The skies became ominous quickly at the Slinger Super Speedway. The rains were coming, but for Jeff Holtz he would have probably welcomed the rain earlier. Holtz had opened up a straightaway lead over Jeremy Lepak before a mid race caution bunched up the field. Lepak used that break to his full advantage by quickly getting around Holtz on the restart before pulling away to win the first round of the Pepsi Challenge Series 75.
Holtz seemingly had the race well in hand before that caution, and even Lepak wondered about his chances without the yellow.
“He (Holtz) was pretty good. Even on that restart I had to work,” said Lepak. “He worked me there to get by him on the outside. He had a really big lead and his car was awesome. I definitely had the hammer down once I got past Egan, so I don’t know he was pretty good. Even at the end there I was pacing a little bit in case a late caution came out, but he was right there. So I don’t know it would have been awful close.”
Jeff Holtz started the feature on the front row outside of Fred Winn and got the jump at the drop of the green flag. Winn was having a hard time staying on the bottom, and once Holtz pulled away Randy Schuler worked around Winn as well. Mike Egan and Conrad Morgan both used the high side to get around Winn and move into the top five.
Mike Held would spin in turn four on lap 13, but that would not bring out a yellow.
Egan continued his march to the front on the outside of the high banks and would get around Schuler for second place on lap 28. Lepak, who started the feature from the eight spot, was also making progress on the high side. Lepak moved up to the fifth spot by lap 15, and when Egan worked around Schuler for second, Lepak followed into third place.
Lepak continued his strong run on the high side and maneuvered past Egan into second place on lap 32.
By this time, Holtz had a full straightaway lead over Lepak, and despite encountering heavy traffic, he was able to maintain his lead.
While a heavy storm was fast approaching, so was Lepak. Inching closer every lap, yet the lead Holtz had seemed almost insurmountable.
Then it happened.
Leading by a full straightaway near the halfway mark, Holtz’ lead was quickly erased by the spinning car of Fred Winn on lap 39.
Ordinarily the leader will pick the inside lane for a restart, and this time was no exception. Holtz did indeed pick the inside lane, and that seemingly played right into Lepak’s hand.
Both drivers got a good restart, but it was Lepak who had the better car on the outside. Coming off of turn two on lap 40, Lepak cleared Holtz and began to pull away slightly. By lap 56, Lepak was catching lapped traffic and Holtz was closing in.
However, Lepak would prove to be just strong enough to hold off Holtz over the final nineteen laps and pick up his first win of the season at Slinger.
“The boss ain’t even here,” said Lepak, referring to car owner Gerry Gunderman. “I just want to thank Pepsi, Wayne (track owner Wayne Erickson), everybody here puts on an awesome show. I love driving up here two and half hours I got to drive to race here.”
For Jeff Holtz, it was a story of a win that got away from him.
“It was really good at the beginning and once we got the yellow that was just what I didn’t want to see,” said Holtz. “The carburetor was loading up a little during that yellow flag and it just didn’t want to go those first couple laps. Then it cleared out and I think we were pretty close to being the same speed as the number 40 (Lepak). My hat’s off to him, but I think if we get this figured out we’ll have something for them.”
Conrad Morgan and defending track champion Lowell Bennett each worked their way around Mike Egan to complete the top five.
Jake Vanoskey led flag to flag in winning the Late Model feature.
Vanoskey started from the pole position alongside Bill Shavlik. Vanoskey got the easy jump at the start as Shavlik was really loose in the corners. Chris Ratajczyk and Wayne Freimund got past Shavlik and began to pursue the Soup Nazi, as Vanoskey is affectionately called.
Vanoskey would hold a comfortable advantage as he worked his way through lapped traffic.
Things would get interesting as the leaders were about to put a lap on Shavlik. Vanoskey easily got by, but Ratajczyk was perhaps a bit impatient and perhaps helped the loose car of Shavlik get a tad bit looser in turn one. It appeared that Shavlik was on his way to going around when Ratajczyk made slight contact bringing out the yellow on lap 31 of the 35 lap feature.
Vanoskey wasn’t going to be denied on this day, as he got the jump on the restart and held on for the win. Wayne Freimund was able to get past Ratajczyk for second. Parker May had a career best fourth place while Gregg Pawelski rounded out the top five.
James Swan continued his dominance in the Mid-American Sportsman division, as he cruised to an easy victory in the 30 lap feature.
Swan picked up his third consecutive feature win at Slinger, and did so in dominating fashion.
Starting inside of the third row, Swan darted both inside and outside to quickly get towards the front. He worked his way past the team cars of Dan Church and Ryan Farrell, before getting around both Andy Haver and Mike Borchardt Jr. on lap 13. Once Swan was in the lead, he easily pulled away to over a straightaway lead at the checkers.
Ryan Farrell came home in second with Mike Borchardt Jr. finishing in third. Danny Church was fourth with Brian Holtz coming in fifth.
Nate Fick led every lap of the Thunderstock feature and held off a late charging John Daley in picking up the win. Adam Peschek finished in third despite a mid race spin and losing a huge chunk of lead weight from his car. Rick Schaefer finished in fourth with two time feature winner Andy Welter finishing in fifth.
Nick Wagner took home the checkers for the second consecutive week, narrowly holding off Braison Bennett for the win.
Wagner and Bennett, both started near the tail of the field and quickly raced their way towards the front. By the end of the first lap both drivers were in the top five and climbing.
Wagner used the traffic to his advantage to get the lead on lap 4 with Bennett in hot pursuit.
Bennett was then able to use the traffic to his advantage when he was able to pin Wagner behind the lapped cars and take the lead on lap 11.
Turnabout is fair play and just four laps later, Wagner was able to take advantage of the lapped traffic and pinned Bennett behind them to take the lead for good on lap 15.
The Tackes’ finished in third and fourth with Brandon out dueling Marty. Erica Knutson finished in fifth position.
Justin Poenitsch took home the win in the Speedway Guest cars, while an anonymous driver in a Pontiac Grand Prix, complete with roll cage took top honors in the Spectator Eliminators.
The severe rains came soon after and washed out the Figure 8 feature as well as the Gauntlet Race.
Results for Round 1 of the Pepsi Challenge Series
1 40L Jeremy Lepak
2 38H Jeff Holtz
3 92M Conrad Morgan
4 2B Lowell Bennett
5 89E Mike Egan
6 42P Dennis Prunty
7 72S Randy Schuler
8 8W Josh Wallace
9 10R Jon Reynolds Jr.
10 40F Dave Feiler
11 12G Mike Graczkowski
12 16A Steve Apel
13 714S Al Schill
14 48K Brad Keith
15 75W Fred Winn
16 61E Jerry Eckhardt
17 98B Rob Braun
18 26B Chris Blawat
19 89M Brad Mueller
20 72H Mike Held
21 8S Al Stippich