Jeremy Lepak has been hard to catch this season at the Slinger Super Speedway. Despite an unusually poor qualifying session, Lepak was able to outrun Lowell Bennett and Jon Reynolds Jr. to score his fourth victory of the season, in taking the checkers in the Suburban Motors Harley Davidson 70.
“It’s about time we had some luck to go our way,” said Lepak from Victory Lane. “Last week ended a three week string where I was leading with two different race teams and something broke. I just kept telling these guys to keep their heads up and the luck was going to turn around for us. These guys do everything for me and I really appreciate it.”
Randy Schuler and Chris Blawat led the field to the green flag. Schuler would get the advantage at the drop of the green flag, but wouldn’t make it around to complete the first lap. Blawat nudged Schuler in turn four causing Schuler to spin and bring out the first yellow. Since the lap was not completed, it was decided to start the race from the top. However, Schuler would restart from the rear due to having to pit to repair the cosmetic damage to his car. Rob Braun also suffered cosmetic damage and returned with Schuler to the rear of the field.
The second attempt saw Jon Reynolds Jr. start alongside Blawat, and at the drop of the green flag the top eight cars remained side by side for the first five laps. The two abreast formations were slowed on lap 5 by a spin by Gregg Pawelski in turn one. Jerry Eckhardt tried to avoid Pawelski, but suffered a flat left front tire from the slight contact. Rob Braun also had nowhere to go as the track was blocked, but came to a stop before making contact with either car.
The race would resume with Reynolds Jr. getting the advantage over Blawat, and opening the door for Steve Apel to join him at the front on lap six.
The cars would complete another lap before a strange event occurred.
After the cars completed lap seven, the next time by the scoreboard jumped to lap 11. After Apel got past Blawat, Lowell Bennett would also get around Blawat. Dennis Prunty, who was driving the car normally driven by Pete Weidmeyer, brought Jeremy Lepak with him around Blawat.
The scoreboard seemingly was corrected for lap 8. The next time by it jumped to lap 18.
Lepak quickly worked his way around Prunty and into fourth. Meanwhile, Lowell Bennett ducked underneath Apel, which paved the way for Lepak and Prunty to get by as well.
Three laps later Apel would pull off the track, once again being victimized by power steering issues.
Apel’s misfortunes gave second place to Bennett, however, just seven laps later, Lepak and Prunty would both get past Bennett, as the high side was proving once again to be too slick to hold onto.
Lepak quickly ran down Reynolds Jr. and got by him on lap 20. Lepak would stretch his lead to about three car lengths, as the field began to string out.
Over the course of the next twenty five laps it was status quo up front, but Bennett was beginning to put the pressure on Prunty once Bennett found his way back to the bottom groove.
Bennett would use the chrome horn on Prunty for a few laps, when suddenly Prunty’s car erupted in a fire under the hood of the car on lap 45. A power steering line broke and leaked fluid which quickly caught fire. Prunty was able to dive to the infield on the backstretch to the aid of the Slinger Safety Crew who quickly extinguished the flames.
When racing resumed, Lepak once again gained the advantage while Bennett began to put the pressure on Reynolds Jr. for second place.
Bennett would get underneath Reynolds Jr. in turn three to take over the second spot and try to hunt down Lepak.
The laps wound down quickly and Lepak was able to cruise to an easy victory with a margin of about five car lengths. Bennett scored his second consecutive second place finish, and Reynolds Jr. held on for third. Austin Luedtke, driving Bennett’s back up car due to the small field finished an impressive fourth with Chris Blawat rounding out the top five.
Bennett’s run showed signs of improvement for the second straight week.
“It was a fun race and we were maybe just a tick short,” said Bennett. “It depended on which lane you were in and there’s not much there up on that high side. I wish we could get that high side racing back, it’s two wide and would be a lot more fun. The outside is so greasy and I don’t know if it’s the hot weather or what we got going here, but everybody’s got to get to the bottom to race.”
Dave McCardle, who suffered a hard wreck in last week’s Late Model feature came back strong and took the checkers in this week’s feature. Ironically, McCardle had to hold off Alex Prunty over the last few laps, as it was Prunty who contributed to McCardle’s hard crash in last week’s event.
McCardle took advantage of a mistake by the starter, who inadvertently waved the yellow flag as the cars were coming to the green on lap 5.
Pat McIntee and Wayne Freimund led the Late Models to the green with McIntee getting the early lead. McCardle would work his way around Freimund on lap four, while Brad Keith settled into third. John DeAngelis and Jerry Mueller were waging their own battle for fourth when the caution would fly on lap 5 after Mueller got into the back of DeAngelis and sent him hard into the turn three wall.
As the field was coming to the green flag for the restart, McIntee held the lead and chose the inside lane with McCardle to the outside. Coming off of turn four, the yellow flag was waved instead of the green, in what proved to be the turning point of the race.
