Sunday, January 2, 2022

The World Dirt Racing League (Part 2)

The "Marquette Missile" Kyle Berck would win the inaugural WDRL championship. - Lance Goins Photo

by Lee Ackerman 

Omaha, Neb. - Many of the WDRL Series regular drivers made the long pull to the Superior Speedway in Superior, Wisconsin on August 5, and when the dust had settled it was New Richmond, Wisconsin’s Pat Doar standing in victory lane.

Doar and his black number 11 started eighth in the 24-car, 50-lap main event which saw the caution flag wave seven times. At the drop of the green, it was Dave Eckrich taking the point with John Hampel, Don Copp and Ace Ihm in pursuit. Three laps into the action Mitch Johnson and John Anderson got together in turn two.

When the green waved Hampel and Berck battled for second behind Eckrich with Copp and Doar battling for fourth. Then Ihm spun in turn two bringing out caution number two. This time on the restart it was Eckrich, Berck and Doar moving into third up high. Shortly it was Berck to the point for a short time before Doar, still running high on the track, taking the lead.

Doar started to run away from the field and had a straightaway lead when Ed Kosiski spun with 31 laps remaining. Two laps after that caution, the yellow waved again with Copp going pit side. Then as the green waved Rusty Seaver spun bring out the yellow again.

Finally, with a clean restart Berck took a shot at Doar but to no avail and it did not take Doar long to catch the back of the back. At the half-way mark it was Doar, Berck, Hampel. Ihm and Ryan Aho. Following the final yellow, Berck took one last shot at Doar but came up short and Doar widened the gap on his way to the checkers.

At the line it was Doar, Berck, Ed Kosiski, Hampel and Donnie McClellan. Heats went to Todd Gehl, Eckrich, Ihm and Aho. Steve Laursen won the consolation event and Eckrich bested Hampel and Copp in the dash.

Gary Webb accepts his trophy for winning at West Union. - Scott Tjabring Photo

Two days later, on August 7 the Mr. Goodcents WDRL series visited the Fayette County Speedway in West Union, Iowa where Gary Webb of Blue Grass, Iowa picked up the win in the Mr. Goodcents 50.

Starting on the inside of the second row, Webb dove to the bottom at the drop on the green and shot under front row starters Denny Eckrich and Kyle Berck to grab the lead. The caution waved on lap two and on the restart Webb, Berck and Brian Birkhofer waged a wheel-to-wheel battle over the next 20 laps with Webb running low and Berck challenging on the high side.

On lap 22, Birkhofer got under Berck to claim second on the 3/8-mile oval but could never mount a serious challenge to Webb. Webb ran the bottom the entire length of the event and skillfully worked his way through traffic to pick up the win by ten car lengths over Birkhofer. Following Webb and Birkhofer to the line were Berck, Darren Miller and Chris Smyser.

“This is definitely the high point of the summer for us,” said Webb in victory lane. “We’ve kind of struggled a bit, so this is a good win. The win gave Webb a $6,000 payday.

“I knew we had a good car tonight, so I went to the bottom from the start,” added Webb. “I think Denny (Eckrich) washed out a little, and I think Kyle (Berck) challenging me on the outside, but I decided we were either going to win this thing or finish tenth, but we were going to stay on the bottom.”

Qualifying events went to Dave Eckrich of Oxford over Webb, Berck over Kevin Kile of West Liberty and Rob Toland of Hillsdale, Illinois over Birkhofer. Milan, Illinois Ray Guss, Jr. claimed the consolation event over Marshalltown’s Darrell DeFrance.

Dan Schlieper is shown in victory lane after winning the WDRL main event at Pecatonica. - Chuck Barton Photo

The following night the series traveled to the Winnebago County Speedway in Pecatonica, Illinois where “the Wisconsin Wildman” Dan Schlieper became the ninth different winner in 10 series events.

Starting on the outside front row Schlieper got the jump on pole sitter Brian Birkhofer when the green flag waved, but “Birky” stayed glued to Schlieper and took the lead in turn four of lap 4. Two circuits later and the pair were already in lapped traffic.

As the two cleared turn two on lap 8, Schlieper took back the point from Birkhofer but the two continued to stage wheel-to-wheel racing until lap 14, when a lapped car crashed into the tire barrier on the backstretch. Birkhofer was caught up in the crash and his car sustained front end damage that eliminated him from further competition.

When the green waved again, Schlieper took control of the event surviving several more caution flags and late race challenges from Dave and Denny Eckrich to secure the win. Following Schlieper to the line were Denny Eckrich, Gary Webb, Dave Eckrich and Brian Harris. Schlieper, Birkhofer, Ely, Iowa’s Terry Neal won qualifiers with Birkhofer taking the pole dash.

Forty-six late models were on hand when the series visited Nebraska Raceway Park near Greenwood, Nebraska for the Cornhusker Classic. When it was time for the 50-lap feature it was “the Thriller” Darren Miller of Chadwick, Illinois behind the wheel of his NAPA Auto Parts/MasterSbilt race car starting on the pole.

Early in the event Miller had to fight off the challenges of series point’s leader Kyle Berck before Berck retired from the race on lap 15. Following Berck’s exit from the race Henderson, Colorado’s Kelly Boen inherited the runner up spot until lap 35 when Iowa City’s Matt Furman roared off the bottom and into the position. Late in the race Miller’s big challenge was two restarts and he survived them both, holding off Furman for the win.

“A win over here feels really good,” said Miller following his win. “We’ve had a good year this year, but a win like this is overdue. Miller took home $5,000 for the win.

“The racetrack was pretty interesting tonight,” continued Miller. “It was super tacky at the start but by the end it got really slick. There was a bit of a cushion in turns one and two and when I went up there after the last start, I couldn’t believe how fast it was.”

A lap 43 restart gave Miller a real scare when before the green had waved Miller’s car got a nudge from behind that sent the field scattering. “I thought the leader could start the race at the pace he wanted.” noted Miller. “Boen got me turned sideways, and then somebody else came in from behind and got my rear wheels off the ground. I just slowed down because I knew the restart wasn’t going to stick.”

Furman crossed the finish line in second behind Miller, but his car failed a post-race inspection, and he was disqualified. The official order was Miller, Boen, Denny Eckrich, Skip Frey, and Delbert Smith.

Heat race wins went to Berck, Denny Eckrich, Boen and Furman. Consolation races went to Joe Kosiski and Todd Davis with Miller winning the pole dash.

Denny Eckrich would win the WDRL finale at Denison. - Speed Shots Photo

The following weekend was the finale for the Mr. Goodcents World Dirt Racing League when the series invaded the Crawford County Speedway in Denison, Iowa for the Hawkeye 100. The only 100-lap race of the season for the series turned out to be a great ending to the 2002 racing season as Denny Eckrich held off the charges of Ray Guss, Jr. John Seitz, and Brian Harris to take the win.

Eckrich became the 11th winner in 12 WDRL events. When the season had ended, 188 super late models had competed in series events with an average car count of 35.9 cars per event. 

“The Marquette Missile” Kyle Berck won the championship with 1,594 points, Joe Kosiski was second with 1,502, Ed Kosiski third with 1,312, Donnie McClellan fourth with 1,296 and Gary Webb fifth with 1,046.

The World Dirt Racing League would continue to provide outstanding racing throughout the Iowa and Nebraska and surrounding areas through the 2009 racing season.


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