By: Eric Huenefeld
When the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet rolls into Rockford Speedway this Sunday afternoon April 13 for the 37th Annual Spring Classic, the “Best Weekly Warriors in the Country” will be greeted by a strong local contingent looking to keep the winner’s trophy close to home.
Over the last several years, the local talent at Rockford Speedway has made things tough on the Big 8’s best. Thirteen of the twenty-one Big 8 Series events held at Rockford Speedway since September of 2004 have been won by Rockford regulars. Most recently, Rockford regulars have won the last four Big 8 races held at the high banked quarter mile.
“Driver X” Jon Reynolds Jr has been the man to beat when the Big 8 Series competes at Rockford Speedway. The 2005 Series champion has visited Big 8 Series victory lane five times at his hometrack. Reynolds himself has captured four of the last six National Short Track Championships as well as the 2012 Spring Classic.
2013 Rockford Speedway Track Champion Alex Papini plans to challenge for victory Sunday afternoon. Papini, who collected eight feature wins last summer en route to the Rockford track championship, is also the defending Spring Classic winner. Last April, Papini held off numerous challenges on the way to his first ever Big 8 series triumph.
Three former Rockford Speedway Track Champions also plan to run Spring Classic this weekend, including seven-time track champions Ricky Bilderback and Bobby Wilberg and 2010 track champion Tim Sargent. Bilderback, the 2006 Big 8 Series champion, won last year’s ‘Star Spangled 76’ at Rockford, charging from his 15th starting spot to claim the win. Wilberg, one of the most consistent drivers in Big 8 history and always a threat at Rockford, will go into Sunday still looking for his first ever series win. Sargent comes into Rockford riding the momentum of 2013, which included five Big 8 Series top-five’s and a pair of podium finishes.
Michael Bilderback, the 2008 Spring Classic champion, returns to Rockford this weekend. Bilderback aims to become only the second Big 8 driver to win multiple Spring Classics, joining Mike Beyer, who accomplished the feat in 2005 and 2006.
Teenager Austin Nason, the 2012 Rockford Speedway Rookie of the Year, is set to compete at Spring Classic. Nason was among the Big 8’s elite in 2013, finishing fourth in series points, with two runner-up finishes. Jake Gille, a multi-time feature winner at Rockford, is also entered for the weekend’s events, along with former Slinger Speedway champion “Insane” Wayne Freimund and Former Spring Classic NASCAR Touring Series competitor Mark Hartline
The 37th Annual Spring Classic is set for this Sunday afternoon, April 13 at 1 PM, with the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet headlining the day with a 108 lap main event. The season-opening card also includes the Mid American Stock Car Series and the Illinois Vintage Racing Series.
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.