Rain postponed Slinger Speedway’s Memorial Day special to Monday, and it was worth the wait. Warm weather presided over fireworks, close racing, and new faces in winner’s circle. Nearly 100 entries arrived, with various results.
Steve Apel topped the super late model field in qualifying, with the fastest 16 cars making the main event. Heat wins went to Chris Blawat, Jamie Wallace and Mike Egan. Lowell Bennett finished ahead of Al Schill in the 30-lap semi, the final four joined by another car taking his one-time provisional start for the 75-lap feature. The 19-car field was headed by Rich Loch and Ryan DeStefano, with Dale Prunty, Mike Egan, Danny Church, Gary LaMonte, Brad Keith and Apel following. Loch led the way until Dale Prunty got past on lap seven and stretching out his lead while the others raced two abreast. A spun car forced a restart after two dozen circuits and the field chose their lanes for the restart.
Prunty was up to the task, fending off challenges and seemingly on his way to another win. Spun cars changed the outcome with sixteen laps remaining, and the next green flag was followed by Dennis Prunty and Apel challenging. Apel took the point and a spirited battle followed to the finish line. Dennis Prunty was on the inside, Apel in the upper lane, nose to nose to the end. Prunty did all he could to get the advantage, Apel up to the challenge each time. The photo finish was decided by scoring transponders, with a margin of .002 seconds between the two. It was Apel by a hair, over Dennis and Dale Prunty, with Egan and LaMonte next. Apel’s car was spun after the flag, recovering to take his reverse victory lap. “I hope you people enjoyed it, because that’s the way it’s going to be every single week,” remarked Apel, adding, “My car was really loose, the outside really helped. It was a heck of a show.” Dennis Prunty did not agree.
The limited late model field was topped by Mike Held in qualifying, with heat races won by Jake Vanoskey, Brian Holtz and Alex Prunty. Steven Schulz won the semi, but he and two more of the top four never came out for the 40-lap feature. Ryan Zielski and Corey Funk shared the front row, followed by Tyler Schley, Jordon DeVoy, Held and Prunty. Zielski took off at the green flag and left the field to battle side by side. A spun car gave the field a choice of lanes for the restart just before the halfway mark, and another slowdown came for debris with eleven laps remaining. Zielski was up to the task each time, taking the checkered flag on a reverse victory lap to mark his first win this season. A heated battle before the finish saw Kyle Chwala forge past Schley, with Prunty and Held completing the top five.
The Area Sportsman field began with Jason Thoma taking quick time and Scott Hoeft winning the heat. The 30-lap feature began with front-row starter Hoeft leading the first lap and Joe Shelby taking charge the next orbit. Shelby would have scored his first win of the year, but Thoma found his way through from the fourth row to get past Shelby when the white flag waved. Thoma and Shelby crossed the final stripe ahead of an intense battle between Adam Peschek and Nick Egan that ended with the pair sliding across the finish line.
A large swarm of Slinger Bees saw Dale Kiley-Schaefer steal quick time honors from EJ Waldron at the end of qualifying. Misty Benn, Rick Schaefer and Nick Schmidt were the heat winners and David Schmidt led the final transferees from the semi. The 25-lap feature began with Matt Ross and Nick Schmidt in front of Brandon Tackes, Carl Benn, Tom Berens and Waldron. Schmidt leaped ahead at the green flag and was on his way to a win when surprised by Waldron driving by on the outer lane with nine laps remaining. Five laps before the checkered flag Jared Deming’s car was pushed to the wall, crashing hard and catching Rick Schaefer in the process. The audience applauded the drivers coming out of their cars, and several others made early exits.
There were nine survivors of the eighteen starters for the final five circuits, with 14-year old EJ Waldron posting his first win. The eighth-grade student remarked, “I was running away pretty fast and when I saw the caution, I know I had to get back up there (on the top groove).” Tom Berens, Heather Stark, Tackes and Rose completed the top five.
The fireworks show was splendid, but tame in comparison to the torrid battles Monday night. Finishing the program was Shane Becker taking home his first Figure 8 win in a long time. Still in shirtsleeves, a happy audience left having seen everything they wanted.
– Story and Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks