By: Skip Erickson

With six different leaders and an unforgettable finish, Friday night's "Clash at the Downs II" at Hawkeye Downs had a little something for everyone.

The ending of the 48 lap feature played like that old TV catchphrase "the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat."

Young guns Caleb Adrian and Michael Bilderback fought hard for the win over the race's final few laps, with Bilderback trying to start the season 2-for-2 in Big 8 competition, while Adrian was looking to become a repeat winner of "Clash at the Downs." As the two drivers hustled through lap traffic and approached the white flag, contact was made between both, with each driver's machines wiggling  off the fourth turn. With Bilderback barley able to straighten his car up just enough, Adrian's machine would not cooperate, sending the defending race winner backwards into turn one, where his Chevrolet backed into the outer retaining wall. 

With the leaders taking the white flag, the race was scored complete. Bilderback gained the victory, his second Big 8 Series win to start 2016 and third Late Model victory of the season overall. Adrian, who lead off and on throughout the 48 lap race and was a contender for the win all evening, was credited with twelfth place in the final running order. 

Griffin McGrath, who started the race from the tenth position, was credited with second place, while last year's event runner-up J Herbst came home in third. Herbst, who lead during the middle stages of the 48 lapper, also set the new Big 8 Late Model Series track record in qualifying.

2012 Big 8 Series Rookie of the Year Jesse Bernhagen came home in fourth place, while veteran Mike Ehde rounded out the top five. Bernhagen and Ehde were among six drivers who battled for the fourth position over the course of the final 20 laps of the event. Jeremy Miller fought back from a slow start to garner a sixth place result, followed by Zach Less, a seventh place finisher in his first ever Big 8 Series start.

Teenagers Brody Willett and Grant Greisbach finished eighth and ninth. The ninth place for Greisbach was his third career Big 8 Series top-ten finish. Elkhorn Wisconsin's Wayne Freimund picked up the Powersource 'Power Mover of the Race' Award, advancing 12 positions from his starting spot outside of row eleven to a tenth place finish. 

Preliminary race winners included Ehde and Willett, along with Jerry Mueller and Jared Duda. Twenty-seven Big 8 Series Late Models made the trip to the legendary half-mile oval in eastern Iowa. 




By: Eric Huenefeld


Reigning Big 8 Late Model Series champion Michael Bilderback began his title defense in commanding fashion on Sunday afternoon at Rockford Speedway.


The 24 year old from South Beloit began the day by setting the new Big 8 Series Track Record in Qualifying and ended the day in victory lane as the winner of the 39th Annual Spring Classic, becoming just the seventh man to win the event multiple times.


Bilderback's road to the front began from fifth position while former Spring Classic winner Dale Nottestad and former Rockford Speedway Rookie of the Year Mitch Garfield led the field of 24 Big 8 Late Models to green for the 88 lap showdown. As the race took flight, it was Garfield who held the early advantage over Nottestad by a matter of a few feet, but on the fourth lap, Nottestad was able to slip ahead of Garfield for the lead. Soon after, Nottestad assumed the lead for himself, with two-time Big 8 Series champion Casey Johnson hot on his trail.


Nottestad and Johnson then raced away from the field, while Bilderback forged ahead to third. As the race wore on, Bilderback began to work over Johnson for the runner up spot. However, the battle never really materialized as Johnson's car suddenly slowed, bringing out a caution flag and ending his day. With Johnson's exit at lap 30, it set up a race at the front between Nottestad and Bilderback. Over the course of the next 23 laps, the two racers bobbed and weaved through lap traffic, with Bilderback able to get beside Nottestad at lap 50. After three laps of close-quarters racing, Bilderback steamed ahead of Nottestad for good on the 54th lap.


Bilderback was never seriously challenged again, although three yellow flags in the race's final 18 laps made things interesting and shook up the rest of the running order. Many top contenders, including Garfield, reigning Rockford Speedway champion Jake Gille and Kyle Shear, fell out of the event over the final 25 laps with varying mechanical woes. When the checkered flag flew, it was Bilderback winning his fourth career Big 8 Series main event, with Nottestad finishing in a distant second. Rich Schumann Jr made big moves over the race's final 25 laps, advancing from seventh to third in that time frame. Schumann's podium finish was his best ever showing at Rockford.


Wayne Freimund collected his third career Big 8 Series top five, running as high as third before coming home with a fourth place effort. Jon Reynolds Jr, who started the race in 15th position, was awarded fifth place. Wonder Lake Illinois driver Denny Norton Jr collected the $100 Powersource 'Power Mover of the Race' by virtue of advancing from his 23rd starting spot to an 8th place finish.


In other action Sunday, Hampshire's Jeremy Bloomberg held off the red-hot advances of Bill Prietzel to collect the victory in the 50 lap Mid-American Stock Car Series event. Bloomberg started on the front row and survived a wild race that saw numerous leaders fall out of contention with mechanical woes.


Chester Ace of Oregon Wisconsin was the overall winner of the American Ethanol Super Truck Series Twin 20 lap features, winning one feature and finishing second in the other. Johnsburg's Ken Calhoun, who also finished third in the Mid-American race, won his first ever feature race in the opening 20 lap Super Truck race. 


Sunday April 17 – “39th Annual Spring Classic” 88 Laps
Rockford Speedway (Loves Park, IL)

Friday June 3 – ”Clash at the Downs II” 48 Laps
Hawkeye Downs (Cedar Rapids, IA)

Friday June 24 – “Salute to America” 48 Laps
Madison Int’l Speedway (Oregon, WI)

Friday July 29 – “Larry Detjens Memorial” 58 Laps
State Park Speedway (Wausau, WI)

Tuesday August 2 – “Dixieland Delight” 38 Laps
Wisconsin Int’l Raceway (Kaukauna, WI)

Saturday September 24 – “Thunderstruck” 58 Laps
Elko Speedway (Elko New Market, MN)

Saturday October 1 – “51st Nat’l Short Track Championships” 108 Laps
Rockford Speedway (Loves Park, IL)

Saturday October 8 – “Oktoberfest Race Weekend” 68 Laps
La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway (West Salem, WI)