Bilderback repeats, Alex Papini dedicates win to late father

Five-time defending Rockford Speedway Late Model track champion Ricky Bilderback made it two feature wins in a row Saturday night, May20.

Bilderback got a little help from an unsuspected third party—Mother Nature.

A brief rain shower shortened the 30-lap feature. During lap 24, the caution flag came out for wet track conditions. At the time of the caution, Bilderback was in the lead.

After several laps under yellow, the track was still not dry enough to continue, and NASCAR officials called the race complete at the 24-lap mark.

On his quest for a sixth championship in a row, Bilderback holds a slim 18-point lead over Rockford Speedway newcomer Josh Nelms. Only 2 points behind Nelms is another driver eager to win a championship of his own—Jeremy Miller.

B.J. Sparkman added another Budweiser American Short Tracker feature win to his 2006 résumé. He was able to out-duel hard-charging veteran Billy McCoy. After starting eighth, McCoy was able to work his way into second, but couldn’t catch the faster Sparkman.

In the Coca-Cola Road Runner feature, second-generation driver Alex Papini captured the first checkered flag of his young career. Out of the 25 cars that started the feature, Papini had the fastest. He started the 20-lap race in the 11th position. During the first 13 laps, he managed to work his way to the front of the pack. With only four laps remaining, division points leader Pat Smith and Gene Marocco collided with the cement wall coming out of turn four. Once the debris was cleared from the track, Papini made his move on race leader Dan Carlson.

The two drivers battled door handle to door handle for two laps. Papini was finally able to pull away from Carlson with two laps to go. Papini held on for the victory.

In the post-race interview, an emotional Papini declared, “I’d like to dedicate this one to my dad—this one is for him, I wish he were here to see this!”

Papini’s late father, Al Papini, was a long-time competitor in the Late Model division at Rockford Speedway. He passed away in 2001 at age 41 after suffering a ruptured aorta while competing in a race at Rockford Speedway.

Mick Ellis won the feature in the visiting Super Cup division.

Rockford Speedway will celebrate the Memorial Day weekend with a special program Friday night, May 26, at 7:07 p.m. The Wild Thang and Carolina Crusher monster trucks come to town to highlight “Friday Night Fright.” They will be joined by a school bus monza race, a figure eight train race, rollover contest, diesel divas, spectacular drags, figure eights and much more.

The NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series will return Saturday night, May 27. Racing begins at 7:07 p.m. Tickets for both events may be purchased in advance by calling the Speedway box office at 633-1500.

Doug Halberstadt is a local resident and is track announcer at Rockford Speedway. He can be reached via e-mail at

From the May 24-30, 2006, issue

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