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Chris Swenson wins season opener at I-37 Speedway

by Jay Hallas | Posted on Sunday, March 26th, 2017

By JM Hallas

Pleasanton, Texas – It’s been five years since the ¼ mile, semi-banked, dirt oval saw racing action, but tonight that all changed. After two open practice sessions, one last week and again Friday night, I-37 Speedway by R&M Promotions saw racers from the south/central Texas area take the track for competition.

Over the past several months a lot of work has gone into not only refurbishing the track and its facilities, plus cars that have been sitting idle for years. Many of the tracks past champions returned to action, while other began their hopes of a season championship at years end.

To say that the tracks grand re-opening was a success would be quite an understatement. It was more than the track management team expected, literally and figuratively. Nearly 100 cars filled the pit area, space had to lease from the neighbor for the overflow spectator parking, with a standing room only crowd, though some had foresight to bring lawn chairs.

There were a few glitches over the night, expected on an opening night, but the track management team will be working to correct things. As everyone should know track prep is a science, sometimes you’re right, sometimes you miss it. Overall many of the drivers were happy and excited about the upcoming season.

It was interesting to see some of the drivers/cars orphaned by the closing of a central Texas asphalt track trying their hand at dirt racing. Although several has run both throughout their careers and were just getting re-acquainted to the different surface.

Six classes of cars, Cash Bred Off Road Modifieds, Nogalitos Gear Limited Late Models, Swenson Racing Products Sport Modifieds, SABFI Transportation Street Stocks, All In Designs Pure Stocks and Brown Chevrolet Sport Compacts will be running the bi-weekly schedule. Also slated is the A-Line Auto Parts Dwarf Car Racing Series of Texas making four appearances over the year.

Modified winner Chris Swenson testing the high groove in hot laps. Photo by JM Hallas


Swenson Cashes in on Caution for Modified Money

Boerne’s Chris Swenson worked on his own groove, around the top throughout the race and hot laps, making his way to second near halfway. One problem. Cody Leonard had sailed off into the night, building a huge lead. A caution with six to go erased that margin. Swenson capitalized on the opportunity during the restart and flew around the outside of Leonard to the lead. Talon Minten, who went by Leonard as well, gave Swenson a chase to the line falling a bit short.

At the start of the 11-car Modified main Jason Borlace and Leonard stayed side by side until turn 4 where Leonard got the advantage. Behind him Borlace, Swenson, Hunter Flanagan and Carson Bednarz fell in line. After yellow for a Robert Liese jr spin Swenson tried inside Borlace for second. Flanagan joined the fight with a three wide scrap for the spot.

That fight gave Leonard the chance to increase his margin while Flanagan finally secured the spot. Talon Minten, in his first big Modified run, caught Bednarz to take fifth. Swenson, now using the top, got alongside Flanagan nearing halfway. At the crossed flags it was Leonard with a huge lead, Swenson, Flanagan, Minten and Borlace in the top five.

Bill Pittaway looped it on lap 14 to slow the action and restack the pack. Swenson, who had dusted off his high line, powered past Leonard on the restart. Leonard tried the top behind Swenson, but lost second to Minten on the bottom. Minten chased down Swenson showing the nose on the final lap but it was Swenson in the Swenson Racing Products, All In Designs, Real Wheels, Swenson Racing Shocks, GM crate powered, Kraft Chassis snagging the victory.

“That caution helped me a ton,” exclaimed Swenson. “It was pretty hard race and pretty slick. The track was actually pretty good, but follow the leader around the bottom. I had been running that top line and really not making up any ground. It was all about the caution and what happened on the restart,”

“My car was too free on the bottom. Early on I knew I had missed the set up. If I wanted to do anything I had to move to the top. When you start doing that early in the race you start making yourself a groove. You learn where to let off, where to steer and often it happens that they don’t realize you’ve been running up there. If someone tries to follow you up there it’s tough for them to be as fast as you are.”

“Ya, I got the wall a little bit. I couldn’t back off. These 4-bar cars are too unforgiving. You just can’t back off (the gas). The closer I got to the wall, the stickier the track was. Typically there’s a foot or so of tacky up there that no one wants to try to get on. I was getting on it. It’s just sheet metal!”

