Finally. That word floated amongst James Swan’s jumbled thoughts as the four-time Mid-American Stock Car Series took stock of just where he was: in victory lane at the Madison International Speedway. The longtime veteran and perennial contender had come up short many times at ‘Wisconsin’s Fastest Half-Mile’, blowing a motor while leading, flipping over, and even losing a clutch while pacing the field but nothing could stop Swan and his blazing fast hot rod on this sultry summer evening.
“The car was on a rail there late,” the points leader offered afterwards. “We’ve had so much bad luck here and the Big 8 race didn’t change that. To come out here and do this is amazing.”
The fast qualifier quickly worked his way from an 11th place starting spot into third by lap 17 of the ‘Firecracker 40’, using a restart to blow by Lyle Nowak on the outside with 20 circuits to go and fending off his wily rival, Bill Prietzel, en route to the winner’s circle. Swan’s breakthrough victory comes on the heels of a heart-stopping win over Prietzel last month at Dells Raceway Park. He extended his points lead in the process but Bill Prietzel remains within shouting distance.
Minnesota hotshoe Adam Bendzick assumed early command of the MASCS ‘Firecracker 40’, the third event of the 2011 campaign. Defending champion Lyle Nowak worked his way into a podium spot on the third lap, taking over the third position from Ryan Ferrell in his first career MASCS start.
Bendzick soon came under pressure from Travis Rodewald and surrendered the top spot on lap five. Over the next ten laps as Rodewald stretched his lead to several car lengths, Bendzick faded outside of the top five as several contenders entered the fray.
Bill Prietzel moved up to third on lap 16 as James Swan followed him into the top five on the same circuit. Swan soon inherited fourth after the caution fell on the very next lap for a solo spin by Ferrell on the exit of turn two.
The ensuing restart shook up the dynamics of the event as Nowak negotiated a slowed Rodewald for the lead while Swan gracefully dove to the bottom groove for the runner-up spot. With starter Dave Sankey indicating that the race was at the halfway mark, Swan picked up the pace and made an urgent maneuver for the lead, slipping by a braking Nowak on the outside of turn three before peddling it off the corner to grab a two car length edge.
A spin in turn two a couple laps later bunched the 24-car field back up and allowed a hungry Prietzel to push past Nowak for second as Swan slipped away to a comfortable six car length advantage. Brian Back busted into the top three as Nowak got hung out to dry and fell to fifth.
Prietzel got his chance to contend for the points lead and his second win of the season after the third caution of the race flew with 13 laps to go for a Danny Church and Tyler Bauknecht spin in turn three. On the restart, Swan and Prietzel went door-to-door, dueling for the top spot over the course of the next two miles before Swan nosed ahead to a slender advantage.
As soon as Swan escaped his rival’s challenge unscathed, he drove away into the summer night, cruising to a 15 car length edge while Nowak pressured Prietzel for second. Behind the top three, heat race winner Jeremy Bloomberg continued his drive through the field, ascending to fourth with eight laps left.
With the leader checked out, the battle was for third where the feisty Bloomberg looked high and low for a lane around Nowak. Bloomberg made his move and broke into the top three with a pass on the front stretch with two laps remaining.
Swan didn’t let this one slip from his grasp, smoothly hitting his marks en route to an elusive win at MIS, taking the checkers over Prietzel by a three second margin.
“I’ve been waiting so long for this,” a joyous Swan screamed in the winner’s circle. “I’ve had so much happen here and it feels so good to finally win one. You just never know what’s going to happen in those final five laps and I definitely didn’t want to see a caution. Things finally fell our way at this place.”
With his finish in the bridesmaid’s position, Prietzel stayed within shouting distance of Swan in the points standings. Bloomberg’s incredible run earned him a podium spot in third after starting the main event mired in his 16th starting spot. Nowak netted fourth after leading in the early stages while Brian Back quietly posted a solid effort, rounding out the top five in fifth.
Next up for the Mid-American Stock Car Series is a double dose of action in the heartland with two stops in two nights on Friday, July 15th and Saturday, July 16th. The first night of racing action will feature the ‘Showdown in Chi-Town’ at the Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill. as the MASCS regulars will duke it out with the Mid-American home track warriors in a battle for the win.
Perhaps the headliner for the 2011 MASCS campaign follows the next evening as drivers make the trek to Indiana for the ‘Iron Brigade 100’ at the 5/8th’s mile Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis. MASCS will be running in conjunction with the Advance Racing Association in the new event.
For more information on the Mid-American Stock Car Series, including entry forms for the upcoming events and more, visit the series website at www.midamericanracing.com.
Mid-American Stock Car Series Results Madison International Speedway (7.1.11)
‘Firecracker 40’ Top 5: 1. James Swan, Genoa City, Wis.; 2. Bill Prietzel, Richfield, Wis.; 3. Jeremy Bloomberg, Hampshire, Ill.; 4. Lyle Nowak, Wausau, Wis.; 5. Brian Back, Rudolph, Wis.
Fast Qualifier: James Swan (19.325 seconds/29 cars qualified)
Heat Race #1: 1. Bret Widdis, Manistique, MI
Heat Race #2: 1. Eric Buchholz, Wautoma, Wis
Heat Race #3: 1. Jeremy Bloomberg, Hampshire, Ill