After eleven years of waiting, a one hour rain delay was nothing for Bobby Wilberg. 

One of the most notable and consistent drivers in the history of the Big 8 Late Model Series presented Gandrud Chevrolet, Wilberg had never visited victory lane in a Big 8 Series event. That changed Sunday afternoon during the 38th Annual Spring Classic, when Wilberg bested 25 other competitors in the 88 lap season-opening race at Rockford Speedway.

Wilberg, who raced inside the top five all day long, slipped past two-time Big 8 Series champion Casey Johnson with 15 laps to go, following contact entering turn one which sent Johnson towards the turn one wall, ending Johnson's quest for victory and his race.

Johnson, winner of the most recent Big 8 Series event at Rockford last September, started the race from the front row alongside polesitter Rich Schumann Jr. When the green flag dropped, Johnson tip-toed into lead ahead of Schumann and 2014 Rockford Speedway champion Jon Reynolds Jr. As the top three tried to pull away, mayhem ensued behind them as Austin Nason and Michael Bachaus came together in turn three. The contact sent Bachaus sideways, collecting Kyle Shear and forcing evasive action out of the eighteen drivers behind them. When the smoke cleared, eleven cars became collected in the melee, including several cars who started the event in the middle of the pack. Despite the large sum of cars involved, most drivers were able to drive away from the scene, with about half of those involved rejoining the field following work in the pit area.

When the race resumed, Johnson was able to clear the field and ride alone at the front. The battle for second heated up, with Wilberg and Jake Gille eventually driving past both Reynolds and Schumann. Shortly after the restart, Schumann's car began to slow, and the former Dells Raceway Park champion drove his car to the pit area and ended his day. Following Schumann's departure, the longest green-flag run of the day began with a 31 lap jaunt which saw the top three of Johnson, Wilberg and Gille separating themselves from the field. Over the course of the race's next 60 laps, Wilberg and Gille would trade second position numerous times. Both racers also were able to take their best shot at Johnson, with the Edgerton Wisconsin native able to hold off each and every challenge.

As the race wore on, raindrops began to trickle from the sky. The race was finally yellow flagged for weather with 20 laps to go and after several minutes of circling the track trying to stay ahead of the weather, the field was sent to pit road. Over the course of the next hour, light rain tapered on and off but after a sizable wait, the field of Late Models was summoned back to the track to complete the final 20 laps.

When the race resumed, Johnson lead Gille and Wilberg to green. Wilberg got the best of Gille on the bottom groove and set his sights on Johnson. The two racers then became bumper to bumper, with Wilberg delivering a bump to Johnson entering turn one on the 73rd lap. Johnson's car wobbled and ended up smacking the outside wall with the right rear. The impact disabled the rear end of Johnson's machine, ending the former race leader's day one lap later.

After the caution flew, Johnson's machine stopped in turn two. Johnson emerged from the vehicle visibly displeased with the situation and the abrupt end to his day. When the action picked back up, it was Wilberg ahead of Gille, with Reynolds restarting on the bottom of the track in third. Reynolds and Gille raced hard for second over the final laps, leading to Wilberg's escape to the checkered flag. Jake Gille ended the race in second place, his best ever Big 8 Series finish. Reynolds' steady effort was rewarded with a third place finish. Michael Bachaus fought back from his second lap misfortune to finish the race in fourth place, while Elkhorn Wisconsin's Wayne Freimund rounded out the top five. 

Wilberg was also the afternoon's Fast Qualifier, turning a lap of 13.808 in Quartermaster Time Trials. 2014 Big 8 Series Rookie of the Year Collin Olson was the Powersource Power Mover of the Race, advancing fifteen positions from 24th to 9th over the course of 88 laps. 

The next race for the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet is scheduled for Friday night June 5 at Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids Iowa, the first ever trip for the Series to the Hawkeye State. 

