QUINCY -- Sunday night at Quincy Raceways served as both a dress rehearsal and a welcome back.
The site plays host to the UMP Summer Nationals Hell Tour July 7 and track officials desperately needed a night of racing to fine-tune operations prior to the arrival of the Hell Tour superstars and their high-powered, ground-pounding late models.
Those nagging spring and early-summer rains have forced eight cancellations already this season. Prior to Sunday evening, the track had been able to run just one show since May 5.
"It has been extremely frustrating," said Jim Lieurance, the second-year race director at 8000 Broadway. "It was very important to get Sunday night in, so we could see what condition the track was in after all of the rainouts."
Doug Mealy, who drove a late model for 10 years (1986-95) and has served as track announcer for the past decade, knows the importance of the Hell Tour date at Quincy from several different perspectives.
"It's always one of the most popular dates on the schedule," Mealy said. "Everyone loves what the Hell Tour represents and admires those who take part. It's unfathomable what those guys who dedicate themselves to that event go through."
This year's Summer Nationals originally featured 32 races in 28 days while criss-crossing eight different Midwestern states. This spring's inclement weather has turned that original docket into even more of a nightmare.
"Just managing the logistics, from clean laundry to driving all night many times to get from one town to another in time for the next day's race, is hard for the average fan to imagine," Mealy said.
Brian Shirley and Bobby Pierce are in a tight battle for the Hell Tour points lead entering this week. The series runs through July 13, ending in Wauseon, Ohio.
The modifieds and sport mods will be the support series for the Quincy Hell Tour stop. All three series will offer impressive paydays -- $5,000 for the Hell Tour late models, $1,000 for the modifieds and up to $1,000 for the sport mods. Sponsorship of the sport event is not yet complete.
Sunday night's feature winners included Austen Becerra in sport mods, Kevin Blackburn in modifieds, Denny Woodworth in the crate late models, Michael Larsen in stock cars and Dakota Girard in sport compacts.
Becerra led the final 11 laps for his first sport mod checkered flag since April 7. Three-time winner and series points leader Adam Birck was second.
Blackburn held off Rick Stevenson, Rick Connoyer and Dave Wietholder to take modified honors in a caution-free 20-lap finale.
Woodworth garnered his third crate late victory in a tight battle with Chuck Mitchell.
Larsen's first stock car win of the season was in flag-to-flag fashion. Steve Dieckman was second.
Girard ended Barry Taft's four-feature win streak in the sport compacts. Girard led the final five laps to outdistance Jeffrey DeLonjay, Taft and Jaden DeLonjay.