IRA Interstate Racing Association
IRA Crowns Three Champions in 2019
September 28th saw fans descend upon the Plymouth Dirt Track for the Wisconsin State Sprint Car Championships. A cold September night where fans would witness the crowning of 3 historical champions for the Interstate Racing Association.
In 2017 the IRA took over the reigns of the Wisconsin Illinois Mini Sprints, and in 2019 the series was renamed the IRA Lightning Sprints. Mike Neau would win 2 features in 2019, the first at 141 Speedway and then a second on Badger 40 night for the World of Outlaws at Wilmot Raceway. Those two features would propel Neau to the top of the point standing heading into Plymouth. Mark Heinert on the heels of a 3 win season trailed Neau by just 22 points, but would need a perfect night or Neau to have a disaster to steal the championship away. Neau would once again show his consistency, qualifying 2nd, winning his heat race and finishing 3rd behind Heinert, though Heinert set quick time, won his heat and finished one spot ahead in the feature. Neau had proved too consistent, and made history, becoming the first champion under the IRA Lighting Sprints banner.
In Wisconsin wingLESS Sprints presented by the IRA competition, Chris Dodd established himself as a championship contender when he started the season out with 7 straight finishes of 6th or better. A DNF on June 29th would end that streak but he rebounded in convincing fashion picking up his first win of the season the very next night at 141 Speedway. Dodd, the grandson of IRA co-founder Junior Dodd and a nephew of 3 time IRA champion Darrell Dodd, then went on to finish in the top 10 in the next 10 races, including 2 wins, one at the Wilmot Raceway and another at Beaver Dam Raceway. Dodd would finish in 12th in his first visit to the Jackson Motorplex, but much like earlier in the season, the team regrouped and won on night two of the Fall Nationals at Jackson Motorplex. Dodd’s consistency proved to be to strong for any competitor to match, and going into championship night Dodd had already secured the championship. Contact early would send Dodd to the back and regulate him to a 14th place finish, only his 3rd finish outside the top 10 all season. The 3 wins, 14 top 5s and 19 top 10s Chris Dodd recorded was enough to write another chapter in the long standing IRA Dodd family legacy. Chris Dodd became the first Dodd to win an IRA championship in over 30 years.
The Bumper to Bumper Winged 410s saw many drivers establish themselves as championship contenders early, as Bill Balog, Jeremy Schultz, Jake Blackhurst, Scotty Thiel and Ben Schmidt all picked up feature wins before the end of June, but as the series worked through the summer Bill Balog once again showed his dominance and took strong control of the standings. In late August bad luck seemed to plague the Rhine Auto 17B team while the Scott Thiel Builders 64 of Scotty Thiel found their stride, Thiel recorded back to back wins in races that Balog did not finish and looked like he could make a run of the championship, but Balog and his team quickly regrouped and won 4 of the last 6 races leading into the Plymouth Dirt Track finale and secured Bill Balog’s 9th IRA championship, and Rhine Auto Motorsports second. Between 1986 and 2003 Joe Roe recorded a record 9 IRA Championships. A feat that seemed near impossible to accomplish, but now Bill Balog has etched his name into the history books, not only tying Joe Roe for 9 championships, but compiling those 9 championships in just a 12 year span.
Submitted By: Kim Tennyson