Swan Crowned King Of The Highbanks In Big 8 Win At Slinger
Big 8 Series Enjoys Annual Stop at Slinger
By Gregg Paul
James Swan drives a different race cars in different classes at all the different tracks he competes at.  Always a threat to win no matter what the track and no matter what the race car, Swan’s successes have been a tale of different scenarios.  During the 2011 season at the Slinger Super Speedway, Swan has dominated in the Mid-American Sportsman yet struggled with the limited late model.  While he continued to dominate with the Mid-Am car in cruising to an easy win, it was a much bigger and sweeter win, as he held off a late race charge by Steve Rubeck to capture the Old Wisconsin King of The Highbanks Big 8 Series feature event.

“This win means everything, we’ve had a rotten year this year,” said Swan.  “We’ve qualified pretty good, made some shows, but just can’t race very well. Then when we do race well, we wreck or something happens.  This is absolutely fantastic since I call this my home track since Lake Geneva closed.  It’s pretty amazing.”

Swan’s rotten year is seemingly only in the late models, but on this night he certainly erased those demons by scoring his first career win in the Big 8 Series.

Steve Rubeck and Rob Braun would attempt to lead the field of 23 Big 8 Series stars to the green flag.  However during hot laps, Rob Braun suffered a broken axle and was not able to start the race.  Eddie May inherited the front row spot, but it would be Rubeck who would find the lead at the drop of the green.

Just two laps into the event the yellow flag would fly when Steve Dobbratz went for a spin down the front straightaway.

Rubeck would sneak away to a brief lead with Jeremy Miller battling Travis Dassow for third behind May.  James Swan would make short work getting around Dassow as well.  Dassow would get freight  trained on the high side as Jon Reynolds Jr. and Bobby Wilberg would also get by.

Reynolds Jr., the defending champion of this event ducked underneath Swan and into fourth place on lap twelve.  Eddie May’s car began to smoke and was being observed by track officials.

Another yellow flag would fly on lap 18, when Kyle Shear spun in turn two.  During this yellow, May’s car would be stopped by track officials to check out the cause of the smoke. The cause would be leaking power steering fluid and May would pull off the track for repairs and lose a lap.

Ryan DeStefano would also pull off the track suffering from overheating.

Rubeck would get the jump on the green flag, as the Big 8 allows the leader to start ahead of the rest of the field, who start double file behind.  There is also a cone placed on the track where drivers get to pick the inside or outside, conceivably being able to move up spots.

Jeremy Miller inherited second place when May went off for repairs, and set his sights on Rubeck’s lead.  Swan would work his way past Reynolds Jr. and settle into the third spot.

Miller attached himself to Rubeck’s rear bumper on lap 20, and even used the chrome horn on a few occasions.  Despite Miller’s attempts, Rubeck was able to hang onto his lead. Miller’s efforts would be interrupted on lap 26, when Jon Reynolds Jr. suffered a broken track bar, ending his quest to repeat.
Once racing resumed, Miller continued his pursuit of Rubeck with Swan lurking in the shadows.  However that pursuit would be interrupted again on lap 31 when Davey Pennel spun in turn one with the help of Dale Nottestad.

Bobby Wilberg and Zack Riddle took advantage of the cone and moved to the outside of the second and third row respectively. 

As the field was coming to the green, the back of the field stacked up and Wayne Freimund had his hood buckled from contact.  He would somehow make his way around the highbanks with seemingly poor vision for several laps before being punted on lap 40 by Nottestad. 

Zack Riddle used the cone to move up to the third position for the restart.  Rubeck held off Miller over the next several laps, before Swan moved Miller just enough to get past him on lap 44.  Rubeck was able to stretch out his to about five car lengths, but Swan began to reel him in.

Lap 52 found Swan squarely on Rubeck’s deck lid, and Swan began looking both high and low in an effort to get around Rubeck.

Before Swan could complete the move, a spin by Kyle Shear on lap 55 slowed the field yet again.

During this yellow, Jeremy Miller’s shifter broke and he was pushed to the pits.  Quick work by his crew got Miller back on track before racing resumed. Dale Nottestad and Ryan Miles took advantage of the cone to work their way into the top five.

When racing resumed, Zack Riddle got inside of Nottestad and Miles and brought Bobby Wilberg along with him.  Meanwhile up front, Rubeck had his mirrors and hands full with Swan, as once again Swan had no problem letting Rubeck know he was there.

Swan was able to muscle his way past Rubeck on lap 62 to take over the lead, while Riddle took advantage and made his way into the second spot.  Wilberg held steady in fourth, while Nottestad recovered to maintain the fifth spot.

Swan began to pull away, opening up a few car lengths lead.  Just when it appeared that victory was in sight, Alex Prunty and Ryan Miles decided this race wasn’t ready to be decided just yet.  Prunty got into the back of Miles on lap 71, bringing out the final yellow of the race.

