By: Eric Huenefeld
Don’t look now, but here comes Ricky Bilderback.
The seven-time Rockford Speedway Track Champion won his second straight Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model feature Saturday on Tebala Shrine Family Night, capping off a stellar night which also saw the Rockton native collect fast qualifier honors and a trophy dash win.
Bilderback began the race from the sixth starting position, with Dana Czach and ‘Insane’ Wayne Freimund leading the eleven car field to green. Throughout the opening six laps of the contest, Czach and Freimund dueled side-by-side for the lead, with Freimund holding a slim advantage early. On the seventh lap, Czach slipped the nose of his pink number 33 car ahead of Freimund and assumed the lead. Two laps later, Czach cleared Freimund, claiming the lead for himself. After that move, Czach began to pull away from the balance of the field, including Bilderback, as the race approached the halfway mark.
While Czach built his lead, Bilderback went to work, finding his way into second by lap twelve. Once in the second position, Bikderback saw a five car length gap between he and the leader. Bilderback cut into the gap as the race hit halfway and just as the seven-time champ looked to make his first move on Czach, the only yellow flag of the race flew as Chris McKay’s vehicle spun into the grass in turn number two. During the yellow, current Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model point leader Alex Papini suffered a flat tire. Papini, winner of six feature races this season, was forced to the pits to make repairs, relinquishing his fourth position. Papini’s crew got the tire changed, but the defending track champion was not able to make it back on track before the drop of the green flag.
On the restart, Bilderback and Czach dueled for the lead. Within three laps, Bilderback slipped ahead of Czach and assumed the top spot. As Bilderback strolled away, Czach found himself with a mirror full of ‘Driver X’ Jon Reynolds Jr. Reynolds wasted little time in overtaking Czach for second, regulating Czach to third. As the race neared its conclusion, Reynolds made little ground on Bilderback. When the checkered flag waved, it was Bilderback coasting to victory by four car lengths ahead of runner up Reynolds. Meanwhile, the rookie Czach pocketed his best ever Late Model finish with a third place effort. Eddie May, making his first start in a Late Model in over a year, finished the race fourth, with Mike Beyer rounding out the top five.
A fast car and just a little luck helped Kelly Evink return to victory lane in the Miller Lite American Short Tracker division, as the division’s current point leader outran five-time champion George Sparkman for the win in the 25 lap event. Evink steadily made his way through the pack during the first half of the race, following defending track champion Nick Cina Jr forward. Cina was the first to clear traffic, inheriting the lead just shy of halfway. As the race moved along, Cina appeared to be the car to beat, leading Evink by as much as a half straightaway. But with eight laps to go, Cina’s motor expired, handing the lead to Evink. After that stunning development, Evink held his own half straightaway lead over Sparkman and eventually hit the line first, collecting his first victory since Opening Night in April. Sparkman finished the race in second, followed by Jake Gille, who piloted the vehicle usually driven by Steve Rubeck. Keith Pierce fought hard for a fourth place finish, while Jason Halbrader rounded out the top five.
‘Bullet’ Bobby Frisch returned to his winning ways in the Kickstart Roadrunner division, taking his third win of the year in the division’s 20 lap main event. Frisch won the race after outlasting 74-year old Gene Marocco in a stellar side-by-side battle for the lead. The two former champions raced fender-to-fender for seven laps, before Frisch was able to edge ahead of Marocco and inherit the lead for good on lap 14. Dennis Smith Jr ended the race in second place, after taking part in his own battle with Marocco for the runner up position over the race’s final laps. Marocco finished the race third, followed by Kyle McQuality in fourth and Alex Chabucos in fifth.
Schaumburg’s Mick Ellis won the 25 lap feature race for the American Super Cup Series, leading wire-to-wire, while holding off advances from Andy Forster and Brian Baldyga, who finished the race second and third respectively.