The 12th Flip Merwin Memorial Race takes place Thursday night, June 16, at State Park Speedway. Since 2003, the Flip Merwin Memorial has become a staple event at the track in Wausau, Wisconsin and one that drivers and fans alike look forward to.
“It’s a race I mark on my calendar every year,” said two time Flip Merwin Memorial Race winner Mark Mackesy. “He was a very special person to many people. Only a few people in a lifetime come along that are as special as he was.”
The first Flip Merwin Memorial event took place 13 years ago, just months after Merwin was tragically killed at the World Snowmobile Championships in Eagle River, Wisconsin. Wayne Breitenfeldt found victory lane, and what started was a decade long tradition of honoring a lost friend and racer.
The race continued annually for the next five years with Jeremy Lepak, Chris Weinkauf, Neil Knoblock, Jesse Haase and Chris Wimmer earning victories. The event then took a year off in 2009 when the track was under new ownership. That winter State Park Speedway was purchased by Ron and Scott Wimmer, and the very next season the Flip Merwin Memorial Race made its return.
“This is definitely one of the most special races to me personally,” said State Park Speedway Owner Scott Wimmer. “Flip and I were best friends and there are no words to describe how tough it was when he was unexpectedly taken from us. When we bought the track we knew this was a race we would bring back. Flip was a friend to so many and it is an honor to continue to have this race each year.”
Weinkauf etched his name in the record books again in 2010 before a duo of Mark’s, Mackesy and Eswein, claimed the next three straight. Mackesy in 2011 and 2013 and Eswein in 2012.
Then it was Tim Sauter’s turn to showcase his dominance at the ¼-mile Wisconsin oval. Sauter won the 2014 event on his way to winning all three memorial races that year, and backed up his performance with a second straight win in 2015. After bringing home a runner-up performance in ‘The Happening’ on June second, Sauter now looks for the hat trick this Thursday night.
“It’s always an honor to race in Flip’s memory,” said Sauter. “I’ll do my best to make it three in a row.”
This year a number of drivers have found Auto Select Victory Lane at State Park Speedway. Ty Majeski kicked off the season with a win in the ARCA Midwest Tour event and Johnny Sauter grabbed the win two weeks at the ‘Happening’.
But the hot shoe lately has been 19-year old Natalie Decker, who has won two of the last three at State Park Speedway. Growing up in a snowmobile racing family, finding Auto Select Victory Lane this weekend would mean a lot.
“Flip was a snowmobile racer and good friends with my dad,” said Decker. “I admire all snowmobile racers, I think it’s one of the toughest sports in the world. My dad always talks so highly of Flip and how he was such a talented racer with heart and a great person. Everyone loved Flip, he brought a smile to everyone’s race trailer. This race is so special to me because it’s honoring Flip in his hometown.”
Fan gates open at 4:30 p.m. Thursday for the Ropa’s Pizza Flip Merwin Memorial presented by Pepsi. Fred Mueller qualifying begins at 6:00 p.m. and racing is set to start at 7:00 p.m.
-By Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @JWimm22
-Photo credit: William Prutz