July 3, 2012

Duo in the Desert

Jeff Aikey relaxes after winning the Deery Brothers Summer Series 40-lapper at Independence Motor Speedway on Monday night. Grant Oskvig presents the checkers. - Kyle Ealy Photo

Independence, Iowa – One of my “must see” racing events of the season is the annual Deery Brothers Summer Series show at Independence Motor Speedway during the July 4th holiday. This would be my eighth consecutive year in which I would attend.
Over the years, Independence has proven to be one of the more popular venues on the schedule for the Deery darksiders and it has consistently produced fields of 40 or more late models year after year. However, only 32 late models checked in for this year’s event, which I’m guessing may be an all-time low for Indy. This is no reflection on the track itself; some of the other stops on the schedule haven’t even been able to produce enough cars to fill out a feature line-up sheet (24).  
This may go down as the hottest Independence Deery show that I can recall. With temperatures in the mid-90’s and the heat index even higher, I seriously debated whether I was going to come at all or simply sit at home where it was nice and cool. But as Crash Davis said in Bull Durham, “You never fuck with a streak.”
Despite the heat, it turned out to be a fairly comfortable evening. There was some resemblance of a breeze moving its way over the plains, which kept drivers, fans and officials in an affable mood, although I did notice after the sun went down, it seemed to get muggier. And here I was without my industrial strength Gold Bond…
In the second late model heat of the night, Ray Guss Jr. got out front at the start, opened up a throttle of whoop ass and severely trounced his competition. After all the heats were finished, I thought to myself, “I hope Guss draws a crappy number and has to work for his dinner tonight.” Nothing against Ray, he’s a super nice guy, a great family man, goes to church every Sunday morning and on top of that, he’s become a pretty decent driver; but I wanted to see a spirited feature tonight and when you give Guss a front row starting position, 90% of the time the results are usually a green to checker runaway for Ray Ray. As it was, Guss drew the #1 pill much to the delight of the fans and the agony of defeat for me.  Thank God for Jeff Aikey and that 10% leeway.
The 40-lapper turned out to be a tale of three races. First there was Ray Guss Jr. taking the green, opening up the throttle and off to the races, just like before in his heat race. The second part of the race came after a caution on lap 10. With the field bunched up, it was Guss again in front on the restart but this time Jeff Aikey, he of numerous Deery Brothers wins at Independence, right on his bumper. Aikey would find the high side to his liking and two laps later, surprisingly, we had a new name on the leader board. With Aikey up top and Guss hugging the low side, these two old war horses went at it, to and fro, when they started encountering lap traffic.
If I was a betting man, I would’ve put my money on Guss at this point. I just think Guss is about the best around when it comes to negotiating traffic. But Aikey was dealing with the congestion extremely well and when another caution flag waved on lap 29 this would give Aikey clear blue skies for the remaining flight. 
Ray Guss Jr would end up short in his quest for Deery glory - Kyle Ealy Photo

Sure enough, episode number three saw Aikey sail away for the last 11 circuits and although Guss tried to get his nose inside of Aikey on several occasions, he just didn’t have the horsepower and it was Aikey who took the checkers for his fifth career Deery Brothers win at the home of Fast Family Fun.
I was surprised at Aikey’s comments afterwards in victory lane afterwards when he stated that he didn’t want to see the last caution. “It screwed up my momentum,” he remarked. Personally, I think Guss would’ve gotten the better of Aikey if they had continued running lap traffic, but we’ll never know at this point. It was a hell of a race between the two veterans and the sweltering masses definitely got their money’s worth.
The fantastic prep work of the track on a hot, humid day was the key to the great racing observed in all three divisions this evening. Darin Burco, Todd Summers and the Indy crew should be commended on giving IMCA’s elite a racy surface tonight. From top to bottom, it was very tacky and lane choice wasn’t an issue at all.
The weather was hot and the action a little hotter. Thanks to everyone at Independence Motor Speedway for a great night of racing.
Thanks for picking us up,