As the High Banks of the Lebanon I-44 Speedway prepare to open the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series 2014 Monster Energy Chase for the Cup, the 3 weeks of open practice has proven 1 thing. The racing program at I-44 is growing and the interest and excitement of Asphalt NASCAR Short-Track Racing is alive and well with young guns and old fan favorites alike in getting ready for the April 26th season opener.
With many drivers building new cars and changing their programs, the open practices saw a lot of tuning, changing, and hard work on the equipment as everyone has the goal of finishing up in the point standings at Missouri's only NASCAR track and the only active asphalt oval in the state.
The O'Reilly Auto Parts Pro Late Models saw several regulars and many newcomers getting familiar with new equipment and for some a new environment. As the Top Tier class at I-44, the Pro Late Model division had some very intense sessions with a lot of hard work and changes going on between each one. Jimmy Van Zandt, Brennon Willard, Austin "Grasshopper" Fullerton, Terry Limberopoulos, Steve Holt, 15 year old Kaleb Allison and hard charging Jim Reaves have been regulars at the practices while newcomers Kevin and Kyle Donahue, Josh Woody and Brian Woods have used the time to get familiar with the track or their new cars. Austin Johnson has used the time to get ready for his move from the Sportsman class. Joe Ross of Kansas City, Payton Lucas, JC Newell, Mike Slone and Chad Walters have very limited time for this season so far as the speed charts have the pack tight. The interest has peaked several Kansas City top runners as they have been seen walking the pits.
The Coca-Cola Chargers have really soared during the off season as new cars and drivers continue to grow. Defending champion Jimmy Poindexter has spent time between his car with a new color scheme and his son Jessie's new Charger. Adam Prine, Jason Walls, Jordan Nesbitt, Lauren Buhr, Amanda Anderson, Mark Glorfeld, Jary Hudson, Ben White, John Hunn, Japheth Nisbett and many new drivers have the excitement of the tires squealing through the air. Larry Hunter has yet to turn any practice laps, but everyone is aware he knows the fast way around while Larry has been helping get a couple of new Charger cars out of the Laquey area together.
The Budweiser Modified class has seen David Bates bringing out a new car after a sub-par season last year. The big head turner was former 3 time Pro Late Model Champion Tim Swearengin bringing his Lewis Racing number 14 out on the track. Mark Riddle, Stephen Counterman, Chris Johnson, Terry Taylor, Kevin Hunt, Richard Lewis, Brian Webster, Brian Lewis and others have tested while point's runner-up Scotty Allen and multi time champion Ricky Icenhower have yet to test this season but know the fast way around. Phil Harris, David Strode, Robert Baltzell, Shane Roach, Lendal Alexander also plan to race along with rumors that Roderick Icenhower may make a few dates but have yet to practice and Chris Kerperien in his new car.
The Monster Energy Sportsman class is another seeing growth as Former Charger Champion Paul Jepson has heads turning with some quick ticks on the stop watch. Defending Champion Randy Besser has made a quick shake down run as Jake Piel shows a lot of improvement. Road Warrior Champion Justin Blake has yet to turn a lap while rookie of the year Jim Fohn, JC "The Gentle Giant", Aaron Douglas, Kasey Buckley, Toby Harden, Justin Allen, Mike Bartig, Brian Burkes, Kasey Buckley, Miles Deselms and others are waiting for the opening night action.
Keyser Manufacturing Road Warrior drivers hitting the track hard have been Les Mallard, Carl Harlow, Mike Funcannon, Riley Sharp, Tony Johnson, Aaron Wilke, Michael Juergensen, Geoff Ledford have been regulars as many others are putting on the final touches and have been watching the competition for the past 3 Saturdays.
Willard Asphalt as well as Willard Quarries will be the sponsor for the 2014 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season opener on Saturday April 26th with all 5 classes of cars to begin the Monster Energy Chase for the Championship. Willard Asphalt and Willard Quarries are locally owned with facilities in Lebanon and St Robert. Grandstand and Tier Parking Gates open at 5PM with racing action to start at 6:30 PM sharp for these early season events.
Monster Energy Grandstand Adult Admission is only $10 while the Budweiser Wildside is $15 for Adults or get the 6 pack Special as 6 Adults in the same vehicle is only $75 (buy 5 Adults get 1 Free) along with discounts for military, seniors, juniors and kids 10 & under are always FREE.
For more information visit the website at www.i44speedway.net and be sure to visit and like the ever growing Facebook page and follow us on Twitter for updated information as drivers from Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Kansas and Illinois compete each Saturday Night.