Auto racing: Griffiths takes two on SIS opening night

Apr. 30—OSKALOOSA — What's better than having dozens of family members and friends celebrate with you in Victory Lane?

How about celebrating twice in one night? Dustin Griffiths closed out the opening night of the season at the Southern Iowa Speedway with a pair of wins, following up his victory in the Stock Car feature by overcoming a caution-filled start to the 14-lap Hobby Stocks feature, taking the lead five laps in and pulling away to polish off an impressive early-season effort on 'Mahaska County's monster half-mile dirt track.'

"I've ran big-daddy chassis for years. That's just what I'm comfortable in," Griffiths said. "I can put that car almost anywhere I need to put it. I don't know what was going on at the start of that race. All I know is I was ready to get some laps in."

Griffiths not only took a pair of checkered flags on the opening night of action at the Southern Iowa Speedway, but helped make sure the track was clear for the final 10 laps of the night's final race. Before the fourth restart of the Stock Car feature, the Hedrick native swung by the top side of the first turn to pick up a piece of debris that had come off a car during early contact that brought out one of the multiple yellow flags.

"I was going to move down to the bottom anyway, but I didn't want anyone else running it over," Griffiths said. "I ran over it a couple times running the top side. I'm pretty lucky it didn't give me a flat tire."

As it turned out, a flat tire would have been the only thing that could have given the rest of the field a chance to keep up with Griffiths. Having already moved into the top three through the early cautions, Griffiths quickly moved up on the final restart and started to put distance between himself and Carlisle native Eric Stanton ultimately crossing the finish line with a lead of several seconds.

"I've run a couple nights at Bloomfield and went up to Benton County the previous weekend. I actually broke an axel there leading with two laps to go," Griffiths said. "We've only got about 10-12 races on the car, so we're still fine-tuning some things. It's getting faster every night."

Griffiths was able to win a battle of southern Iowa racers in the Stock Car feature, battling Eldon native and defending SIS track champion Jason McDanel early. McDanel was able to hold the lead until Griffiths went high up the track to get in front before racing home for the win.

"It definitely helps if you have a good-handling car," Griffiths said. "If you have good people backing you, it really helps your mood every night you come out here to go racing."

The opening night of the season at the Southern Iowa Speedway was dominated by local racers. Three of the five feature races were won by Mahaska County drivers, including a pair of wins by Oskaloosa natives as A.J. Johnson claimed the non-wing sprint car feature from the pole position while Nathan Moody edged another Oskaloosa driver, Brandon Allison, in the Sport Compacts leading the feature race wire to wire.

New Sharon natives Colton Livezey and Carter VanDenberg posted a 1-2 finish in the Sportmods feature race. Livezey began his quest to win a second straight SIS season championship by winning the 14-lap race with VanDenberg and Montezuma native Maguire DeJong provided solid competition.

"It feels great to be standing here at the start of the season just the way I finished last season, especially opening this season against a little bit of a stronger field of cars," Livezey said. "I wasn't really sure what to expect because we've changed quite a bit since last season. I drove cautious at the start of the night.

"We kind of got bailed out by an early caution. By that point, I knew the car was good. I was able to take advantage of a double-file restart. I was able to get out in front in the clean air and set sail."

With the exception of July 3, the 2024 season of racing at the Southern Iowa Speedway will continue each Wednesday night (weather permitting) all the way up to the track's season championship night on July 24. The track will once again host the Front Row Challenge on Aug. 5 as part of the week of sprint car racing leading up to the Knoxville Nationals as well as the two-night Fall Challenge Oct. 11-12. The seasons at several local tracks, including the Eldon Speedway, will also be getting underway as local drivers look to produce exciting, successful seasons.

"It's great when everything can come together for you at your home track," Livezey said. "There's going to be great competition all year. Carter VanDenberg is a super nationals champion. Maguire is as good as any driver if not the best. The top drivers at this track could go just about anywhere and win. You just have to stay consistent, get every point you can get and hopefully be in position to win a championship at the end of the year."

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.