Slinger Speedway closed the 2015 season on a sunny Sunday afternoon to seal the championships for five divisions. Joining the finale were the Midwest Trucks and American Super Cup cars, the latter also crowning its champion.
Alex Prunty sealed his late model title with fast time Sunday, and heat wins were posted by Matt Rowe and Jordan DeVoy. A roll of the die placed Prunty back in the fifth row for the 40-lap feature. Jack Stern and Steven Schulz began ahead of Eddie May, Mike Meyerhofer, Brian Holtz and Tyler Schley. Schulz took charge at the start and established a quarter-lap lead over the field. His advantage was erased when Meyerhofer and Al Stippich got together to bring out the first caution. Meyerhofer came to the flagstand and tapped his roof to denote responsibility for the incident, allowing Stippich to return to his fourth-place position. The next lap ended when Holtz attempted to take the lead, making contact with May. May’s car climbed the wall, the driver unhurt but the car not faring as well, and Holtz restarted at the rear of the field.
The next restart was successful, and Stippich took the lead just before the halfway mark. Prunty made the most of his lane choice and worked up to the front, driving past Stippich with twelve laps remaining. Prunty earned his championship in convincing fashion, a quarter-lap gap between himself and the others at the final flag. Schulz regained second place, followed by Stippich, DeVoy and Stern as Holtz charged back to sixth place. Spinning donuts before doing an extensive burnout on the frontstretch, Prunty exclaimed, “This car is so fantastic. I have to thank my family for all they do. It’s a lot of fun. From Mom and Dad all the way down, this is what we do.” The championship car is for sale, for Prunty will be concentrating on a super late model next year.
Brian Holtz had to scramble between two cars Sunday, topping the Midwest Sportsman field in qualifying. Scott Shambeau and Andy Haver won the heat races and Holtz barely joined the back of the 35-lap feature. First-time visitor Billy Rud and Jimmy Wilson made up the front row, with Kenny Joosten, Jay Shambeau, Haver and Jeff Holtz following. Rud led the pack until Haver charged past on lap six. Beginning to lap others, Haver’s winning dreams evaporated when Jeff Holtz, Jimmie Evans and Rud got together. The field chose their lanes and made one more lap when Joosten’s car was spun.
The second half of the contest was without incident as Gutknecht charged ahead of Haver at the next green flag and held it to the finish. Right behind Gutknecht was Brian Holtz, who just missed winning on his championship night, with Eric Lingford, Jay Shambeau and Haver completing the top five. Holtz and delivered donuts on the frontstretch before he and Gutknecht made their moment more special with reverse victory laps.
Nick Egan sealed his Area Sportsman title with quick time. The first heat ended in a confusing scramble of winners. Leader Scott Hoeft was spun by Mike Winters on the final lap and Winters crossed the final stripe ahead of Rich Wagner. Winters drove to the pits instead of victory lane, and it was announced that Wagner was awarded the win. Announcer Todd Behling admitted confusion when announcing a third name as the winner, reading the rules in his next announcement that gave the win to Hoeft. The rule stated that if the race leader was taken out on the final lap, the offender would lose his position and the leader would keep the win. The next heat had only three cars running at the end, with Joe Shelby claiming the win.
The Area Sportsman field settled down for their 30-lap feature. Hoeft and Winters started ahead of Rich and Paul Wagner, Welter and Egan. Winters led the field, but Hoeft was spun on the second lap after contact with Adam Bleskan. This was followed by Hoeft spinning Bleskan during the caution, and both left the track. Things cooled down after that, and the rest of the race sped to conclusion without incident. Jake Schraufnagel had worked his way up from the back of the pack to take the lead with eight laps remaining, the rookie enjoying his third win in a car he only drove a few times. He was followed by Winters, Welter, Egan and Paul Wagner. Schraufnagel was scheduled to start the Slinger Bees feature, which was rolling onto the track while he was in victory lane, but waved it off instead. Fellow competitor Jakob Hassler, however, quickly switched to his second entry and joined the back of the Bees field.
Tom Berens sealed his Slinger Bees championship with quick time earlier. Heat winners were Paul Reagles, Nick Schmidt and Heather Stark. The 25-lap feature started with Jared Deming and Zach Braun in the first row, Hassler just making it to start third, with Steve Zoromski, Isaac Daniel and EJ Waldron next in order. Deming had the advantage at the start, and Waldron had just gotten past when the caution flag waved for a spun car. Waldron handled the restart and all challengers, the 14-year old posting his fourth win in his rookie year. The high school freshman admitted he had to still do homework when he got home, and told of plans to compete in the Area Sportsman field next year. Berens celebrated his first title in the pits while the next feature rolled onto the high banks.
The American Super Cup heat winners were Derek Doerr and Kaitlyn Judy. Eleven-year old Michael Rose had the distinction of winning a custom radio-controlled car in Slinger’s kids club drawing before buckling into his miniature Cup car. The 20-lap feature began with Doerr leading from the front row until losing momentum in lapped traffic. Brian Baldyga took the point on lap six and the race quickly concluded with no slowdowns. Ken Jones, Chris Deren, Doerr and Joe Schultz followed, with Doerr earning the season championship.
Tommy Pecaro was one of several drivers from other fields to strap into one of the Midwest Trucks, posting quick time to make his day more enjoyable. Michael Raskovic and 14-year old Derek Kraus won the heat races and all regrouped for the 40-lap feature. Rick Corso and Danielle Behn started in front of Ken Calhoun, Raskovic, Kraus and Kevin Knuese. Corso led the way and saw the yellow on the fourth lap when Raskovic had problems. Two laps later it was Kraus leading the way. On lap sixteen something broke on the truck of double-duty Nick Egan, sending his mount hard into the wall with extensive damage. Egan climbed out unhurt, but many repairs had to be made before the truck could be loaded.
The rest of the contest was caution-free as Chester Ace worked his way through the others from the back row to the lead with fifteen laps remaining. Ace was asked how he accomplished this feat, stating, “I don’t know. I just stayed down low and worked on it.” Ace is truly and ace, leading the points in theis series.
Spectators took their cars onto the track for eliminations before the Figure 8 finale closed the day. Shane Becker lost a wheel and several near-misses provided the action for the season finale. Rick Bruskiewicz won the last race with Scott Goetzke right behind to post his eighth championship. The pair nosed their mounts together for a double burnout on the frontstretch, then Goetzke made another smoke screen at the out wall to celebrate.
Thus ends another Slinger season, some fans joining the drivers shortly after six o’clock and others making their way home under sunny skies. It was quite a season, but next year promises more of the same. We bid a fond farewell to our Sunday family as the fall specials beckon. Next weekend we head to Chilton for what may be their last race event on the quarter-mile dirt track.
-By Fay Hendricks. Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks