By Eric Huenefeld
Director of Media and Sales, Rockford Speedway
LOVES PARK, Ill. — Much like that old coffee commercial, last Saturday night’s Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model feature at Rockford Speedway was ‘good til the last drop.’
When the dust settled on the wild 30-lap feature event, Machesney Park’s Alex Papini stood above the rest, collecting his third consecutive feature win after a wild last lap showdown with three-time track champion Jerry Gille.
Gille led for the majority of the race, pouncing from his second-row starting spot and moving around Curt Tillman on lap two. Meanwhile, Papini started the race in the seventh position, having to muscle his way through a bevy of contenders.
Papini climbed to second place by lap 16 and faced 12-car-length deficit between him and Gille. Papini climbed to the back bumper of Gille within 14 laps, setting up a two-lap sprint to the finish.
Papini and Gille raced side-by-side as the white flag flew, with Papini throwing his car into the corners trying to pass Gille. Sparks and smoke flew as the racers hit the line, with Papini edging Gille by the smallest of margins.
Ricky Bilderback finished third, Jon Reynolds Jr. was fourth and Wayne Freimund rounded out the top five.
Belvidere’s Brett McCoy won his second Bargain Hunter Sportsman feature of the year, topping Byron’s Pat Featherston for the top honor. McCoy, the evening’s fast qualifier, charged through the field early in the division’s 25-lap main event, then inherited the lead after leaders Chad Smith and Johnny Robinson II spun in tandem in turn one. After assuming the top spot, McCoy was never seriously challenged for the lead again. Behind McCoy and Featherston, Rob Goodman finished third, with Daryl Gerke fourth. Fifteen-year-old Deanna Chandler collected her first ever top five Saturday night after finishing in fifth position.
‘Magic Shoes’ Trevor Robinson was victorious in the Kickstart Roadrunner main event. Robinson’s win was a departure from the bad luck he had faced through the first three weeks of the racing season, as the South Beloit youngster was able to hold off late race challenges from Bobby Frisch and Dennis Smith Jr. Frisch finished the race second while maintaining his points lead, with Smith settling for third. Chad Lounsbury and Shawn Rickelman rounded out the top five.
Mark Bielefeldt topped the field in the 15-lap Hornet ‘Big Swarm.’ Bielefeldt protected his lead in the final laps, while holding off hard-charging runner up, Justin Mikel.
Meanwhile, Cassidy Frisch won the first Racer Girl Winged Women on Wheels feature of 2014. Frisch ran the extreme low groove for much of the race, using that angle to step ahead of early race leader Misty Lounsbury. Lounsbury finished the race in second place, her best ever Winged Women finish. Chelsea Loos also notched her best career finish with a third place effort.