Goodguys 29th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals AutoCross Recap
It’s been 8 long months since Goodguys AutoCross racers were able to lay on the throttle and carve corners, but that drought ended last weekend at the 29th Speedway Motors Heartland Nationals presented by BASF as racers from all over the country converged to Iowa and packed the pits for a sun-filled weekend of racing competition.
The hot forecast was welcomed by the racers guaranteeing non-stop action all three days, but the heat brought its own challenges varying the track surface conditions and taking a toll on the racers themselves. The new Goodguys AutoCross rules and event structure for 2020 was welcomed by many, especially the new 4-car shootout format for each class. A few drivers were able to double-up by claiming both their class win as well as a shootout victory. And here’s how it all shook down…
The PRO-X class saw five racers entered, but it was Josh Leisinger’s event to lose from the get. Each driver got 10+ runs over the course of the weekend, but Josh was on-point behind the wheel of his Summit Racing 1964 Corvette. His first lap on Friday carded him a 35.816, which ended up being his slowest pass of the weekend, and he won the PRO-X class with a fastest time of 34.325 – 13 runs in total and he deviated less than a second-and-a-half between them all! Robby Unser was behind the wheel of the Team Speedway 1970 Camaro in Iowa and carded a second-place finish with a best time of 35.238. Roger Burman hopped in the vacant seat normally occupied by Jared Leisinger in the Summit Racing 1960 Corvette Roadster and although he hasn’t AutoCross raced in a few years Burman netted a Top 3 finish with a best time of 35.529. Darren Djernes and Jeff Smalley rounded out the top five with finishing times of 35.983 and 43.390.
The PRO class had a stacked field with 15 drivers vying for the top spot. Tyler Gibson, Ron Scott Jr., and Rich Gregory were battling all weekend and the lead swapped hands more than a few times between these drivers on Friday and early Saturday. It wasn’t until late Saturday afternoon when all three started dabbling with the low 35-second zone, with each driver carding their best time of the weekend in one of their final 4 attempts. In the end, Gibson came out on top driving his 1972 International Scout to a best time of 35.352. Ron Scott Jr. would finish second in his 1963 Corvette with a 35.491, but would go on to claim the PRO Class Dual in Des Moines Shootout win on Saturday evening. Gregory would claim third in his 1969 Corvette with a 35.833. Rounding out the top 5 was Bob Bertelsen’s 1968 Corvette and Craig Johnson’s 1969 Nova with best times of 36.185 and 36.541.
Even more competition was found in the Street Machine class with 32 racers putting their machines to the test on the timed course. A trend from 2019 seems to be repeating itself as familiar names finished in the top 3 spots once again – those names being Bill Graves Sr., Tim Molzen, and Chris Jacobs. When these three show up at the same event it adds another layer of excitement as there’s never a clear-cut winner. Bill Graves Sr. defended his 2019 Street Machine AutoCross Class Championship in Iowa and left with the class win driving his 1966 Corvette to a fast time of 35.650. Molzen finished a close second with a 35.708. Jacobs carded a third-place finish driving the CHRA 1987 Corvette to a best time of 35.798, but left Iowa a winner by claiming the Street Machine Dual in Des Moines Shootout win on Saturday evening. Justin Nall’s 1966 Corvette finished fourth with a best run of 36.492 and Tom McBride rounded out the Top 5 in his 1987 Corvette with a best of 36.528.
Seven Trucks entered the AutoCross competition, but Josh Howe ran the table all weekend driving his Schwartz Performance-equipped 1986 El Camino to both the Truck class win as well as the combined Truck/Hot Rod Dual in Des Moines Shootout victory. It wasn’t until Howe’s final run on Saturday that he was able to card his best time of 38.935 and get into that 38-second zone that eluded him all weekend. The battle for second place was a tight one with Dick Speed driving his 1956 F100 and Kaycee Howe in her 1948 Jeep going back and forth. Speed came out on top with a fast run of 42.160 to Howe’s best of 42.311. Mike White’s 1970 C10 finished fourth with a 43.342 and Gordon Ferguson’s 1952 Chevy 3100 claimed fifth with a 46.512.
In the Hot Rod class we saw three racers duking it out. Aaron Boles and Stan Martin were both driving Stan’s 1930 Model A and finished 1 and 2, Boles claiming the win with a 41.972 to Martin’s 42.496. Kevin Houlihan’s 1941 Chevy was right there with them and claimed a third-place finish with a best time of 43.235.
All American Sunday
Sunday brought out the late models and it was Josh Jones who dominated the competition in his Corvette doubling up with the overall fastest class time win (36.329), as well as winning three rounds in the All American Shootout to claim the 8-car shootout victory on Sunday.
Photos by Terry Lysak