If you’ve ever seen a roulette wheel, you know you usually have the choice between red or black numbers. Team owner Gerry Gundermann has provided driver Jeremy Lepak a choice between a blue #40 and a red #40. Most of this season Lepak has chosen the blue #40, and it has proven to be a wise choice as he had won with it on four separate occasions. Sunday at the Slinger Super Speedway, Lepak decided to spin the wheel with the red #40, and his luck didn’t change. Lepak was able to make his way through the field on the high side and past Dennis Prunty for the lead with just seven laps to go before cruising to his fifth feature win in the Celebrity 60.
“The car was pretty good. It was amazing to be able to come with a totally different car and have that kind of result,” said Lepak. “We unloaded out of the trailer and we didn’t even turn one wrench on the car all night. It was unreal. It was an awesome car.”
While it is certainly nice to be able to have the luxury to choose between cars, it wasn’t as if the blue #40 was horrible car, especially having won four times with it. So then why the switch?
“Just trying to keep laps off the motor that’s in the other car,” explained Lepak. “The laps are starting to get up
there on it and we’re just trying to keep laps off of it. The motor in the red car is fresh, so basically that is what the call was. Gerry made that call early in the week that that’s what he wanted to do. We’ve got some racing at the end of the year that he’d like us to do in that one so that’s what he is saving it for.”
Dennis Prunty, returning with Pete Weidmeyer’s car despite last week’s fire, and 68 year old Jerry Eckhardt led the field to the green. Prunty would grab the early lead and open up a slight advantage. Lowell Bennett and Steve Apel would get around Eckhardt, but the wily veteran held strong in the fourth spot.
The top four separated themselves from the rest of the field early on, with Lepak stuck in a four way pack with Jon Reynolds Jr., Rob Braun, and Randy Schuler. Once Lepak broke free of that group, he quickly closed in on the top four.
Back up front, Prunty was being pressured by both Bennett and Apel. Bennett would try to dive underneath Prunty, and when that wasn’t working he looked to the high side. Once Bennett went to the high side and pulled alongside Prunty, that opened the door for Apel to slide down low and make it a three way battle.
This allowed Lepak, who got past Eckhardt and into fourth place, to close in quickly on the top three.
Lepak used the high side to get around Apel on lap 36, while Bennett continued to put the pressure on Prunty both high and low. Prunty held the fort on the bottom, and Bennett once again tried to go to the high side. This allowed Lepak to get underneath Bennett to take over the second spot on lap 40. Apel also dove underneath Bennett to grab third.
Prunty took advantage of the side by side racing to stretch his lead to a few car lengths before encountering heavy traffic on lap 44. Prunty cleared the lapped traffic four laps later, but Lepak was about to clear Prunty. Lepak was forced to go to the high side to look for the lead, and made it look easy. He cleared Prunty on lap 52 and used the lapped car of Jerry Eckhardt as a pick to hold Prunty behind him.
The only caution of the race would fly on lap 55 when Bennett got into the back of Apel in turn four.
This set up a five lap dash to the checkers, with Lepak getting the jump at the drop of the green flag. Chris Blawat, who inherited the fourth spot when Bennett and Apel were sent to the rear, got extremely loose in turn three. As he fought to save the car, he blocked the track causing a bottleneck behind him. Randy Schuler jumped hard on the brakes to avoid and swerved his way down the front stretch.
Mike Egan worked his way past Prunty and into second place on lap 57.
Lepak cruised to the checkered flag, but the action behind him brought more controversy. After taking the white flag, Prunty got into the back of Egan and sent him spinning into the infield on the backstretch. Prunty got to the line in second, while Chris Blawat recovered from his near mishap to finish in third. Jon Reynolds Jr. finished in fourth with Lowell Bennett rounding out the top five.
Considering how many drivers have struggled on the high side this season, why was Lepak able to make it work?
“These two cars are just a little different,” said Lepak. “This one here (the blue car ) is more on the free side that car (the red car) is a little more on the tight side, and I think that’s why it would roll around on the top because it’s been free in on the outside. Getting in to the center has been free for everybody and I think that’s why that car works so well on the outside, it’s a little bit tighter. Normally I can’t run the outside with that car (blue) so it’s just the difference in the characteristics in the two cars.”
Prunty was scored with a second place finish, but he admitted that it shouldn’t be allowed to stand.
“If I finished second then they need to take it away since I got into Egan on the last lap,” said Prunty. “I’d be surprised if they gave me second place since I spun out Mike Egan. What’s sad is that I consider Mike Egan a friend. I’d rather spin someone out that I’m not such good friends with. The track just got so greasy again tonight and without traction control we aren’t going to win the race here, that’s for sure.”
Mike Egan was obviously not exactly thrilled with his friend Dennis Prunty.
