PLOVER, Wis. — Sometimes history takes a while to repeat itself. Sometimes it comes rushing back in a hurry. The latter was the case Monday afternoon in TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Five Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes at Golden Sands Speedway.
Mark Mackesy – fresh off holding back young Super Late Model standout Derek Kraus for his first win at State Park Speedway in Round Four – used his veteran prowess once again to fend off Kraus for his second straight win in a 75-lap main event. With the win Mackesy became only the second driver to win back-to-back TUNDRA races. Dalton Zehr accomplished the feat in 2011 and 2012. However, Mackesy did become the first to go back-to-back at different tracks as Zehr’s doubles came at Dells Raceway Park.
“It’s pretty darn neat. There are so many good drivers here,” Mackesy said. “To say you’re on the list once is pretty amazing. Then to do it again…you’re not a one-hit wonder.”
Despite the fact that Mackesy has plenty of laps at both tracks, his experience in recent years at Golden Sands is limited. His visit to Victory Lane on Monday was the first time he had won at the facility in four years.
“They’re both distinctively different tracks,” Mackesy said. “Today it helped to have the experience of running Wausau because it was a warm day and the track got slick. We tried the same gear that we run at Wausau, but typically we don’t. This setup is pretty darn close to what we run at Wausau.”
It almost seemed as though Mackesy had lost his chance when pole-sitter Jordan Thiel stepped away at the beginning of the feature and Mackesy settled into Third. However, it was part of the game plan for Mackesy to take it easy at the beginning and turn up the wick at the end of the race. Mackesy’s winning move came on lap 59 when he cleared Thiel for the lead.
“I just tried to take it easy because I was actually starting to buzz the tires a little bit. I was just trying not to spin them,” Mackesy said. “I didn’t want to over drive it and just tried to stay calm. The 25 (Thiel) just got really free off. I think he greased up a little bit. He had a really good run though.”
Along with the pass for the lead, a move early in the race proved to be just as critical. From his outside-front-row starting spot, Mackesy fell back to Third behind Thiel and Mike Lichtfeld. He was able to tuck in line just before Kraus could get to his inside.
“I just wanted to stay in the Top Three, but Mackesy got down in front of me in the beginning of the race and we just wanted to race with him to see what we could do,” Kraus said.
With Kraus settling behind Mackesy and the Top Five beginning to take shape, Thiel stretched out his lead over Lichtfeld to almost a straightaway. However, as the laps clicked off Lichtfeld closed the gap. Just as Lichtfeld had closed within striking distance on lap 17, the only yellow of the race fell for a dual spin of Jake Capek and Toby Rott.
On the restart, Lichtfeld chose the outside. Both Mackesy and Kraus decided to keep the bottom lane, which allowed Ryan Farrell to jump to the outside of the second row. On the restart Lichtfeld held on as long as he could up top, but eventually surrendered the lead to Thiel and settled in Second in front of Mackesy. Behind the lead three, Farrell had found a home in Fourth and Kraus was Fifth.
After five laps of riding in the tire tracks of Lichtfeld, Mackesy prepared to make his move. Mackesy swung to the inside on lap 25 and grabbed the runner up spot. Just as Mackesy made his move on Lichtfeld, Kraus slid past Farrell and into Fourth.
Just inside the Top Ten fast qualifier Michael Ostdiek was the first to make some moves. He closed in on the Top Five, but was stuck on the outside and eventually began to slide back in the top groove before settling in.
Further back in the pack the point leaders were trying to make the best out of being caught in traffic. Casey Johnson had fallen back early in the race, and Dalton Zehr started deep in the pack after accepting a provisional. The duo began to pick their way through the Top Ten on lap 32.
While positions in the Top Ten were still being sorted out, Thiel did the same as he had done at the beginning of the race. With plenty of clean air, Thiel again stretched his lead out to nearly a straightaway over the rest of the pack. However, by lap 40 it was apparent that Mackesy was chopping away at the lead.
As Mackesy closed in on Thiel, Kraus approached the bumper of Lichtfeld. On lap 43 Kraus found the inside lane and made his move into Third. Although they were battling, that duo was also catching the leaders.
By lap 53 Mackesy and Kraus had erased the deficit to Thiel. Noticing that Thiel’s machine was loosening up, Mackesy prepared to make his move. He went to the bottom on lap 54 as Thiel tried to fend him off on the outside. Although he put up a good fight, Thiel relinquished the lead on lap 59. Kraus and Lichtfeld followed Mackesy into Second and Third.
Just as the Top Three prepared to step away, Wyatt Blashe made his way past Thiel into Fourth. He quickly hooked to the bumper of Lichtfeld and kept himself in contention for the win.
Although Lichtfeld and Blashe looked swift, Mackesy and Kraus eventually separated themselves to settle the score. Kraus closed on the bumper of Mackesy several times in the final ten laps, and took several looks to the outside. However, Kraus could not make a run to the top, and could not find any space on the bottom.
