The ARCA Midwest Tour kicks off its 2017 season this Sunday with the Joe Shear Classic at Madison International Speedway (WI). For the 10th straight year, the race in honor of short track racing legend Joe Shear opens up the Midwest Tour schedule and drivers in the Midwest can’t wait to get on track after a long winter.
“I’m really excited for the season to start again. With every new year there is always anticipation and a little bit of anxiety, but racing is always evolving with new things to try and new set ups to explore so I’m pumped to see what the 2017 season brings,” Chris Weinkauf of Merrill, Wisconsin told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Ty Majeski, the three-time and defending Midwest Tour champion, is no stranger to Victory Lane at Midwest Tour events. After all, he’s picked up nearly a dozen wins over the last three years, including the 2016 Joe Shear Classic title. The Wisconsin driver recently moved to North Carolina to pursue an opportunity with Roush Fenway Racing, but returns to Madison International Speedway this weekend to defend his win from a year ago.
“I’m always excited to come back up to Wisconsin and race,” Majeski stated. “I’m learning a lot at Roush Fenway and I believe it will make our Super Late Model program better as well. The Joe Shear classic is one of the primer races in Wisconsin every year and it would be quite an accomplishment to go back to back.”
Along with Majeski, two other drivers will look to ink their name on the Joe Shear trophy for a second time. They include the inaugural winner, Dan Fredrickson, and 2013 winner Travis Sauter. Sauter enters the race with a new race team. Together they earned a 21st-place finish at the Dells Raceway Park Icebreaker event a few weeks ago, but the Neenah, Wisconsin driver has higher hopes heading into this weekend.
“The Racetech/Chase Motorsports guys have been putting in a lot of time on the car,” Sauter said. “We were pretty average the first race, but we should be better this time.”
The late Joe Shear was one of the greatest short track racers of his time, so to bring home a trophy with his name on it means a lot. This year’s entry list boasts 36 names, and along with names like Majeski, Sauter and Weinkauf, incudes the top short track racers from the Midwest.
“There is a lot of stiff competition heading into the weekend,” said Weinkauf. “There should be allot of good hard racing. Joe Shear was an amazing racer and there are a lot of talented drivers that have won the Joe Shear classic. It would be an honor to have my name among those winners. The whole Shear family continues to support racing, from Kari working in the ARCA series to her son Josh racing karts. They are iconic of what a racing family is.”
For the first time in the race’s history, the Joe Shear Classic will consist of 200 laps. In the past the race has been as many as 136 laps, but never anything higher. The event will also feature pit stops and teams will be allowed to change two tires throughout the event.
“To survive 200 laps you are definitely going to have to have your car dialed in and not use everything up in the beginning. Hopefully the setup will be good for VanDerGeest Racing Team 75 and we will only have to make minor tweaks at pit stops,” Weinkauf stated.
“This year it will be 200 laps with controlled cautions which will be great for the fans and throw some strategy into the mix for the teams,” Majeski commented. “We will look back to the Oktoberfest 200 for our strategy because it has had the same format. We have been pretty strong at Madison the last couple years so I like our chances. Very excited to get back to it this weekend.”
Added Sauter, “I enjoyed the race when it was 136 laps and thought the longer race suited me and my car well at that time. It really comes down to how well the car handles. If it’s good, then (the number of) laps doesn’t matter.”
-By Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Midwest Editor – Twitter: @JWimm22
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Bruce Nuttleman