Thaw Brawl Returns; By Stan Kalwasinski

Thaw Brawl Returns

By Stan Kalwasinski

Davenport, Iowa—After a year’s absence from the Midwest racing scene, the annual  Thaw Brawl powered by Hoker Trucking LLC and C&J Trucking of Iowa LLC dirt late model stock car special is set to be held at Davenport Speedway – K Promotions on March 24 and 25.  A  practice night has been set for Thursday, March 23.  Because of poor weather conditions, last year’s event, scheduled for the Davenport oval by Sixteens Race Promotions, was totally canceled.

Saturday evening’s program will be highlighted by the $20,000-to-win main event for super late model dirt competitors.  Friday night’s super late model feature event will pay $10,000 to the winner.   IMCA modifieds, IMCA sport mods and IMCA stock cars will also be in competition both nights on the quarter-mile dirt speedway.

The last Thaw Brawl was held at the now-shuttered and for-sale LaSalle Speedway in Illinois in 2021.  New Mexico native Garrett Alberson won the 60-lap headliner ahead of Brian Shirley, Tanner English, Ryan Unzicker and Jason Feger.

The Thaw Brawl has developed a rich history since the first event was held at LaSalle in 2012.  Carpentersville, Ill., racer Dennis Erb Jr. captured the inaugural, $5,000-to-win, race, taking the checkered flag in front of Brian Birkhofer and Frank Heckenast Jr. on April 7, 2012.

Birkhofer, the Muscatine, Iowa, speedster, won the race in 2013 ahead of Chris Simpson and Brandon Sheppard.  Becoming the event’s only two-time winner, Erb scored the victory in 2014 – this time besting Bobby Pierce and Ryan Unzicker.  Racing out of Oakwood, Ill., Pierce, son of former racing great Bob Pierce, took the victory in 2015 in front of Simpson and Ricky Weiss.

Hailing from Chatham, Ill., Brian Shirley held off a late-race charge by Pierce to win the Thaw Brawl in 2016.  Shirley and Pierce were followed by Heckenast Jr. and Shannon Babb.  2017 saw Saturday’s main event canceled because of rain with West Virginia’s Josh Richards winning Friday night’s 40 lapper ahead of Chris Simpson and Tim McCreadie.  Simpson, from Oxford, Iowa, won the Thaw Brawl in 2018, besting Rusty Schlenk and Ricky Weiss.

Texas racer Tyler Erb won the Thaw Brawl in 2019.  The program became a Sunday afternoon event after both Friday’s and Saturday’s races were canceled because of weather issues.  Erb, from Waverly, Texas, raced by Pierce in the closing laps to win the 75-lap event.  Erb and Pierce were chased to the finish line by Chris Simpson and Dennis Erb Jr.  Slated for the LaSalle speed plant, the 2020 event was canceled because of the COVID 19 Pandemic.

Over the years, eight different drivers have won the Thaw Brawl.  Will there be a ninth?