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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WEST LIBERTY - With the surge of high school and college football, it's easy for some to forget the racing season isn't finished.
Far from it, in fact.
Yes, tracks' season points championships are winding down or already complete, but the biggest events all year in Iowa - in the case of one, the country - are just getting started. Beginning with Friday night at West Liberty Raceway and running through Sept. 19, three special events will hand out more than $24,000 just to the IMCA Late Model winners of the Liberty 100, IMCA Supernationals and Yankee Dirt Track Classic.
All three events - in the Supernationals' case, kicking off its week of racing - run on the Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models and finish that series' season. Doing so with all that money and prestige on the line is the perfect ending to a season, series director Kevin Yoder said.
'We do this on purpose. There have been other years where we haven't, and I never want to end the season anticlimactically,” Yoder said. 'We want to end the season with a flourish and a place like Farley with the Yankee Dirt Track Classic with racing over three or four days is a way I think the series should end.”
First up, starting Friday and continuing through Saturday is the Liberty 100 at West Liberty Raceway. The event has run under several different sanctions in the past, bouncing from various Open Late Model series to IMCA and with multiple formats.
This year's two-night show offers qualifying heats on Friday for the Summer Series Late Models, Modifieds, Stock Cars, Sport Mods and Sport Compacts, as well as a 20-lap Ironman Challenge for Summer Series racers with perfect attendance that pays $1,000 to win. Saturday night's finale has main events for each of the classes listed, with two separate 50-lap main events for Late Models - one of which pays Summer Series points, but both of which that pay $3,000 to win. Only the drivers who finish on the lead lap of the first of the two 50-lappers are eligible to race in the second, and the finish order of the first will be inverted to start the second.
The changing format, plus the unique challenge of West Liberty cause some headaches for drivers.
'West Liberty is totally different from any other track in Iowa. It takes a setup and a half on that track. You go to Farley, Boone or anywhere else with that setup and it won't work. It's hard to get that track down,” said seven-time Summer Series champ Jeff Aikey. 'If you run (poorly) in the first one, it's a good deal, but if you're up front in the first one, you're going to be in the tail of the second one. I just wish they'd run it 100 laps straight and be done.”
With no rest for the weary, racers can either take Sunday off or run at Dubuque Speedway before heading to Boone Speedway to open IMCA Supernationals, which during its weeklong event will hand out approximately $275,000 in prize money and $60,000 in contingency awards - making it easily the most lucrative IMCA event of the year.
The Summer Series gets top billing on Labor Day and runs for $3,000 to win, plus a potential $1,500 Weekly Racing Bonus.
Following Supernationals, Late Model racers get a little more than a week before the start of the 38th Yankee Dirt Track Classic at Farley Speedway. The Sept. 17 races for Late Models pays $2,000 to win for the Tri-Track Challenge (not a Deery race), then the Sept. 18 qualifier pays Summer Series points and $3,000 to win. The Sept. 19 Yankee Dirt Track Classic finale runs 100 laps, pays $7,500 to win and will crown the Summer Series champion.
All that money and prestige on the line in such a short amount of time, it's hard for racers to pick one out as their favorite.
'I think for different guys it's probably different. The Liberty 100 has been around a long time,” Yoder said. 'Supernationals is an event that's kind of a love-hate relationship for the Late Model guys. We do it on a holiday because it's the featured event for that day, and we do draw a great crowd for that portion of it. But obviously Modifieds are our biggest car count in the country, and (Supernationals) is an event where some of the Late Model guys love it, and some feel like they're a support class for it. Between the payout and contingency awards, it becomes a big feather in the cap for a guy who wins it.
'And the Yankee kind of speaks for itself. In the Late Model community, especially the IMCA Late Model community, a lot of guys would probably point to that as the marquee event for Late Models. It ends our season this year and we'll crown a Late Model champion - and probably fittingly so.”
Aikey, who has the most wins (64) and championships (seven) in Summer Series history, actually picked the Supernationals as his top choice because of the payout and challenges Boone Speedway has to offer.
He's most excited to get to racing in this flurry of events after sitting for about a month and preserving his equipment. Yes, the season may be winding down, but the racers are still chomping at the bit to get in the racecar.
And in true Aikey fashion, he even made a prediction for Supernationals.
'I've been sitting for a month doing nothing. I'm ready to go. I don't know about my (crew), it'll wear them out, but I'm ready to go,” Aikey said. 'I've won the Supernationals two years in a row, so I'm going for three in a row. I want it bad. Matter of fact, you come watch; I'm going to get it.”
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