2017 Big 8 Series Schedule
Photo By: Guy Adams

Neisius wins Big 8 Series race at Hawkeye Downs as Adrian, Willett tangle

Rosemount, Min. driver takes the $1,000 win at the Clash at the Downs III after leaders wreck with 7 to go

CEDAR RAPIDS — The 2016 edition of the Big 8 Series Late Model Clash at the Downs ended with Caleb Adrian in the Turn 1 wall and Michael Bilderback in Victory Lane after several furious laps of side-by-side racing.

The 2017 edition was just about a carbon copy.

This time, though, it was Rosemount, Minn., driver Joe Neisius who took the win on a late restart after Adrian ended up in the wall for the second straight year — this time after a tangle with Alburnett’s Brody Willett.

Neisius was rolling in fourth behind Adrian, Willett and Bilderback, and said his spotter told him to stay up on the wheel because the leaders were, “really racing hard.” A wreck and a restart later, and Neisius had the biggest win of his career.

“It was a little bit survival of the fittest,” Neisius said. “When you’re running third or fourth and were as loose as I was, you have to wait and hope there’s a caution. Those guys eliminated themselves there. It worked in my favor. You’ve got to bide your time and keep it in one piece. If you go off on the hook, you’re definitely not winning.”

While Neisius, who started on the pole, got to celebrate the $1,000 win — in the first race in a new racecar — after a power move on the final restart with seven laps to go, the dramatics were elsewhere.



Adrian started second and led the bulk of the race. Willett started eighth, and spent the first 40 laps of the race steadily working his way forward. Willett caught Adrian and Bilderback, who were racing hard for the lead with less than 20 to go, and made a move to go from third to side-by-side for the lead with 12 to go.

From there, Adrian and Willett ran side by side for five laps, bouncing off each other and working lapped traffic without giving an inch.

With seven to go, the pair went down into Turn 1, made contact and Adrian spun up into the wall.

To ask Adrian, Willett “left-reared me.” To ask Willett, Adrian, “ran out of talent.”

Under caution, Adrian retaliated by hooking Willett’s right rear and spinning him into the outside wall. Willett was penalized and moved to the tail end of the lead lap as part of a “cause of or involved in an incident,” ruling from Big 8 Series officials, and ended up 10th at the finish.

Adrian’s frustration was in his ending up in the wall for a second straight year.

“I don’t know if he drove it in too deep or what, but he just left-reared me and it was the same situation as last year where I backed it into the wall and have to put another rear clip on it,” Adrian said. “He needs to know he can’t drive like that. He needs to learn. If he raced me clean, he probably would’ve won it.”

Adrian said the pair didn’t talk after the race, and he has no plans to talk to Willett about what happened any time soon.



Willett’s frustration was — in his view — running down the leader, having a faster car, and not being raced the way he’d have liked.

“My guys gave me a first place car and we showed it; we proved it,” Willett said. “As for (Adrian) when the same thing happens two years in a row, you have to think, ‘Maybe I’m the problem.’

“You’ve got to give a guy a lane to race and when you can’t do that, you have to accept the repercussions. He’s only got himself to blame, and then he spins us out on the back stretch like a baby. If you want to retaliate like that, that’s cool.”

Two young drivers — both of whom are regulars at Hawkeye Downs — putting on the show they did for a handful of laps had the Hawkeye Downs crowd on its feet.

Even a guy like Neisius, who needed the caution they provided, watched intently. His win, ahead of Griffin McGrath and Bilderback in third, came from the patience to weather the storm, and executing on the final restart.

