Fourteen-year-old Derek Kraus made history Saturday night at State Park Speedway, becoming the youngest driver to win the Detjens Memorial. The young driver held off charges from veteran drivers over the final 23 laps to take the checkered flag in the 36th annual Newsline Nine Detjens Memorial 125.
“It feels really good to win this race,” said Kraus. “It’s one of the toughest tracks in the country, there’s little grip and it feels great to race against all these great people and win.”
Current State Park Speedway Green Mill Super Late Model presented by C-Tech point leader Natalie Decker set fast time earlier in the day and an invert of nine for the feature put Dalton Zehr and Justin Mondeik on the front row.
Zehr jumped out to the early lead and held off MG Gajewski on a handful of restarts to pace the first 71 laps. When the caution flew four laps before the scheduled break at lap 75, it was for the leader, Zehr, who made contact with a slower car and spun in turn two. Officials ruled contact was made between Zehr and the lap car, sending Zehr to the rear of the lead lap cars and handing the lead to Gajewski.
With just four laps until the scheduled break, this caution served as the scheduled 10 minute break, giving teams a chance to make changes to their cars, but not change any tires
Gajewski got the jump on Kraus as the field returned to green for the final 54 laps of racing. But a hard-charging Tim Sauter, who started 10th, worked his way into third at the break and began to pressure Kraus for second. With 50 laps to go Sauter cleared Kraus for the spot and began to hunt down Gajewski.
A two-time winner of the Detjens Memorial, Sauter quickly caught Gajewski and stalked him around the quarter-mile track in Wausau, Wisconsin. For the next 15 laps Sauter looked for a way around the No. 22 of Gajewski. Contact was made between the two with 23 laps to go, sending Gajewski spinning on the front stretch.
“He was blocking me and I had a run on him there and we were coming up on a lap car and he was protecting the outside,” said Sauter. “He just came across me and spun himself out, but I was there so go to the back.”
This time it was Kraus who would inherit the lead as leaders were sent to the rear of the field. On the restart Kraus jumped to the lead, but as the cars came out of turn four, Travis Sauter, who was up to fourth, went hard into the tire barrier, bringing out another caution. The caution would fly one more time as Zehr had problems that brought him to a stop on the front stretch, but Kraus had no problem holding on over the final 23 laps to win the Newsline Nine Detjens Memorial 125.
“I knew it was going to get a little dicey there in the later stages everyone is losing patience and it’s getting towards the end of the race,” said Kraus. “I just stayed calm and wanted to have really good restarts and it felt really good to win this race.”
Mark Mackesy, who was involved in an early caution, drove all the way back through the field for a second-place finish, while Tim Sauter rallied after his incident to come home third.
“The hard part is to keep my temper, and not get too hot,” said Mackesy. “I have a bad temper it’s hard to believe, but I do and the guys just kept telling me keep calm, you got a good car, it’ll come to you. So I just kept running it, trying to be smooth and not take the tires off of it, and we had tires at the end, which was nice. In this race at this track usually at the end of 125 you got nothing left, so it worked out pretty well.”
For full post-race coverage of the Larry Detjens Memorial, visit Speed51.com’s Speed Central coverage: http://speed51.com/speed-central-detjens-memorial-super-lm-state-park-speedway-wi/