Birkhofer sweeps action on opening night of USA Nationals



by Ryan Clark

NEW RICHMOND, Wis. (Aug. 4) - It's probably safe to say that Brian Birkhofer is ready for this weekend's USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway. As a tune-up for the $50,000-to-win show, Birkhofer swept his heat, fast dash and the feature when the Dart Corn Belt Clash Late Model Series presented by Cen-Pe-Co Lubricants opened the 24th annual event.

After drawing the front row of the first heat, Birkhofer took the win to earn the pole position start in the 10-lap Fast Dash. He won that event, then drew a "2" at the scales to invert the first two finishers at the front of the feature starting lineup. He started outside of Jimmy Mars in the $5,000-to-win 50-lapper.

Running the high side, Birkhofer made his way to the lead at the drop of the green with Mars in pursuit. Second row starter Clint Smith ran third and Rick Eckert, who started inside of the third row, settled into fourth.

Contact between Billy Moyer and Vic Coffey slowed the action on lap seven, which allowed Eckert to restart on the outside of Mars. When racing resumed, Eckert worked the high side around Mars to take second until Moyer came to a stop on the back straightaway for the second and final caution on lap 10.

Birkhofer again took charge when the green flag waved as Mars made his way back under Eckert for second. Smith continued in the fourth spot as Chris Simpson worked into the top five from his fourth row start.

The leader encountered backmarkers on the 19th circuit and then heavier lapped traffic just shy of the midway point. Although this allowed Mars to keep Birkhofer in his sights, Birkhofer maintained a comfortable margin to lead the event in its entirety to take his first career Corn Belt Clash win.

Mars ran second ahead of Eckert, Smith and Simpson. Series points leader Chad Simpson, who started in the fifth row, made a late run to close on the leaders, but settled for sixth. He and Pat Doar, who finished seventh, ran side-by-side throughout much of the feature until Simpson broke free late. Josh Richards made a nice run from an 18th place start to finish eighth. A.J. Diemel and Jared Landers, who started 20th, completed the top 10.

FEATURE (50 laps / with starting positions)

1. (2) 15B Brian Birkhofer (Muscatine, Iowa)

2. (1) 28M Jimmy Mars (Menomonie)

3. (5) 24 Rick Eckert (York, Pennsylvania)

4. (4) 44 Clint Smith (Senoia, Georgia)

5. (7) 32 Chris Simpson (Oxford, Iowa)

6. (10) 25 Chad Simpson (Mt. Vernon, Iowa)

7. (3) 11 Pat Doar (New Richmond)

8. (18) 1R Josh Richards (Shinnston, West Virginia)

9. (15) 58X A.J. Diemel (Nichols)

10. (20) 777 Jared Landers (Batesville, Arkansas)

11. (6) 39 Tim McCreadie (Watertown, New York)

12. (8) 2 Brady Smith (Solon Springs)

13. (23) 9T Tim Isenberg (Marshfield)

14. (11) 1 Brian Shirley (Chatham, Illinois)

15. (13) 98 Jason Rauen (Farley, Iowa)

16. (19) 18H Ronny Lee Hollingsworth (Northport, Alabama)

17. (24) 1* Chub Frank (Bear Lake, Pennsylvania)

18. (12) 32C Vic Coffey (Caledonia, New York)

19. (9) 31 Jason Utter (Columbus Junction, Iowa)

20. (14) 71 Andrew McKay (Eden Prairie, Minnesota)

21. (17) 93 Ray Moore (Haughton, Louisiana)

22. (25) 22 Jill George (Cedar Falls, Iowa)

23. (26) 18 Dustin Hapka (Grand Forks, North Dakota)

24. (16) 89S Mike Spatola (Manhattan, Illinois)

25. (21) 21 Billy Moyer (Batesville, Arkansas)

26. (22) 15 Steve Francis (Ashland, Kentucky)

(George and Hapka were CBC points provisional starters)

First heat (10 laps, top 2 to Fast Dash, top 4 locked into feature): 1. Birkhofer; 2. Eckert; 3. Shirley; 4. Spatola; 5. Moyer; 6. 99JR Frank Heckenast (Frankfort, Ill.); 7. 25X Jason Feger (Bloomington, Ill.); 8. 99J Jimmy Dehm (Lexington, Ill.); 9. 40 Bryan Wennen (Lindstrom, Minn.); DNS 19H Austin Hubbard (Laurel, Delaware).

Second heat: 1. Utter; 2. Chris Simpson; 3. Coffey; 4. Moore; 5. 28E Dennis Erb (Carpentersville, Ill.); 6. 7R Kent Robinson (Bloomington, Ind.); 7. 33X Adam Hensel (Baldwin); 8. 27H Stew Hayward (Calgary, Alberta); 9. 1D Don O'Neal (Martinsville, Ind.); DQ 37 Jared Hawkins (Fairmont).

Third heat: 1. Doar; 2. Mars; 3. Rauen; 4. Richards; 5. B5 Brandon Sheppard (New Berlin, Ill.); 6. Frank; 7. 21B Chip Brindle (Chatsworth, Ga.); 8. 9S Eric Smith (Bloomington, Ill.); 9. 18 Hapka; DNS 11T Tyler Reddick (Corning, Ca.).

Fourth heat: 1. McCreadie; 2. Brady Smith; 3. McKay; 4. Hollingsworth; 5. Francis; 6. 19 Tim Fuller (Watertown, N.Y.); 7. 90 Lance Matthees (Winona, Minn.); 8. George; 9. 89 Daren Friedman (Forrest, Ill.); DNS Darrell Lanigan (Union, Ky.).

Fifth heat: 1. Clint Smith; 2. Chad Simpson; 3. Diemel; 4. Landers; 5. Isenberg; 6. 49 Jonathan Davenport (Cowpens, S.C.); 7. 87 Ross Bailes (Clover, S.C.); 8. 71D Ron Davies (Warren, Pa.); DNS 25C Shane Clanton (Fayetteville, Ga.).

First B feature (15 laps, top 2 transfer): 1. Moyer; 2. Isenberg; 3. Sheppard; 4. Feger; 5. Robinson; 6. Brindle; 7. Fuller; 8. Hawkins; 9. Bailes; 10. Hapka; 11. Hayward; 12. Wennen; 13. George; DNS Hubbard; DNS Lanigan.

Second B feature: 1. Francis; 2. Frank; 3. Davenport; 4. Erb; 5. Heckenast; 6. Hensel; 7. Matthees; 8. O'Neal; 9. Eric Smith; 10. Dehm; 11. Davies; 12. Friedman; DNS Reddick; DNS Clanton.

Fast Dash (10 laps): 1. Birkhofer; 2. Mars; 3. Doar; 4. Clint Smith; 5. Eckert; 6. McCreadie; 7. Chris Simpson; 8. Brady Smith; 9. Utter; 10. Chad Simpson.