“Willie Kraft and I have worked on this car for three or four year. It’s a pull bar car like an IMCA car. We’ve been real happy with it.”

“I wish I could have gotten this one too,” added Leonard who led three-quarters of the race. “He was hooked up on the high side. We’re one of the few open motors out here, so it was kind of tough, but I think we held in there.”

“I had no idea that Chris (Swenson) had been working the top. Being up front I had no idea what was going on behind me. That’s one of the disadvantages, you’re a sitting duck sometimes. On that restart he took off on the high side and got by me. I couldn’t get him (back).”

Cash Bred Off Road Modifieds

48 Chris Swenson, 14t Talon Minten, 12 Cody Leonard, 125 Jason Borlace, 16 Carson Bednarz, 58 Hunter Flanagan, 77 Robert Liese jr., 92 Jake Rollins, 4 Lonnell Timmons jr., 91 Jeremy Davenport, 137 Bill Pittaway

Modified heats

Heat 1; 125 Jason Borlace, 48 Chris Swenson, 58 Hunter Flanagan, 4 Lonnell Timmons jr., 91 Jeremy Davenport, 77 Robert Liese jr

Heat 2; 12 Cody Leonard, 16 Carson Bednarz, 137 Bill Pittaway, 92 Jake Rollins, 14t Talon Minten

Late winner Jason Kelly ready for action. Photo by JM Hallas


Kelly King of Limited Late Models

Jason Kelly (La Vernia) went home with the Limited Late Model hardware going wire to wire in the 15-lap feature. Kelly, in a reworked car once driven by his father at San Antonio Speedway, had one close call early when he had contact from Ron Sprayue sending him around. The call was made on Sprayue and Kelly reported back to the front. From there he was able to hold off Frank Okruhlik and Sprayue, who made his way back to the front.

It was a short field of Limited Late Models that took the green for the 15-lap feature. Kelly was first to line on lap 1 trailed by Sprayue, Okruhlik, Leddy and Marcx. Lap 2 saw Sprayue and Kelly get together sending Kelly around in turn 2. Kelly retained his spot with Sprayue sent to the back. As Kelly took the green, Sprayue quickly worked past Marcx and Leddy for third.

The top three pulled away with Sprayue and Okruhlik now side by side for second. Sprayue got the spot and was chasing down Kelly again. On the final lap Sprayue gave it “the ol’ college try” but looped it coming off turn 4. As Kelly in the John Kelly Roofing, Double D Racing, Two Jacks Racing, Kelly Brother Auto Racing, Kendrick Automotive powered, reworked Lefthander Chassis took the checkers, Sprayue spun it around again crossing the line to salvage second sideways.

“I’m glad I-37 Speedway is back open,” replied Kelly. “I’ve raced some in Corpus so I’m not really that rusty. This car has been sitting around some, since USRA closed. It’s my dad’s old Lefthander Chassis that we’ve redone the front and read clips. We took it out there to play in the mud.”

“He (Ron Sprayue) barely touched me. With it being slick out there one little tag and it just breaks the car loose. It wasn’t a big deal. There was really only one groove, the top side came in after the Modified feature. The bottom was basically where it was at unless you had a lot of car.”

“As long as I don’t blow it up or crash it too bad I plan on running out here all year.”

Nogalitos Gear Limited Late Models

57 Jason Kelly, 42 Ron Sprayue, 99 Frank Okruhlik, 93 Aaron Leddy, 13 Howie Marcx, 18 Shane Moore—dns, 22 Rene Mares—dns, 1x Andrew Hesler—dns

Limited Late Model heats

Heat 1; 57 Jason Kelly, 42 Ron Sprayue, 99 Frank Okruhlik, 93 Aaron Leddy, 13 Howie Marcx, 1x Andrew Hesler, 18 Shane Moore—dns, 22 Rene Mares—dns

Sport Modified winner Talon Minten running the bottom. Photo by JM Hallas


Talon Tallies Sportmod Sweep

Talon Minten (Seguin) gabbed the first Sport Modified feature win, but it wasn’t easy. T. Minten started alongside his brother, Robby Minten and was able to get the advantage on the start. T. Minten was then pressured by Steve Whiteaker jr. until inching away until a late caution rebunched the field. T. Minten got the jump on green, while Whiteaker had to fend off Cody Leonard, as he ran on the checkers.