The cone would once again help decide the outcome, when Rubeck jumped to the outside, believing that was his only chance to catch Swan.

However, once the green flag came out, Swan was not about to let this win get away.  Swan got the jump and steadily pulled away from Rubeck and took the checkers 1.984 seconds ahead.  Zack Riddle held on to finish in third, while Jeremy Miller made a valiant comeback to finish in fourth.  Bobby Wilberg rounded out the top five.

For Swan, his first career Big 8 feature win coming at Slinger was definitely a special moment, though he wasn’t sure just how much more special it was if it had happened elsewhere.

“I don’t know if it does or not,” said Swan.  “It means the same to me.  It’s a win in the Big 8 series that I never thought I would get, so this is absolutely amazing.  We’ve had rotten luck.  We ran good last year but just didn’t win.  Last year we had everything but a win and this year we were going along and had nothing but bad luck.  Everything but a finish.  It’s fantastic.  I’m out of the points now so I can just go for wins.  It’s pretty neat.”

Rubeck made his first appearance at Slinger as a driver a memorable one, despite not believing he had the car to get it done.

“For the first time being here, second place, I’ll take it,” said Rubeck.  “The car was a little tight in the center and loose off, but when you start out front and have that luxury of clean air…..I knew Swan was going to be fast but I didn’t want to fight him too bad.  Miller was good, but I knew I could hold him off coming out of the corners.  I just tried to get a rhythm and pull away.  Then those damn restarts kept coming back and slowed me up.  For the first time here, I did what I had to do those last 11 laps on the outside, raced pretty hard and second place is what we got.”

Being that it was Rubeck’s first time racing at Slinger, he had a unique perspective about the track.

“I think it is Rockford on steroids,” said Rubeck.  “I wish I was closer, I’d come here more often.  It’s a blast.  It really is a good racetrack.  It’s got two grooves whether people believe it or not. I practiced on the outside, but that was my second practice those last 11 laps.  It was better out there than it was on the bottom, but how do I know that unless I get up there.  I watched Rich Bickle get around this place, but unfortunately I wasn’t thinking Rich Bickle the median part of that race or I think I could’ve pulled away had I done that.  It is what it is and I’ll take it.” 

James Swan pulled off the double by easily cruising to his eight feature win of the year out of eleven events.  Swan started from the fifth spot, and by lap 9 found his way into the lead.  Brian Holtz followed Swan to the front, but never was able to mount a serious challenge.  Jack Stearn wound up in third while Bret Widdis and Jay Shambeau rounded out the top five.

Andy Welter notched his fourth Thunderstock feature win, as he held off Brad Hetzel and John Daley.  Nate Fick finished fourth with Ken Schraufnagel finishing in fifth.  Daley scored the win in the Dash holding off Schraufnagel and Fick.

Brandon Tackes scored his second 4 cylinder Slinger Bees feature win of the season over Allen Maher Jr.  Braison Bennett, who had to start dead last due to his winning last week’s feature, worked his way through traffic to wind up in third.  Marty Tackes, father of Brandon finished in fourth, and Misty Benn scored her career best fifth place finish.

Brittiny Helmers took the checkers in the Bees semi feature, holding off Zach Clarke and Misty Benn.  Alexis Strobel made it three women in the top four, with Dylan Konitzer coming home in fifth.

Aaron Moyer dominated the Legends feature by leading nineteen of the twenty laps and cruising to a four second victory over Cory Talaska.  Vince Bartolotta finished in third place, while Kyle Vergatta and Steve Narr rounded out the top five.  Moyer completed his second clean sweeps in as many nights as he swept qualifying, the dash, and the feature, duplicating his efforts the night before at Dells Raceway Park.

Results of the Old Wisconsin King of The Highbanks 88
Big 8 Series event at Slinger
1 97S  James Swan 88
2 20R Steve Rubeck 88
3 14R  Zack Riddle 88
4 5M  Jeremy Miller 88
5 1W  Bobby Wilberg 88
6 51N  Dale Nottestad 88
7 95F Wayne Freimund 88
8 88D  Travis Dassow 88
9 57M  Ryan Miles 88
10 63H  Jason Hicks 88
11 18E  Mike Ehde 88
12 29P  Davey Pennel 81
13 11P  Alex Prunty 76
14 91M  Ty Majeski
15 36S  Kyle Shear 72
16 7D  John DeAngelis 61
17 2M  Eddie May 52
18 21R Chris Ratajczyk 39
19 10R  Jon Reynolds Jr. 27
20 0D  Ryan DeStefano 27
21 52D Steve Dobbratz 27
22 31W  Darren Wolke

James Swan in victory lane at Slinger Speedway.  (Speed Graphics Photos)