Big 8 Late Model Series Spring Classic
Rockford (IL) Speedway

1. Bobby Wilberg  Beloit WI 
2. Jacob Gille Machesney Park 
3. Jon Reynolds Jr  Rockford 
4. Michael Bachaus  Columbia City, IN
5. Wayne Freimund  Elkhorn WI 
6. Michael Bilderback  South Beloit 
7. Dana Czach  Wauconda 
8. Josh Nelms  Lockport 
9. Collin Olson Maplewood MN 
10. Duke Long  West Bend WI 
11. Dave Edwards  Salem WI 
12. Casey Johnson  Edgerton WI 
13. Austin Nason  Roscoe  
14. John Beinlich  Prairie View 
15. Cole Anderson (R) Northfield MN 
16. Tony Brutti  Dyer IN 
17. Michael Ostdiek  Lakeville, MN
18. Tory Adams  Madison WI 
19. Alex Papini Machesney Park 
20. Adam Peschek  Oconomowoc WI
21. Rich Schumann Jr  Portage WI 
22. Kyle Shear  Roscoe 
23. Mike Lloyd  Davis 
24. J. Herbst West Salem WI
25. Adam Bendzick (R), Elko MN 
26. Michael Clapper  Dane WI


What: 38th Annual Spring Classic

Where: Rockford Speedway (located at 9572 Forest Hills Rd Loves Park, IL) 

When: Sunday April 12 

Schedule and Information: 
7 AM- Pits Open, Breakfast in Pit Concession
8 AM- Chapel Service in South VIP Tower
8:45 AM- Big 8 Series Driver’s Meeting in Pit Stands
9:30 AM- Rotating Practice (until 11:25 AM)
11 AM- Front Gate Opens
11:30 AM- Qualifying (All divisions-2 laps)
12:45 PM- Opening Ceremonies

Divisions Competing: 
Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet 
(complete show highlighted by an 88 lap feature)
Quest Industrial Mid-American Stock Car Series 
(complete show highlighted by a 50 lap feature)
American Ethanol Super Truck Series
(Twin 25 lap features)

Admission Prices: 
Adults: $20
Students (ages 12-17) & Seniors: $10
Children (ages 6-11): $5
Kids 5 & under: FREE

Final 2014 Big 8 Series Point Standings (Top 10)
1.    #5    Casey Johnson        937 (4 wins)
2.    #14    Austin Nason        928 (3 wins)    
3.    #X    Jon Reynolds Jr        714 (3 wins)
4.    #51    Dale Nottestad            671
5.    #7    John DeAngelis Jr    644
6.    #82     J Herbst            590
7.    #5    Dave Edwards        561
8.    #28    Jesse Bernhagen            537
9.    #52    Steve Dobbratz        421
10.    #23    Casey Strese        420

Past Big 8 ‘Spring Classic’ Winners:
2013- Alex Papini        Machesney Park, IL
2012- Jon Reynolds Jr.    Rockford, IL

2011- Dale Nottestad        Cambridge, WI
2010- Casey Johnson        Edgerton, WI
2008- Michael Bilderback    South Beloit, IL
2007- Mike Ehde        Prairie du Chien, WI        
2006- Mike Beyer        Machesney Park, IL         
2005- Mike Beyer        Machesney Park, IL
--(2009 and 2014 feature events were Rained Out)--
THIS YEAR: One of the most interesting Spring Classic fields in recent memory will battle for first place this Sunday afternoon at Rockford Speedway. Leading the way are the two drivers who battled for the championship last year, Casey Johnson and Austin Nason. Johnson won the last Big 8 race at Rockford in thrilling fashion, besting Nason and Dale Nottestad in a ‘green-white-checkered’ scramble that ended three-wide at the finish line. Nason has already won a race in 2015, at the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in New Smyrna Florida during February’s ‘Speedweeks.’ Despite racing ten minutes from home Sunday, Nason and crew will put on nearly 700 miles this weekend, as the teenager races a Super Late Model Saturday afternoon in Toledo, OH.

Other drivers to watch this weekend include South Beloit’s Michael Bilderback, who will race a Dodge Charger fielded by Wisconsin racer Adam Peschek. Bilderback is no stranger to success at Rockford, becoming the youngest winner of Spring Classic in 2008 while also winning the 2012 ‘All Star 100.’ Lockport’s Josh Nelms looks to make his first Big 8 Series start on Sunday. Nelms was crowned the 2006 Late Model Rookie of the Year at Rockford and also claimed victory in the 200 lap National Short Track Championship in 2009. Two-time NASCAR Illinois State Champion and 2013 Rockford Speedway Track Champion Alex Papini is not only is looking to win a second consecutive Big 8 Spring Classic on Sunday, but also plans to attempt his first ever Mid-American Series start the same day.

