By: Eric Huenefeld
Over the course of the last two-plus seasons, Michael Bilderback has been the ‘man to beat’ in Big 8 Late Model Series competition.
Whether racing along the Big 8 Series or at the Rockford Speedway on Saturday nights, the South Beloit native has stood in victory lane as frequently as anyone since the beginning of the 2015 racing season.
On Sunday afternoon, Bilderback collected his ninth career Big 8 Late Model Series win and seventeenth Late Model victory since the start of 2015 after being the dominant car during the running of the 40th Anniversary Spring Classic at Rockford Speedway.
Bilderback, who started from the third position, quickly moved on outside pole sitter Mike Lloyd to take first place on lap four of the 88 lap main event. But then, just two laps later, the caution flag flew for fluid on the track, which was spotted dropping from Ryan Kamish’s car. After Kamish was sent to the pits, the field bunched up for the first restart of the day, which resulted in another yellow just three laps later when both Lloyd and Casey Johnson came into contact off the fourth corner, sending Lloyd spinning. Both cars were sent to the tail after the incident. Lloyd later retired from the race on lap 53, while Johnson fought back for a top five finish.
The largest calamity of the day occurred on lap 38, when a suspension breakage sent Tyler Kingery into Dennis Smith Jr’s car as the two drivers entered turn one. Both cars contacted the wall, collecting John Beinlich and Michael Clapper along the way. After the four cars piled up, Smith’s car was engulfed in flames. Smith quickly emerged from his car as safety crews worked to extinguish the inferno. All drivers were ok. While the rest of the field was stopped on track during red flag conditions, Kyle Shear’s car also caught fire. Shear would have to be towed to the pits after the fire exploded his right front tire, but his crew was able to make repairs and return him to the race, where he would finish seventh place, one lap down.
When the remainder of the field took the green flag with 50 laps to go, the race never stopped again as Bilderback put enough cushion between himself and second place Jeremy Miller to maintain a comfy advantage until the checkered flag. When the race concluded, it was Bilderback besting Miller by 1.79 seconds on his way to victory. Tim Sargent started his season off with a sold third place finish, while former Spring Classic champion Alex Papini came home in fourth after holding off a hard charge from Casey Johnson, who settled for fifth following his climb back through the field after the lap 9 incident with Lloyd. Kyle Chwala finished as the last car on the lead lap in sixth.
40th ANNIVERSARY SPRING CLASSIC
1 Michael Bilderback South Beloit, IL (88 laps)
2 Jeremy Miller Rockford, IL (88 laps)
3 Tim Sargent South Beloit, IL (88 laps)
4 Alex Papini Machesney Park, IL (88 laps)
5 Casey Johnson Edgerton, WI (88 laps)
6 Kyle Chwala Johnson Creek, WI (88 laps)
7 Kyle Shear Roscoe, IL (87 laps)
8 Brody Willett Alburnett, IA (87 laps)
9 Wayne Freimund Elkhorn, WI (87 laps)
10 Jake Zellmer New Berlin, WI (87 laps)
11 Jerry Mueller Richfield, WI (87 laps)
12 Jake Vanoskey Hartford, WI (87 laps)
13 Tyler Brown Carol Stream, IL (85 laps)
14 Cody Kippenhan Ypsilanti, MI (83 laps)
15 Jared Duda St Michael, MN (83 laps)
16 Tyler Hromadka Brookfield, WI (82 laps)
17 Jeff Wakeman Streator, IL (80 laps)
18 Mike Lloyd Davis, IL (53 laps)
19 Steve Rubeck Rockford, IL (41 laps)
20 Dennis Smith Jr South Beloit, IL (38 laps)
21 John Beinlich Cary, IL (38 laps)
22 Michael Clapper Dane, WI (38 laps)
23 Tyler Kingery Prior Lake, MN (37 laps)
24 Max Kahler Caledonia, IL (31 laps)
25 Jon Reynolds Jr Loves Park, IL (21 laps)
26 Ryan Kamish Lakeville, MN (6 laps)
Preliminary Race Winners: Vanoskey, Clapper, Reynolds, Lloyd
Fast Time: Bilderback 13.503 (*New Big 8 Track Record)
Entries: 27 Big 8 Late Models