CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It had been four years since the Mid-American Stock Car Series visited Hawkeye Downs Speedway.
As it turns out, the wait was well worth it.
Sixteen drivers from six states converged on the historic half-mile in Eastern Iowa Friday night, and when the dust settled on a caution-free 45 lap feature, it was Brad Keith standing tall above the rest.
Keith, who started in the 17th position, muscled to the front of the pack and stayed ahead of an experienced field to take his first Mid-American Stock Car Series checkered flag.
Rockford segment two winner Jack Stern would lead the field to green and race side-by-side with local favorite Brian Gibson for the early race lead. Gibson would wrestle the lead from Stern via the high side of the track and pace the pack through the opening laps. Following Gibson on the high side was Lyle Nowak. Nowak would take second from Stern on lap two, and immediately challenge Gibson for the lead. After a tight side-by-side battle, Nowak assumed the lead on lap six.
Behind Nowak, the frantic action continued. Keith, along with 2009 Hawkeye winner Bill Prietzel, would march through traffic together in pursuit of the top spot. By lap 12, a four car battle had developed up front, with Nowak again being pursued by Gibson, and with Gibson feeling heat from Keith and Prietzel.
Keith captured the second spot on lap 19, with Prietzel slipping to third shortly after. Two laps later, Keith arrived at Nowak’s back bumper. It took merely a lap and a half for Keith to clear Nowak and collect the lead.
As Keith moved to the head of the field, Prietzel moved closer to Keith. The two would ready for a lead battle on lap 27, while also readying for lapped traffic. The traffic proved to be the difference in the race, as Prietzel was held up, while Keith was able to sail away.
After the dust up within the lapped traffic, Keith was never again challenged by Prietzel. The two would stay separated by around seven car lengths for the remainder of the race, with Keith cruising to his first Mid-American feature win.
Behind the top two, the frantic action continued. Nowak held off the advances of both 2012 series champion Jeremy Spoonmore and Rick Tackman Jr. Tackman issued several challenges to Spoonmore for fourth, only to come up just short at the finish. Nowak rebounded from a rough opening day at Rockford and ended the race in third, ahead of Spoonmore and Tackman.