Mike Egan was probably the most shocked person attending the racing festivities at the Slinger Super Speedway. Egan’s season has had many more downs than ups so far, so being able to run up front all night was in itself almost a victory. The shock came when Egan was able to get past a slowing Jeremy Lepak with just nine laps remaining before cruising to the checkers in Round 2 of the Pepsi Challenge Series.
“It was a surprise,” said Egan. “I felt like I was gaining on Lepak every lap, but I knew there were only ten laps to go. I knew I could get to him, but I didn’t think I would be able to get by him because the top was so greasy. Those guys have a heck of a program and my hat’s off to them, but I think they got a flat or something. We came out of turn two and I saw him wiggle a little bit and I just mashed it and moved around him ‘cause he moved to the low groove, but I figured that’s what happened.”
Lepak, who had already scored three feature wins on the season was cruising to what was almost certain to be his fourth win, until the flat tire slowed his car enough to drop him to a sixth place finish.
Jon Reynolds Jr. and Egan led the small field of only seventeen cars to the green flag. The inside proved to be the fastest way around the high banks of Slinger on this night right from the get go, as Reynolds Jr. took over the lead. Egan held a strong second on the high side for the first four laps before being freight-trained back to fifth place by lap ten.
Jeremy Lepak was the first to get past Egan, and paved the way for Lowell Bennett and Conrad Morgan to follow. Lepak would duck underneath Reynolds Jr. for the lead on lap nine. Now Reynolds Jr. got to experience firsthand that the outside was not the place to be, as he also would suffer being freight-trained back to the fifth spot.
Greg Emmer, who works as a crew member on NASCAR driver David Ragan’s car made his debut in a super late model and nearly brought out the race’s first yellow on lap seven. Emmer, who chose to start shotgun on the field, spun by himself off of turn four and into the infield. He was deemed to be out of harm’s way and the race would remain under green.
Meanwhile back up front, Lepak began to pull away from Lowell Bennett and Conrad Morgan, as Egan also made his way around Reynolds Jr.
Tommy Pecaro would spin off of turn 2 on lap nineteen with a little help from Steve Apel. Pecaro spun into the infield on the backstretch and the race again remained under green.
The yellow would finally come out on lap 22, when Emmer would spin for the second time. However, as Emmer’s car came to rest in turn two, Mike Graczkowski could not avoid contact and slammed hard into Emmer ending both drivers nights.
Lepak would get a great restart and pull away by a few car lengths, as Conrad Morgan battled Bennett for the second spot. Bennett was stuck on the outside, and Morgan was able to clear him.
Chris Blawat appeared to have an engine let go on lap 25, leaving a trail of fluid around the track bringing out another caution. As the field was bunching back up, Tommy Pecaro decided it was time for payback and simply dumped Steve Apel down the backstretch. Pecaro was black flagged for rough driving and sent off the track.
The double file restart would find Lepak and Morgan sharing the front row, with Morgan stuck on the treacherous high side. As the leaders were coming to the green in turn three, Lepak surged ahead of Morgan. Morgan’s car then slowed dramatically. The green flag waved despite the slow start by Morgan, and the cars behind him in the outside came up to speed quickly. Steve Apel’s car was turned sideways and run into by Jerry Eckhardt. Apel’s car got slightly airborne and the entire right side of the body was torn away. Eckhardt suffered left front fender damage, but was able to return to action and stay on the lead lap.
Morgan was sent to the rear for his part in the restart.
Lepak got another great restart and surged into the lead. Bennett ducked under Reynolds Jr. opening the door for Egan and Jeff Holtz to follow. Lepak would stretch his lead to about five car lengths, as the field began to string out just a bit.
Close racing in the back of the pack would result in the next yellow coming out on lap 40. The trio of Jerry Eckhardt, Steven Schulz, and Gregg Pawelski would get together in turn four. Pawelski, who was making his debut in a super late model, suffered the most damage in the incident, as his right side was tore up pretty good. Eckhardt and Schulz suffered cosmetic damage and were able to continue.
Lowell Bennett would get the jump on the restart, but Lepak quickly battled back on the inside. Bennett fared only slightly better on the outside, as only Egan would get by. Jeff Holtz and Brad Dahmer would work their way into the top five.
Lepak was once again showing the dominance of the Gundermann stable of cars, despite his being the only car fielded by Gundermann on this evening. Dave Feiler, who had scored three feature wins and ran a strong second in the Slinger Nationals, was surprisingly released from his ride and did not race.
Lepak began to widen his lead over Egan. A lead that would grow to a half straightaway advantage by lap 61.
Suddenly Lepak’s car began to wiggle and slow dramatically. At first it was thought that the motor problems that plagued him during the Nationals had once again reared its ugly head. However, it was actually a tire that was going down. Lepak did all he could to try to nurse the car to the end, but he just could not hold the car steady enough to keep it going fast.
Egan suddenly found himself on Lepak’s bumper, and quickly got around him for the lead on lap 66. Two laps later Bennett would also get past Lepak. Luckily for Lepak, the high rate of attrition along with the smaller car count, meant the damage wasn’t as severe as it could have been. Since there were only seven cars running at the end, Lepak managed to finish in sixth place and only lost a lap in the process.