“I think we could’ve got second if we didn’t get turned by the 22 car,” said Egan. “I’m not really sure what he was thinking, but I’m not really happy with him right at the moment. We were racing side by side, I got him cleared, we’re going down the backstretch, he drove underneath me and punted me. Plain and simple. No need for that bullshit. I don’t know what else to say.”
Lepak’s fifth win increased his point lead to 141 over Apel, with seven time and defending track champion Bennett another ten points back in third.
John DeAngelis banged his way past the wounded cars of Brad Keith and Ryan DeStefano on the last lap to get his second win of the year in the Late Models.
Coming to the white flag, Keith was leading with DeStefano pressuring on the high side. There was heavy contact between the two coming off of turn four leading to both cars hooking bumpers. DeAngelis then saw his chance to dive to the inside of both cars entering turn one. There was contact between DeAngelis and Keith, but DeAngelis was able to power his way past and come around to the checkers first.
As you would expect, all three drivers gave three different accounts of the action.
“On the restart with three laps to go, DeStefano got loose, took himself and Brad Keith up to the top of turn one and I went underneath and got around them,” said DeAngelis. “I got hit by Brad Keith actually when he came back down in turn one, and I just stayed low and kept going.”
“We just burnt the tires off the car and the 0 car (DeStefano) got loose down the straightaway and we hooked bumpers,” said Keith. “We were locked going through the corner and the 7 car (DeAngelis) just got underneath us. It was just a racing deal.”
“We drag raced down the straight, went in soft in the turn ‘cause I knew I needed to get off of four, and I just felt a slam coming down to the corner,” said DeStefano. “He (Keith) just body slammed me and got the best of my car. I washed up and that was pretty much the rest of the race.”
DeAngelis crossed the line in first with Keith able to secure second. Jerry Mueller and Dave McCardle were able to get around DeStefano for third and fourth respectively.
Jimmie Evans held off James Swan by a mere .004 seconds to notch his first win of the year in the Mid-American Sportsman division. Evans, who led all but the very first lap of the race, had to fend off the birthday boy in Swan, who has been the dominant car this season.
Swan pulled to the outside and was slightly ahead heading into turn three on the white flag lap. Evans tried to run Swan up the hill, but it looked like Swan might still get it done. The finish looked too close to call, but the transponder scoring said Evans nipped Swan by the .004 second interval.
“I was real nervous. I knew Swan was there,” said Evans. “We have old tires and I was worried about spinning the tires. I did spin them a little bit and he caught up. James actually came over to look at my transponder since he didn’t believe it himself, but I did it!”
Swan took it all in stride.
“I thought I had him. I really did,” said Swan. “I’ve been in a lot of close finishes I didn’t think I had, but this one I thought I had. I was joking with Jimmie when I went over there and said, ‘Alright where is it (the transponder), I’ve got to see where it’s at.’ Same place mine is, but I knew they weren’t going to change it anyways,”
Brian Holtz had a great view of the finish as he was right on their bumpers in third place. Andy Haver and Jay Shambeau completed the top five.
Carl Benn dominated the Thunderstocks leading flag to flag in scoring his second feature win of the year. Benn got past Tyler Schley at the drop of the green, and steadily pulled away to an easy win. Nate Fick held off a charging Ken Schraufnagel for second, while Al Stippich finished behind his teammate in fourth. Brad Hetzel finished in fifth.
If people thought James Swan was having a dominant season, the 4 cylinder Slinger Bees driver Nick Wagner is having just as equal a season if not even more dominating than Swan. Wagner has set fast time in all fourteen races this season, and despite starting shotgun on the field week after week, scored his seventh feature win.
Wagner quickly worked his way through traffic and took the lead by lap 11 of the 18 lap event. The highlight was diving to the bottom to go three wide in turn three to take over the second spot getting around both Brandon Tackes and Allen Maher Jr. Wagner then slipped past Steve Dickson and cruised to the win.
Brandon Tackes wound up in third place with Shane Westphal and Braison Bennett rounding out the top five.
Al Roberts got the win in the Spectator Eliminators.
Bill Michaels got the win in the Celebrity Race amongst local area celebrities.
Willy Van Camp took home his seventh Figure 8 feature win holding off points leader Scott Goetzke over the final few laps. Russ Lorbiecki finished in third, while Rick Bruskiewicz and Dan Lighthart rounded out the top five.
Results of the Celebrity 60 SLM Race
1 40L Jeremy Lepak 60
2 22P Dennis Prunty 60
3 26B Chris Blawat 60
4 10R Jon Reynolds Jr. 60
5 2B Lowell Bennett 60
6 72S Randy Schuler 60
7 98B Rob Braun 60
8 89E Mike Egan 60
9 61E Jerry Eckhardt 59
10 5P Terry Patnode 59
11 12G Mike Graczkowski 59
12 16A Steve Apel 55