WAUSAU, WI - Once again, Luke Fenhaus is heating up at State Park Speedway as August winds down.
The defending champion in the Auto Select Super Late Models presented by C-Tech used a late surge to win a championship last year, and he is making his best bid to come from well back in the standings to double up this season. Fenhaus won his second straight feature and crept closer in the points race by taking the 75-lap feature for the 11th annual Wayne 'Lodi' Lodholz Memorial Thursday night.
For the second straight week, Fenhaus made it look easy, leading the final 54 laps and finishing nearly half a lap ahead of his nearest competitor in the feature. He dodged a lap 2 spin that nearly bunched up much of the field and then had little trouble with a restart with 19 laps to go.
Along with setting fast time also for the second straight week, it was another productive night as Fenhaus moved past a snake-bitten Justin Mondeik into second in the point standings, 22 points behind leader Jay Van Der Geest. Fenhaus missed one night of racing early in the season and appeared out of the points race, but has surged back into contention with his two feature wins that come one year after he won the final two features of the 2018 season on his way to winning the championship.
While Fenhaus's dominance eliminated the drama up front at the end, a racy field provided plenty of jockeying and side-by-side racing.
Mondeik and Brock Heinrich traded the lead up front for the first 15 laps, and they would spend much of the race fighting for position. An already rough night for Mondeik got worse after a restart with 19 laps to go, when rubbing with Heinrich resulted in him fading back all the way to ninth at the finish. Mondeik was driving the car of Derek Kraus for the evening, which his team hustled to get to the track and get ready after the throttle stuck on his regular No. 44 during practice laps, with his car going hard into the turn one wall.
While Mondeik and Heinrich spent most of the race fighting for second, it was Van Der Geest in the position in the final laps after he got inside Heinrich on lap 63. Van Der Geest seemingly spent much of the race fighting off charges from the likes of Travis Volm, Jeremy Lepak and Mike Olson, but he held on and now is on the doorstep of his first-ever track championship, leading Fenhaus by 22 points and Mondeik by 28 entering the season finale.
Heinrich finished third, while Lepak came in fourth and Olson finished fifth. Lepak's fourth-place finish came after he took the brunt of a lap 2 incident between front row starters Nate Steif and Ryan Hinner, when both spun and a stack up behind them resulted in the entire right side sheet metal torn off of Lepak's car.
Super Late Models
Fast Qualifier: Luke Fenhaus, Wausau, 13.657 sec.
First Heat: 1. Justin Mondeik, Gleason; 2. Ryan Hinner, Stevens Point; 3. Jay Van Der Geest, Merrill; 4. Travis Volm, Mosinee; 5. Nate Steif, Wausau
Second Heat: 1. Jeremy Lepak, Ringle; 2. M.G. Gajewski, Wausau; 3. Fenhaus; 4. Brock Heinrich, Wausau; 5. Mike Olson, Dorchester
Feature: 1. Fenhaus; 2. Van Der Geest; 3. Heinrich; 4. Lepak; 5. Olson; 6. T. Volm; 7. M.G. Gajewski; 8. Hinner; 9. Mondeik; 10. Steif
Ferge nears second straight title; Spatz & Call back in victory lane, Hartwig is Bandolero champion
An already superb two-year run for Schofield's Kole Ferge is closing out with some of his best racing yet at State Park Speedway.
Ferge closed in on his second straight SPS Rockstar Energy Drink Mini Stocks track championship with his second straight feature and fifth feature win of the season. The second-year driver won the 20-lap feature race as part of the Wayne 'Lodi' Lodholz Memorial Thursday night, the second-to-last race of the season at the speedway.
Ferge needed just five laps to go from a 10th starting spot to the lead. He picked up six spots to fourth in just one lap alone, moving up quickly on the outside line before a lap 2 spin by Travis Lang that was the first caution flag in a mini stocks feature all season. Ferge then made hay quickly on the outside again after the restart before passing Evan Pingel for the lead on lap 5 and then cruising the rest of the way to the win.
With the victory, Ferge is now 68 points ahead of cousin Chad Ferge in second place. He can become the first to win two consecutive championships in the mini stocks since Mariah Gajewski won in 2012 and 2013.
Wausau's Jeff Spatz ended a long feature win drought by coming out on top of a race-long side-by-side battle with Brian Plisch for victory in the 20-lap Advance Auto Parts Pure Stocks main event.
The veteran Spatz started on the inside of the front row and led all but two laps but could never clear Plisch, who hung tough on the outside, came back from nearly a car length back on several occasions and even led briefly on laps 8 and 9. The two were side-by-side right to the final lap, when Spatz held off Plisch by half a car length at the checkers for his first-ever pure stock feature win and what he believed was his first win since 2006 in the mini stocks class.
Alex Volm spent much of the race on Spatz's bumper, looking for any way to get around but boxed in and having to settle for third. Points leader Brian Schramm finished fourth, and with a throwaway night figured into the standings leads Volm by 11 points going into next week's season championship night.
