Independent Racing Series
May 4, 2007
By Kyle Jones
Well, it took two tries but the Independent Racing Series finally debuted at
the Hilltop Speedway near Millersburg, Ohio.
Last Friday night, April 27th, the brand new Independent Racing Series
invaded the Hilltop Speedway where history was to be made. For me, it was
great to be back at Hilltop after all the traveling I have done thus far in
2007. Hilltop is like home to me. The racing is always fantastic and the
people there are so nice. Good friends Matt Noonan (the official voice of
the Battle of the Bluegrass Modified Series) and Chip Redmond (the official
#1 Doug Drown fan) also made the trip north. When we arrived I was amazed at
the new grandstands that were built over the off season. They are wooden
grandstands that I believe hold 2,500 race fans. As if Hilltop didn't
already have an old school feel, the new wooden stands really adds to it.
They did an amazing job.
With threatening skies, 45 Super Late Models were ready to do battle on the
high banks of Hilltop Speedway including the 99 of Donnie Moran, 7 Matt
Miller, E1 Mike Balzano, 12 Rick Aukland, 30 Steve Shaver, 75 Bart Hartman
and 71R Rod Conley. Along with these big runners, some very tough regional
cars were thrown into the mix including the 44 of Dave Hess JR, 18 Robbie
Scott, 46 Doug Horton, 1 Aaron Scott, 3 David Scott, 1mc Butch McGill and
many more. Qualifications for the evening had a few surprises starting with
fast time for the night. The #14 of Corey Conley set a new track record on
the lighting fast bullring turning a lap of 13.858. Once heat race action
got underway, so did Mother Nature. Seems like they would race for a while
then it would rain for a while. This made the track super fast but also
super rough. The heat races were not all that exciting for racing and a lot
of good equipment got tore up. Heat race winners were Matt Miller, Wayne
Chinn, Robbie Scott and Steve Shaver. Robbie Scott also picked up the dash
win. Just as the first B-Main took to the speedway, Mother Nature was done
fooling around and she decided to let loose. The decision was finally made
to call the rest of the evening action and continue on next Friday night.
Here are my thoughts on try #1 and I know some people will not agree with
this. I thought Hilltop did a good job. They were put into a no win
situation. All the race fans were packed into the stands and didn't want it
to be canceled. The drivers on the other hand were getting their equipment
tore up on the rough racing surface. They tried to keep the track packed in
so the fans could see the show but the weather was just not cooperating. I
think maybe the best thing for the night was when it started to rain for
good. This made an easy decision for the speedway to make. Either way, there
are going to be some unhappy people but I learned a long time ago that you
can't please everyone. I drove home knowing that I would be back next week
and would probably see a much better feature on a much racier track.
I arrived the next Friday night to sunny skies and warm temperatures but not
everyone made it back. Both Matt Miller and Steve Shaver gave up their
starting positions due to the annual 99 run at the Kentucky Lake Motor
Speedway. Donnie Moran also opted not to return and head to KLMS as well.
With those two feature cars not returning, two extra cars would be pulled
out of the B-mains. The first B-main was won by the 20m of Eric "Spud"
Myers with the second B-main going to the 21 of George Lee. George was
unable to make it the previous Friday night due to prior obligations in
South Carolina. He was allowed to tag the tail of the B-main and it was
great to see him make the show.
It was finally IRS "Deadline 50" time and 24 Super Late Models would take
the green flag led by the 18 of Robbie Scott and the 62 of Kenny Johnson.
Scott grabbed the early race lead but was being pressured by Johnson on the
high side. The track was prepared perfect as cars were running from the
infield to the outside wall. George Lee was the early hard charger as he
wasted no time using the bottom lane. By lap five he had already gained
seven positions which landed him seventh in the running order. Also on the
move were Rick Bond and Doug Drown. The next 23 laps were strewn with
cautions. During that period, race leader Robbie Scott pulled pit side as
something broke on the 18 machine. This gave Pennsylvania's Dave Hess JR the
lead with a hungry Mike Balzano and George Lee, who had moved up to third,
in tow. The final 21 laps were run under green but neither Balzano nor Lee
could muscle past Hess. Dave went on to take his biggest career win and the
$5,000 back to PA. Balzano finished second and Lee was third.
I may not see many races this year that will beat this one. There were three
definite grooves and the side by side racing was outstanding. George Lee
really put on a show from his 14th starting spot and he even made a pass on
Balzano for second which he relinquished a few laps later. Along with Lee,
Doug Drown and Rick Bond really did the hometown crowd proud. Drown started
12th and finished fourth while Bond started 21st to finish sixth. As much as
I would have liked to see a local boy take home the cash, it was nice to see
someone like Hess come in and beat the big boys. I personally don't think
anyone would have beaten the 18 of Robbie Scott but that's the breaks. Once
Robbie broke, Hess drove a nice clean line and wasn't really challenged by
anyone until there were only two or three laps to go.
Hats off to George Lee. George did me proud by tagging the tail of the
B-main, making the feature and then putting on a great show for everyone.
Also hats off to the Hilltop Speedway for coming through for me and
producing the kind of racing that I tell everyone about. A lot of people
still don't know about this hidden gem but if I were a betting man, I think
you just got some attention. Hopefully for those who were there for the
rainout and didn't come back will give Hilltop another chance. You didn't
see the Hilltop that we are used to seeing on a weekly basis.