By: Skip Erickson
With six different leaders and an unforgettable finish, Friday night’s McGrathAuto.com “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.