BILLINGS, Mont. – Phil Dietz all but wrapped up the Big Sky Sprints championship on Friday night when he took the checkered flag on the opening night of the Dan Laber Challenge Series at Billings Motorsports Park, leading all 25 laps of the main event.
It was the fourth victory of the season on the Big Sky circuit for the Laurel, Mont. driver, who extended his lead over defending series champion Trevor Kirkland of Helena, Mont.
Dietz, driving the Provost Racing No. 72 RFast-powered GF1, started on the pole via the pill draw. Unless he was in thick traffic, he was almost never challenged. Billings driver David Hoiness, who started outside the front row, would often close in very quickly on Dietz whenever they came up on slower cars, but couldn’t find a way around Dietz on a track that took a lot of rubber.
“We’ve definitely proven that we’ve got the car to beat,” Dietz said. “Hopefully we find nothing wrong with it in the shop tomorrow morning, but I’m sure we won’t. The track was challenging. You came up on (traffic) so fast and you don’t know where they were going.”
Kirkland, driving the Bob & Cogie Back No. 37 Shark-powered JEI, made a late race pass around Hoiness to finish second.
“It was fun. It was good to try to race with Phil a little bit,” Kirkland quipped, regarding everyone chasing Dietz lately. “Basically tried to conserve tires. You know rubber down race tracks. You have to save your tires.”
After running second most of the race, Hoiness settled for third place aboard the Hoiness Racing No. 27dd Wesmar-powered J&J, giving him another podium finish on the season.
“I think getting in traffic was the only way to get around someone tonight,” said Hoiness, who aside from struggling to get around Dietz was otherwise satisfied with his finish. “You got up on traffic so fast out there. It keeps you on your toes. I thought I could catch Phil making a mistake. We had a good car, but so did Phil.”
Tenth starting Randi Miller of Rapid City, South Dakota passed several cars early and eventually settled into sixth place, eventually working his way around a couple of more cars to finish fourth in the Wurl & Hopkins No. 90 Liebig-powered Schnee. Clint Anderson, from Bellefourche, S. Dakota, finished fifth in the Carbaugh-Anderson Racing No. 9a Frisk-powered Maxim.
Josh Ostermiller, who started 20th on the grid after a heat race accident, charged through the field to take a strong sixth place finish, followed by Dan Mansfield and Vernon Hill. 22nd starting Jeremy McCune charged into the Top 10 early in the race, only to get involved in a multi-car accident with ten laps completed. McCune, however, would race his way back through the field to finish ninth. John Carbaugh rounded out the Top 10.
Jerry Brey and John Biggins each had Top 10 runs ruined by mechanical issues that forced them off the track.
With his victory, Dietz is also the points leader for the weekend in the newly resurrected Dan Laber Challenge Series, which had not been run since 2000. The driver with the most points over the two nights of competition at Billings Motorsports Park will be the winner of the event, which is named for the sprint car driver who lost his life in an accident at the old Magic City Speedway (then called Yellowstone Speedway) in 1988. The two-day event run in his memory had become a staple of Montana sprint car racing in the early 1990’s.
“I’m excited (to be leading the weekend points),” Dietz said. “The last one was 2000 and that was only my second year racing. To win this first one back would be cool. Hopefully we’ll do well enough tomorrow and earn enough points. That cup would be great to have on the the trophy shelf.”
A new permanent plaque with the names of all winners of the Dan Laber Challenge Series will be placed in the Montana exhibit at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa.
Heat races were won by Dietz, Jerry Brey, and Anderson. The Big Sky Sprints concludes its seventh season of competition Saturday with the second night of the Dan Laber Challenge Series at Billings Motorsports Park. More information on the Big Sky Sprints can be found online at http://www.bigskysprints.com.
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Past Dan Laber Memorial Challenge Series winners
1988 – Steve Beitler
1989 – Steve Celar
1990 – Steve Celar
1991 – Bill Boyce
1992 – Wade Fleming
1993 – Marc Huson
1994 – Bill Boyce
2000 – Bill Boyce
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Big Sky Sprints
Dan Laber Memorial Challenge Series – Night 1
Billings Motorsports Park
September 21, 2012
Heat 1 (10 laps): 1. 72 Phil Dietz, 2. 27dd David Hoiness, 3. 83 John Biggins, 4. 2w Wheeler Boys, 5. 44 Damon McCune, 6. 05 Justin Medlock, 7. 0J Jeremy McCune.
Heat 2 (10 laps): 1. 85a Jerry Brey, 2. 37 Trevor Kirkland, 3. 90 Randi Miller, 4. 8 Dan Mansfield, 5. 19 John Carbaugh, 6. 77x Nate Maxwell, 7. 7 Brian Robison, 8. 35 Chip Roe.
Heat 3 (10 laps): 1. 9a Clint Anderson, 2. 1x Vernon Hill, 3. 38 Bryan Brown, 4. 28 Nick Reiter, 5. 4 Adam Speckman, 6. 77 Mark Sweet, 7. 12 Josh Ostermiller, 8. 77w John White.
Feature (25 laps): 1. 72 Phil Dietz, 2. 37 Trevor Kirkland, 3. 27dd David Hoiness, 4. 90 Randi Miller, 5. 9a Clint Anderson, 6. 12 Josh Ostermiller, 7. 8 Dan Mansfield, 8. 1x Vernon Hill, 9. 0J Jeremy McCune, 10. 19 John Carbaugh, 11. 44 Damon McCune, 12. 4 Adam Speckman, 13. 2w Wheeler Boys, 14. 35 Chip Roe, 15. 28 Nick Reiter, 16. 05 Justin Medlock, 17. 7 Brian Robison, 18. 77 Mark Sweet, 19. 77w John White, 20. 85a Jerry Brey, 21. 83 John Biggins, 22. 38 Bryan Brown, 23. 77x Nate Maxwell.
Lap leaders: Phil Dietz 1-25
Big Sky Sprints