The last Fall Invitational at Chilton Speedway was planned to tally some 300 competitors, pay them more money than anywhere and for everyone to have fun. They succeeded on all counts. The Calumet County Fairgrounds fifth-mile dirt track has been without weekly racing for years, and we are told the board has decided to no longer use the race track. The efforts of many volunteers went into one last event, most notably Late Model racers Bob Cullen and Brad Mueller, who managed details and handled snags throughout the weekend. Coincidentally, Mueller was tied with Taylor Scheffler for the Lucky 7 Late Model championship that would be finalized Saturday.
The two-day show had live bands performing at night and acres of campers joined more acres of race teams. Ten divisions of race cars were joined by quad racers, a truck tug of war and trailer race. Kids grabbed coins and candy on the track, spectators received T shirts, commemorative Frisbees, and thousands of dollars in 50/50 cash.
Sprint Car racer Kurt Davis joined the cause by raising money for the sprint cars. People and businesses sponsored sprint car feature laps, hard charger rewards, a wild card drawing, selected finishing positions, a roll of the die and appearance money in the sprint field, making the win worth at least $2,000. Not only that, but four fans who caught the autographed Frisbees would win flat screen televisions if the matching driver won his heat race.
Thursday’s practice was followed by a night of rain, with more wetness forecast for Friday’s events. The track was race ready by six o’clock for the onslaught of racing. All heat races were to be run along with a complete program for the sprint cars. Two hours later seventeen heat races placed the first 140 racers into their next events when the next nine came onto the track in a light drizzle. The drops got bigger despite efforts to keep the cars rolling, and shortly after eight o’clock the rain was in charge. People flocked to the pavilion for the band and beverages well into the next morning, which would arrive too soon for some. The rest of Friday’s events would start at noon the next day.
Saturday was sunny with temperatures reaching the sixties by start time. The program began with the Sprint Car B main, with Robbie Wirth leading the final six to the 30-lap feature. Wirth, Davis, Doug Wondra and Brandon McMullen had won their heat races Friday. Scotty Thiel drove his former mount, now owned by Drew Ludwig, to start on the pole in the 22-car field. Teen Mitch Yurmanovich started next to Thiel, with Wondra, Randy Sippel, Scott Sippel and McMullen following. Wirth was next, but spun before the stat and began in the back. Thiel had the advantage for one lap before seeing a caution for spun mounts on the black, slick track surface. Thiel led the first two dozen circuits before spinning, which had some of the crowd deciding McMullen had made contact.
McMullen was the next leader, but the restart ended in a five-car tangle. The field was aligned for the final six orbits and McMullen took home over $2,000 for his win. Tim Haddy came from the fourth row to runner-up, Davis and Yurmanovich followed, and Justin Miller came from fifteenth to fifth at the end. Thiel quickly drove to victory lane to offer his congratulations before a roll of the die added another $300 to McMullen. Josh Teunissen had been lapped, but earned an extra $700 as the wild card draw. Paul Pokorski netted a bonus of $750 as the hard charger of the race, coming from the last row to eighth place. Some of these teams planned to race at another track later, and had ample time to make the drive.
The rest of the Friday preliminaries ran to conclusion and the arena emptied before the Saturday program began. The stands were emptied and the track was groomed before the Saturday program began shortly after 3:30. The B mains were run along with all the late model preliminaries, the only intermission period scattering candy and money on the track for the kids. The hard black surface was watered and reworked for the feature events.
Mueller and Scheffler were still tied for the Late Model Lucky 7 title after both won their heat races, and Joel Bennett won the other heat. Randy Markwardt topped the final four in the B main and Mueller won the dash ahead of Scheffler. The drama continued as the twenty finalists began the 40-lap feature. Mueller and Scheffler started ahead of Troy Springborn, McGrath, Bennett and Michael Stangl. A pair of incidents on the first lap marred the beginning, with Mueller being passed on the inside by Springborn on the third lap. Springborn saw the yellow often for spun mounts and slowed cars. Mueller’s car joined the spin club for the seventh caution with twelve laps remaining, with four more cautions before the end.
The last yellow flag waved with seven laps remaining when three cars spun and contender McGrath was charged for the incident. McGrath was unhappy being sent to the back as the field was realigned. Even unhappier was Springborn when finding a costly puddle under his car during the delay and forced to retire. Third-running Randy Markwardt found a flat tire during the realignment, pitting for a tire change, and two others left the race with seven laps remaining. By this time the race clock ran out. Bennett was the happy leader, taking the green, white and checkered banners to post his biggest win of the year. Tom Naeyaert started last and finished second, followed by Mueller, McGrath, Jim Schmidt and Scheffler. But McGrath had charged rows ahead before the last green flag and was penalized six positions, moving Scheffler into fifth. At the end it was Mueller topping the lucky 7 series.
