The Bumper to Bumper IRA Sprints roar back into action at Oshkosh Speedzone
By Jeffrey Sachse
April 14, 2014; Appleton, Wis. – It will have been six months and 29 days since racing fans last heard the sweet sound of the fuel injected, methanol powered 410 cubic inch engines of the Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints Series.
From the time the last 900 horsepower powerplant fell silent at Beaver Dam Raceway last Sept. 23rd, until the first engine fires off for hot laps at 3:00pm on Saturday afternoon April 19th at Oshkosh, some 210 days of silence will have been in place in the series.
The Winged Warriors of one of the nation’s finest Outlaw 410 Winged Sprint series will test Oshkosh Speedzone’s semi-banked, wide sweeping turns and thrill fans with speeds exceeding 120 mph on the third-mile, clay oval.
Bill Balog ended the 2013 season in victory lane at Beaver Dam Raceway, a win which knocked off nine-time series champion, Joe Roe, from the top all-time win list. Balog, with his 62 victories now sits atop that pedestal. Last season, Balog wrapped up his sixth consecutive series title, and his two wins at Oshkosh Speedzone surely helped in that effort.
Balog will be seeking his fifth straight Speedzone victory. The last time he was shut out of the winners circle was August of 2011 when Mike Kertscher relegated Balog to a second place finish.
For Balog the first major goal will be getting to the track as he has a sponsor appearance before the IRA opening show leaving precious little time to arrive at the track and prepare for action.
Balog’s on track rivals are also primed for action.
Jeremy Schultz, last year’s point runner-up, has gone from rookie of the year titlist to hoping to become the series sophomore sensation. In his rookie year behind the wheel of a 410 sprint, Schultz, collected a pair of victories and the 2013 Wilmot Speedway track title. It’s no easy task in a highly competitive Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint series field and Schultz is now up for the challenge of proving his rookie season was no fluke.
Schultz has already fired up is 2014 ride, shaking the car down running an event at I-34 Speedway in Iowa last week. He now hopes to get a handle on Oshkosh Speedzone, a track which has thus far proved quite a challenge to the Beaver Dam native having kept him locked out of a top five finish.
Two-time champion, and last season’s third place point runner, Scotty Neitzel, has already tasted action in 2014, as he also ventured to Iowa for a pre-season shakedown. At that event Neitzel found the speed to make the A-main and will be tweaking his ride in preparation for the Oshkosh event hoping to find even more velocity.
Neitzel garnered a pair of top five performances last year at Oshkosh including a third place run in the series’ most recent appearance as he chased both Balog and young charger, Jordan Goldesberry, to the finish line.
Last year’s fourth place point runner, Phillip Mock, collected a pair of runner-up performances during the campaign and will be back for that elusive final step, a trip to victory lane. Starting the year out with a victory at Oshkosh is the perfect way to do it.
Rounding out the top five finishers from last season was Russel Borland who is chomping at the bit to get the season started as part of a two car team effort. Borland and hard charging Illinois native, Blake Nimee, will be tackling the entire 2014 Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint series schedule. Borland hopes a little extra work under the hood and a newly built car will propel him to some podium finishes this year and a victory is the best way to be seen in a post-race podium photograph.
Other long time IRA competitors expected include cousins Scott and Dave Uttech, “Wild Bill” Wirth, Wayne “Mojo” Modjeski, the father and son team of Kris and Dennis Spitz and many more. In fact, the vast majority of drivers competing on the tour last season are expected to be back in action this year.
Add to that list a rejuvenated Mike Reinke a perennial title contender, who expects to swing back into action at Oshkosh Speedzone and tough veteran driver, Steve Meyer, who is always around the front of the pack when he makes an appearance.
Toss in an expected epic rookie battle with former 360 standout pilots Ben Schmidt and Scotty Thiel who are challenging not only each other for the Rookie of the Year honors, but are expected to battle for A-main wins and the possibility of the season crown.
Lance Fassbender who had last year’s rookie effort cut short by an injury is also expected to return. Many involved with the series are looking forward to the return of the popular driver.
Pit gates will open promptly at noon for the late afternoon event at Oshkosh Speedzone Saturday, April 19th. The grandstand will be opened up at 2:00pm with hot laps set to begin at 3:00pm. Qualifying will follow the hot lap sessions with the first race expected to hit the track around 4:00pm.
The Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints will be joined by three fendered classes including Grand Nationals, Street Stocks and the 4 cylinder Dirt Devils.
Admission for this special event is just $20 for adults while students ages 11 through 15 are admitted for $10. Children ages 10 and under are admitted free.