“They were racing hard and racing hard and I said, ‘I’ll hang around and see what happens; maybe they’ll screw up and we can get by,’ and that’s exactly what happened,” Neisius said. “I got in hotter than I should’ve on the last restart and slid up and hit (Bilderback). I talked to him about it and we’re cool. We just kept racing and sometimes that’s how it goes.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

By: Eric Huenefeld
Over the course of the last two-plus seasons, Michael Bilderback has been the ‘man to beat’ in Big 8 Late Model Series competition. 
Whether racing along the Big 8 Series or at the Rockford Speedway on Saturday nights, the South Beloit native has stood in victory lane as frequently as anyone since the beginning of the 2015 racing season. 
On Sunday afternoon, Bilderback collected his ninth career Big 8 Late Model Series win and seventeenth Late Model victory since the start of 2015 after being the dominant car during the running of the 40th Anniversary Spring Classic at Rockford Speedway.
Bilderback, who started from the third position, quickly moved on outside pole sitter Mike Lloyd to take first place on lap four of the 88 lap main event. But then, just two laps later, the caution flag flew for fluid on the track, which was spotted dropping from Ryan Kamish’s car. After Kamish was sent to the pits, the field bunched up for the first restart of the day, which resulted in another yellow just three laps later when both Lloyd and Casey Johnson came into contact off the fourth corner, sending Lloyd spinning. Both cars were sent to the tail after the incident. Lloyd later retired from the race on lap 53, while Johnson fought back for a top five finish.
The largest calamity of the day occurred on lap 38, when a suspension breakage sent Tyler Kingery into Dennis Smith Jr’s car as the two drivers entered turn one. Both cars contacted the wall, collecting John Beinlich and Michael Clapper along the way. After the four cars piled up, Smith’s car was engulfed in flames. Smith quickly emerged from his car as safety crews worked to extinguish the inferno. All drivers were ok. While the rest of the field was stopped on track during red flag conditions, Kyle Shear’s car also caught fire. Shear would have to be towed to the pits after the fire exploded his right front tire, but his crew was able to make repairs and return him to the race, where he would finish seventh place, one lap down. 
When the remainder of the field took the green flag with 50 laps to go, the race never stopped again as Bilderback put enough cushion between himself and second place Jeremy Miller to maintain a comfy advantage until the checkered flag. When the race concluded, it was Bilderback besting Miller by 1.79 seconds on his way to victory. Tim Sargent started his season off with a sold third place finish, while former Spring Classic champion Alex Papini came home in fourth after holding off a hard charge from Casey Johnson, who settled for fifth following his climb back through the field after the lap 9 incident with Lloyd. Kyle Chwala finished as the last car on the lead lap in sixth.
1 Michael Bilderback  South Beloit, IL  (88 laps)
2 Jeremy Miller  Rockford, IL  (88 laps)
3 Tim Sargent  South Beloit, IL  (88 laps)
4 Alex Papini  Machesney Park, IL  (88 laps)
5 Casey Johnson  Edgerton, WI  (88 laps)
6 Kyle Chwala  Johnson Creek, WI  (88 laps)
7 Kyle Shear  Roscoe, IL  (87 laps)
8 Brody Willett  Alburnett, IA  (87 laps)
9 Wayne Freimund  Elkhorn, WI  (87 laps)
10 Jake Zellmer  New Berlin, WI  (87 laps)
11 Jerry Mueller  Richfield, WI  (87 laps)
12 Jake Vanoskey  Hartford, WI  (87 laps)
13 Tyler Brown  Carol Stream, IL  (85 laps)
14 Cody Kippenhan  Ypsilanti, MI  (83 laps)
15 Jared Duda  St Michael, MN  (83 laps)
16 Tyler Hromadka  Brookfield, WI  (82 laps)
17 Jeff Wakeman  Streator, IL  (80 laps)
18 Mike Lloyd  Davis, IL  (53 laps)
19 Steve Rubeck  Rockford, IL  (41 laps)
20 Dennis Smith Jr  South Beloit, IL  (38 laps)
21 John Beinlich  Cary, IL  (38 laps)
22 Michael Clapper  Dane, WI  (38 laps)
23 Tyler Kingery  Prior Lake, MN  (37 laps)
24 Max Kahler  Caledonia, IL  (31 laps)
25 Jon Reynolds Jr  Loves Park, IL  (21 laps)
26 Ryan Kamish  Lakeville, MN  (6 laps)
Preliminary Race Winners: Vanoskey, Clapper, Reynolds, Lloyd
Fast Time: Bilderback 13.503 (*New Big 8 Track Record)
Entries: 27 Big 8 Late Models