A rain induced opening weekend postponement for I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Michigan aligned an amazing May 5th opening weekend for the 3/8-mile dirt track just off the expressway. Playing host to the Dirt Cup Modified tour season opener for the second year in a row the pits were filled with 118 cars in four divisions and boasted nearly 40 UMP Modifieds.
Mother nature threatened with dropping temperatures and periodic sprinkles, but that did nothing to deter the fans in the grandstands.
Each division had action packed racing throughout the field all night long, between the side-by-side action and a few roll-overs where thankfully nobody was hurt, fans were definitely left on the edge of their seats. Despite the unforeseen red flags, the show ran smoothly and quickly and was a definite treat to watch.
After some intense heat and B-Main races, the Modifieds made their way onto their track for their 40-lap event Dirt Cup event. After a strong heat race win, Jacob Poel lined up with a win in sight in his no.82 machine. From the start it looked the race would be for second place, but from deep in the field Aaron Morey had decided that was not to be, as he methodically picked his way through the field in his Keyser Mfg./Port City Racing no.2k machine. As the laps wound down Morey was securely in the top 3 and once he could see some clear track he was off and hunting down last years I-96, Dirt Cup and Michigan State champion. With a last lap effort Morey motored ahead of Pole under the checkered to pick up the nice $1500 paycheck and the honor of being the first winner of 2012. But before the victory lane celebration commenced, Morey took control of the microphone and in an act of true sportsmanship, apologized to the fans of a driver who he had rubbed in the heat race. The incident was visibly unintentional, instead an instance of diving in to hot…but the public apology definitely added to my level of respect for this already smooth and stellar driver.
Morey was incredibly impressive, but he wasn’t the only man on the move. Zach Olger came from deep in the field to follow Jacob Poel to the line and pick up a podium finish.
In addition to a Dirt Cup stop, I-96 also played host to their delayed 7th annual Ice Breaker which boasted 30-lap Late Model event, a race in which off some fresh momentum Zach Olger fought his way to a 2nd place finish in his #0 machine, but neither he nor Dona Marcoullier who finished out the top three in his new no.6m Finley Motorsports ride were any match for Andy Sprague. All in black Sprague’s no.21 was anything but stealth-like as he dominated and motored to victory lane.
In the Sport Compacts it was Dan Reimersma (no.13) who picked up that 20-lap Ice Breaker event over Richard Peck (no.14). William Brandt Jr. dominated the Factory Stock event, driving his no.65 into victory lane over the no.68 of Ron Harper.
I remember sitting in the grandstands of I-96 Speedway as a kid, and although time has changed many things, including the size of the track, as it’s no longer the big ½-mile of my youth; some things have remained the same like the friendly atmosphere and the awesome racing action.
Mike and Sarah Mouch have done a wonderful job of keeping I-96 Speedway one of Michigan’s premier dirt tracks, recent additions have made the track incredibly family friendly like changing tables in the restrooms and a kids club with supervised play equipment and projects.
Those aspects combined with some amazing special events on the 2012 calendar, I-96 Speedway is definitely a great place to pay visit this summer.
Also, don’t forget that there are still six Michigan Dirt Cup events on the tour’s schedule. The next race is slated for father’s day weekend at Butler Motor Speedway. Despite some very tumultuous weather throughout the state, the great payouts brought in a great amount of cars, and with last years events averaging over 50 cars a night, these events are definitely exciting.
Thank you all so much for reading and I’ll see you when the next green flag flies!