One has to wonder if Lowell Bennett would rather be lucky than be good. Obviously as a seven time and defending Track Champion at the Slinger Super Speedway, Bennett has been very good. Yet despite being sent to the rear for being involved in contact that brought out a yellow, Bennett worked his way back up to the front. It was survival of the fittest, and on this night Bennett survived to get his first win of 2011 On Pomp’s Tire Fan Appreciation night.
Was the monkey finally off his back?
“I think so,” said Bennett. “We made a pretty big swing at the thing this week, and I think we chose wisely with what we did. Hopefully we’ll be there the rest of the year.”
The wise choices led to Bennett setting fast time for the first time this season, but that meant he would start further back due to the invert. Mike Egan and Terry Patnode shared the front row at the drop of the green flag. However, the initial start would be aborted, after Tommy Hromadka made contact with Egan as Egan got loose off of turn two at the start. Dennis Prunty and Mike Graczkowski both made contact as the cars stacked up, but both returned with minor body damage. The field would be reset to start from the top.
The second attempt would find Egan getting the early jump and grab the lead in his back up car, after losing the engine in his primary car last week. Hromadka would quickly duck underneath Patnode for second, bringing Steve Apel along in third.
Apel would fake an outside move before quickly diving under Hromadka for second place on lap 8. Bennett would look inside of Eric Fransen for fifth place just two laps later, while Jon Reynolds Jr. would get around Hromadka for third, bringing Bennett along for the ride.
Apel quickly cut into Egan’s lead and would get by him on the inside to take over the top spot on lap 16.
Two laps later on lap 18, the first caution of the race would fly when the cars of Bennett and Reynolds. Jr. made contact in turn four. Both drivers would be sent to the rear, but Reynolds Jr. would receive the black flag due to dangling body work.
Apel continued to show his prowess on restarts, as he would get a huge advantage over Egan, before Egan would settle in close behind Apel in second place. Eric Fransen moved up into third place and Hromadka remained in fourth. Further back, Jeremy Lepak began to make his presence known as he drove towards the front.
Despite starting near the tail of the field, Lepak picked off cars quickly and found himself into the top five by lap 22. Fourteen laps later, Lepak was all the way up to second place. Conrad Morgan followed in Lepak’s tire marks and was trying to work past Egan for third place on lap 39, when contact between the two forced Morgan’s car to slide down the backstretch and into the infield. Morgan would pull off the track with a right front flat, and park for the evening.
The restart showed a little gamesmanship, when the green flag waved. Apel appeared to get a huge jump coming to the green. As the cars came off of turn two, Lepak suddenly slowed bunching up the rest of the field. Tommy Hromadka spun to avoid contact and the yellow would come out aborting the restart.
Apel would once again get a huge jump, but this attempt stuck and the race remained under green. Lepak remained in second, but Fransen quickly got past Egan and into third place. Dennis Prunty also passed Egan for the fourth spot, and Lowell Bennett was back into the top five.
While Apel and Lepak battled for the top spot, Bennett and Prunty waged their own battle for third. Bennett would get by Prunty on lap 44 and Lepak would get by Apel on lap 47.
The yellow would come out again on lap 50 when Egan turned Prunty down the front straightaway. As Prunty slid down the track, the car came back into the racing line and was hammered by Jon Reynolds Jr.
Many people thought that may have been payback for Prunty doing the same thing to Egan several weeks earlier. Prunty may have even thought that himself as he got out of his race car. Prunty angrily hurried past the safety crew and found Egan’s car as he circled the track under yellow. Prunty stuck his head inside Egan’s window and voiced his displeasure over the incident.
“I’m not sure what he said, but I knew he was pretty unhappy with me,” said Egan. “It’s hard to hear with the car running and the helmet on, but he gave me some hand signals that I understood.”
Might those have been the one finger salute?
“A couple of times, unfortunately,” said Egan. “There was no payback, I would never do that and it was a racing thing. I just got a good run off the corner and didn’t mean to hit him. Dennis and me are friends and have been for many years. It was hard racing and unfortunately it didn’t work out so good. I feel bad for him.”