Twenty-two cars took the green for the Sport Modified feature led by the Minten brothers. On the initial try it was Robby Minten getting the best of Talon, but in the pack Caleb Hudgeons went around and got collected by Trent Beaver. On the second try the two stayed side by side until Talon got the edge off turn 2. Steve Whiteaker jr. got by R. Minten with Broc Bowen and Cody Leonard in the top five.

Bowen got by R. Minten for third while Dustin Butcher took fifth from Leonard. Beaver was in the wrong place again when Greg Carlucci jr. spun getting tagged by Beaver ending his night. As T. Minten and Whiteaker got away on the restart, Bowen, R. Minten and Leonard were scrapping it out. As they got that settled, R. Minten fell back into a three wide battle with Hunter Flanagan and Johnny Torres.

At halfway it was T. Minten, Whiteaker, Leonard, Butcher and Bowen. Brian Rye then challenged Bowen for fifth with the two trading the spot for several laps. Just as T. Minten got some breathing room, Ryan Doyon went around with a little help from Carlucci on lap 15 to set up a five lap dash to the finish.

As green waved T. Minten got a couple car lengths on Whiteaker, who now had Leonard looking for an opening. The top three eased away the final laps with T. Minten in the 3-D Landscaping, All In Designs, Ace Transmission, Swenson Racing Shocks, Longs Machine Shop, Empire Chassis taking the checkers by a few car lengths over Whiteaker who held off Leonard.

“I wouldn’t say it was home field advantage,” commented Minten. “I’ve been doing testing with the Modified out here, not the Sportmod. It’s been a long time since I’ve raced this car here. It felt good to get the first win at the grand re-opening though.”

“I knew that Steve (Whiteaker) was there. I felt him give me a few taps on the bumper. I knew if I just stayed on the bottom and hit my marks that I’d probably be good.”

“On that start I knew if got around Robby (Minten) and got to the bottom that I’d be alright. We didn’t trash talk much before the race. We planned on finishing 1-2, but I don’t know what happed to him, I was there.”

Swenson Racing Products Sport Modifieds

9t Talon Minten, 89c Steve Whiteaker jr., 12 Cody Leonard, 90k Dustin Butcher , 184 Brian Rye, 56 Broc Bowen, 57 Hunter Flanagan, 26g JJ Jennings, 66 Johnny Torres, 10 Caleb Hudgeons, 24r Robby Minten, 9r Ryan Doyon, 77 Cody Beddoe, 33jp James Park jr., 31 Chase Havely, bd3 Greg Carlucci jr., 23g Michael Gay, 11t Tom Grothues, 27c Mike Morris, 12r Roly Rodriguez, 2 Robert Boyd, 14 Trent Beaver

Sport Modified B-main (top 6 to A-main)

12r Roly Rodriguez, bd3 Greg Carlucci jr., 77 Cody Beddoe, 9r Ryan Doyon, 14 Trent Beaver, 27c Mike Morris, 22 Randy Bennett, 2 Robert Boyd, 21r Eric Ramos, 28 Scott Talley, 96 John Heil, 24 Jim Blevins—dns

Sportmod heats (top 4 to A-main)

Heat 1; 24r Robby Minten, 90k Dustin Butcher, 31 Chase Havely, 23g Michael Gay, 2 Robert Boyd, 22 Randy Bennett, 28 Scott Talley

Heat 2; 9t Talon Minten, 12 Cody Leonard, 66 Johnny Torres, 26g JJ Jennings, 12r Roly Rodriguez, 14 Trent Beaver, 27c Mike Morris

Heat 3; 56 Broc Bowen, 11t Tom Grothues, 10 Caleb Hudgeons, 33jp James Park jr., bd3 Greg Carlucci jr., 77 Cody Beddoe, 9r Ryan Doyon

Heat 4; 89c Steve Whiteaker jr., 184 Brian Rye, 57 Hunter Flanagan, bd2 Eddy Ross, 96 John Heil, 21r Eric Ramos, 24 Jim Blevins

Street Stock winner Cody Leonard in Jamie Fullers car. Photo by JM Hallas


Leonard Leads the way for Street Stocks

Doing triple duty, Cody Leonard (Sinton) found the winners circle in the 20-lap Street Stock feature. Leonard gave up the lead briefly to Mike Trigg, but regained the spot. Leonard then had multi-time Street Stock champion, Wade Jones to contend with. Leonard was able to fend off several challenges from Jones to grab the victory.

