ON TRACK FIREWORKS LATE NETS REYNOLDS, JR. THE FIRECRACKER 58 VICTORY AT TOMAH
By: Paul Reichert
June 30, 2023
Race fans get excited when there are fireworks on the track between competitors. Close quarters racing, the donuts left on sheet metal by tires, the 'chrome horn' being applied to a rear bumper and even a mashed in hood leaves the fans screaming for more and doing anything they can to will their driver to the win. After their successful debut last year at Tomah-Sparta Speedway, the weekly warriors of the Big 8 Late Model Series returned to 'Daytomah' for the 2nd running of the Firecracker 58. This year's race featured some very compelling drama late in the race when leaders Kody King and Grant Brown tangled in turn three. Jon Reynolds, Jr. found himself leading the pack in a four lap final restart to become the first repeat winner of the 2023 season.
The Firecracker 58 for the Big 8 Late Model Series got off to a rough start when Tyler Hromadka and Hanna Raley tangled coming to the green, which caused Raley to hit the front straight wall. Take two on the start saw Brady Liddle power to the front of the pack at Gregory Borchardt's expense. Devin Schmidt used the outside lane to power by both Borchardt and Liddle to move into the lead on lap three Borchardt spun out in turn one on lap 12 to bring out the first yellow flag. As the field was coming to the green, Grant Brown and Randy Sargent tangled on the front straight. At the same time Liddle's engine expired to cause a red flag and an extended cleanup on the front straight. Schmidt pulled away on the restart while Brown and Kody King make the outside work and moved into second and third spots. Those two early cautions bred more cautions around the one-quarter mark of the race, with turn one being the trouble spot. Sargent spun out on lap 14, Hromadka and Drew Bernhagen tangled in on lap 17, and Jerry Mueller spun in front of the field on lap 18. Borchardt tried to avoid Mueller and ended up hitting the outside wall in turn two hard. On every restart Schmidt was able to open up an advantage on both Brown and King, but it was gone just before halfway thanks to Trevor Robinson spinning in turn one also.
On the restart Grant Brown and Kody King were ready to pounce on the lead as Devin Schmidt's car started to get to be a bit of a handful. Brown dove low on Schmidt to take over the top position on lap 34, and a lap later Schmidt gave up the number two spot to King. Now the 'battle of the 14s' was on as Brown and King put on one heck of a battle over the top spot. Just at King was getting under Brown to make the pass for the lead and the possible win, yellow returned with 11 laps to go when Jacob Gille suffered a flat right front tire. Gille was able to duck into the pits, replace the tire and get back in the race. The intensity over the fight for the win between Brown and King was ramped up even more on the restart. King was able to dive low on Brown to assume the race lead with five laps to go. Brown then moved to the inside to try and pull off the same move on King. Their spirited fight came to a crescendo with four laps to go when the leaders made hard contact in turn three. Brown got briefly airborne in the melee that sent both 14s to the end of the lead lap line. Schmidt spun out to avoid the chaos, but was given his spot back in fourth for the restart. Thanks to that moment of on track fireworks, 'Driver X' was now in command of the Firecracker 58. After several unsuccessful tries to restart on the outside, Jon Reynolds, Jr. now had the lead all to himself as the field got ready for a quick four lap shootout. It was the battle of Rockford as Reynolds, Jr. was able to drive from Randy Sargent in that final showdown to capture his second victory of the year and strengthen his grip on the Big 8 Late Model points lead after four races. It was career win number 16 for 'Driver X', as he now finds himself in a three-way tie for most Big 8 Late Model Series wins all-time with fellow champions Jeremy Miller and Michael Bilderback.
The first heat race for the Big 8 Late Models featured another battle of the numbers. The blue 3 machine of Elko racer Gregory Borchardt got the better of the red 3 ride of Slinger regular Tyler Hromadka to cross the finish line first. Before their 'battle of Rockford' late in the main event, Randy Sargent and Jon Reynolds, Jr. had a warm-up fight in the second heat. This time Sargent outlasted Reynolds, Jr. to notch another checkered flag victory. Reynolds, Jr. was first to qualify and laid down an impressive lap time of 15.685 seconds. That lap was only a tenth off of the track record Dale Nottestad estalbished last year. Just when it looked like Reynolds, Jr. would remain atop the scoring pylon, Jacob Gille went even quicker to claim the fast qualifier honor with a 15.670 second lap time. Gille was fortunate to make his first ever visit to 'Daytomah' despite having an issue with their race trailer before leaving for western Wisconsin.
The next stop for the weekly warriors of the Big 8 Late Model Series will be in three weeks. The Big 8 Late Models will headline night number one of the 43rd Annual Larry Detjens Memorial Race at State Park Speedway in Wausau on Friday, July 21st. You can see that night's race, as well as the ASA Midwest Tour race on Saturday, July 22nd, live online at midwesttour.tv.
Firecracker 58 (58 laps): 1. Jon Reynolds, Jr., 2. Randy Sargent, 3. Jerry Mueller, 4. Devin Schmidt, 5. Drew Bernhagen, 6. Jacob Gille, 7. Tyler Hromadka, 8. Grant Brown, 9. Doug HIllson, 10. Trevor Robinson, 11. Paul Dygon, 12. Kody King, 13. Gregory Borchardt, 14. Hanna Raley, 15. Brady Liddle
Heat #1 (10 laps): 1. Gregory Borchardt, 2. Tyler Hromadka, 3. Drew Bernhagen, 4. Hanna Raley, 5. Brady Liddle, 6. Doug Hillson, 7. Paul Dygon
Heat #2 (10 laps): 1. Randy Sargent, 2. Jon Reynolds, Jr., 3. Kody King, 4. Jerry Mueller, 5. Jacob Gille, 6. Trevor Robinson, 7. Grant Brown, 8. Devin Schmidt
Qualifying: 1. Jacob Gille 15.670, 2. Kody King 15.680, 3. Jon Reynolds, Jr. 15.685, 4. Randy Sargen 15.721, 5. Jerry Mueller 15.815, 6. Grant Brown 15.831, 7. Trevor Robinson 15.852, 8. Devin Schmidt 15.931, 9. Gregory Borchardt 16.054, 10. Brady Liddle 16.078, 11. Hanna Raley 16.311, 12. Tyler Hromadka 16.323, 13. Drew Bernhagen 16.335, 14. Doug Hillson 16.335, 15. Paul Dygon 16.757
Next Race/Friday, July 21: 43rd Annual Larry Detjens Memorial at State Park Speedway in Wausau, Wisconsin