HUMBOLDT – The thunder of high-performance racing engines split the evening sky Friday evening as Humboldt Speedway enjoyed the long-awaited 2020 season opener.
The large, socially-distanced crowd in attendance was treated to excellent, close-combat auto racing that promised an exciting season ahead.
“It is wonderful. It is really nice to be able to get out the house,” Humboldt Speedway announcer Scott Lee Stewart said. “We were discussing earlier, before the racing started, that this is the first chance to get out and do anything, and we are sure they are having a good time. This has been a good crowd with a good turnout. And we will see what the features bring...”
Feature events began with the Home Savings Bank Factory Stock class, where Jon “Dovey” Westhoff of Chanute secured the inside pole via a heat race win, then proceeded to turn in a flawless wire-to-wire feature victory. Humboldt driver Scott Collins started midfield in the 11-car pack, and mounted a daring high groove charge to runner-up spot. Kenny Schettler of Erie battled through the pack to secure a strong third place, while Brian Knisley of Coffeyville claimed fourth. Chanute driver Ethan Vance rounded out the top five of the event.
In the wildly popular Love’s Travel Stops Midwest Modified main event, Jacob Ellison of Chanute locked up with up-and-coming Iola driver Brady Folk in a beautiful display of wheel-to-wheel combat to claim the feature trophy. Folk took the second spot, Joey Decoster of Chanute was third, and Scott Lucke and Chanute’s Mike Churning completed the Fab Five.
Devin Irving of Cleveland, Mo. started the pole position of the Whitworth Construction Street Stock feature, led several laps before spinning in turn one to avoid a wreck, restarted tail back of the 9-car field, then proceeded to pass everyone for the win. Chanute’s Scott Stuart fought his way to second, while Drexel, Mo.’s Chris Kircher, Chanute driver Dennis Bishop and Bobby Brown of Hume, Mo. rounded out the top five.
Twenty-one B-Mods lined up for the Ray’s Metal Depot main event. From the drop of the green, Brian McGowen, Pittsburg’s ace, took control from the outside pole to win the 16-lap race. Behind McGowen, passing was fast and furious, and ultimately Clint Johnson of Neosho, Mo. would finish second, Tyler Kidwell was a close third, Luke Phillips finished fourth, and Nevada Mo. driver Koby Chad was fifth.
Grassroots racing rounded out the opening night festivities with the O’Reilly Auto Parts Sport Compact feature, an event won by Devin Schmidt of Nortonville. Earlton’s pilot Allen Jesseph took second, James Lemke of Leavenworth was third, Terry “TJ” McDonald was fourth, and Barry Luthi of Overbrook took fifth.
With the first races in the books, several drivers were happy to just be a part of some competitive action for the first time in a long time. Chanute’s Kenton Allen, a fifth-year speedster who raced in the B-Modified class, said he felt good navigating the track once more.
“(It) feels great to be back here at Humboldt Speedway,” Allen said. “It’s my third racetrack. We do a lot of traveling. But it’s nice to be back at my home track. Also, it’s great for my business as we own the local racing parts store in town. That’s really helping us out. We struggled a lot during the slow season with the coronavirus and shutdowns and stuff, so luckily we survived it and business is picking up. We get to go out here and race and be with our friends and family, enjoy some family time and sporting events.”
Chanute’s Matthew Kay, who also drives a B-Mod in his 10th year, said it was a pleasure to race again.
“It feels good to be here, that’s for sure,” Kay said. “We’ve had a long off-season and I’m glad everybody can do the social-distancing thing to get us back where we all love to be. It’s a good time to get out here with all your friends and family. We all just have good entertainment. There’s a lot of good friends out here. Everything is real good. Feels good to be back at our own stomping grounds that’s for sure.”