The quest for the 2015 Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Model Track Championship at Rockford Speedway has been a roller coaster of sorts.
Winnebago's Jake Gille has held the point lead most of the season, thanks in part to an impressive string of consistency, while South Beloit's Michael Bilderback has won more than any other driver, yet still sits on the outside-looking-in as the two racers prepare for Saturday night's Whelen Engineering 'Night of Champions.'
Gille's season has been one of the most consistent of any driver is recent memory at the high-banked quarter mile. The 27 year old has captured four feature wins this year, but the bigger story lies within the races where Gille hasn't reached victory lane. In fourteen Saturday night races this season leading up to this weekend's 'Night of Champions', Gille has racked up eleven finishes of first or second place in a Late Model at Rockford Speedway, included those four feature wins and eight second place finishes. Gille has never finished worse than fourth in any Late Model feature at Rockford Speedway this year. Even on his worst nights, Gille has still found a way to finish strong.
Bilderback, on the other hand, has been the most dynamic Late Model racer at Rockford Speedway this summer. The 24 year has pocketed a division-high six feature wins this year, including three-wins in the last four weeks. Along with those six wins, no one has been faster than Bilderback in Time Trials. Going into 'Night of Champions,' Bilderback has amassed an impressive ten fast times throughout the summer. With all of his successes, a couple of mechanical failures have hindered Bilderback's pursuit of a championship, most notably back-to-back engine failures during the first two Saturday nights of August.
Following Bilderback's mechanical misfortunes, his disadvantage to Gille was a shade over 30 points. But over the course of the last four weeks, Bilderback's red-hot ways have cut the margin between first and second in the championship chase to just ten points. Can Gille hold on and cap off one of the most consistent seasons in recent memory? Or will Bilderback make a comeback for the ages and become one of the youngest champions in Rockford Speedway history? BE THERE this Saturday night to find out.
There are other point championships to be decided this Saturday night at Rockford Speedway. Those chases are outlined below.
BARGAIN HUNTER SPORTSMAN: Brett McCoy holds a 32 point advantage over Howie Ware in the battle for the Sportsman crown. McCoy, the defending division champion, has captured more Feature wins than any other driver in the Sportsman class this season. McCoy is looking for his fifth Rockford Speedway Track Championship, as the Belvidere resident has won three titles in the American Short Tracker division along with last year's Sportsman crown.
MILLER LITE AMERICAN SHORT TRACKER: Rockton's Zach Rodriguez looks to lock up his first Rockford Speedway championship this Saturday night, taking the lead in the points for the first time last Saturday night in an unusual manner. Rodriguez trailed Bobby Frisch for the lead in the Short Tracker championship chase heading into last week's races, but transmission issues for Frisch sidelined him for most of the night, giving Rodriguez a free shot at the point lead. Despite not winning a feature this year, Rodriguez now holds a 42 point advantage over Frisch in his quest for the championship.
KICKSTART ROADRUNNERS: Dennis Smith Jr holds a commanding 58 point lead over Austin Fowler in the Roadrunner standings, thanks in part to winning five of the last seven features in the division. Smith has won six total races in the Roadrunner class this summer, more than any other driver.
SAM'S DRIVE IN ROADRUNNER CHALLENGE: Kyle McQuality holds a 16 point edge over Trevor Robinson in the Roadrunner Challenge points, with Saturday night's traditional 'Outhouse Race' the final points event on 2015.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models- Daryl Gerke holds a 44 point advantage over Pat Featherston Bargain Hunter Sportsman- Teenager Kodee Busekros holds a 40 point lead on Jeff Watson Miller Lite American Short Trackers- David Pautsch Jr sits 19 points ahead of Todd Snow
Gates open for Whelen's 'Night of Champions' this Saturday night September 12 at 5 PM, with all the racing action set to get started at 7:07 PM. Following the races, a 'Championship Pit Party' will be held, featuring live music by Four Wheel Drive! Adult admission is just $12, with Students (ages 12-17) admitted for $8, Children (ages 6-11) are admitted for $5, while Kids 5 and under are FREE! For more information on Rockford Speedway and Whelen's 'Night of Champions,' please visit rockfordspeedway.com or please call 815-633-1500.