KAUKAUNA, Wis. — There is a cliché in sports about playing until the last buzzer. In Saturday’s TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Krolls West Round One Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes, Steve Apel showed why it’s not over until the checkered flag falls.
Apel chased down an ill-handling Dalton Zehr over the final four circuits of the DUKE FM 50 at Wisconsin International Raceway. He then made his move into the lead at the exit of turn four on the way to the checkered flag. It was Apel’s first TUNDRA win and his second Super Late Model victory to kick off the 2017 season.
“I knew I couldn’t get to him unless something happened,” Apel said. “Guys on this team never give up. Two wins in a row from Slinger to here, it’s been one heck of a start to the season.”
Zehr, who broke the WIR track record with a lap of 19.018 seconds earlier in the day, looked to be in position for his second TUNDRA win at the facility. However, a broken sway bar bolt left Zehr trying to nurse his ride to the finish. When Apel and Zehr exchanged handshakes in Victory Lane, Apel commented that he could see sparks from ahead with four laps remaining.
It wasn’t the first time Apel has been a threat for the win in TUNDRA’s events at WIR. Apel led a portion of the race last season, but settled for a Third Place finish behind Ty Majeski and Casey Johnson. Two seasons ago Apel set fast time and came up just short of a last-lap move on Majeski for the win.
“The TUNDRA Series is awesome,” Apel said. “They put on a heck of a show for all the fans that came out. We’re glad to win here. We’ll try to be back more this year.”
Apel secured the initial lead when he surged past fellow front-row starter Alex Prunty. The outside line proved strong at the outset with Travis Sauter moving to Second and Brent Strelka to Third. On lap two Bobby Kendall slid to Fourth and Zehr (who had started Tenth behind Kendall) dashed to Fifth.
As Apel opened up his advantage, Kendall and Zehr went to work on Strelka. Kendall took third with Zehr in tow on lap six. On lap later Jordan Thiel moved toward the Top Five by following Zehr past Strelka. On lap 11 Zehr made his move past Kendall and set his sights on the Top Two.
While the battles in the Top Five raged on Maxwell Schultz and Andy Monday started ascending through the Top Ten. Schultz moved to Fifth on lap ten and Monday began to pressure Jordan Thiel for Sixth on lap 13.
The first caution of the race came for a spin on lap 17. By this point Zehr had made his way past Travis Sauter for Second and had the opportunity to joust with Apel on the front row for the restart. Apel and Zehr stayed side-by-side for two laps after the restart, racing in close quarters. Zehr made the move past Apel on lap 18, just before the yellow flag fell again when Monday was sent spinning in turn Four. Defending Thursday Night Champion Jeff Van Oudenhoven was also collected. Unfortunately, neither he nor Monday were able to return.
Just as they had on the previous restart, Apel and Zehr reset on the front row. With some space to work on the outside Zehr jumped away at the drop of the green. Apel held within several car lengths to keep pressure on the leader, but would not get another chance to challenge until a restart after Brent Strelka broke a brake line on lap 22.
Once again Zehr was able to escape Apel, but could not shake him. Apel closed the gap on several occasions, however he was unable to make a move.
While the leaders continued their cat-and-mouse chase up front, two drivers continued their moves toward the front. Maxwell Schutlz settled into Fourth at the midway point then closed the gap on Third-Place Travis Sauter. Schultz continued to peek to the inside on Sauter over the final 20 circuits.
Behind that battle, Dean’s Satellite and Security Rookie contender Colin Reffner enjoyed a solid run. After settling in at the back of the Top Ten earlier in the race, Reffner came to life. He moved to Sixth by the midway point and grabbed Fifth away from Kendall on lap 19. Reffner then chased down the duo of Sauter and Shultz with less than ten laps remaining.
As attention turned to the scraps for Third, Fourth, and Fifth, Zehr and Apel hit lapped traffic in the final ten laps. It appeared as though Zehr would have no problem negotiating the traffic even though Apel was closing the gap again.
With two to go it became very apparent that Apel was the faster of the two. He chewed up nearly ten car lengths on lap 48 and was within striking distance on the final circuit. Apel had to clear one final lap car after the white flag fell, then made his move through three and four to catch and eventually pass Zehr.
Behind the stunning finish Sauter was able to hold off Schultz for Third. Reffner, still hot on the heels of those drivers, secured Fifth in his first ever appearance at WIR.
TRUTE SWEEPS SPORTSMAN TWIN 20s
Dave Trute sure doesn’t mind making trips to the D-shaped half-mile of Wisconsin International Raceway. With his win in the two 20-lap Sportsman features on Saturday, Trute is now a perfect three for three.
John Zuch and Dylan Wenzel led the first feature to green with Wenzel getting a jump. Some space opened quickly for Trute and Dusty Mann. Mann tracked down Wenzel and took the lead on lap five. Trute followed into Second, then took the lead on lap seven.
Behind Trute and Mann, fast qualifier Greg Back made his move to Third. Once he put Mann in his rear view mirror, Back tried to track down Trute. Unfortunately for Back, there was not enough time to catch up in the final circuits.
With the field inverted for the second 20-lapper Back and Trute started at the tail end of the field to settle the overall win. Brett Bray and Ryan Manthei exchanged the lead in the early going, but Bray settled into and built the lead.
The top four from the previous 20 – Jason Stark, Mann, Back and Trute – had to wait patiently for things to open up. While they raced in close quarters contact was made which caused a flat right rear on Back’s machine. Back then spun in turns one and two bringing out the yellow. He was unable to continue.
After the restart Trute made some daring moves on the way to the front. He went three wide to move into Fourth, then again to move into Second. By the time he moved to the runner-up spot Stark had built a large lead. That lead was erased, however, when Ryan Manthei spun with less than five laps remaining.
An opportunity to close the gap under yellow was all Trute needed as he hounded Stark and eventually made his pass with two laps to go. Stark went on to finish Second in the second 20-lap feature and overall. Dylan Wenzel secured third in the overall with a move past Andy Casavant on the final lap of the second 20 lapper.
The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes heads to the western portion of Wisconsin with a stop at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem on Friday, June 30. More information on start times will be available shortly through TUNDRA’s web site and social media pages.
The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) Super Late Model Series was formed in 2011 as the Alive For Five Super Late Model Series at Dells Raceway Park. TUNDRA’s business plan is based on a sustainable program for promoters and race teams alike, while still providing high-quality Super Late Model entertainment to fans.
For more information on TUNDRA including the 2016 schedule, news, results and the point standings, archived results and standings, and more visit www.tundrasuperlates.com. Also, interact with us on Facebook (facebook.com/TundraSuperLateModels) or Twitter (@TUNDRAslms)
-TUNDRA Press Release
-Photo Credit: TUNDRA