When one thinks of what casual or young race fans want to see when attending a race, most, if not all of those thrills were present at the (6/29) Rockford Speedway’s 2019 Late Model Star Spangled 76/Arca Midwest Tour All-star 100. Present at the event was everything from several minor crashes, spin outs, a car fire (thankfully no one was hurt), the usual down right aggressive driving, and nail biting action that left people screaming and standing on their feet.
Kicking off the night was the Late Model Trophy Dash. 5 drivers, 6 laps of white hot intensity, efficiency and a great way to prepare the fans for what was to come later on in the evening. For the first couple laps, it appeared to be #2 Michael Bilderback (South Beloit, IL) in 1st place with #X Jon Reynolds Jr (Loves Park, IL) in hot pursuit in 2nd place. Behind Reynolds Jr was #75 Mike Beyer (Machesney Park, IL) battling for and holding down 3rd. Due to the short duration of the “dash” and the veteran nature of the top 3 drivers, things pretty much stayed this way the entire time. First Place went to #2 Michael Bilderback, Second went to #X Jon Reynolds Jr, and Third Place went to #75 Mike Beyer.
After the NASCAR Late Model Time Trials and 2 gritty, action loaded Late Model heats which saw #81 Dennis Smith Jr (South Beloit, IL) winning the first Heat,and #40 Tom Gille (Winnebago, IL) winning the second Heat, it was time for the Late Model Star 76 that we all had been waiting for! With 76 laps of thundering power, extreme competition, and definitely a race fans of all ages wouldn’t want to miss! And while the race definitely did not disappoint, it was struck with its share of bad luck with things like crashes, brushes with against the wall, and a lot of restarts. As always, the staff at the Rockford Speedway did an excellent job keeping the action moving as quickly as possible, keeping the track safe and clear, and putting out any fires that had started. Got your attention yet? If you didn’t look at your calendar or remember that it was Saturday, you might have thought it was Friday the 13th! Anyways, on to the race.
In the few laps, #61B Franc Beldowski (Rockford, IL) was in first place, dueling #81 Dennis Smith Jr (South Beloit, IL). This lasted all of six laps before Beldowski went into the wall. On the restart, #81, Smith Jr, was now in first place with #X, Reynolds Junior, in second and #17, Max Kahler, in third. By lap 20, and after a couple more small accidents & restarts, #X Reynolds Jr was gaining very quickly on the race leader #81 Smith Jr. On lap 21, Reynolds Jr made an excellent move and passed Smith Jr to take the lead. This is where things appeared to be smooth sailing (yet still aggressive driving) for #X Reynolds Jr, but as race fans know…anything can happen at any time. Reynolds Jr held a consistent lead all the way from lap 21 to lap 74, lapping cars in the back and appearing to be on his way to an amazing victory. However, and unfortunately for the veteran driver, bad luck struck like a lightning bolt. In the middle of lap 74, only 2 and a half laps away from almost certain victory, Reynolds Jr’s #X car mysteriously began to slow and sputter. And while he did have a nice lead, it vanished as quickly as it arrived. The announcer revealed, to the shock of the crowd, that the issue with car #X was that it had run out of gas! This is likely due to the amount of laps racers spent following the pace car around the track due to all of the crashes, wall brushes, and time spent clearing the track of debris. This was a common factor throughout this race. And so, if every incident of that nature were mentioned in this piece, it may read more like a book than an article! Passing the former #X leader and placing 1st in the 76 lap race was #17 Max Kahler (Caledonia, IL), who in victory proved that,” it’s not over until it’s over”. He also showed the importance of consistency, & supreme navigation. Taking 2nd place was #40 Tom Gille, who was also always right there in the action and had an excellent showing. The same determination seen in Kahler & Gille, along with a similar great performance as well, saw #75 Mike Beyer take 3rd place that evening. However, the article wouldn’t be complete without mentioning 6th place driver #X Jon Reynolds Jr who was likely 30 seconds from victory after a heartbreaking shot of misfortune. He, and all of the other participating drivers, staff, and crews, deserve a giant tip of the hat from fans and media alike. This event was indeed a long one, but the exciting & dramatic finish along with the crashes (thankfully no one being injured), are what make this sport exciting, unpredictable, and truly one of a kind. As the winner #17 Max Kahler stepped out of his car and into the roar of the crowd, he provided a quick post race interview, he himself couldn’t help but be surprised with how the race unfolded. “With all the cars that had lapped one another & so many that went to the pits and only some re entering, I didn’t quite know where I stood in the pack, but seeing that checkered flag and realizing I won was pretty awesome.” Then, after thanking his team, sponsors, family, fans, he was most likely (and deservedly) off to celebrate what was certainly a unique & white knuckle victory.
Be sure to get your tickets to upcoming events for the rest of the 2019 Summer/Fall schedule here at the Rockford Speedway! There will be plenty more action packed events filled with racing, cars & classes of all kinds, great food and of course cold drinks. Come out to witness for yourselves other exciting and unique events that will certainly be fun for fans of all ages! A special thanks to all of the sponsors, drivers, teams/crews & Rockford Speedway Staff.