Labor Day Weekend at Slinger Speedway
by Fay Hendricks
Perfect weather, a holiday weekend, and fireworks brought the crowd back to Slinger Speedway for the Labor Day weekend. Over 100 entries filled the pits, the weekly racers joined by many others, and new faces showed up in victory lane Sunday. With over thirty super late models, a 35-lap semi transferred the top two finishers to the 100-lap feature, Fred Winn way and Jake Vanoskey joining the back of the 22-car field later. Rob Braun earned his first quick time by beating the mark set by Steve Apel, and Rich Bickle Jr. won the dash. Jamie Wallace made his first appearance this year, joining Conrad Morgan in the front row at feature time. Ryan DeStefano doubled his racing Sunday, starting alongside Tim Lampman in the second row, with Dennis Prunty, Mike Egan, Bickle, and Brad Mueller next in line.
Vanoskey spun on the first lap, Bickle and DeStefano got together and righted themselves six laps later, scattering the field in response. Morgan got ahead of Wallace on the second lap, withstanding the third caution two laps later when Lampman's spin collected point leaders Prunty and Apel, Al Schill, James Swan, Mike Graczkowski and Eric Fransen. Seventeen survivors took the green flag while others thrashed in the pits. The pace quickened, Egan closely following Morgan but getting too close when slight contact sent Morgan spinning. The next leader was Bickle, but the green flag was quickly replaced with the yellow when Winn spun, Morgan, Jeff Holtz, and Bennett caught in the tangle. On lap twenty it was Morgan spinning again, and there were fifteen cars remaining.
Bickle stayed ahead on the double-file restart, and the race got up to full speed. Just past the halfway mark lapped cars became a factor as Mueller, Braun, and Egan moved to the front to challenge. Soon Brad Keith and Lampman sat sideways in the corner, followed by Keith spinning again with 27 circuits remaining. By the final caution we counted only ten cars still on the lead lap. Prunty's damaged nose was taped on and raising in the air each lap, and Apel returned with the left body missing from his mount. The thundering field roared back to life with Mueller moving ahead of Bickle with eleven laps remaining. Just then Bickle slowed dramatically and parked in the infield. Braun tried to wrest the top spot away from Mueller, with Egan ready to fill in whatever lane opened. But Mueller was not about to cede his first win at Slinger in three years, happily hugging his trophy later.
Mueller exclaimed, "These people have no clue how good it feels to win at Slinger." Asked about getting past Bickle, Mueller replied, "I could see him back off the corner a little bit, but I knew the 98 (Braun) was coming. This is awesome. My crew did an absolute meticulous job getting this car back together." Braun claimed, "We were fast at the end," adding, "It actually was not a disappointment to have fast time and second in the race. You can't ask for everything at once." Egan had to settle for third place, Lowell Bennett moved up from the sixth row, and Morgan recovered for fifth place. Having posted his third win of this season at another track the night before, Jerry Eckhardt ran in the top bunch all night, following the first five across the final stripe. That's not bad for someone who will turn seventy years old this year. Prunty and Apel began the night two points apart in the championship battle and ended up in a tie. Apel netted enough points to earn the Pepsi Challenge series over Bennett, however.
The sportsman field was topped by Ryan Farrell, Eric Lingford won the dash, and Jimmy Wilson roared ahead of Dustin Krebs to win the heat. Chris Beine and Carl Benn made up the front row of the 30-lap feature and ran in tandem for many laps. Benn was ahead on the second circuit and Beine was replaced with Jack Stern, who started in the second row. It took many orbits around the high banks before Stern was able to nose ahead of Benn, the pair repeating the process as the laps wound down toward the end. With two laps remaining the perfect race was marred by a spun car, forcing a dash to the checkered flag. Stern was up to the task, earning his very first feature win. Finally finding an opening, Swan was able to catch up to the leader at the end, followed by Benn, Lingford, and Farrell. Swan and Farrell remain far ahead of the rest in the point standings, next week's double points deciding the title.
