MIDDLETOWN — If you want to be the best, you might as well learn from the best.
Nick Marolf has plenty of experience when it comes to driving late models, but it is never too late to learn a new trick or two.
So Marolf purchased a brand new late model for this season, then went to Charlotte, North Carolina, to learn how to best set the car up from Ricky Weiss, a national star on the late model circuit.
It took Marolf just one race to show he has learned his lessons well.
Marolf started the 16-lap late model feature race on the pole and led from start to finish on Saturday night at 34 Raceway.
“This is a new car. We actually ordered this car two years ago. Its kind of a niche deal, so we finally got it. I’m excited to have it and excited about the prospects of this thing," said Marolf, a native of Moscow. “I spent the week in Charlotte with Ricky Weiss, who drives on the national circuit. He builds these cars. I spent up until (Friday) night with him just to learn as much as I could. We took their basics stuff and put it in here and away we went.”
Marolf made it look easy against a talented field of late model drivers. He found just enough moisture on the bottom of the track and pulled away to win by half the length on the 3/8-mile oval dirt track.
“It was starting to rubber up on the bottom, so we just kept rolling the bottom," Marolf said. "I could see one of my crew members signal me on the backstretch and tell me how big of a lead we had. I just stayed with what I was doing.”
Also winning feature races on a delayed opening night at 34 Raceway were Cody Wehrle in 305 sprints, Sean Wyett in IMCA sport modifieds, Jason Ash in sport compacts, Abe Hulls in IMCA stock cars and Jarrett Brown in IMCA modifieds.
Noah Samuel led the opening two laps of the 15-lap 305 sprint car feature before Wehrle zipped by him on the low side on a restart and never looked back.
Wehrle opened his lead, but slipped over the cushion in turn two on lap nine, allowing Samuel and Blaine Jamison to close the gap.
Wehrle righted the ship and came away with the win.
“I guess you have to give the fans something to enjoy, whether it was planned or not planned. It could have bene bad, but it all worked out," Wehrle said. “The biggest thing as being able to come out and open the season up and pick up where we left off last year and the year before. It’s a confidence booster to carry on for the rest of the year. That’s the biggest thing.”
Wyett has been the man to beat in IMCA sport modifeds the last three years and made an early statement that he will be the one to beat again this year.
The Danville veteran managed to maintain the lead on numerous restarts in a 15-lap feature that pushed the time limit. In the end, Wyett's patience and experience paid off with a win.
“It is very frustrating. Just as you get in your groove, then a caution comes out every time. It never fails," Wyett said. “We had the car in the shop all winter getting updates. We came out at the beginning of the season two weeks ago, we weren’t sure what we were going to find. This car works and rolls better than it ever has. We’re pretty happy with that we did over the winter.”
Ash used his track knowledge and experience to pick up the win in the 12-lap sport compacts feature.
While Chevy Barnes and Larry Miller controlled the opening laps, Ash found a moisture line along the bottom and used it to get to the front.
Once in the lead, Ash would not be caught.
“You just have to learn to read the track. We race here a lot," Ash said. “You could just tell the moisture line. We had a small moisture line down there. It turned out good for us.”
Huls came from the back of the field to win the 12-lap IMCA stock car feature which had just four cars.
While the field of cars was small, the was plenty of veteran experience in the field with Chad Krogmeier, Chris Wibbell and Ray Raker rounding out the finish.
“The track was great. It was slick, smooth. We passed cars to get to the lead," Huls said. “Whenever you have the stock car class in general there are always good drivers and it’s always good competition. People look at the track and they only see the four cars here, but they have to give consideration of the quality of drivers that are here.”
Brown, who lives in Ainsworth, decided to make the trip to 34 Raceway on Saturday. It paid off with a win in the 20-lap IMCA modifieds feature.
Dennis LaVeine led early, but Brown took advantage of a mistakes to get by LaVeine, then pulled away from Mark Burgtorf for the win.“We decided to come here this week and try something different on this short-track stuff. We got a little beat up there, but all in all we came out with the win," Brown said. “The track was good. I came from eighth and passes cars, so it wasn’t just one lane around there. We had a good car.”
Matt Levins is a sports reporter for the USA TODAY Network in Burlington, Iowa, who has covered local sports for 31 years. Reach him at email@example.com.
Feature results — 1. Cody Wehrle; 2. Noah Samuel; 3. Blaine Jamison; 4. Nathan Murders; 5. Daniel Bergquist; 6. Evan Jones; 7. Chase Richards; 8. Dustin Clark; 9. McCain Richards; 10. JJ Beaver. Heat winners — Nick Guernsey and Wehrle.
Feature results — 1. Jarret Brown; 2. Mark Burgtorf; 3. Austen Becerra; 4. Dennis LaVeine; 5. Mitch Boles; 6. Bill Roberts, Jr.; 7. Shane Richardson; 8. Chad Giberson; 9. Kyle Madden; 10. Creston Williams. Heat winners — Becerra and LaVeine.
IMCA SPORT MODIFIEDS
Feature results — 1. Sean Wyett; 2. Will Wolf; 3. Trey Rock; 4. AJ Tournear; 5. Barry Taft; 6. Tom Bowling, Jr.; 7. Dylan VanWyk; 8. Logan Cumby; 9. Kevin Goben; 10. Bob Cowman. Heat winners — Wolf and Cumby.
DIRT LATE MODELS
Feature results — 1. Nick Marolf; 2. Jay Johnson; 3. Jeff Guengerich; 4. CJ Horn; 5. Dustin Schram; 6. Brandon Rothzen; 7. Ed Hollenbeck; 8. Derrick Stewart; 9. Blake Woodruff. Heat winner — Woodruff.
IMCA STOCK CARS
Feature results — 1. Abe Hulls; 2. Chad Krogmeier; 3. Chris Wibbell; 4. Ray Raker. Heat winner — Huls.
Feature results — 1. Jason Ash; 2. Chevy Barnes; 3. Larry Miller; 4. Tim Schnathorst; 5. Noah Kayser; 6. Josh Barnes; 7. Caleb Giese; 8. Shane Vancil; 9. Tyler Koutsky; 10. Bobby Douglas. Heat winners — Ash and Josh Barnes.
This article originally appeared on The Hawk Eye: Veteran drives new late model to victory lane on opening night