After an extended delay due to COVID-19 restrictions, the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series finally got their season started on the Fourth of July with the Tribute to Carl Wegner at Dells Raceway Park. A strong field of 26 cars made up for the late start to the season by putting on a show, with a familiar face back in victory lane.
Three-time TUNDRA champion and former ARCA Midwest Tour champion Dalton Zehr made his first start with the series since 2017 count, passing Mike Lichtfield with just six laps to go to take the win.
After starting sixth, he used several long runs to his advantage after getting the short end of the stick on restarts after both yellows. Zehr said it was the final 32-lap run to the finish that give him an opportunity to make the late pass and score his first TUNDRA win since July 2016 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway.
“It seemed like I couldn’t get in the right lane for restarts, every time I went low the outside would go and then vice-versa. Once we got single-file I knew I could hold the bottom better than everybody else and that we had good speed down there,” Zehr told Speed51. “I just needed laps.”
“I’m just glad this race wasn’t any shorter because we only got it with five to go, I think. Mike just couldn’t hold it on the bottom and we were able to hold it a half car-width lower. It was enough to make the pass.”
The win came as a sigh of relief for the Florida-born driver, who won the Alive For Five Series title at the 1/3-mile oval in 2019 despite not winning a race.
“We usually have success here at Dells, we’ve been strong normally. It was weird last year winning the championship without a win, a bunch of top-threes. We don’t have to worry about that this year, we’ve already got the win under us.”
Lichtfield powered past last year’s TUNDRA runner-up Gabe Sommers on the final restart with 32 to go, but a late charge from Zehr would deny him his first TUNDRA win since 2018 at Dells. He says his late-race strategy was too conservative and it allowed Zehr to close in.
“We got out to a five car-length and I started conserving. I shouldn’t have done that, I should’ve put some distance between us. Anytime you race with Dalton, he’s one of the best in the business,” said Lichtfield. “We’ll learn from it, regroup and get better next time out.”
With his runner-up finish and setting the fastest lap in qualifying, Lichtfield likely leaves Dells with the points lead among drivers planning on competing full-time with the series. With just a six-race season for TUNDRA, jumping out of the gate with an advantage in the points is essential.
“It’s good for us, it’s a good confidence booster. It’s never nice to lose the lead, especially with eight or nine or whatever it was to go. We’ll move on and get better.”
Sommers finished third, followed by two-time defending series champion Casey Johnson and Jordan DeVoy.
Video highlights from Saturday’s TUNDRA race will be available soon on Speed51.
TUNDRA now heads to “Wisconsin’s Action Track” on July 18 for their second race of the season at Jefferson Speedway.
-Story by: Koty Geyer, Speed51 National Correspondent – Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo Credit: Speed51 Photo
TUNDRA SLM – Dells Raceway Park Results:
1. Dalton Zehr
2. Mike Lichtfield
3. Gabe Sommers
4. Casey Johnson
5. Jordan DeVoy
6. Jake Zellmer
7. Justin Mondeik
8. Jordan Thiel
9. Kevin Knuese
10. Brock Heinrich
11. Kody Hubred
12. Corey Jankowski
13. Dennis Schmidt
14. Mark Eswein
15. Colin Reffner
16. Steve Lichtfield
17. Josh Wallace
18. Wyatt Brooks
19. Jeff Storm
20. Adam Oxborough
21. Michael Ostdeik
22. Curt Tillman
23. Darek Gress
24. Monte Gress
25. Hunter Stenson
26. Chad Devine