The quest for the Championship in the 2017 campaign at the Salina Speedway will open this Friday, April 14th.
With excitement to finish the season, anticipation is high to get 2017 underway. Heavy rains put a halt to the pre-season DirtFest special two weeks ago and track crews have been dodging the sudden monsoon type weather lately in preparation.
One of the marquee improvements for 2017 will be the use of a timing and scoring system utilizing transponders. Scoring will now be done mostly electronically, while race teams and fans can follow along using the Race Monitor app available on most mobile devices.
Opening night at the Speedway means the night’s winner in each division has a fairly good chance at becoming the Champion after the season concludes in September. Since 2011, nearly 40% of all opening night triumphs result in a Championship for that season. Here’s a look at each division heading into Friday night:
NeSmith Late Models
Three out of the last four opening nights have belonged to the “Iceman” Delbert Smith in the BSB Manufacturing NeSmith Late Model division, with two of those resulting in Championships. 2017 will begin a new era for Smith as he will wear the hat of part-time car owner and part-time driver, leaving the door wide open for a driver to kick off their season the right way.
The “Rocketman” Chris Kratzer has been extremely dominant the past two seasons, picking up Championships in both. Daniel Smith is in a new car and ready to fill the Smith family footprint. Dusty Leonard looks to avenge a bit of a sophomore slump in the division. Last year’s Rookie of the Year Adam Popp looks to improve, alongside fellow Hutchinson driver Jeremy Bishop. Longtime Modified driver Loren Dauer will make his debut piloting a Late Model and compete for Rookie of the Year honors. Terry Malm, Rob Day, Ryan Grit, Jimmy Segraves, and many more will be looking for the W on Friday.
Tyler Frye did what no other SalinaUsedCars.com IMCA Modified driver has done before; capture a Championship in his Rookie season last year. While no stranger to Victory Lane, or Championships for that matter (IMCA SportMod Champion in 2013), Frye picked up where he left off in the SportMod, winning races and putting together consistent results for the track title. Frye opened his 2016 campaign with the opening night win as well, making him one of the favorites heading into Friday.
But it won’t be easy. Daniel Gottschalk, one of Frye’s fellow competitors from the SportMod division and current record holder of said division for most wins (27), most consecutive wins (10, 2016), and most wins in a season (13, 2016), has moved up to the IMCA Modified division for 2017 and begins his quest much like Frye did last year.
Not only are the young guns ready but former Opening Night winners and Champions will be ready as well. Danny Morrison followed up his 2011 opening night win with a Championship, and also won on opening night two years ago in 2015. “Smokin’” Joe Cleveland won on opening night in 2012 and 2013 en route to Championships in both years.
Add to the mix drivers such as Brian Knoell, Corey Lagroon, Shannon Johnson, Mike Petersilie, Kurtis Pihl, Tim Watts, Larry Sutton, and the return of Darrick Klima, and the ingredients are just right for a large scale battle this week.
IMCA Stock Cars
For the first three years of competition at the Speedway the winner of opening night went on to etch their name in the record books as Champion in the Coors Light IMCA Stock Car division. For the last three years, the winner hasn’t had that opportunity. It’s a 50/50 shot to see what happens with the division this year. Tanner Portenier captured his first title in the division last year, and will start off the season as a favorite to repeat. The division boasts many different drivers throughout the season.
IMCA Northern SportMods
Looking for the repeat Championship in the M&H Motors IMCA Northern SportMods will be Bennington’s Brian Davidson, who captured the Rookie of the Year designation as well after moving up from the Mod Lite division. Shane Meeks, runner-up last season, won the first SportMod race back in 2011 but has been in a winless drought ever since. Chris Humphries returns once again, along with Ernie Drown, Tyler Watts, Rodger Peck, and many more. The winner of opening night has gone on to win the Championship in three out of six seasons, the most recent with Daniel Gottschalk in 2015.
Four-time Auto House Mod Lite Champion Justin Kinderknecht will be a favorite to win again on opening night this week. Kinderknecht has won opening night for the last three seasons in a row, with two of those resulting in Championships. Bam Ayers pulled off huge win in June to propel himself to the Championship in 2016, defeating Kinderknecht by a single point despite Kinderknecht missing a race early in the season. Chad Shartzer, Alex Loveless, Trace Ayers, Dustin Forsberg, 2012 Champion Brandon Gray, Bryan Ward, and many more will be in the house looking for the win.
IMCA Hobby Stocks
The winner of opening night has only gone on to win the Championship once in the Budweiser IMCA Hobby Stocks. Mike Traskowsky got the job done in 2011, and won on opening night without winning the Championship last year. Last year’s Champion, veteran Tony Slothower, will contend for the Championship once again, matching up against last year’s runner-up Shay Simoneau. Elliott May and Dennis Berry will both be at it again with new looks, with a host of others set to lay siege on what is expected to be a large crowd for the division in 2017.
IMCA Sport Compacts
After finally winning a Championship at the Speedway in 2016, Bird Contracting IMCA Sport Compact driver Paco Montague is set for a title defense, but aboard a slightly different ride. Last year’s runner-up by two points, Bailey Glavin, will once again put in a bid for the title along with many more in another division that seems destined to get a reboot with new drivers.
Friday night’s event will start with the pit area opening at 5PM, grandstands opening at 6PM, hot laps at 7PM, and racing to follow.
Admission prices are $10 for Adults, Kids under 16 are FREE with a paying adult, Seniors 55 & up are half price, and Military (Current & Retired) are free with ID. Pit passes are $25.
For more information on the Salina Speedway please visit http://www.racesalinaspeedway.com on the web, http://www.facebook.com/SalinaSpeedway on Facebook, or by calling the track phone at 785.292.9220
by Dusty Wiegert