MOUNT VERNON - Cornell knew that any chance for success against unbeaten Lake Forest (Ill.) would begin and end with stopping the Foresters' star tailback, Joey Valdivia.
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Chad Holladay is enjoying the best season he’s ever had.
As July approaches its end, the Muscatine driver has five wins in his No. 32c Late Model, more than any individual season he’s had. That’s not to mention the impact of those wins, either. He got the biggest win of his career two weeks ago in the Tri-Track Challenge race at West Liberty Raceway, taking home $2,000, and backed it up Saturday with a second straight at the half-mile.
Racers work hard and strive for runs like Holladay has had, and he’s not taking it for granted.
“We’ve been hitting all our marks and doing the right things, I guess,” Holladay said. “It’s definitely the best year of my life in racing. We’ve actually had a bunch of new sponsors show up, wanting to help, which is amazing. The new sponsors and bigger paychecks help a bunch. We put it toward what we’ve been doing.
“It’s a dream that’s kind of come true, you know? We just want to keep doing the same things.”
There’s a common denominator for most racers when it comes to why they’re running better: time. Time on track, time in the shop, time spent researching how to be faster.
For Holladay, he said it’s been “time on the scales,” getting his Gheer’d Up Race Car dialed in. With help of Gheer’d up guru Tyson Gheer and his crew chief “Big Mike,” Holladay said the wins have been the product of timing and preparation.
“Tyson Gheer is phenomenal to work with, Big Mike my crew chief is a big part of my success. I can’t thank those guys enough. You need all the help you can get,” Holladay said. “A lot of time on the scales and we’ve just been searching around for things and we’ve found a couple things that have been working. That’s all. A lot of time on the scales, honestly.
Winning has a way of changing perceptions, too.
Holladay has been around the last several years after taking a seven-year hiatus, but hasn’t been touted as one to beat or the dominant driver very often since his return. Perhaps, now, that might be changing.
He’s not a boastful person, and said he’ll never bring up his accomplishments to someone unannounced, but that he loves talking racing with anyone who’s willing. When the wins have come, he’s gotten plenty of love from his competitors, though maybe not as eagerly after a few in a row.
Respect is a big thing among local racers, and Holladay certainly has more and more with each strong run he has.
“I don’t want to be cocky or anything other than what I am, which is the same guy if I win or lose,” Holladay said. “I think we’re gaining a little more respect on showing up and being prepared.”
So what now, with a $2,000 win in his pocket and a 20-point lead on Rob Moss in the West Liberty Raceway point standings?
Holladay has a new car and engine coming, and has a few things left in mind for the 2016 season. More than anything, an IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series feature win is highest on his list.
“I want to win the points at West Liberty, though I wish we were having these same runs with 24 cars there — that would be something to be proud of, even though the competition there still is the best around, in my opinion,” Holladay said. “I really want to win a Deery Brothers race. It’s a really good series for what we’re doing around here. We want one of those bad, honestly.”
HAWKEYE DIRT TOUR ROLLS INTO DUBUQUE
The seventh Hawkeye Dirt Tour event of the season takes traveling IMCA Modifieds to Dubuque Speedway for the first time Tuesday night.
Tuesday night’s feature pays $1,200 to win, a minimum of $150 to start and is a qualifying event for the 2017 Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot. Grandstand entry is free with paid admission ($10 for adults) to the Dubuque County Fair. The grandstand is open all day and pit gates open at 4 p.m. Hot laps are at 6:30 p.m. and racing starts at 7. Sioux City driver Chris Abelson brings in a 13 point lead in the series standings ahead of Grundy Center’s Joel Rust.
Also in action will be Sprint Invaders Sprint Cars, which will race for $2,000 to win, and IMCA Northern Sport Mods, which will compete for IMCA national and state points.
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES, K&N PRO SERIES COMING TO IOWA
Iowa Speedway closes out its season this weekend, welcoming the NASCAR Xfinity Series and K&N Pro Series to its 7/8-mile oval in Newton for two days of racing.
The U.S. Cellular 250 highlights the weekend action, with June 19 winner Sam Hornish Jr. returning — but this time with a different team. Hornish won the American Ethanol 250 driving the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 18 while filling in for injured Matt Tifft, but returns to drive the Richard Childress Racing No. 2 for Saturday night’s event.
Saturday’s on-track events include NXS qualifying at 3:15 p.m., with the race to follow at 7 p.m. NXS drivers will have two practices (4 p.m. and 6 p.m.) on Friday. Those precede the K&N Pro Series Casey’s General Stores 150, which rolls off at 8 p.m. on Friday night. Single event or weekend package tickets can be purchased at iowaspeedway.com.
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