By: Eric Huenefeld
With one of the most relentless winters in recent memory slowly fading away, the thoughts of race fans across the Midwest are shifting towards Rockford Speedway and the season opening Spring Classic featuring the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet.
The ‘Best Weekly Warriors in the Country’ kick off their 10th Anniversary Season Sunday afternoon April 13, testing Rockford’s ‘high banks’ for 108 laps. Over the past two weeks, entries have begun flooding in as drivers throw their hats into the ring for the season opening affair.
Leading the way is 2013 Big 8 Series champion Casey Johnson. The two-time Jefferson Speedway Track Champion is looking to duplicate his success of a season ago, which included a Super Late Model Track Championship at Madison International Speedway and five race wins. Johnson, who is also a past winner of Spring Classic, plans to run a majority of the Big 8 Series events this season, while also vying for ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year.
No driver ended the 2013 season hotter than Lakeville Minnesota’s Chris Marek. The 2013 Elko Speedway Track Champion won two of the last three Big 8 Series races last season while also pocketing the JMcK 63 during Oktoberfest Race Weekend at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway. “The Cruiser” has entered his machine for action at Rockford while also eyeing the Big 8 Series championship.
2012 Dells Raceway Park Track Champion “Rocketman” Dan Lensing is focused on being number one this season. Lensing, who finished third in Series points in 2013, is looking to capture his first Big 8 Series win this year and figures to be a contender for the Series Championship. Two-time LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway Track Champion J Herbst also looks to be among the Series’ elite this year. Herbst, an eighth place finisher in 2013 points, will adapt a barnstorming schedule in 2014 while also chasing the Big 8 crown.
Milwaukee area veteran Jeff Holtz is among those planning to open his season at Rockford, along with young hard chargers John DeAngelis Jr and Austin Nason. Holtz, a former Modified and Sportsman champion at Slinger Super Speedway, is looking to shake the bad luck that usually greets him at Rockford. DeAngelis is fresh off a sixth place finish in 2013 Big 8 points while Nason began his racing season in February with solid finishes in New Smyrna Florida during Speedweeks.
2013 Big 8 Series Rookie of the Year Casey Strese and 2012 Big 8 Series Rookie of the Year Jesse Bernhagen are both ready to kick their seasons off at Rockford’s Spring Classic. Strese is eyeing a top ten finish in Big 8 Series points in 2014, while Bernhagen continues to work towards his first Series win.
The sparks are sure to fly when the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet begins its tenth anniversary season at Rockford Speedway Sunday April 13 for the 37th Annual Spring Classic. The Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet will take center stage, with their 108 lap main event highlighting the day. The season-opening card also includes the Mid American Stock Car Series and the Illinois Vintage Racers. The first green flag flies Sunday April 13 at 1 pm.
For more information on Rockford Speedway and the 37th Annual Spring Classic, please call 815-633-1500 or visit www.rockfordspeedway.com. For more information on the Big 8 Late Model Series, please visit www.big8series.com.