Although Mother Nature didn't provide much help this past weekend, the 36th Annual Cecil Harlan Memorial Kegger, presented by Smith Auto Group is now in the books.
Racing action was set to start on Thursday night, March 26th, with an open practice session, but rain during the night and early morning forced the cancellation and also caused everyone to take on the track Friday night for qualifying without any seat time on the new surface and configuration.
During the winter the track changed ownership for only its fourth time in its 44 year, storied history. With the new ownership also came the change in sanctioning to IMCA, improved and rebuilt facilities and a new track surface. The changes included rebuilding some of the under-structure of the grandstands, improvements to the bathroom facilities and a brand new concession stands, both upstairs and down. The racing surface received 350 loads of new red clay, a slight decrease in banking and wider turns creating a very wide, multi-groove racing surface.
Mother Nature didn't just have her hand in this past weekend's activities, but also for most of this year. When the new owner, Carey Menasco, was finally able to get the new clay hauled in, we had snow, rain and ice for a few weeks in a row causing a lot of the new red clay to absorb a lot of moisture deep inside. Even though the surface was smooth and even dusty at times, the moisture in \the low grooves of both turns kept creeping up to the surface causing those areas to be extra soft and to develop some ruts during Friday's qualifying races. Track prep was undertaken again and once again, the track was smooth early on Saturday night for last chance qualifying and main features, but Mother Natures’ previous actions came back once again with the soft clay in the bottom of the turns. However, with the new wider turns, there were two alternate lines above and below the soft area if a driver chose to run them.
Friday’s qualifying action saw 82 cars challenge the legendary track for their chance at locking into the top four A Feature positions or the top four B Feature positions. The top A Feature qualifiers were Dennis Slader (19 - Muskogee, OK), Andrew Bohanan (X - Stigler, OK), Gene Gore (76 - Muldrow, OK) and Clifton Drummond (21JR - Mountainburg, AR) in the Pure Stocks; Aaron Scroggins (1/3 - Neosho, MO), Levi Chipp (66 - Hampton, IA), Kyle Stevens (12X - Tahlequah, OK) and Logan Ellis (118 - Wagoner, OK) in the IMCA Sport Mods; Jay Anderson (D28 - Springdale, AR), Mike Wiseman (DT1 - Muskogee, OK), Chris Patterson (48 - Greenwood, AR) and Wesley Taylor\r (3 - Eufaula, OK) in the Factory/I Stocks; Danny Womack (3 - Bixby, OK), Tate Cole (89 - Muskogee, OK), Ronny Gould (1 - Calera, OK) and Daniel Tarkington (3X- Checotah, OK) in the IMCA Modifieds; plus Neil Johnston (17 - Fort Smith, AR), Dale Richardson (327 - Muskogee, OK), Dylan Davlin (26D - Shady Point, OK) and Mikey Bell (7X - Red Bud, AR) in the Super Stocks.
Saturday's action got underway at 7:40 PM with a memorial parade lap by the drivers, being escorted by vehicles from the Smith Auto Group, during the National Anthem for former longtime owner and promoter Cecil Harlan, as well as for the recent passing of Truman Phipps who was known by many for his racing, chassis building and friendship. The parade lap was followed by a trackside interview with Cecil's daughter Tamyra Hanna, who also waved the first green flag of official racing for the night. With 110 cars on hand for last chance qualifying, the action was fast and furious. With bone-chilling wind gusts at 30 mph, the fans in the packed stands were definitely ready for some warmth from some of the great new food items from the new concessions including some mouth-watering, finger-licking BBQ ribs.
The B Feature winners from Saturday night included Miranda Carver (40 - Lockesburg, AR) in the Pure Stocks, Kayden Menasco (49 - McAlester, OK) with his first feature win in the IMCA Sport Mods, Andrew Bohanan (7A - Stigler, OK) in the Factory/I Stocks, Kyle Slader (19S - Muskogee, OK) in the Super Stocks, Steve Muilenburg (33 - Sparta, MO) in the IMCA Modifieds, James Poe (919 - Gravette, AR) in the Front Wheel Drives and Carl Tuck, III (6 - Kibler, AR) in the Mini-Stocks.
The big money winners from Saturday night included, Dennis Slader (19 - Muskogee, OK) in the Pure Stocks, Steve Muilenburg (39 - Sparta, MO) in the IMCA Sport Mods after repairing his car from a roll over on Friday night, Andrew Bohanan (7A - Stigler, OK) in the Factory/I Stocks, Dale Richardson (327 - Muskogee, OK) in the Super Stocks, Tae Cole (89 - Muskogee, OK) in the IMCA Modifieds, James Poe (919 - Gravette, AR) in the Front Wheel Drives, Christopher Tuck (6T - Mulberry, AR) in the Mini-Stocks and Dillon Rupe (52 - Broken Arrow, OK) in the Late Model Dash for Cash.
Racing continues this weekend, April 4th, with regular point racing in all classes, plus the Easter Bunny will be on hand for free photos and candy with the kids. Pit gates open at 4 PM with the grandstands opening at 5 PM and racing scheduled to start at 7 PM in Pocola, OK. Admission pricing as well as the full schedule for 2015 and more can be found elsewhere on this site.
You can see complete results from all of this last weekend's racing, including heats, by clicking here.
We will see you soon!