The limited late models began with Alex Prunty posting fast time and Danny Church winning the dash. Nick Wendt and first-time visitor Brad Norgard posted heat wins. The 35-lap feature began with Prunty and Braison Bennett starting back in the sixth row. Wendt and Mark Kissinger made up the front row, Kissinger ahead before Wendt got past after three laps. The next time around Kissinger spun after contact from Adam Peschek. Eddie May had moved up from his third-row start to lead the pack after the restart, holding the point past two more cautions. Pat McIntee had a scary moment when his car was enveloped in a cloud of smoke, the safety crew quickly arriving to check for a fire. Six laps before the end Justin Poenitsch spun in the frontstretch, and Andy Welter's car got damaged in the chain reaction.
May remembered the way to victory lane, later telling your scribe it was perhaps 1987 the last time this happened at Slinger. The multiple Lake Geneva champion celebrated his fiftieth birthday the previous day, and when his wife asked what he wanted for a present, May replied he wanted to race at Slinger. May got the best present he could have wished for, but he earned it. Followed by double-duty racer DeStefano and point leader Prunty, the track title tightens up between the pair. Johnny DeAngelis and Church completed the top five finishers.
John Daley topped the Thunderstocks in time, Tyler Schley won the dash, and Nick Egan won the heat. The 18-lap feature began with Daley and Brad Hetzel in the front row, Hetzel leading all the way. Just as the white flag was about to wave, Schley's car spun out of a top five finish. The green, white, and checkered flags ended the contest quickly, with Ken Schraufnagel making a last-lap charge to steal the win away from Hetzel at the final stripe. Joe Shelby, Daley, and Joe Mueller in his Figure 8 car completed the top five. Josh Fisher also doubled his fun here in his Figure 8 machine. Next week will tell who wins the track title, as Hetzel, Schley, and Daley lead the chart.
The Slinger Bees began with Steve Dickson topping the qualifiers and Grant Griesbach winning the dash. Separated by over forty years in age, Griesbach is about to start fifth grade next week. The dash saw point leader Nick Schmidt drop out with problems, later joining the tail end of the feature field in the car used by Jim Bentzler. Heats were won by newcomer Jay Orr and Russ Davison. The 22-lap feature began with Brandon Berens and Dave Lembke ahead of Ryan Savage and Jake Schraufnagel. Before one lap was complete Berens spun and Greisbach and Dakota Amos got sideways to avoid contact. Lembke took charge on the next attempt, with one more yellow flag waving on the second orbit when Schraufnagel's car went around.
The rest of the race went by in a hurry, challengers gaining and losing as the laps would down to the end. With seven laps remaining Dickson made his move for the lead, taking the field to the checkered flag. The ending changed dramatically when Brandon Tackes roared past Dickson in the last corner and beat him across the final feet. Following the dynamic duo were Schmidt, Orr, and Griesbach, withnewcomers John Beale and Robin Ulrey making their debuts. Schmidt, Tackes and Griesbach are all in the final challenge for the track title next week.
The fireworks in the sky provided the oohs and aahs for the evening, but the Figure 8 finale brought the wows from the crowd. The track was soon filled with cars crossing the center at the same time, which turned out badly when Russ Lorbiecki and Shane Becker hit, Becker's car losing the rear axle and wheels as it rolled over. The audience applauded when Becker walked to the ambulance for a checkup, but the race was over. Scott Goetzke was the final winner of the show shortly after eleven o'clock. Fans streamed into the pits to see their heroes, but some had already left by this time. With the kids back in school, next week is an afternoon show that offers double points to the competitors. Anything can happen. This ends the full moon weekend.
Brad Mueller won Slinger Super Late Model 100. [Fay Hendricks Photo]
Eddie May won Slinger Late Model race. [Fay Hendricks Photo]
Ken Schraufnagel won Slinger Thunderstocks. [Fay Hendricks Photo]
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