Notebook: IMCA addresses failed tire test in Late Model division

Waterloo racer John Emerson suspended 30 days, fined $1,750 and docked all IMCA points for failed chemical tire test

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This summer, dirt Late Model racing has been a bit divisive, and in a few cases, controversial.

Across the country, on-track incidents between racers, a few accidents in which track personnel weren’t fully prepared and suspensions from tire doping have fueled the social media flame. Eastern Iowa has certainly felt the heat from that flame this season, most recently via a racer suspended and fined for a failed tire test.

Waterloo driver John Emerson was suspended 30 days from all IMCA competition, fined $1,000, required to give back his weekly race winnings of $600 at Independence Motor Speedway and pay for the $150 tire test by IMCA as a result of a failed test following his win at Independence on June 11. He was stripped of season and national points, as well.

The failed test result was rumored for a little more than a week, with no official news release coming from IMCA. IMCA President Brett Root and IMS promoter Dana Benning — who commissioned the test before handing it off to IMCA — addressed the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series drivers’ meeting last Wednesday to be clear with racers.

Root said it’s IMCA policy to not make an official release, as happened with five racers who were suspended by DIRTCar UMP for failed tire tests last month, so as not to blatantly drag a driver’s name through the ringer while also issuing a suspension and fine.

“All the sanctioning bodies are handling it similarly, but yet a little differently,” Root said. “Since it was at that racetrack it happened, it was the correct time to make a public statement. Our goal is not to smear any racers or treat them any differently than we do with any other rule violation, but this is a subject that for some reason the racers seem to think everyone is doing.

“We’re confident in the process we have in place and the procedures in testing. We’re confident in the results. … We rely on the test 100 percent. We don’t question the lab. It’s a sophisticated process.”

Emerson is serving his suspension since there’s no appeals process in IMCA — though his car was in competition with Richie Gustin behind the wheel last week.

The Waterloo driver said he’s asked for the results for his test back from IMCA, “to prove that it was my tire,” but has not received them because it’s IMCA policy to withhold those results. Root said that’s the policy because of the sophistication of the results and possibility for drivers to learn how to beat the test.

Emerson knows he’ll be labeled as something he doesn’t want to be going forward, but there’s nothing he can do to change it now. He’s eligible to race again on July 26th, and said the goal now is to win races and prove something to fans and competitors while he’s being watched closely.

“I was surprised when it came back, mainly because I was the only one they took a sample from and they didn’t take a dirt sample from the track to see if anything was on the dirt or not, or take any sample from my competitors to get a true base sample,” Emerson said. “I feel like they singled me out on the whole deal. It’s the first time in my whole racing career I’ve been disqualified from anything, so it was a surprise. … It’s weird how they’ll let guys run different size rims then just make them go change it and race the rest of the event, or get off the hook for worse things than they think I’ve done.

“There’s no changing it now. I’m going to be labeled as whatever for the rest of my career. I’ll just have to go out there and win races.”

Root called the penalties “season-altering” for Emerson. While that’s certainly true in terms of season points, Root knows there will be some who believe the penalty for failing a tire test in IMCA isn’t enough of a deterrent from future use. He disagreed with that notion as well.

The issue is bigger than Emerson — or even those five national guys Brandon Sheppard, Gregg Satterlee, Jimmy Owens, Ricky Thornton Jr. and Scott Bloomquist — and Root said addressing a group of drivers and the discussion that follows is most important.

“It’s a topic of discussion in this area quite a bit, so I thought it was appropriate to address in front of, obviously, most of the racers that are in that particular division and have that discussion, versus having the conversation over and over again individually,” Root said. “It’s a season-altering penalty. It’s pretty severe, I think. In the eyes of some of our racers I don’t think it was severe enough, but we do.”

USMTS MAKING IOWA SWING

The United States Modifed Touring Series is set for an Iowa swing in the next 10 days, making stops at four Iowa dirt tracks from Friday to next Tuesday, beginning with a stop at Fayette County Speedway in West Union on Friday night.

Friday’s race serves as a date on USMTS’ Northern Region points schedule. Oklahoma driver Jason Hughes enters that race leading the Northern Region points, with four wins in those events. USMTS then heads to Iowa State Fairgrounds Speedway next Monday, followed by a trip to Southern Iowa Speedway in Oskaloosa on July 19 and Frontier Speedway in Fort Dodge on July 20.

New Sharon driver Zack Vanderbeek, who has three USMTS wins this season, will be among several Iowa-based drivers competing in each event.

Gates open at Fayette County Speedway at 4 p.m. on Friday, with hot laps at 7 and racing to begin at 7:30.

LIL RACER CAR CLUB HOSTING BENEFIT AT HAWKEYE DOWNS

Regular weekly racing resumes this Friday night at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, and with it will come a benefit effort on behalf of the Lil’ Racer Car Club.

The club, founded by Mitch Swinton, is organizing the effort to benefit Lexi Kessler, daughter of Rachel and stepdaughter of Hawkeye Downs racer Corey Houdek. Kessler has scoliosis, which is a curvature of the spinal column, and needs surgery. Swinton said Kessler has been a Lil’ Racer Car Club member since it opened at Hawkeye Downs, and “when we heard the news of the pending surgery, we felt the need to step up and help Lexi and her family to raise funds.”

Fans can make donations at the Lil’ Racer Car Club booth under the grandstands at Hawkeye Downs.

PAIR OF TRI-TRACK CHALLENGE RACES ON TAP

The IMCA Late Model Tri-Track Challenge series picks up again this week, with a pair of $2,000-to-win Late Model events this weekend.

The Challenge, hosted by the three Simmons Promotions tracks, puts up the $2,000 prize for 40-lap main events at Farley Speedway, West Liberty Raceway and Dubuque Speedway. This week it’s Farley Speedway and West Liberty Raceway that are on tap to hand out big paydays — with full weekly race programs in action as well.

Four Tri-Track Challenge races have been run so far this season, with a few others canceled by rain. Joel Callahan won the only one run so far at Farley Speedway, two-time defending IMCA Late Model national champion and Deery Brothers Summer Series champion Justin Kay won the only one at West Liberty, and Waterloo’s Tyler Droste won both Challenge races run at Dubuque so far this season.

Hot laps are set for 7 p.m. in Farley, with racing to follow, and for 6:30 with racing to follow at West Liberty.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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