At the start of the 15-car Street Stock feature Leonard beat the field into turn 1 chased by Trigg, Jones, Shawn Moore and Anthony Gordon. Trigg got out front to lead lap 2 until Jimmie Denning spun. Leonard got the lead back with Trigg and Jones rubbing for second and Johnny Torres taking fifth from Moore. While Jones grabbed second, Gordon got beside Trigg for third.

After a couple cautions the top five were literally bumper to bumper, playing tag. At halfway Leonard was still leading the quintet, with Jones, Trigg, Gordon and Torres holding their spots. Trigg’s run ended on lap 14 when he slapped the front stretch wall hard ending his top three run.

Once back to green, Jones gave Leonard a good look for the lead with some contact. Behind them Gordon and Torres were trading third. Jones kept the pressure on Leonard the final laps but the young Leonard in the Jamie Fuller owned, Reflective Wrecker Service, C3 Speed Horses, CNC Signs and Graphics, Spreen Race Engines, Chevelle held steady to hold off Jones at the checkers.

“We’ve run this car at Shady Oaks for Jamie (Fuller) before,” said Leonard. “It needed some work and I think we finally figured something out. Hopefully I’ll get to run it some more and get some more wins with it.”

“Driving three classes I mainly learned where to drive the track tonight. Some of what works best and what doesn’t. One class helps with one other class and that class helps with other. If the line changes or someone figures something out I’ll know that going into the next race.”

“The new side by side restarts are kind of nerve wracking. You never know if they have the high side hooked up. Or you may think the high side is faster and they’ll take off on the bottom. I guess we’ll get used to it sooner or later.”

SABFI Transportation Street Stocks

7 Cody Leonard, 41 Wade Jones, 22 Anthony Gordon, bd1 Johnny Torres, 18 Shawn Moore, 88 Bobby Jack, 87 Robert Danielson, 85 Sam Markgraf, 9s Jarrett Payton, 3 Abraham Mares, 99 Wayne Wernette, h25 Jimmie Denning, 7x Janel Liese, 4t Mike Trigg, 37 AJ Wernette, 40 Kenny Hurley—dns, 42 Tom Casey—dns

Street Stock heats

Heat 1; 7 Cody Leonard, 18 Shawn Moore, 37 AJ Wernette, 7x Janel Liese, 3 Abraham Mares, h25 Jimmie Denning, 87 Robert Danielson, 42 Tom Casey,

Heat 2; 4t Mike Trigg, 41 Wade Jones, 22 Anthony Gordon, bd1 Johnny Torres, 88 Bobby Jack, 99 Wayne Wernette, 40 Kenny Hurley, 9s Jarrett Payton, 85 Sam Markgraf

Pure Stock winner Dakota Hurley on track. Photo by JM Hallas


Dakotas Battles for Pure Stock Payday

No, not North and South Dakota, but Dakota Hurley (La Vernia) and Dakota Heinaman (Corpus Christi). The two second generation young guns battled early until making contact. Hurley was sent to the back. Undaunted, he fought his way up through the 17-car field getting the top spot on lap 15. A late yellow set up an exciting finish that had the crowd on its feet. The two were door to door, swapping paint coming to the line with Hurley there first, by a couple inches.

It took two starts for the 17-car, 20-lap Pure Stock feature to get under way. On the first Mason Casteneda got out front but Hurley and Heinaman made contact to bring out a yellow with Hurley going to the tail. On the restart Red Kinnaman and Castendeda stayed side by side with Kinnaman getting the advantage. Heinaman, Aaron Leddy and Cheyloh Flanagan fell in line for the top five.

Casteneda fought his way into the lead on lap 2 as the field sorted out. After a quick caution for an Eric Madden spin, Heinaman got past Kinnaman for second with Flanagan, Danny Dear and Leddy three wide for fourth. Flanagan finally got the spot while Hurley made his up to sixth. At halfway it was Casteneda, Heinaman, Kinnaman, Leddy and Hurley side by side with Flanagan.