McIntee, sensing the error, slowed coming off of turn two expecting to see the yellow lights down the backstretch. Inexplicably, the race stayed green, and McCardle and Freimund kept their foot on the gas and got around McIntee. Brad Keith did likewise.
Shortly after Keith moved into third place, his car began to smoke heavily off of the right front of the car. He would eventually be black flagged on lap 16, the victim of a head gasket cover leak.
McCardle would get the jump on the restart with Freimund in his tracks. Freimund tried both the inside and the outside to try to claim the lead, but to no avail. Lap 24 saw Freimund get loose off of turn four and lose a car length to McCardle.
McIntee would spin in turn four on lap 27 right in front of Ryan DeStefano. Somehow DeStefano missed the wreck and the race remained under green. However just a lap later, McIntee would bring out the yellow when he would spin in turn two.
During this caution DeStefano would pull off the track due to overheating.
Wayne Freimund would suffer engine problem on the restart, allowing Alex Prunty to take over the second spot.
McCardle was able to hold off Prunty to score the victory.
“We’ve had such a tough year up here this year, it really means a lot,” said McCardle. “It seems we’ve been wrecking all the time and after last week we were ready to throw in the towel. We rebuilt the car and brought it back and am pretty surprised actually.”
As for the huge break he got on the restart where the wrong flag was displayed, McCardle didn’t even know that had happened.
“It was a very defining moment,” admitted McCardle. “It was a huge point in the race. I can’t blame him (McIntee) at all for backing off. To be honest I didn’t even look up. When you’re on the outside out here you don’t usually look at the flagman. You kind of read the guy on the inside and try to make sure they roll off the corner with him just so that when you get into one you’re next to him. That’s all you’re hoping for out here.”
Pat McIntee rebounded from the spins and the flag issues to finish in third place. Jerry Mueller recovered from his incident to finish in fourth. Bill Shavlik rounded out the top five.
James Swan continued his stellar season in the Mid-American Sportsman and picked up his ninth feature win of the season. Swan had to battle from the rear of the field after getting involved in Danny Church’s spin to secure the victory.
“That was awesome, I didn’t expect that,” said Swan. “I was at his left rear tire down the front stretch and was watching him thinking ‘he’s coming he’s coming’, then thought maybe he’s not. So I just wanted to stay as close as I could and I was to his left rear tire. I cranked the steering wheel and tried not to hit him but just slid into him.”
Despite being sent to the rear, Swan made his way back to the front almost too easily.
Swan was able to gain ground on the high side while Jay Shambeau battled Jimmie Evans for the lead. Shambeau pressures Evans for the lead, and Swan swooped to the high side and took advantage of Evans getting loose off of turn 2 on lap 26.
Only a restart caused by the spin of Brian Holtz left any doubt about the outcome. However, Swan quickly proved how strong his car was and easily held off Shambeau for the win. Evans finished a strong third, while Andy Haver finished in fourth. Danny Church, who was sent to the back with Swan, nearly came as far to the front as Swan, but had to settle for fifth place.
Brad Hetzel picked up his third Thunderstock win of the year in holding off the valiant effort of Andy Welter.
Hetzel was able to get around Nate Fick on lap 8 and led the final twelve laps to pick up the win. Hetzle survived a late race restart to hold off Welter for the win. Fick recovered to finish in third with John Daley and Carl Benn rounding out the top five.
Third generation racer Braison Bennett, son of seven time Super Late Model champion Lowell Bennett, scored his fourth feature win of the year in the four cylinder Slinger Bees division.
Bennett quickly worked his way thought the field and even went three wide to make his way toward the front. Bennett ducked underneath Brittiny Helmers in turn two on lap seven, and quickly pulled out to a half straightaway advantage.
Nick Wagner, who once again set fast time worked his way to second spot, but his progress was slowed enough by traffic to allow Bennett to open up the lead.
Helmers held on for third place, while Brandon Tackes moved up to fourth. Shane Westphal came home in fifth.
Rick Bruskiewicz notched his second Figure 8 feature win of the year with a bold move around Scott Goetzke and Justin Poenitsch. Goetzke was leading as he was coming to the X when he hesitated to avoid contact at the intersection. Bruskiewicz wasn’t about to wait, and he pounced on the opportunity.
Poenitsch, who lead 6 of the 10 laps,and Willy Van Camp also got around Goetzke to wind up in third and fourth respectively. Russ Lorbiecki rounded out the top five.
Joe Sonnaman took top honors in the Speedway Guest cars.
Results of the Suburban Motors 70/63
1 40L Jeremy Lepak 63
2 2B Lowell Bennett 63
3 10R Jon Reynolds Jr. 63
4 2L Austin Luedtke 63
5 26B Chris Blawat 63
6 89E Mike Egan 63
7 98B Rob Braun 63
8 12G Mike Graczkowski 63
9 5P Terry Patnode 63
10 61E Jerry Eckhardt 62
11 22P Dennis Prunty 45
12 17G Gregg Pawelski 30
13 16A Steve Apel 17
14 72S Randy Schuler