BILLINGS, Montana — There were two drivers smiling after Saturday night's events at Billings Motorsports Park. One scored his first win of the year, and the other won his second Big Sky Sprints championship and also scored the most points over the weekend to earn the Dan Laber Challenge Series trophy.
Clint Anderson of Belle Fourche, South Dakota inherited the lead in the Big Sky Sprints main event with just five laps remaining when race long leader Randi Miller of Rapid City, S. Dakota was forced to bring his car into the the pit area under caution because of a tire going down. Anderson, a three-time track champion at Black Hills Speedway in South Dakota, would hold on to score his first career victory at Billings Motorsports Park.
Laurel, Montana's Phil Dietz finished third to cap his 2012 Big Sky Sprints championship run. Paired with his Friday night victory, Dietz earned the most points over the weekend to win the newly resurrected Dan Laber Challenge Series. Dietz won the Dan Laber trophy by just two points over Helena, Mont.'s Trever Kirkland, who had a pair of second place finishes this weekend.
Anderson, driving the Carbaugh-Anderson No. 9a Frisk-powered Maxim, started on the pole of the main event, shortened to 20 laps because of tire wear concerns on a track that took a lot of rubber. Miller bolted out to the lead on the start and proceeded to put a lot of distance, and several lapped cars, between himself and his pursuers while Anderson ran second.
The lone caution flag of the race came with 15 laps completed when John Carbaugh spun his car around in Turn 4. While the field was gathering back together for the restart, Miller suddenly pulled off the track with his tire issue and yielded the lead to Anderson.
"We don't want to see that, but we'll take it. Randi's tough to beat," Anderson said. "It's good to close the season with a victory."
John Biggins crossed the finish line second, but was disqualified for losing a muffler on his car. This moved Kirkland up to second place in the Bob & Cogie Back No. 37 Shark-powered JEI. Dietz, who had four Big Sky Sprints victories to his credit this year, wound up third in the Prevost Racing No. 72 RFast-powered GF1.
"It was a good year. Didn't really tear anything up. We were fast. Most races we won in a full year. It was fun," Dietz said as he was celebrating his series championship as well as his triumph in the Dan Laber Challenge Series, which was contested for the first time since 2000. "To win this thing the first year back is pretty cool. There are a lot of good names that I looked up who have won this. To have guys like Butch Hansen and Steve Celar on the front stretch handing you that cup is awesome."
Dietz, who also won the series championship in 2007, is now a three-time Montana champion as he also won a title with the old Montana Sprint Tour in 2003. Having won the Dan Laber Challenge Series, Dietz's name will join those on the permanent plaque containing all Dan Laber winners that will be placed in the Montana openwheel exhibit at the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame & Museum in Knoxville, Iowa.
Kirkland, last year's champion who went winless this year, was satisfied to close his season with a pair of runner-up finishes to secure second place in the season standings behind Dietz.
"I think we were good all weekend," Kirkland said. "To go from eighth to second on a rubber down track. You make your moves when you can, with the caliber of cars we had here. The only thing that would've been better was to win one. Champions last year, second in points this year. We'll take it."
Billings driver David Hoiness backed up his third place run on Friday with a fourth place finish on Saturday in the Hoiness Racing No. 27dd Wesmar-powered J&J to unofficially secure third place in the point standings. Josh Ostermiller, who started 13th, moved up to finish fifth in the Harvey Ostermiller No. 12 Wesmar-powered GF1.
Dan Mansfield finished sixth, followed by Jerry Brey, who charged from the 22nd starting position to finish seventh and take hard charger honors. Canadian visitor Wheeler Boys finished ninth and Paxton Lambrect, racing for just the second time this year, advanced nine positions to finish tenth.
Heat races were won by Hoiness, Miller and Jeremy McCune. Twenty-four cars from Montana, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and Alberta competed in the Dan Laber Challenge Series this weekend to close out the 2012 Big Sky Sprints season.
The Dan Laber Challenge Series is named for the sprint car driver who lost his life in an accident at the old Magic City Speedway (at the time called Yellowstone Speedway) in 1988. The event was immediately established in his name and became a popular Montana sprint car event going into the 1990's before it was discontinued. With the re-opening of Billings Motorsports Park in June, it was decided to bring back the Dan Laber Challenge Series as a special event to close the season.
More information on the Big Sky Sprints can be found online at http://www.bigskysprints.com.
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Dan Laber Challenge Series winners
1988 - Steve Beitler
1989 - Steve Celar
1990 - Steve Celar
1991 - Bill Boyce
1992 - Wade Fleming
1993 - Marc Huson
1994 - Bill Boyce
2000 - Bill Boyce
2012 - Phil Dietz
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Big Sky Sprints
Dan Laber Challenge Series - Night 2
Billings Motorsports Park
September 22, 2012
Heat 1 (8 laps): 1. 27dd David Hoiness, 2. 83 John Biggins, 3. 9a Clint Anderson, 4. 37 Trever Kirkland, 5. 35 Paxton Lambrect, 6. 4 Adam Speckman, 7. 38 Bryan Brown, 8. 85a Jerry Brey.
Heat 2 (8 laps): 1. 90 Randi Miller, 2. 2w Wheeler Boys, 3. 72 Phil Dietz, 4. 12 Josh Ostermiller, 5. 8 Dan Mansfield, 6. 1x Vernon Hill, 7. 77w John White, 8. 77x Nate Maxwell.
Heat 3 (8 laps): 1. 0J Jeremy McCune, 2. 05 Justin Medlock, 3. 15 James Sires, 4. 44 Damon McCune, 5. 19 John Carbaugh, 6. 28 Nick Reiter, 7. 77 Mark Sweet, 8. 7 Brian Robison.
Feature (20 laps, tire concerns): 1. 9a Clint Anderson, 2. 37 Trever Kirkland, 3. 72 Phil Dietz, 4. 27dd David Hoiness, 5. 12 Josh Ostermiller, 6. 8 Dan Mansfield, 7. 85a Phil Dietz, 8. 2w Wheeler Boys, 9. 35 Paxton Lambrect, 10. 90 Randi Miller, 11. 05 Dustin Medlock, 12. 0J Jeremy McCune, 13. 38 Bryan Brown, 14. 28 Nick Reiter, 15. 44 Damon McCune, 16. 19 John Carbaugh, 17. 4 Adam Speckman, 18. 15 James Sires, 19. 7 Brian Robison, 20. 1x Vernon Hill, 21. 77 Mark Sweet, 22. 77w John White, 23. 77x Nate Maxwell, 24. 83 John Biggins (ran 2nd but was disqualified for not having a muffler).
Lap leaders: Randi Miller 1-15, Clint Anderson 16-20