By Jeremiah Davis
BOONE – Jeff Aikey has, for years, been known as the King of the IMCA Deery Brothers Summer Series for Late Models.
The Cedar Falls native has won more features than anyone else, his seven series titles are more than anyone else, and his six Late Model victories at IMCA Super Nationals are more than anyone else. Since the 1980s, he and the Homolar family cruised around Eastern Iowa in a Late Model, and more often than not, the red No. 77 was the car to beat.
Saturday night at Boone Speedway, though, Aikey became – if only for one night – King of the IMCA Modifieds, too. His wire-to-wire victory in the main event at IMCA Super Nationals made him the second driver in IMCA history to win at Super Nats in both Modified and Late Model, joining Kevin Pittman, and mimicked that of his heyday in Late Models – dominant, emphatic and, afterwards, one hell of a party.
“I’m pretty revved up,” Aikey said Saturday night. “It’s such a cool deal. This is such a big race, man.
“They did something to my car before that last set of hot laps, and I came in and told them, I said, ‘I’m winning this sumbitch.”
— The Inside Track by Jeremiah Davis (@InsideTrackJD) September 10, 2018
This year has been different in a lot of ways for Aikey.
After more than 30 years racing side by side with the Homolars, the two parted on good terms, Aikey said. The cost, time and stress of that division and its ever-changing landscape had worn everyone down.
He bought the Modified before last season, hoping to run sparingly, hit the big-money shows and have a little fun. With no Late Model racing in the picture, it’s been full speed ahead in the Modified, running several nights at Benton County Speedway in Vinton, as well as the big-money stuff.
The result? As much fun as he’s ever had.
“I’m having so much fun in this thing,” Aikey said. “I’ve got a lot of good people, my friends are with me.
“We raced since 1995 (with Homolars), and we decided it was time – there were no bad vibes, it was just time to split. We’re just having fun. There’s no pressure.”
Aikey’s win came ahead of Oskaloosa’s Cayden Carter, Ryan Ruter, Ethan Dotson, Jason Wolla, Drew Armstrong, Josh Long, Cody Laney, Riley Simmons and Jay Noteboom in a somewhat unique field given there was only one previous champion who qualified for this year’s main event (Jimmy Gustin).
Carter seemingly had the fastest car at the end, but not enough time to make a serious challenge.
That left Aikey to casually dispense of lapped traffic and cruise to the win. With defending race-winner Richie Gustin not qualified for this year’s Dance, Aikey and crew chief Scott Fitzpatrick had a little extra help, too.
Whatever it was they did worked and then some.
“That thing was digging holes coming out (of the corner) it was hooked up so hard,” Aikey said. “I said to myself, ‘If somebody passes me they’re going to have to be damn good.’
“Scotty’s got a package on this thing right now that is just awesome.”
The victory was a win in more than one way, as weird as that sounds.
S&J Motorsports, which is a team of Fitzpatrick – who now is more crew chief and shock man while occasionally a driver himself – and the man currently at the top of the heap in IMCA Late Models, Justin Kay, was born last winter after a mutual parting-of-the-ways with Tyson Gheer. What once was Gheer’d Up, now is S&J, and the group has raced all year with a chip on its shoulder.
The little engine that could out of Wheatland now has back-to-back IMCA Super Nationals main event wins, with Richie Gustin claiming his second Dance crown last year before Aikey took his this year. Aikey was an obvious fit there, given Fitzpatrick is engaged to Aikey’s daughter, Alyssa.
His granddaughter made her first trip to a Super Nationals Victory Lane, too.
“My son-in-law built this car, Richie Gustin helped us, and wow, what a hot rod,” Aikey said. ““I was real nervous for a little while, but when it was digging so hard and said, ‘Dude, I’ve got a car.’ After that I wasn’t nervous. That’s Richie and Scotty helping.
“I’m excited. I hope this helps sell some cars out of this deal, Scotty will get some shock jobs and it’ll all be good.”