As the leaders got into traffic, Alexis Hendricks went around scattering the lead group. The restart shook things up when Leddy got into Heinaman sending him around in front of the pack, several made glancing blows, but Riley Heil got hooked with Madden, ending both their nights.

Once back to green Hurley began to challenge Casteneda for the lead with the two doing a little rubbing before Hurley got the top spot on lap 15. Casteneda pitted during a yellow for a Flanagan spin a lap later. This left Hurley and Heinaman up front on the restart, with Pat Lyon moving by Dear for third.

After another yellow on the final lap, it came down to a green, white, checker finish. Heinaman got inside Hurley going into turn 1, but Hurley held his line. As the white waved the duo were still side by side. There was some rubbing and bumping as the two came turn 4 tied at the door handles. Hurley, in the Clayton Homes of Seguin, Schneider Solar Screens, Delivery Made Easy, Beaver Motorsports, Sassy Styles, All In Designs, Chevy Nova, beat Heinaman to line by a bumper for the win.

All In Designs Pure Stocks

40 Dakota Hurley, 441 Dakota Heinaman, 48 Pat Lyon, 15d Danny Dear, 38 Red Kinnaman, 13 Kris Workman, 15 William Cavender, 98 William Saunders, 88 Alexis Hendricks, 58 Cheyloh Flanagan, 28m Mason Casteneda, 93 Aaron Leddy, 96e Eric Madden, 30 Riley Heil, 68d Kenny Wright, 4k David Sheffield, 9c Caitlin Leonard

Pure Stock heats

Heat 1;38x Red Kinnaman, 441 Dakota Heinaman, 40 Dakota Hurley, 15d Danny Dear, 48 Pat Lyon, 4k, David Sheffield, 9c Caitlin Leonard, 15 William Cavender, 88 Alexis Hendricks

Heat 2; 28m Mason Casteneda, 93 Aaron Leddy, 58 Cheyloh Flanagan, 30 Riley Heil, 98 William Saunders, 96e Eric Madden, 13 Kris Workman, 68d Kenny Wright

Pure Stock winner Dakota Hurley on track. Photo by JM Hallas


Carter Cashes in Compact.

Veteran GB Carter (Harlingen) showed the field, composed mainly of young guns, that he wasn’t ready to retire just yet. Carter moved up to battle with former Sport Compact track champion, Dillon Gaither. Carter took over the point then pulled away to an easy win in the 20-lapper that went caution free.

Gaither jumped out front on green at the start of the 12-car, 20-lap Sport Compact feature ahead of Brian Schneider, Carter, Jamie Garner and Robert Kelm. Carter went by Schneider for second on lap 1 followed by Garner to third. Carter got alongside Gaither off turn 4 and got the lead on lap 3 while Garner and Schneider swapped third.

As Carter started to pull away by halfway, Garner was having issues and going the other direction. As Carter cruised away, Kelm caught Schneider for third with the two going three wide by a lapped car. At the checkers it was Carter, in Thumper the VW Rabbit, taking the win by good margin over Gaither with Kelm snagging third from Schneider.

Brown Chevrolet Sport Compacts

77 GB Carter, 5 Dillon Gaither, 8 Robert Kelm, 51 Brian Schneider, 43 Alyson Dorken, 63 Gordon Dowdy, 56jr Treyler Caulfield, 69 Felipe Ruiz, 33c Charles Earnhardt III, 3 Jamie Garner, 181 George Quintenilla, 44 James Watson—dns, 76 Eric Wilson—dns

Sport Compact heats

Heat 1; 5 Dillon Gaither, 51 Brian Schneider, 3 Jamie Garner, 8 Robert Kelm, 43 Alyson Dorken, 181 George Quintenilla, 76 Eric Wilson—dns

Heat 2; 77 GB Carter, 69 Felipe Ruiz, 63 Gordon Dowdy, 56jr Treyler Caulfield , 33c Charles Earnhardt III, 44 James Watson

After a week off, racing continues at I-37 Raceway on April 8th. For more information, rules or schedule visit their website or the Facebook page

Grandstands began filling up quickly and were filled to capacity by race time. Photo by JM Hallas


Spectator parking filled up early. Photo by JM Hallas



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