MARION - On the heels of a breakout season, two words greeted the Marion football team as it began preparation for 2017.
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DUBUQUE — Justin Kay still insists he learns something new every time he climbs into an IMCA Modified.
The Wheatland driver is twice an IMCA national and Deery Brothers Summer Series Late Model champion, but of late sure has shown to be just as adept behind the wheel of a Modified. He picked up the $1,200 win Tuesday night at Dubuque Speedway, marking his second straight IMCA Hawkeye Dirt Tour triumph after winning last weekend at Knoxville Raceway.
After winning by a straightaway ahead of series points leader and former Modified national champ Chris Abelson, if he’s still learning, look out.
“I learn something new every time, I promise,” Kay said. “(Chris) Abelson getting by me at Knoxville, I learned something. Tonight, I learned something. I was feeling it out.
“It’s fun to drive. It’s a different challenge; a new challenge. It’s so cool.”
Just like Knoxville, Kay started from the pole and pulled away quickly from the field as a group of drivers, including Abelson, raced three-wide for second. Kay jumped up to the cushion at the tight quarter-mile of Dubuque and rode it to nearly a half-lap lead before the first caution.
Kay said the lessons he’s learning, both by trying different things and from other racers, often make him think of his Late Model. The way his other 15k drives on the cushion is totally different. It’s a new challenge every time out — Tuesday night was his first in a Modified at Dubuque, where he’s a former Late Model track champion — and he relishes that after five years of chasing points in Late Model.
“This car doesn’t drive like that Late Model on the cushion. It’s just different,” Kay said. “Sometimes I try to drive it like a Late Model, and it gets me in trouble. You’ve got to manhandle these a little more than you do the Late Model.”
Kay led all 30 of the main event laps, but did have to make one pass for the lead. On the final restart with seven laps to go, Abelson threw a big slide job into Turn 1 — just as he tried in Knoxville — and it nearly worked. Kay turned hard left as soon as Abelson reached the cushion and passed him back.
The pair shook hands and laughed about it in the tech area after the race. Like Knoxville, Abelson knew that was his one shot at taking and possibly keeping the lead.
“Yeah, that was my one shot,” Abelson said. “I almost did it the caution before, but I thought it was early and waited. I knew that was my only shot. He was really good up there. It was the only shot I had for anything.
“He’s an excellent racer. You’ve got to dig deep to beat him, especially if he starts on the pole.”
Kay’s second straight HDT marked the first time in his accomplished career he’d pulled off that feat. After chasing national and series points so hard the last several years, his goal of slowing down a bit and chasing fun instead has manifested itself well.
He’s done things this season he’s never done before, and as a result — even though he won 80 races in three years doing that points chasing — he’s having more fun than ever.
The smile behind his bushy beard said it all in Victory Lane.
“There’s a lot of the best in this pit area tonight, and the same at Knoxville. It’s the first time I’ve raced a Modified here, so it’s really cool to get this. I’ll take it,” Kay said. “We want to do different things here and there; see what’s going on. We saw this on the schedule and said, ‘hell yes, let’s do that.’
“We didn’t have to do anything to the Mod tonight, and that makes it fun. Just drive it and have fun with it. A nice, relaxing night like tonight is great.”
IMCA HAWKEYE DIRT TOUR
DUBUQUE SPEEDWAY RESULTS
1. 15k Justin Kay; 2. 1x Chris Abelson; 3. 19d Darin Duffy; 4. 3x Ryan DeShaw; 5. 3 Kelly Shryock; 6. 2g Matt Gansen; 7. 41 Jeremiah Hurst; 8. 27m Mark Schulte; 9. 26j Joel Rust; 10. 26 Brian Irvine; 11. 6 Jed Freiburger; 12. 00j J.D. Auringer; 13. 174 Ethan Dotson; 14. 10k Ronn Lauritzen; 15. 33k Kenny Kostenbader; 16. 1m Austin Moyer; 17. 71c Troy Cordes; 18. 31 Corey Dripps; 19. 12 Mark Elliott; 20. 34t Derek Thompson; 21. 3g Bryce Garnhart; 22. 88 Tony VonDresky; 23. 3s Jason Schueller; 24. B1 Jeff Larson.
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