Stan Kalwasinski photo
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.