Twenty IMCA Stock Cars rolled onto the track, but two pitted before the start of the 30-lap contest. John Heinz and Shawn Wagner started in front of Devin Snellenberger, Mike Wietor, John Ancshutz and David Bouche. Heinz nearly lost the lead to Snellenberger at one point, but Snellenberger faded back on the outer lane. A couple cars were lapped at the end, with Heinz closely tailed by Bouche and Snellenberger to the finish. Shawn Havel and Wagner completed the top five. Heat wins were posted by Anschutz, Snellenberger and Bouche on Friday and Jamie Suchocki led the five transferees from the B main.
Nearly 40 Street Stocks were winnowed down to the final twenty for the 30-lap finale. Marc Caswell and Jerry Winkler were ahead of Paul Diefenthaler, Josh McDonald, Alex Crapser and Ray Fuller at the start. Winkler took the lead, but his advantage was erased by a spun car after a dozen circuits. Gary Kasperek charged up from seventh to the lead at the halfway mark with smoke following his car every lap. Just as the white flag waved Diefenthaler completed his outside pass for the lead, crossing the stripe ahead of Kasperek, Paul Ambrosius, McDonald and Crapser. Friday heat winners were Jason White, Kasperek, Chris Prust and Diefenthaler, with Lexi Ashcraft and Ambrosius leading the final transferees in the B mains.
The final twenty Grand National cars were next, the 30-lap main beginning with Brad Lubach, Steven and Kodiak Wirtz, Charlie Sancinati, J. J. Pagel and Matt Yancey in the first three rows. Lubach was the leader when a car spun on the second lap to regroup the field. Again Lubach had the point, challenged by Sancinati as the pair encountered lapped traffic halfway through the contest. Sancinati found his opening two laps before a lapped car was spun by Lubach. The last ten laps went nonstop with Sancinati followed by Steven Wirtz, Tim Simon, Pagel and Lubach. Friday’s heat winners were Kodiak Wirtz, Sancinati, Steven Wirtz and Pagel, with Saturday’s B mains won by Aaron Stolp and Mark Fieber.
Fifteen Sport Mods sat on the sidelines when the twenty finalists began the 25-lap feature. Randy LeMieux Jr. and Shaun Johnston were followed by Bill Edler and Tim Sheppard when the green flag waved. LeMieux led every lap, but had to survive four cautions for spun mounts before the end. The final seven circuits were at full speed as LeMieux was followed by Travis Arenz from the fifth row, Jacob Zellner and Tom Schneider, both of whom began in the eighth row. Of special note in this event were Adam Peschek and pavement Late Model talent Michael Bilderback taking to the dirt for his first time in Peschek’s spare mount. Bilderback came from seventeenth to sixth and Peschek improved from seventeenth to tenth at the end. Friday’s heat winners were Phil Mott and Johnston, followed by Saturday’s heat winners Edler and LeMieux. B main winners were Zellner and Sawyer Haese.
Fifty 4-cylinder competitors vied for the final twenty feature spots, and one competitor lost a wheel in the first heat race. Heat winners were Tony Fletcher, Chris Maas, Brody Rivest, Brian Hillringhouse and Jake Balk. The final six came from the B mains, won by Brian Johnson, Roger Braun and Cody Pankow. Kasey Gross led the 20-lap main from his front-row start, holding the position past four cautions in the first ten laps. After the last restart Gross stayed ahead of pole starter Jay Orr, Balk from fifth place, Ben Meyerhofer and Aaron Milavitz.
The IMCA Mod heats were won by Randy Markwardt Jr., Chuck Carmin and Jay Matthias, and Tim Czarneski led the final eight from the B main to the 30-lap feature. Matthias and Luke Lemmens started ahead of Todd Dart, Carmin, Brian Drexler and Steve Schneider. Lemmens got the advantage at the start, surpassed by Schneider, then Lemmens in the first five laps. Markwardt spun and retired the next time around, the only caution of the race. At the end Lemmens climbed atop his roof in victory lane to celebrate his win. Matthias, Brian Drexler, Eric Scribner and Greg Gretz completed the top five.
The IMCA Hobby class only runs at a couple Wisconsin tracks, bringing a lucky thirteen cars to Chilton for the last event. Marcus Moede and Cody Junio won the heat races and Moede survived six cautions in a time-shortened feature to post the final feature win of Saturday night. One of the early cautions was caused by Branden Peterson getting spun on lap six while running second. Peterson recovered to finish second, with Ford Maluitz, Junio and Jordan Parma completing the final five.
It was just before eleven o’clock when we left with two more events remaining. We have no winning names from the Quad contests, and the Truck Tug of War had just begun when we left. The night would end with Trailer races and another live band to top off the final evening. We are sure there were many celebrations after the final races at Chilton, and are happy for all who were here to share the moment. The infield sign held autographs of every feature winner and would go to the highest bidder. The last 50/50 winner netted over $2,100 dollars, with racers and fans also gifted with extras. A huge thank you to the scoring staff for help with the drivers lists, and all the workers behind the scenes to keep the program moving along. The last hurrah was a good one.
-By Fay Hendricks
-Photo Credit: Chilton Speedway Facebook Page