The Snap-on Mini Mods feature followed a similar script, with Evan Call and John Lietz on the front row and unable to get away from each other. The two were side-by-side for the first 17 laps of the 20 lap main before Call finally broke away and went on to his second feature win of the season.
Call led every lap but the first, but time and again was unable to clear Lietz, who hung tough on the outside until lap 18. Jim Lietz ended up getting inside his father John with two laps left and finished second with John Lietz third.
George Seliger came across the line fourth and appeared to have narrowed the gap in the points race between him and leader Greg Blount. Seliger ended up penalized two spots after the race, though, the result of a three-wide pass on lap 16 as cars behind the leaders looked for any opening to move forward. Blount was credited with fifth in the feature, allowing him to extend his points lead on Seliger.
Jevin Guralski of Wausau scored his second feature win of the season in the E.H. Wolf & Sons Bandoleros, coming in first on the class's season championship night as their final appearance at the track this year.
Guralski passed Anna Malouf for the lead on lap 9 and led the rest of the way to finish his SPS season on a good note. The defending champion in the Bandoleros, Guralski finished second this year as Portage's Alex Hartwig wrapped up the 2019 points championship by finishing second in the feature.
Thursday night racing at State Park Speedway wraps up next week, where super late models, pure stocks, mini mods and mini stocks all will crown their 2019 champions. Fred Mueller Qualifying starts at 6 p.m. with racing to follow at 7 p.m.
Advance Auto Parts Pure Stocks
Fast Qualifier: Mitch Stankowki, Wausau, 15.372 sec.
Heat: 1. Brian Schramm, Wausau; 2. Jeff Spatz, Wausau; 3. Stankowski; 4. Dave Cabelka, Wausau; 5. Alex Volm, Mosinee; 6. Brian Plisch, Athens; 7. Raymond Hardy, Sparta
Feature: 1. Spatz; 2. Plisch; 3. A. Volm; 4. Schramm; 5. Stankowski; 6. Cabelka; 7. Hardy
Snap-on Mini Mods
Fast Qualifier: Greg Blount, Marathon, 15.600 sec.
First Heat: 1. Call; 2. Jim Lietz, Mosinee; 3. John Lietz, Mosinee; 4. Kevin Tessmer, Wausau
Second Heat: 1. Dale Louze, Mosinee; 2. George Seliger, Wausau; 3. Blount, 4. Garret Strachota, Wausau
Feature: 1. Call; 2. Jim Lietz; 3. John Lietz; 4. Strachota; 5. Blount; 6. Seliger; 7. Gary Garand, Weston; 8. Louze; 9. Tessmer
Rockstar Mini Stocks
Fast Qualifier: Kole Ferge, Schofield, 16.411 sec.
First Heat: 1. Amanda Rowe, Mosinee; 2. Paul Finch, Tomah; 3. Travis Lang, Wausau; 4. Jordan Finch, Tomah; 5. Steve Clark, Kronenwetter; 6. Kendra Baumann, Wausau
Second Heat: 1. Tom Lecher, Wausau; 2. K. Ferge; 3. Kyle Check, Shantytown; 4. Chad Ferge, Wausau; 5. Evan Pingel, Ringle; 6. Tyler Custer, Stratford
Feature: 1. K. Ferge; 2. Pingel; 3. C. Ferge; 4. Lecher; 5. Check; 6. Custer; 7. Clark; 8. P. Finch; 9. J. Finch; 10. Baumann; 11. Lang; 12. Rowe
E.H. Wolf & Sons Bandoleros
Fast Qualifier: Jevin Guralski, Wausau, 16.048 sec.
First Heat: 1. Justin Ziemicki, Corcoan, Minn.; 2. Kooper Guralski, Wausau; 3. Mariana Kubicz, Jefferson; 4. Keagen Benz, Wausau; 5. Cooper Bodendorfer, Muskego
Second Heat: 1. Anna Malouf, Rhinelander; 2. Tucker Bodendorfer, Muskego; 3. Cohen Henz, Juda; 4. Paxton Benz, Wausau; 5. Tyler Muller, Sun Prairie
Third Heat: 1. Alex Hartwig, Portage; 2. Kody King, Forest City, Iowa; 3. J. Guralski; 4. Robbie Rucks, Deerfield; 5. Ayrton Brockhouse, Shakopee, Minn.; 6. Michael Guderski, Markesan
Semi-Feature: 1. Ziemicki; 2. K. Benz; 3. P. Benz; 4. Kubicz; 5. C. Bodendorfer; 6. K. Guralski
Feature: 1. J. Guralski; 2. Hartwig; 3. King; 4. Malouf; 5. Guderski; 6. Brockhouse; 7. T. Bodendorfer; 8. Rucks; 9. Henze; 10. Ziemicki; 11. Muller; 12. K. Benz