That included Olson, who finished seventh Sunday night. The pair has raced head-to-head three times this season — Tipton, Davenport and Vinton — which all were race wins for Soppe. Their rivalry grew last season as they raced toward the title, eventually won by Olson, who also topped Soppe for Eastern Iowa Driver of the year.
The two likely will be central players again this year for the national title should both continue to race three nights a week. Despite the hot start to the season, though, Soppe isn’t thinking that far ahead just yet.
“I just want to win,” Soppe said. “I think you’ve got to race and try to win, and if you get 10, 15 wins, then you start looking at (the national title). I think if you focus your season on it coming out of the box, you put that pressure on yourself right away and it’s no fun. Right now we’re having fun. We’re having a good time.”
RYAN RULES RUTS FOR BIG PAYDAY
IMCA Late Model driver Matt Ryan is a Davenport native. Davenport Speedway is his home track.
So when racing conditions were rough thanks to spring moisture on Friday night for the Rebel 5K, and several competitors pulled off the track on the first lap, Ryan didn’t consider that for a moment.
Even a warning from his dad about hurting a brand-new car wasn’t going to deter him. Good thing, too. Ryan started ninth and took home the biggest payday of his career, winning the main event and its $5,000 prize.
“It’s definitely the biggest (paying) win of my career, and other than maybe the Slocum 50, it’s the biggest race in general I’ve won,” Ryan said. “Bob Wagner, the promoter, bent over backward trying to get this race going and I thought, being one of his weekly guys, it would be disrespectful to pull off. The guys who pulled off, it’s fine, they’re guys who just came for the big prize and saw the track wasn’t great.
“I told my dad, ‘We’ve got a racecar, they’re having a race. Somebody has to take that five grand. Why not us?’ I said (after the win), ‘I told you, somebody had to take it.’”
CORDES TOPS INDEE OPENER
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Independence Motor Speedway got in on the early-season special action this week as well, holding its Spring Break Opener on Saturday night.
Dunkerton driver Troy Cordes, who has many wins and multiple track championships at Independence, took home the $1,000 payday for winning the IMCA Modified main event in the first race of the season at the 3/8-mile. Cordes led all but the first two laps of the main event, holding off a hard-charging Mark Schulte for the victory.
Independence will have a second special in as many weeks, with the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models rolling in this Saturday — paying $2,000 to win.
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