By: Kip Ripley
For a fourth consecutive year, the Big 8 Late Model Series returns to Hawkeye Downs in Cedar Rapids Iowa.
But this year, for the first time ever, the ‘Best Weekly Warriors in the Country” will start their season at Hawkeye Downs.
Following the weekend washout of the annual season opening Spring Classic at Rockford Speedway back in April, the 2018 Big 8 Late Model Series season will officially tip-off at the 93 year old half-mile located in Eastern Iowa.
The McGrath Family of Dealerships “Clash at the Downs IV” takes place this Friday night June 1 at Hawkeye Downs and if tradition holds true, the race itself will feature a strong field of cars and a thrilling finish. An average of 27 cars have entered the three previous editions of this event with each feature coming down to some tense moments at the end of 48 laps.
Hometown drivers will be among the favorites this Friday night, including Alburnett teen Brody Willett and Cedar Rapids Late Model ace Griffin McGrath. Willett, who won the Opening Night feature race at Hawkeye Downs two weeks ago, finished third in last year’s Big 8 Series points and is hungry for his first ever Series win. A late-race tangle one year ago at the “Clash” dashed any hopes Willett had of winning the big race on his hometrack and with that in mind, Willett may be a force to be reckoned with Friday night.
McGrath has been fast in each of the three previous editions of the “Clash,” setting Fast Time in both 2015 and 2017 while finishing runner up in the 48 lap feature race each of the last two seasons. Last year, McGrath ended up one spot short of victory while Minnesota’s Joe Neisius captured his first ever Big 8 Series win. Neisius is not only entered in this weekends event, but plans to chase the Big 8 Series championship in 2018.
Four-time Big 8 Series champion Jeremy Miller returns to Hawkeye Downs this weekend in search of a series-leading 13th career win. Miller has seen success in the past at Hawkeye Downs, but has yet to taste victory in a Big 8 Series race at at the big half mile. Minnesota’s Ryan Kamish was a solid fifth place finisher in last season’s “Clash at the Downs.” The finish helped propel Kamish to fourth place in Big 8 Series points and this year the Lakeville native returns to the Series once again.
Multi-time Hawkeye Downs track champion Brian Gibson is also entered in this Friday night’s ‘Clash,’ aiming for a first Big 8 Series win. Gibson’s previous best Big 8 finish is fourth in the inaugural running of the event in 2015. Former Big 8 and Rockford Speedway champion ‘Driver X’ Jon Reynolds Jr has thrown his name into the ring for Friday night’s big-go-round in Cedar Rapids and is joined by former Madison International Speedway Rookie of the Year Matt Lundberg and reigning Big 8 Late Model Series Rookie of the Year Tyler Brown.
A crop of fresh and talented faces also join the Big 8 Series fray in 2018, including Prior Lake Minnesota’s Grant Brown, Slinger Wisconsin’s Nick Egan and Cambridge Wisconsin’s Jacob Nottestad. All three drivers should be a force to be reckoned with by season’s end.
McGrath Family of Dealerships “Clash at the Downs IV”
Expected Entries (21 as of May 30)
00 Brody Willett Alburnett, IA
X Jon Reynolds Jr Loves Park, IL
13 Nick Egan Slinger, WI
14 Grant Brown Prior Lake, MN
17 Brian Gibson Walford, IA
19 Michael Haggar Hanover, MN
20 Tyler Brown Carol Stream, IL
43 Jeremy Miller Rockford, IL
43 Scott Siems Cedar Rapids, IA
49 Jerry Mueller Richfield, WI
53 Jared Duda St Michael, MN
58 Tyler Kingery Prior Lake, MN
64 Griffin McGrath Cedar Rapids, IA
66 Chris Storey Burlington, WI
71 Mark Greb Coralville, IA
72 Brad Osborn Janesville, IA
75 Joe Neisius Rosemount, MN
76 Chad Siems Shellsburg, IA
78 Matt Lundberg Rockton, IL
80 Ryan Kamish Lakeville, MN
97 Jacob Nottestad Cambridge, WI
McGrath Family of Dealerships
‘’Clash at the Downs IV’
ORDER OF EVENTS
3:00 pm- Pit Gate Opens for Big 8 Series teams
4:30 pm- Big 8 Late Model Practice (until 4:55 pm)
5:10 pm – Big 8 Late Model Series Final Practice (until 5:30 pm)
6:00 pm – Big 8 Late Model Qualifying (Note: Drivers meeting to follow)
6:45 pm – 7:05 pm Big 8 Autograph Session under Flag-Stand
7:25 pm PRE-RACE CEREMONIES
7:30 pm HEAT RACES
BIG 8 SERIES HEAT RACES– 10 laps
BIG 8 SERIES LAST CHANCE RACE– 12 laps (if necessary)
Hobby Stock Heats
**In-Car Intros for Late Model Feature**
BIG 8 LATE MODEL SERIES ‘Clash at the Downs IV” (48 laps)
**Top 3 LM Finishers to the frontstretch**
(Remaining Four Feature races to follow the Big 8 Race)
REMAINING 2018 BIG 8 LATE MODEL SERIES SCHEDULE:
Fri June 1- ‘Clash at the Downs IV” presented by McGrath Family of Dealerships (Hawkeye Downs, Cedar Rapids, IA)
Fri June 29- Salute to America (Madison International Speedway, Oregon WI)
Fri July 27- Larry Detjens Memorial Race (State Park Speedway, Wausau WI)
Tues Aug 7- Dixieland Delight (Wisconsin Int’l Raceway, Kaukauna WI)
Sat Sept 22- 10th Annual ‘Thunderstruck 93’ (Elko Speedway, Elko New Market, MN)
Sat Sept 29- 53rd Annual National Short Track Championships (Rockford Speedway)
Sat Oct 6- 49th Oktoberfest Race Weekend (La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway, West Salem, WI)
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please visit www.big8series.com