“We fell back at the start and I didn’t think we’d get back up there,” Mackesy said. “All of the sudden we were in the lead, then Derek was on me like stink on an ape. He kept the pressure on. I was hoping he’d give me a little break, but the car was really, really good. I knew if I kept it down that he wouldn’t booger me out of the way.”
Despite the opportunities, Kraus could not find a way past Mackesy in the final laps of Round Five. He claimed the runner-up spot for the second race in a row. “It was a really good race,” Kraus said. “I just couldn’t go around the outside and couldn’t pass him on the inside – it wasn’t there.”
Behind the lead duo, Lichtfeld held on to Third for a podium that has eluded him so far in 2016. Wyatt Blashe rode to a Fourth Place finish – eclipsing the career best Sixth Place finish he had set at Wausau in Round Four.
The final spot in the Top Five was up for dispute in the final circuits. Zehr had picked his way through the field and closed in on Joel Theisen. With five laps to go Zehr made the move past Theisen into the Top Five. Theisen settled into Sixth, just in front of Johnson.
Johnson’s move to Seventh helped him hold his point lead over Zehr. Johnson picked up points on Zehr in qualifying while Zehr placed Third in his heat. The gap now sits at 24 points heading into the final event at Jefferson Speedway on September 18.
That number has some significance in speaking of history repeating itself. Zehr trailed Ty Majeski by the exact same margin last year heading into the final race at Jefferson. Zehr went on to win the event and the title by five points. However, with Jefferson Speedway being Johnson’s home track, some history may just end up being history.
BACK GETS TRUTE BACK
Greg Back had to work for his first TUNDRA Sportsman win in Saturday’s 40-lap main event. After getting passed by fast qualifier Dave Trute on a restart, the Central Wisconsin native was not going to let a win slip away at his home track.
Back reeled Trute in after a pass on lap 23 and applied the pressure after another restart on lap 28 until making the final pass at the white flag.
Brandon Scholze took an early lead in the main, surging past fellow front-row starter Jason Stark. Jason Thoma quickly slid into Third behind Schole and Stark and started to set his sights on the leaders.
Deeper in traffic Trute – who had set fast time – and Back started to work their way through the field on the heels of Mahlon Borntreger. Borntreger made a pass on Thoma for Second on lap eight and took the lead from Scholze on lap 11. Back followed Borntreger into Second with Trute right behind in Third.
By lap 15 Trute was checking the bottom line on Back for Second. However, just as he seemed to find the inside, Back went to the high side and made the pass on Borntreger for the lead on lap 17. Trute also jumped to the outside and followed to Second.
As the lead duo of Back and Trute stepped away from the pack and began to race side-by-side they quickly closed in on lapped traffic. The lapped traffic cars were not taking notice of the move-over flag, so to prevent an incident and allow the leaders to race, race control threw a yellow flag and issued a warning to the drivers at the tail of the field.
On the restart Back chose the inside and Trute elected to take the high line. Back initially took the lead, but Trute was able to tuck in right behind him. On lap 23 Trute took the lead and opened up an advantage of about three car lengths. Despite making the pass, Trute could not stretch out the advantage over Back.
With Back on his bumper held the lead until a yellow fell again on lap 28. On the restart Trute was able to power past Back on the inside, but again Back would not fade. Eventually Back closed to the bumper of Trute with just three laps to go and prepared to make his move.
With the pressure on Trute, Back was able to find some space on the inside line and pulled even in the battle for the lead. As they raced to the line for the white flag Back nosed ahead and then secured the lead on the final lap. Trute would settle for Second, Scott Luck made a solid late-race run to Third, Borntreger finished Fourth, Joe Monti rounded out the Top Five.
The TUNDRA Sportsman will not compete at Jefferson, but will have a sixth race at the Dells Raceway Park Falloween event on October 23.
ROSSIER RIVALRY TO ROYCE
The TUNDRA Vintage feature turned into a brotherly battle as Royce and Rex Rossier stepped away from the pack to settle the score in the 25-lap main event. In the end Royce Rossier was able to deny his brother Rex a third straight win.
Both Royce and Rex – who had set fast time – rocketed through the field. Royce was first to get to the head of the pack, with Rex joining him shortly after. Over the final half of the race Rex got to the bumper of Royce and searched for a way to the outside. Each time he tried the outside, his machine snapped sideways and he was forced to tuck back in line.
Royce went on to beat his brother by just a few car lengths at the start/finish line. Rex settled for Second, Pat Echlin was Third, Pat Heaney was Fourth, and Dick Kath rounded out the Top Five.
The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series rounds out its 2016 season at Wisconsin’s Action Track Jefferson Speedway on Sunday, September 18. Round Six Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes will be part of the now three-day Wisconsin State Championships which begin Friday, September 16. The Sunday program will feature the TUNDRA Super Late Models, Midwest Truck Series, Vintage, Legends and Bandoleos. Qualifying is scheduled for 12:30 and racing is at 2 P.M.
Jefferson Speedway is located on Highway 18 between Jefferson and Cambridge, WI. For more information visit www.jeffersonspeedway.com.
-TUNDRA Series Press Release
-Photo Credit: TUNDRA Series Facebook