On Saturday evening I arrived at the Rockford Speedway a little later than normal due to working a race at the Byron Dragway. The Heat races were nearing the end. When I was allowed into the infield, I needed to reconfigure my equipment from drag racing to stock car racing.
The first of six feature races was the Midwest Dash Series. This was a 50 lap race starting 20 cars. The race was slowed on Lap 1 when the #50 car crashed between turns 3 and 4. The cars were put under caution on Lap 5 for light rain and restarted after a short delay. The attrition rated was high for this race as there were only seven cars running at the end. Loves Park's George Sparkman #5 won the race.
Next up was the Sportsmen Class with 15 cars racing in the 30 lap feature. There were several cautions as the racing was quick and furious. On Lap 28, Robert Hansberry of Beloit, Wi. took the lead and brought home the checkers.
In the third feature of the night was a new class for me that I had not seen run. This was the 602 Late Model Series. This Series is a late model chassis with outlaw style body and a crate engine. Tonight, there were only 7 cars starting the 35 lap race. On Lap 3, four cars were involved in a dust-up between turns 1-2. All the cars were able to continue. At the end of the race, it was Onslow, Iowa's Dennis Miller taking the win. Dennis hadn't raced at Rockford in 21 years. Welcome back, Dennis.
The fourth feature was the first of the two Rich Bickle Invitation 45's for the Super Late Models. There were 16 cars taking the green with Ricky Bilderback #2 leading the pack. On Lap 11, Bilderback unexpectedly spun. It was suspected something broke. This gave the lead to Austin Nason who cruised to the victory.
Next up were the Hobby Stocks with a 20 lap feature and 14 cars starting. On Lap 6, an unusual thing happened when a car drove straight off the track, down the ramp to the pits without slowing down! I never found out who the driver was. The racing was tight throughout the race and in turn 4 the #52 got into the #33 of Jimmy Robinson causing a spin. The #52 took the checkered flag, however the win was awarded to Jimmy Robinson from Beloit, Wi.
In the final feature of the night, it was the second of the 45 lap Super Late Model races. Due to the Bilderback retirement in the first, 15 cars started this second race. On Lap 3, Rich Bickle drove to the lead followed by Austin Nason #14. Austin continually pressured Bickle #45, however Rich was able to hold him off and take the win and the combined overall win.
Rich Bickle has become a midwest racing legend and this was a very popular win!
This night's racing had it all! A lot of good racing and a fitting way for a Champion to end his career at Rockford.
This concludes my reports from the NSTC as I have another assignment on Sunday. It had been nearly two years since I had been to Rockford Speedway and it was fun to be back.
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