The restart would result in another incident bringing out the yellow before the lap was completed. Apel got a jump on the outside of Lepak, but Lepak recovered to pull alongside Apel down the backstretch. As the cars entered turn four, Apel appeared to get loose and clipped the right rear of Lepak’s car. Apel slid down to the apron and was hit by the sliding car of Steven Schulz, who was trying to avoid the contact.
During the yellow, the fender brace off the right rear of Lepak’s car began to drag the racetrack in a drizzle of sparks. Track officials decided to black flag Lepak to get that rectified, giving the lead to Bennett.
Lepak would make repairs and rejoin the race as the cars came to the green, however with all the attrition, the top five was completely new. Bennett now lead over Fransen, Rob Braun. Frank Nitzke, and Terry Patnode. Lepak rejoined the race from the sixth spot.
Bennett would get the jump as the green flag waved, and quickly stretched his lead. Lepak was on a mission to get back up front, and methodically worked his way back up to third by lap 60. Getting around Fransen took a little more work, and unfortunately too many laps. Lepak moved into second on lap 69, but Bennett would take the checkers a lap later.
“I tell ya, there was quite a bit of attrition going on there,” said Bennett. “When we got put to the back, I thought, ‘Man, there it goes. I was up to fourth then third, thought we had something then got put to the back.”
Lepak thought that perhaps he had his fourth consecutive win stolen from him.
“I think that’s an understatement,” said Lepak. “I’ve never been to a track where you get a black flag for a fender brace. Unbelievable. I feel bad for these guys (his crew). They work too hard to have a race taken away from them. But all in all can’t be too upset, we come back to finish second and the big picture is the points, so that’s what we did tonight, so we can only be upset for a little bit. Though the part that upsets me is you got a car like the 42, not to point him out, but where half his body his flopping and they let guy like that run a whole race. I really can’t agree that it was a good call to pull me off over that.”
Alex Prunty scored his first career feature win in the Late Models, holding off James Swan and Wayne Freimund.
Freimund got off to the early lead, and Swan had to work his way from the back after being involved in a spin by Ryan DeStefano. However, with only eight cars, being sent to the rear wasn’t as stiff of a penalty.
Freimund got away quickly on the restart, but Prunty and Swan made their way back towards the front. Prunty would get underneath Freimund on lap 20, and cruise to the easy victory. Swan would also get around Freimund to finish second. Ryan DeStefano recovered to wind up in fourth place, while Chris Ratajczyk rounded out the top five.
Danny Church picked up his third Mid-American Sportsman division win of the season. Church kept James Swan from yet another victory, along with his teammate Ryan Farrell. Bret Widdis finished in fourth place with Andy Haver coming home in fifth.
Brad Hetzel notched his fourth Thunderstock feature win of the season, as he got around John Daley late in the event. Points leader Andy Welter finished in third while Nate Fick and Chris Beine rounded out the top five.
Nick Wagner took the checkers for the eighth time in the 4 cylinder Slinger Bees. Wagner held off Steve Dickson and Jason Dull, while Mark Johler and Brittiny Helmers rounded out the top five.
Pat Fischer got the win in the Speedway Guest cars when leader Tom Held slowed to wave to the crowd as they came to the checkers.
Al Roberts won the Spectator Eliminators
Scott Goetzke scored his fifth Figure 8 feature win of the season holding off the charging Willy Van Camp. Craig Krueger finished in third place, while Curtis Berg and Brandon Wolf completed the top five.
Results of the Pomp’s Tire Fan Appreciation 70
1 2B Lowell Bennett 70
2 40L Jeremy Lepak 70
3 5F Eric Fransen 70
4 98B Rob Braun 70
5 89E Mike Egan 70
6 18N Frank Nitzke 70
7 9P Tommy Pecaro 70
8 5P Terry Patnode 70
9 12G Mike Graczkowski 70
10 3H Tommy Hromadka 58
11 26B Chris Blawat 52
12 16A Steve Apel 49
13 42P Dennis Prunty 49
14 10R Jon Reynolds Jr. 49
15 45S Steven Schulz 49
16 65O George Olson 40
17 99M Conrad Morgan 38
18 72H Mike Held 34
19 61E Jerry Eckhardt 18
20 84V Jacob Vanosky