Auto racing: Champions crowned at SIS | Sports


OSKALOOSA – It was a breathtaking night of racing with five season championships on the line at the Southern Iowa Speedway.

In the end, it was Aaron Martin that could finally exhale after making it around the final lap of the final feature race on Wednesday night to clinch his first season championship. Even with smoke coming out of the back of his car, Martin was able to follow Ottumwa native Dustin Griffiths across the finish line to win the tightest battle of the night claiming the IMCA Hobby Stock title with a runner-up finish in the 16-lap feature race.

“I feel like I was probably about ready to blow up,” Martin said of his engine, which held on to finish the white-flag lap to clinch the season title. “I was kind of getting nervous. I needed to finish fourth or higher. I was running fifth at one point. I just needed to gain one more spot. It worked out that I got three.”

By making that move from fifth to second midway through the feature race, Martin was able to edge Griffiths in the final point standings, 337-334, in a division where four drivers had a mathematical shot at winning the season title. Griffiths finished as the season runner-up at SIS in both IMCA Stock Car and Hobby Stock points, focusing strictly on crossing the finish line first in the evening’s final race.

“I told my dad and my crew guys coming out here that I wasn’t going to focus on winning the points. I was going to go out there and race my race trying to get a feature win like I try to do every night,” Griffiths said. “Where I finish is where I finish.”

The final feature took the green with Griffiths on the outside front row and Martin back in the sixth starting position. Griffiths took the lead, a position that he would not relinquish the entire feature.

Martin, meanwhile, steadily worked to the front and was able to take control of second as the race wound down. Martin pulled along side of Griffiths on the white flag lap but settled for second at the checkers to clinch the season title, settling in after putting the title squarely on the line through the first 10 laps before moving up after the first of two cautions during the race.

“Once I was able to get into the top four, I just needed to calm down and run my race,” Martin said. “It paid off at the end. I was able to get a little bit of a run on Dustin right at the end, but I just reminded myself that I had to finish the race. Winning the race would be great, but I was looking to win the battle for the points.”

Griffiths wound up 22 points behind Sigourney native Nathan Wood, who raced among the leaders in the 16-lap feature race finishing third on Wednesday. Todd Reitzler broke a personal winless streak at SIS by taking command early in the MidState Machine Stock Car feature, shooting by Steve Byers on the way to Victory Lane while Wood secured his eighth season title at SIS with 377 points.

“This is my 15th overall track championship in 21 years of racing,” Wood said. “This is the only place we’ve raced this year. I know the days for me are dwindling down.”

Cayden Carter subbed for Maguire DeJong, the season leader entering the night in the Sport Modified division, on Wednesday night. Carter overtook early leader Carter VanDenBerg and sailed on to the caution-free feature win, but the absence of DeJong allowed Oskaloosa native Curtis VanDerWal to become the 2022 Oskaloosa Quality Rentals Sportmod champion on his home track with a second-place finish in the feature race .

“We definitely wanted to race for the title. We basically gave it to them last week when I got a flat tire and finished way back,” VanDerWal said. “I know those guys really well. I understand the importance of family. I have no doubt it would have been a great battle with Maguire that would have come down to the last lap.

“I feel like the competition here at Oskaloosa is second to none. The top four or five guys here can go to any race track and race for the win any night of the week. It’s a feather in our cap to race all season and be fortunate enough to come out on top.”

Ottumwa native Matt Moore won the feature face on championship night in the Dirt N Asphalt Sport Compacts, racing to the checkers ahead of James Harring and Greg Franklin. Terry Bickford was crowned the track champion by taking the green flag, edging Moore 389-386, despite only completing one lap of the feature race.

“I won the track championship down at Eldon last year. Terry and I have been really competitive here all season,” Moore said. “Terry, myself and Seth Meinders have been going back and forth all season. I’ll definitely be back here to race for the track championship next year and I’ll be here for the Fall Challenge as well.”

The Clow Valve Company Sprint Car races got off to a scary start as Logan Alexander rode out a nasty flip that saw his sprinter come to rest on the street adjacent to turn one of the Speedway. Alexander got crossed up entering turn one and went in to an end over end flip that saw his car clear the fence without leaving a mark on the rail.

Alexander climbed out of the car and was only shaken up in the hard flip. The accident brought an immediate hush over the SIS crowd.

“It’ll take your breath away seeing something like that,” sprint car points’ leader Kelly Graham said.

While Alexander was able to walk away from the heat race accident, it was Graham who was able to walk away with his first track championship at SIS. Defending season champion Doug Sylvester led the majority of the race and took the checkers ahead of Tyler Graves and Graham, who secured a season title that fell a point short last season in a season-long battle with Sylvester as the Hedrick native finished with a three -point win of his own, 376-373, over the Ottumwan in the sprint car division.

“It’s great to see that a season’s worth of hard work finally pays off in something like this,” Graham said. “Doug won the race, but I won the championship. It took a lot of patience, a lot of hard work and a lot of determination. There’s a lot of long hours, especially having a newborn at home. It’s tough to be away, but it pays off on nights like this.”

The next racing event at the Southern Iowa Speedway will be the Sage Fruit Front Row Challenge featuring the powerful 410 Sprint Cars on Monday, Aug. 8 The final race of the season will feature the five weekly classes as Musco Lighting presents the annual Fall Challenge Oct. 14-15.

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