The Big 8 Series race was billed as the highlight of Friday night’s Miller Lite Detjens Memorial weekend at State Park Speedway and it lived up to its hype. With three lead changes over the final 25 laps, there’s no question this will go down as an instant classic in the Big 8 Series books.
J. Herbst set fast time earlier in the day and started the 58-lap feature from the seventh position. While Lyle Nowak grabbed the early lead, Herbst quickly worked his way towards the front. The first caution of the night flew on lap three. The leader gets his/her own lane on the restart, while drivers behind get to pick a lane. With the inside lane the preferred lane at State Park Speedway, Herbst took a gamble and jumped to the outside, restarting in the third position.
The move paid off as Herbt quickly battled side by side with Nowak for the lead. Nowak cleared Herbst, but the No. 82 car fought back, this time diving to the inside and taking the lead on lap eight.
Just a few laps later the caution flew again and this time Michael Ostdiek and Michael Bilderback took advantage of choosing the outside lane on the restart. Herbst easily grabbed the lead again and Ostdiek settled into second. Nowak battled with Bilderback for third and Jeremy Lepak rapidly closed in on them from the fifth position.
Herbst’s lead had grown to over 15 car lengths when the yellow flag flew one more time. As the cars rolled under caution and got ready to pick a lane for the restart, Herbt visibly had a tire go flat and the leader was forced to pull into the pits. That handed the reigns over to Ostdiek, who was looking for the first Big 8 Series win of his career.
Ostdiek got a good restart, but now multi-time Big 8 Series Champion Jeremy Miller wanted a taste of the lead. With Miller on the outside, the two battled door to door for nine laps, with Ostdiek reclaiming the lead with 22 laps to go.
Bilderback moved into second with Lepak in tow. Lepak then moved his No. 40 around Bilderback and began to close in on Ostdiek. Lepak jumped to the high side and pulled even with Ostdiek; the two raced side by side for the lead with ten laps to go.
Ostdiek was able to use lap traffic to his advantage, taking the lead once again with seven laps to go and holding on to take the checkered flag.
“It feels wonderful,” said Ostdiek. “Our plan was to win a big one on the road and we finally did it, so it’s just awesome, especially with the Kulwicki driver development program. I was really hoping to get that first win with them. It’s definitely huge for us and I’m excited for what’s to come.”
Meanwhile the battles weren’t over. Lepak and Bilderback duked it for second and Herbst, who had driven all the way back through the field, was up to fourth. Lepak grabbed second and on the white flag lap, Herbst got by Bilderback for third.
“I just should have cut down in front of that lap car a little sooner, I hung it out there too long and gave him a chance to get back in there, that was my fault,” said Lepak. “The guys gave me a pretty good car, it was a good long run car we just, gosh damn, it’s gonna be hard to sleep tonight. I wanted to win for these guys so bad. Chad and Dan Devine give me the cars to race in every series, whether it’s a truck or Big 8 or Super Late Model, I’ve always got a car to race if we want to go have some fun, that’s why we do it. It’s fun running with these guys.”
“We definitely had the car to beat,” said Herbst. “Set fast time and just kind of used the heat race as a hot lap. We got the lead right away and the crew just said cruise, save your tires, save your tires, so I think while we lead I never touched the brake once. Then under that yellow I felt the right front go flat and I radioed in. I went in, the guys changed the tire and sent us back out and drove back through the field and finished third. I needed about four or five more laps.”