Portage, WI — The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series will visit Wisconsin International Raceway for the seventh time in series history this Sunday, September 20. If history is any indication, Transport Services LLC Round Five won’t be short on intrigue.
The original question loomed large when the race was first announced before the 2014 season. Would the TUNDRA Travelers be able to keep pace with the local favorites? Or, would some of the top drivers from the area be able to take the trophy out of the Fox Valley?
What transpired was a perfect combination of both. Eventual 2014 TUNDRA Champion Dalton Zehr visited Victory Lane in the series debut at the D-shaped half-mile. However, he did so in the locally-owned Chase Motorsports ride. Local race car, traveling driver. Zehr went on to win multiple features and claim Rookie of the Year honors in that car at WIR in 2014, adding to a tremendous season which included his first TUNDRA title.
Claiming the win was no easy task. Bobby Kendall – who was in his early years as a full-time racer at WIR – set fast time for the event and marched through the field. Kendall moved to Second late in the race and challenged Zehr with seven laps remaining. Just as he had done on two previous restarts against Tom Gee Jr., Zehr chose the outside lane and slipped away at the drop of the green.
The 2015 season brought a new challenger to the forefront – an upstart racer by the name of Ty Majeski. Majeski, from nearby Seymour, had competed weekly at WIR a few seasons prior. After teaming up with Toby Nuttleman, Majeski began to see more and more success.
Round One of 2015 was a who’s who at the front of the feature field. Majeski had to battle Zehr, Casey Johnson, and Steve Apel. Initially, Zehr and Johnson scrapped up front for the lead. Zehr was in his familiar Coleman 119, while Johnson was now piloting the Chase Motorsports machine. The two put on an incredible battle with Johnson charging ahead.
Just past the midway point Majeski stormed past Johnson on a restart. Not too long afterward, Apel slid into Second and set his sights on Majeski. The duo engaged in a 15-lap, back-and-forth battle. Ultimately Apel was on the tail of Majeski at the checkered flag but could not make the move. Johnson settled for the Third and another podium for the Chase Motorsports car.
The story was eerily similar in 2016, except this time it was Majeski who was the predator. Apel led early from a front-row starting spot and paced the field until Majeski caught up. With seven laps to go Majeski made his move to the inside of Apel to capture the lead. Apel kept close but was unable to make the move back around Majeski. He would settle another podium. Behind them, a hard-charging Casey Johnson closed the gap on the leaders but ran out of time once he moved past Apel into Second, securing yet another podium for Chase Motorsports.
The 2017 season brought Kroll’s West on board as the title sponsor. Once again, it was a memorable event and one that featured Zehr, Apel, and the Chase Motorsports entry – this time with Travis Sauter behind the wheel.
Zehr – now driving Wayne Brevik’s 711 – set the tone early in the day with a new track record. It looked as though he would be heading to Victory Lane, as well, as he secured the lead before lap 20 by battling past Apel. However, Apel continued to keep pace and Zehr eventually fell off when a sway bar bolt broke on his racer. The timing was just right for Apel to track Zehr down and slip past him exiting turn four on the way to the checkered flag.
A Second Place finish for Zehr would prove to be crucial as it helped propel him to last season’s Championship. It also marked the third time in four TUNDRA races that the fast qualifier finished Second in the feature. And, once again, the Chase Motorsports entry finished on the podium as Sauter secured Third.
The 2018 version of Round One brought an excellent field, but a poor day for racing. Although the hour-by-hour forecast predicted no rain early in the day, the skies darkened shortly before qualifying. Despite getting in what turned out to be a frantic last chance race, the skies opened up, and the race had to be delayed to the following day – Mother’s Day.
Once again a battle erupted late in the race. This time it was Dennis Prunty and – to no surprise -Steve Apel. Prunty had taken the lead from early-race leader Jordan Thiel on a lap-27 restart. The move came with a little controversy as Prunty had slid up and ran Thiel out of room after the drop of the green. He admitted the fault later in Victory Lane.
Although away from Thiel, Prunty was hardly out of the woods. Slowly but surely, and as he had done in previous races, Apel began to creep in on Prunty. Over the final 22 laps Apel would catch Prunty, only to be turned away. An incredible duel between Mike Lichtfeld and Casey Johnson took place behind the leaders, with Lichtfeld holding on to fill out the podium.
For the first time, and as attempted the year before, TUNDRA was able to race under the lights at WIR in 2019. Although the scenery changed, the end result did not, with Dennis Prunty picking up his second straight series win at the half-mile.
Prunty had to be in survival mode early in the race as he escaped a spinning Luke Fenhaus, avoiding what would have caused major damage to both machines. After that early restart Prunty followed local standout Alex Stumpf through the Top Five. Once the two had moved to the top two spots, Prunty made his move and secured the lead.
Once again Prunty’s lead was anything but comfortable. Casey Johnson, who had won the 2018 track and TUNDRA Championships was hot on his heels after a furious toe-to-toe battle with Stumpf. After Johnson shook free he was able to track down Prunty, but ran out of laps to muster a challenge.
Sunday’s visit to WIR will give plenty of time for the movers and shakers to get through the field as it will increase from 50 to 75 laps. Now what’s left to find out is how the seventh version of the story is written.
TUNDRA Transport Services LLC Round Five will feature the Super Late Models, Midwest Dash Series, WIR ¼-Mile Late Models, and Wisconsin Sport Trucks. Qualifying is scheduled for 12:30 and racing is to begin at 2 pm.
Wisconsin International Raceway is located just past Highway 55 and KK outside of Kaukauna, Wis. For more information visit http://www.wirmotorsports.com
-TUNDRA Press Release and Photo