By STEVE EIGHINGER
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Austen Becerra probably deserves more recognition than he's received the past two years.
The soon-to-be 20-year-old driver from the Carthage area has been virtually untouchable in the sport compact division at Quincy Raceways.
Becerra, the defending track champion, has won 20 features at 8000 Broadway — all coming in about a 1 1/2-year window beginning in mid-2012. Once he started winning, he hasn't stopped.
And not just in Quincy.
Becerra has 41 feature victories to his credit the past two-plus seasons. Five of those victories have come since early April at four different tracks in West-Central Illinois and southeast Iowa.
The success Becerra has enjoyed has come the old-fashioned way. He has earned it, relying more on acquired knowledge and guile, rather than checkbook horsepower.
"You don't have to have the best equipment to win races -- because I don't have the best equipment," said Becerra, who led all 15 laps last Sunday in capturing his 20th career feature victory at Quincy.
Barring some sort of mechanical disaster, it won't be the last win at the Bullring.
"Sometimes, you have to go slower to go fast," said Becerra, hinting there is more to racing success than being able to put the pedal to the metal. "You have to learn to read the track, learn about tire pressure and watch (the other races). You have to adapt to the track."
That has not been a problem so far for Becerra, whose main-event victories this season have come at Iowa tracks in Donnellson, West Burlington and Bloomfield, plus his checkered flag in Quincy.
Becerra, who during the week is a welder at Yetter Farm Equipment in Colchester, said at some point in the future he would like to move to the sport mod division. But he's not in a hurry.
He only has one thing on his mind these days.
"I'm just concerned with winning races," Becerra said.
Spotlight on modifieds
The spotlight is on the UMP modifieds Sunday night at Quincy Raceways. What should be a stellar field will chase the $1,000 first-place check in the Miller Lite Original 40.
The 40-lap main event will feature all of the regular hotshoes and should draw some quality out-of-town talent to 8000 Broadway.
Racing will start at 6 p.m.
Here's our forecast for the weekly series at the Bullring:
Pick to click: Michael Long, who looks primed to make a run for his first track title since 2008.
Don't forget about: Keith Pratt, Dave Wietholder, Shawn Deering and Jared Schlipman. All four of those title contenders finished ninth or lower in Week One. That was a collective anomaly, not a developing trend.
That's a fact, Jack: Steven DeLonjay (33) and Michael Long (31) have won a combined 64 of the 95 features in the UMP era at the track
Pick to click: Joey Gower. NASCAR analyst Darrell Waltrip would have described Gower's feature-winning performance last Sunday as "bad fast."
Don't forget about: Tony Dunker. Hey, it's not like the No. 3 car is chopped liver all of a sudden. This should be a great battle all season.
That's a fact, Jack: When Gower topped 65 mph in last Sunday's feature, that marked just the sixth time a sport mod driver reached that speed since the debut of the series in late 2011.
Pick to click: Abe Huls, who has finished first (28) or second (22) in 50 of the 73 stock car features he has raced at the Bullring.
Don't forget about: Terry Houston, who should be back in the pits Sunday night.
That's a fact, Jack: Huls' flag-to-flag victory last Sunday was his sixth since 2010. That equals the number of flag-to-flag victories the rest of the series has produced in that time.
Pick to click: Becerra.
Don't forget about: Dunker, who was closing fast last Sunday when he had the hiccup.
That's a fact, Jack: Kim Abbott's second-place feature finish last week was the 11th of sport compact career at Quincy. That's more than any other driver in the series.
They've got the weekend off. The winged sprints will replace them in Sunday night's lineup.
Gardner Denver racing
Gardner Denver will be featuring a float in the May 3 Dogwood Parade to highlight its sponsorship of the June 21 NASCAR Nationwide Series race in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
"The Gardner Denver 200 Fired Up By Johnsonville" will be at famed Road America and broadcast live on ABC at 1:30 p.m.