Hartford, MI (Friday, June 11, 2021) - For the first time in nearly a decade, the Interstate Racing Association (IRA) Bumper to Bumper Sprints made a trip to Michigan. The Wisconsin-based series came to the Mitten State for the first time since 2012, this time contesting at Hartford Speedway. The last time the IRA sprints hit the track at Hartford it was still a 1/2 mile configuration before converting to the now wide 3/8 mile track.
There were 18 cars checked in to compete at Hartford. The field was made up of 10 IRA regulars and eight local drivers. Bragging rights were on the line for a Michigan versus Wisconsin showdown.
The night started with qualifying, which is important in the IRA format that sends heat race winners and the top additional qualifiers into the IRA dashes which set the field for the feature. IRA series points leader, Jake Blackhurst, set quick time in qualifying followed by Jeremy Schultz, Scott Neitzel, Dustin Daggett and Kyle Schuett.
Next up on the night were three IRA heat races. Heat race one was won by Russell Borland over fourth starting Jake Blackhurst. Heat race two was all Max Stambaugh over Rob Pribnow. During heat two, second-place running Jeremy Schultz, who is a contender anytime he shows up in IRA, went up in smoke. Making it interesting to see if he would be able to make the call in the feature later that night. Heat three was taken by Dave Uttech over two-time IRA champion, Scott Neitzel and local favorite, Ryan Ruhl. Those three winners moved on to the dash.
Dash one went to Kyle Schuett over Dave Uttech and Ryan Ruhl. That would set the inside of the first three rows of the feature. Dash two went to Scott Neitzel over Jake Blackhurst and Max Stambaugh. Setting the outside of the first three rows of the feature.
The feature was set up well for the IRA regulars as they made up the first two rows in the starting line up. Neitzel starting outside of row one got an early jump on Schuett and got out to an early lead. The first caution came as Brett Mann came to a stop on the front stretch. Neitzel had no issues getting the lead back after the restart with Schuett in tow. Blackhurst got around Schuett with a nice slider as Stambaugh and Ruhl started their drive toward the front. The battle was heating up for third as Schuett, Stambaugh, and Ruhl were all over each other before Andy Rein came to a stop in turn four. Also, coming to a stop was Jeremy Schultz who ended up in the work area before getting back on track.
A return to green did not change the top two but Stambaugh and Ruhl both worked around Schuett for third before the yellow came out for Jack Berger. Stambaugh and Ruhl were all over each other and Blackhurst for second, however, the top four stayed unchanged. The final caution of the night came when four cars were tangled up including pole sitter Kyle Schuett. Neitzel navigated the last restart and motored away to pick up the win. Points leader Jake Blackhurst finished second as locals Stambaugh, Ruhl and Daggett rounded out the top five. Schultz rebounded from his rough start to go 17th to 8th, picking up the Hard Charger Award.
The IRA sprints moved on to Wilmot Speedway in Wisconsin on Saturday. Neitzel won giving him back-to-back victories on the weekend.
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Photo - IRA Sprints