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Late Models Rumble Into Town

The last few race weekends have been nothing short of fantastic.  Great finishes, more passes than anyone would be able to count, and of course some tempers flaring. The night in store provided all the fans with everything they wanted and more.  The night was beginning with Wissota street stocks, and the quest to dethrone the Deer Lodge drivers.

                Young Taylor Martin would lead the field to the green flag, searching for that elusive first victory.  Unfortunately for Martin, Matt O’Connell had other plans.  O’Connell took the lead and Brian Barnhardt raced his way to second nearly instantly.  Barnhardt immediately challenged for the lead on the low line but couldn’t complete the pass.  Back in the third position was the pole sitter Taylor Martin but another youthful face, Cody Ryan, wanted that position and took it without mercy.  A caution halted the racing action, but as the green flag waved Barnhardt once again challenged for the lead, but his car got so loose nobody thought he’d save it but he managed and kept on racing.  Barnhardt’s near spin let Beau Brown take second, and he now worked his way to the rear bumper of Matt Oconnel.  The race for the lead was cranking up but the race from fourth to twelfth was a battle royal.  Cars were three wide, four wide, and the occasional five wide but somehow, someway Dwayne Fowler climbed all the way to fourth through the pack of cars.  Beau Brown challenged O’Connell high but he wouldn’t have it.  It looked as though the 1 car of O’Connell had the car to beat.  A ten car wreck happened shortly after, highlighted by Robert Petroff’s car on fire.  The fire was extinguished and to everyone’s surprise he kept racing.  O’Connell was blamed for the caution and was sent to the pits and Beau Brown inherited the lead a little easier than planned.  Dwayne Fowler was now in the second position challenging Brown for the win.  Fowler and Brown have both been running at the front of the pack all year and to nobody’s surprise they looked the fastest.   K.J. Hunter didn’t like that and charged all the way to the bumper of Fowler.  Hunter made quick work of Fowler and now challenged  Brown for the lead.  His hood was flapping in the wind on the white flag lap, but that didn’t matter.  Hunter wanted to win.  He pushed his car to the brink of out of control, and passed Brown going into the first corner.  Brown kept his calm, cool, and collected demeanor and passed Hunter for the lead.  Beau Brown would win his third main event of the year at Gallatin Speedway.  K.j. Hunter finished second, Paul Lease third, Nick Hunter climbed from 19th starting position to fourth and Dwayne Fowler got a top five.  Cody Ryan, K.J. Hunter, and Dwayne Fowler won their heat races.
                The Wissota super stock main event started with Pat Lamere on the pole with veteran Bruce Tocci in second. Lamere got a great start and took the lead defending Tocci’s  multiple attacks for the lead.  Ty Clemens started the race in sixth position but in one lap was challenging Lamere for the lead as well.  Clemens showed brilliant driving skills and took the race three wide momentarily, and was now the leader.  A few positions back Kevin Scott looked to have a fast hot rod, and was now in the second position.  The top four drivers of Ty Clemens, Kevin Scott, John Lighthizer, and Carmi Wells had separated themselves from the rest of the pack, and unless a caution flag flew, one of them would win this race.  Ty Clemens had built a lead while Lighthizer and Scott raced for second, but once the 19 of Scott got around Lighthizer he drove like a man possessed.  Scott erased a five car deficit in just a few laps and was now in the tire tracks of Ty Clemens.  Kevin Scott knew that if he wanted to win he’d have to go to the high line.  In two laps he went from second to a two car length lead over Clemens.  The white flag waved and Ty Clemens was Hungry.  He pushed his white number 12 into the first corner and looked to pass Scott but the high line prevailed off the corner and for the first time in his career two consecutive wins at Gallatin Speedway, and get out the broom because it was also a clean sweep for the night.  Ty Clemens finished in second position, Carmi Wells in third, John Lighthizer fourth and Bruce Tocci in fifth.  Jeremy Meirhofer won his heat race and as told earlier Kevin Scott won his heat as well. 
                The special event was next with the Wissota Late Models.  Dave Freeman started in the first spot with Jody Kropp to his outside.  Freeman grabbed the lead quickly and tried to run away but Jody Kropp had far different plans.  In one lap he went from battling for second to the lead.  Jason George also snuck around freeman for second , they tried to separate from the pack but a caution flag flew.  The Green machine of Kelly Hampel restarted the race fourth but after the green flew he got a wicked run and was now in second hoping to catch and pass Kropp for the lead.  Chad Johnson in his Wissota late model debut was in third and knocking on the bumper of Kelly Hampel.  Jody Kropp’s lead was now four car lengths and the race for second was heating up.  Johnson and Hampel couldn’t get away from each other all night.  Jody Kropp ran the tires all night long and the white flag now flew.  Nobody would catch Jody Kropp and he would take the first late model feature of the year at Gallatin Speedway.  Kelly Hampel ran second, Chad Johnson ran third in his late model debut, Chris Dunn fourth, and Jason George to fifth.  Jody Kropp also got a clean sweep winning his heat race, and Chad Johnson won the other.
                The Modifieds were the last race of the evening and it looked to be a doozy.  Billings driver Dale Neitzel started on pole and one of the double duty drivers and late model winner Jody Kropp started to the outside front row.  There were 3 restarts and Dale Neitzel got the lead on two of them, but on the third restart Jody Kropp got a great run in his Wicked Chassis and took the lead.  Dale Neitzel settled into the second position and tried to run Kropp down.  Kropp was using the exact same line as he did in the late model race, hugging the tires around every corner.  Jeremy Meirhofer tried rimriding in the third position, but it didn’t work so he went back low and got a run underneath Neitzel for the second spot.  Kropp now had 5 car lengths on Meirhofer but Meirhofer wouldn’t give up.  A three wide race for third was the spectacle right now.  Chad Johnson, Dale Neitzel, and Paul Leech raced side by side.  The top two maintained their lead but a caution flag came out.  The bunching of the field had to have put a smile on Joey Price’s face.  Price looked to be the only car that could possibly pass Kropp for the win.  The green came back out and Price sliced and diced his way to second right on Kropp’s back bumper.  This was the most pressure on Kropp all night and with the white flag waving Price took his shot at the win.  Price drove his car in deep and got a run, pulled even with Kropp but a little nudge left Price trying to save his car instead of taking the lead.  The checkered flag flew and once again Jody Kropp would take the win. Joey Price finished second, Chad Johnson finished third for the 2nd time that evening.  Paul Leech crossed fourth and Jeremy Meirhofer ran fifth.  Jeremy Meirhofer and Erin Shane won their heat races. 
                The racing was over for the week but next Friday night is Ladies Night.  So bring your gal…she gets in free…and have a good time at Gallatin Speedway, with street stocks, super stocks, and modifieds.  On a side note the race was a little different this evening due to Dan Guenther not running a car.  Guenther has been a fixture at Gallatin Speedway for years and last week raced his was to a great 2nd place finish.  Guenther severely broke his leg last Sunday and is probably done racing for the year.  Gallatin Speedway “passed the helmet” for Guenther and we all wish him a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing his Super Stock next season.  Check out gallatinspeedway.com for complete results.
                Dru Brown.
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