Once Egan got past Lepak, he was able to cruise to a 1.352 second victory over Bennett. Jeff Holtz, coming off an impressive fourth place run at the Nationals came home in third. Conrad Morgan rebounded from his mid race penalty to finish in fourth, while Brad Dahmer completed the top five.
The outside was not the place to be, and Egan was very matter of fact about the reasons why.
“It was so humid and the dew point is so high that the top gets greasy,” explained Egan. “You can do it, we hung up on the restarts, but you gotta get it done right away or your tires will get over heated then. Then you start running into trouble.”
Egan continued what is fast becoming a tradition at Slinger, with the winners going up into the stands to hand their trophy to a young fan.
“You know, it’s pretty cool for the fans,” said Egan. “They’re hard to come by and it hurts to give it away, but that little girl was really happy to get it.”
Lowell Bennett’s second place run was surprisingly his best run of the season. Something he certainly was proud of.
“We had a pretty good car tonight,” said Bennett. “It wasn’t the winning car, but we had a little bit of an issue after a yellow as the motor was vapor locking. It would take 3 or 4 laps before it would come back and run good again. I’m pretty satisfied with where we ended up.”
Bennett also complained about the lack of the outside groove.
“Just terrible. There was no outside there at all,” said Bennett. “It was so greasy and it’s pretty hot. That contributes a lot to it to.”
Brad Dahmer, who finished his night with a fifth place finish in the super late models, started off the night with a win in the limited late models. Dahmer started from the pole and would lead all thirty five laps. However, those would not be an easy thirty five laps, as Brad Keith would use the chrome horn in an effort to get past Dahmer over the last several laps of the race.
Keith would get Dahmer loose off the corners, but allow Dahmer to gather up the car. Moves that Dahmer even said was just good hard racing.
“It was a one tire night here at Slinger,” said Dahmer. “On the limiteds it’s really hard to run the top. I don’t have a problem running the top, I was hugging the bottom. Brad (Keith) had several opportunities to go on the outside but he didn’t. He just bumped me a few times. It was nothing bad at all, he never lifted me up. Just some taps here and there, just good racing.”
So there were no hard feelings?
“No hard feelings or nothing,” said Dahmer. “He came down and congratulated me afterwards and it’s all good.”
Wayne Freimund would wind up in third place, while Alex Prunty, who secured his first ever fast time in a limited late model came home in fourth. Rob Meyers finished in fifth place. Braison Bennett, son of seven time super late model track champion Lowell Bennett, made his debut in a limited late model and finished in sixth place.
Ryan Farrell completed a clean sweep in the Mid-American Sportsman division as he set fast time, won the dash, and then backed those up with a feature win.
What makes Farrell’s feature win even more amazing, is that over the last few laps he had a left front tire going down. So much so, that it not only drew sparks from the car scraping the pavement, he had to have his car towed off the track after the Victory Lane photos.
Jay Shambeau had an impressive run and got by James Swan to finish in second. Swan was in third with Brian Holtz and Jimmie Evans rounding out the top five.
John Daley led flag to flag to capture his second feature win of the season in the Thunderstocks Division. Daley led every lap, but damn near gave it away coming off turn four on the last lap. The outside almost proved costly to Daley’s quest for victory.
“There is no outside,” exclaimed Daley. “Maybe in one and two, but coming off of four I almost lost the race trying to go up there around a lapped car. As soon as I drove in there I just slid up the track about a lane and a half between me and the 55 car (Tyler Schley) and Kenny Schraufnagel put his nose in there and he had every right to since there was plenty of room. I’d like to see the time since that was pretty close.”
Close is an understatement, as Daley just barely held onto the win. He beat Schraufnagel to the line by a scant .031 seconds. Andy Welter came home in third with Carl Benn running a strong fourth. Nate Fick rounded out the top five.
Nick Wagner notched his sixth 4 cylinder Slinger Bees feature win of the season as he held off Braison Bennett and Shane Westphal. Allen Maher Jr. finished in fourth, while Brandon Tackes celebrated his golden birthday, being 24 on the 24th of July in car number 24 coming home in fifth.
Erica Knutson led a ladies sweep of the top three spots in the Bees semi feature, as she held off Alexis Strobel and Misty Benn for the win. Zach Clarke and Brandon Berens were first in class for the men, but finished in fourth and fifth respectively.
Willy Van Camp did not race in the first four Figure 8 events of the season, yet has been hard to beat since he started in week five. Van Camp has won six of the last eight features, including tonight’s win. Van Camp held off Rick Bruskiewicz and Bill Shavlik for the win. Shane “The Shark” Becker finished in fourth place, while Greg Emmer rounded out the top five.
Results of the Pepsi Challenge Series 75 Round Two
1 89E Mike Egan 75
2 2B Lowell Bennett 75
3 38H Jeff Holtz 75
4 92M Conrad Morgan 75
5 45D Brad Dahmer 75
6 40L Jeremy Lepak 74
7 45S Steven Schulz 70
8 61E Jerry Eckhardt 68
9 10R Jon Reynolds Jr. 50
10 17G Gregg Pawelski 41
11 26B Chris Blawat 24
12 98B Rob Braun 24
13 16A Steve Apel 24
14 9P Tommy Pecaro 23
15 12G Mike Graczkowski 21
16 45E Greg Emmer 19
17 72S Randy Schuler