By Max McQueen
For a second straight week, South Beloit’s Michael Bilderback had the car to beat in the Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model division.
Bilderback began the evening as fast qualifier, later following that up with his second consecutive Late Model triumph at Rockford Speedway, winning the 30 lap caution- free sprint in dominant fashion over point leader Jake Gille.
Bilderback started the Late Model main event in the sixth position wasting little time following the fast lane to the front of the field. Ahead of him though, outside pole sitter Justin Sellers strode to the front, moving ahead of pole sitter Daryl Gerke for the early race lead.
Meanwhile, ‘Insane’ Wayne Freimund made his move as well, slipping around Gerke and into second. Freimund then challenged Sellers for the lead for the next five laps before Bilderback was able to slip into third place and position himself on the bumper of Freimund. That second place battle didn’t last long, as Bilderback powered into the runner up slot ahead of Freimund.
Sellers, meanwhile, held the lead and awaited the arrival of Bilderback at his bumper. Those two drivers then wrestled for the race’s top spot over the next three circuits, with Bilderback finally prevailing on the race’s ninth lap. Sellers fell into second, holding onto the runner up spot until halfway when Freimund claimed the position.
Once Freimund found second, he also found Jake Gille on his backside, challenging him for second. Freimund and Gille then ran the next twelve laps side-by-side for second, with Gille eventually stepping ahead of Freimund.
When the checkered flag waved, Bilderback had nothing but open track between he and the rest of the pack, winning the race by over a straightaway over Gille.
The second place run kept Gille’s impressive string of early-season consistency alive. The Machesney Park resident collected his third runner up finish to complement feature two wins.
Freimund came home in third, with ‘Driver X’ Jon Reynolds Jr in fourth and Justin Sellers rounding out the top five.
The 25 lap Bargain Hunter Sportsman feature was an action packed affair, with battling for position throughout the field and some plot-twisting drama in the race’s final laps.
Through the race’s first 19 laps, three different battles for position developed; for first, third and fifth. At the front of the field, second year Sportsman racer Nick Letsinger held the lead, inheriting the the top spot from pole sitter Robert Roush on the race’s eighth lap.
Soon after, Letsinger found the front of the field, he was joined by Matt Lundberg, who had marched to second from his sixth starting position. Letsinger and Lundberg then began a high-speed game of cat and mouse over the course of the next several laps, with the battle coming to a head on lap 19.
As the two leaders rounded the second corner, Letsinger lost control of his car on the high side of the track, spinning down into the path of an accelerating Lundberg.
After both cars spun sideways in the middle of the backstretch, the yellow flag came out. Yet as soon as the yellow flag flew, both drivers were able to right their vehicles in the nick of time.
Despite their efforts to correct their cars, both vehicles would end up at the back of the field and Lundberg was sent pitside after getting flat tire following the contact with Letsinger. Both cars remained in the race, but were out of contention.
When the dust cleared, Chad Smith inherited the lead, with 2014 Sportsman champion Brett McCoy on his bumper. When the race restarted with six laps to go, Smith and McCoy stepped away from the field and looked to settle things among themselves.
Smith fended off the advances of McCoy, taking the win by two car lengths. Howie Ware finished in third behind the winner Smith and runner up McCoy.
Roush ended his first night in a Sportsman this season with a fourth place finish, while teenager Deanna Chandler capped off a solid night with a fifth place run.
Earlier in the evening, Chandler was among the six fastest qualifiers and as a result made her first ever appearance in the Sportsman Fast Dash.
Capron’s Chris Jones kept his four-cylinder hot streak alive, winning the Nelson’s Imports Bandit division’s 20 lap main event.
Jones’ Bandit triumph came one week after he was able to win the 25 lap Miller Lite American Short Tracker feature. Jones’ journey to the front was made somewhat easier following a pile up in the fourth corner of the race’s opening lap, which claimed pole sitter Thomas Andrus and moved Jones to the pole position.
After the race restarted, the yellow flag was never seen again and Jones was able to run away from the balance of the field over the course of 20 laps en route to victory. ‘Chargin’ Charlie Frisch finished second, with ‘Sassy’ Cassy Frisch in third.
Fast qualifier Brian Cook came home in fourth, while Steve Putman Jr rounded out the top five.
Chris McQuality outlasted the field in a wild 20 lap Kickstart Roadrunner feature event, which featured multiple yellow flags and a thrilling five car battle to the finish.
McQuality stayed at the head of that five-car pack in the race’s final laps, out-distancing Dennis Smith Jr for the win by merely half a car length at the line.
Behind McQuality and Smith, Robert Myher and Austin Fowler raced side-by-side for third position, with Myher edging Fowler for the position by inches at the checkered flag. Tucked in tightly behind the front four was Terrance Robinson, who charged from the back of the field after an early race incident to finish fifth.