Interest in upcoming dirt-track racing season fueled by mall show

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Kim Abbott of Camp Point, Ill. is anxious for the Adams County Speedway season to get underway, if for no other reason than to put 2023 in the rear-view mirror. - Photo by Steve Eighinger.

QUINCY — You can change the name of the venue, but the annual spring rite of passage where newly-painted cars are cleanly displayed before spending a summer getting dirty as they bump and grind around a track will forever be known as “The Mall Show.”

An impressive rollout of crate late model, modified, sport mod, street stock and 4-cylinder cars filled the Quincy Town Center on Saturday for the first day of the annual Adams County Speedway Car Show.

And those brilliantly colored hot rods of various shapes and sizes — plus their owners and drivers — were far from alone.

A steady stream of hundreds — maybe thousands — of fans from across West-Central Illinois, Northeast Missouri and Southeast Iowa were there to welcome back their favorite maestros of dirt-track mayhem. 

“Judging by the turnout and the conversations we’ve been having, I’d say the fans are ready for some racing,” said Jim Lieurance, who with wife Tammy are beginning their third year as promoters at the .29-mile track at 8000 Broadway.

The Town Center show concludes today with a session that runs from noon to 5 p.m.

The Adams County Speedway season opens April 28, preceded by open-to-the-public practices (3 p.m. until dark) April 7, 14 and 21.

One of the drivers who is particularly anxious for the season to start is Jason Perry of Payson, who finished an excruciating third in the 2023 crate lates points chase behind champ Tommy Elston of Keokuk, Iowa, and runner-up Denny Woodworth of Mendon. Perry was forced to miss one week of points racing, an absence that likely cost him his second track championship. The top three drivers were separated by just 41 points.

“We’ve had a great offseason, there wasn’t much we had to do to the car,” said Perry, who won the track title in 2012 and finished second in 2010. “The mall show is always the time of the year when you know the season is almost here.”

Last year was the first for Perry in a crate late, who came out of retirement following a long run in the super late models.

“I learned a lot last year,” Perry said. “That was the first time I had raced in four or five years.”

Perry said he is anxious for what is expected to be the largest class of late models at the track since 2005-08 when the weekly car counts averaged 20 or more every Sunday night. A year ago, the late models averaged 14.5.

Lieurance said he is anticipating 20-plus crate lates most Sunday nights once the season gets fully underway.

“The more, the merrier,” Perry said.

Three-time track champion Kim Abbott of Camp Point is a driver whose enthusiasm is still on hold mainly because of the recent weather conditions. Abbott is not a big fan of racing in chilly temperatures, so she said she was perfectly content waiting on the thermometer to take an upward bump.

“When the weather gets warmer is when I’ll get going,” said Abbott, who won Quincy sport compact titles in 2019, 2016 and 2015 and is now competing in the 4-Cylinder class. 

But make no mistake about it, Abbott is anxious for the season to get underway, if for no other reason than to put 2023 in the rear-view mirror.

“Anything has to be better than last year,” she said. “We had a lot of DNFs (did not finish), and I even rolled the car once.”

Abbott finished an uncustomary fourth in points last season behind champ Jeffrey DeLonjay of Quincy, Jaden DeLonjay of Quincy and Landon Neisen of LaGrange, Mo.

Abbott, who is now 30 years old, has been racing since she was 14.

One of the young track drivers who is a candidate for a major breakthrough this season is 24-year-old Darin Weisinger Jr. of Mendon, whose No. 11 is sporting a new design and a new body. He purchased a 2022 chassis from national late model star Frankie Heckenast of University Park, Ill.

“Just getting used to the new car will be the big thing early in the season,” Weisinger said. “I’m anxious to get the car on the track.”

Weisinger admitted it’s been exciting to watch the progress being made at Adams County Speedway, s[peciofically in the late model division. The Broadway Bullring has been his family’s home track for many years. His dad, Darin Weisinger Sr., was a longtime competitor there when it was known as Quincy Raceways.

“It’s exciting to see the way the track looks to be heading,” Weisinger said.

One of the youngest drivers at Adams County Speedway will be Christian Miles of Paloma, who is a 17-year-old Camp Point Central High School student. Both Christian and his 14-year-old brother, Kruze Miles, will be competing in the crate lates.

Christian Miles drove one of the Denny Woodworth team late model cars in 2023, but he and his family are branching out this season with late models of their own.

“We’ve been waiting all winter for the season to get going,” said Christian Miles, who is also one of the top young karters in the nation (who will be driving this year for a Canadian team based in British Columbia).

“We’ll be missing a few weekends (at Adams County Speedway) because of karting commitments, but our goal is still to finishing the top three or top five in points,” Christian Miles said. 

Miles is not fazed by what appears to be an extremely busy racing schedule.

“It’s what our family does,” he said.

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