Sun April 12- 38th Annual Spring Classic (Rockford Speedway, Loves Park IL)
Fri June 5- Hibu 'Hawkeye Stakes' (Hawkeye Downs Raceway, Cedar Rapids, IA)
Fri June 26- Salute to America (Madison International Speedway, Oregon WI)
Fri July 24- Larry Detjens Memorial Race (State Park Speedway, Wausau WI)
Tues Aug 4- Gandrud Chevrolet Dixieland Delight (Wisconsin Int’l Raceway, Kaukauna WI)
Sat Sept 26- 7th Annual ‘Thunderstruck 93’ (Elko Speedway, Elko New Market, MN)
Sat Oct 3- 50th Anniversary National Short Track Championships (Rockford Speedway)
Sat Oct 10- 46th Oktoberfest Race Weekend (La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway, West Salem, WI) 

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please visit www.big8series.com


By: Eric Huenefeld

The state of Minnesota has become a hotbed for Big 8 Late Model Series racing in recent years.

It started in 2012 with the introduction of ‘Big 8 style’ Late Models at Elko Speedway and was followed in September of that same year with a non-points Big 8 race at the ‘Thunderstruck’ Race Weekend, featuring local racers and some of the Big 8’s best. 

Olson was crowned Big 8 Series Rookie of the Year, while in 2013 Lakeville’s Chris Marek won two of the series’ final three shows. 

This season, a pair of Minnesota racers has thrown their hat in the ring to compete for the Big 8 Late Model Series Rookie of the Year. First is Elko native Adam Bendzick, a driver who is no stranger to the high banks of Rockford (IL) Speedway, the first stop of the season for the Big 8 Late Model Series this Sunday April 12. Bendzick won the Mid American Stock Car Series ‘Spring Classic’ at Rockford Speedway two years ago and has also saw success at his home track in his hometown, finishing second in Mid American Sportsman points at Elko Speedway in 2008 while also being voted ‘Driver of the Year’ in the division.


The competitive style of short track excitement that the Big 8 Late Model Series is known for has been one that’s caught on in the ‘Land of 10,000 Lakes.’ The number of Minnesota racers trying their hand at running across the Midwest with the ‘Best Weekly Warriors in the Country’ has also increased. Last year, Maplewood native Collin 

Northfield Minnesota’s Cole Anderson also intends to chase the Big 8 Rookie of the Year in 2015. Anderson, currently a Junior in High School, had a stellar showing at his home track last year, finishing fourth in points with three feature wins and three fast times at Elko. Anderson and crew also made the voyage to Florida last December, participating in the Snowflake 100 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola Florida. This weekend’s season opening race at Rockford Speedway will be Anderson’s first ever trip to the historic northern Illinois facility. 

Bendzick, Anderson and the rest of the Big 8’s best will open their season this Sunday afternoon April 12 as part of the 38th Annual Spring Classic at Rockford Speedway. The main event of the afternoon will be an 88 lap feature for the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet. Joining the Big 8 on the Sunday afternoon card is the Quest Industrial Mid-American Stock Car Series and the American Ethanol Super Truck Series. Grandstands open at 11 AM, with Qualifying at 11:30 AM and the first race at 1 PM. Adult admission is $20, Students (age 12-17) & Seniors are $10, Children (ages 6-11) are $5 while Kids 5 and under are FREE.

For more information on Rockford Speedway and the 38th Annual Spring Classic, please visit www.rockfordspeedway.com or call 815-633-1500. 

For more information on the Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet, please visit www.big8series.com.  

2015 Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet Schedule

Sunday April 12- Rockford Speedway (Loves Park, IL)
38th Annual Spring Classic (88 laps) 

Friday June 5- Hawkeye Downs (Cedar Rapids, IA)
Inaugural Event (48 laps)

Friday June 26- Madison International Speedway (Oregon, WI)
Salute to America (48 laps)

Friday July 24- State Park Speedway (Wausau, WI)
Larry Detjens Memorial Weekend (58 laps)

Tuesday August 4- Wisconsin International Raceway (Kaukauna, WI)
‘Dixieland Delight’ (38 laps)

Saturday Sept 26- Elko (MN) Speedway
7th Annual Thunderstruck ‘93’ (58 laps)

Saturday October 3- Rockford Speedway (Loves Park, IL)
50th Anniversary National Short Track Championships (108 laps)

Saturday October 10- La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway (West Salem, WI)
46th Annual Oktoberfest Race Weekend (68 laps)