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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Monett Speedway celebrates 40th season in 2010

Monday, April 5, 2010

Shane Essary (#115) squeezes past fellow Aurora resident Justin Wells (#98) in late modifieds races on Sunday at the Monett Speedway. [Times Photo by R.K. Wilson]
Easter produced something less subtle than the garden-variety egg hunt on the southeast end of town Sunday. In a full slate of auto racing at the dirt oval Monett Speedway, race teams from all around the region converged for an evening of competition in six classes, marking the track's 40th year of continuous operation.

For the uninitiated, this is a slice of masculine Americana. The pungent vapor trail of high performance racing and granulated storm of pulverized clay is family entertainment of the hair-rising kind. School night or not, the full-throttle, 100-mile-per-hour motorsport thundered by speed enthusiasts of every age last night.

At $10 for adults, $5 for the 12-15 and free for kids 11 and under, it's a thrilling, affordable experience, a live world away from the latest video game or high-def television offering.

Track owner and impresario Randy Mooneyham was delighted that the evening came off without a hitch, after opening night rainouts three of the past four years.

"I'm really excited," a visibly relieved Mooneyham exclaimed. "For our first race of the season, I'm pleased with the turnout and the show."

The drivers race a circuit of venues throughout the Ozarks, with the three-eighths of a mile oval at Monett the longest of the short tracks.

"We have a good balance of talent," said Mooneyham. "Win here, and you can win anywhere."

Mooneyham, a native of Republic, got involved in motorsports when brother Darrell began racing 40 years ago. Randy himself raced a couple of years, as did his son.

After a series of promoters came and went at the Monett Speedway, Mooneyham decided to lease the track from owner Shirley Williams, a grocery store owner out of Berryville, Ark. Two years later in 1981, Mooneyham bought the track for around $90,000 and has been a spring and summer presence ever since.

"The seasonal part of this is fun," said Mooneyham. "I'm a sports nut."

Dealing cattle and cars along the way supplemented the income of this family man who never left Republic.

For Carthage racer Jackie Dalton, finding supplemental income in the form of sponsorship was critical to making his expensive hobby into a successful passion. He competes in three dozen races from spring through autumn and hit his stride five years ago when he gained the sponsorship of Doug's Pro Lube in Monett. Dalton credits his four consecutive championships at Springfield to the better equipment provided by having such financial backers, not forgetting wife Jennie's toil at the Monett salon Perfect Images.

"Unless you have great backing to just race, you have a day job or work in a (performance-related) shop," said Dalton, who finished #13 out of 596 A-mod racers nationally in the United States Racing Association rankings last year.

For Doug and Ramona Edgman, of Doug's Pro Lube, sponsoring four drivers is a professional and personal expression.

"It enhances our business," said Doug.

The Edgmans began supplying petroleum products to racer Jordan Holloway five years ago and have become more involved in the sport in the subsequent years.

"It's an adrenaline rush," said Ramona. "We just love racing."

Dalton's 406-cubic inch Chevy racing motor makes for a nimble machine that promotes driving skill on the shorter tracks, versus the weight of the higher output engines (434 CI) that power advantage on the straightaways. The sacrifice to speed on the longer Monett track is offset by the challenge.

"Monett is better competition," said Dalton. "It's the only track running Sundays."

Dalton runs in the alcohol-burning A-modified class, an open-wheel machine running on eight-inch tires. B-modified is limited to smaller engines (360-CI) and two-barrel carburetion.

Bomber class is a stock car but with a street car's iron motor. This is the affordable way into racing; high-performance tweaks and a roll cage are the chief alterations. Rookie class is bomber junior, the entry-level way in on the cheap for under $10,000. Seven wins later, drivers move up to bomber class.

Late model is the premiere class, the costliest machines that can easily run $30,000 and weigh a few 100 pounds north of a ton with custom-built small-block aluminum 440-CI engines (Ford or Chevy origin) producing up to 800 horsepower. The cars have 14-inch tires and fenders. Pro-4 are late-model light, racing gnats running on four-cylinder motors.

Results from the April 4 finish at Monett Speedway are as follows:

Late model: first, Eric Turner, of Hermitage; second, Larry Jones, of El Dorado Springs; and third, Justin Asplin, of Mountain View

A-modified: first, Johnny Bone, of Pea Ridge, Ark.; second, Erik Maggard, of Springfield; and third, Jesse Stovall, of Cape Fair.

B-modified: first, Roy Maynard, of Springfield; Steve Muilenburg, of Sparta; and Billy Dalton, of Carthage.

Bomber: first, Justin Wilson, of Wheaton; second, Shawn Strong, of Republic; and third, Matthew Thulin, of Neosho.

Pro-4: first, Theresa Widener, of Neosho; second, Bob Widener, of Neosho; and third, Mitch Jenkins, of Aurora.

Rookie: first, Rick Brust; second, Luke Mason, of Aurora; and Jesse James, of Granby.

Races are conducted at the Monett Speedway beginning at 7 p.m. each Sunday night through Sept. 26. The Show-Me late model dates are April 11, July 11 and Sept. 26. The MARS dirt car series is May 9. The season championship is Aug. 29, and the 39th annual four-state dirt track championship is Sept. 5.

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