This year marks the fifth year since the Oktoberfest 200 was brought back to life by ARCA Midwest Tour owner Gregg McKarns. Dubbed a 100-lap race for many, many years, McKarns wanted to make the final day of the four-day Oktoberfest weekend a little more special and upped the ante to the original 200-lap distance.
“Way back in the beginning Fest was a 200-lap race,” Gregg Mckarns told Speed51.com. “During my youth it was 100 laps, but I came across an old Oktoberfest poster and saw the 200-lap feature advertised. Both Chuck Deery and I wanted to make Sunday bigger and we felt this was the way to do it. Fest is best and this gave each of the four days of racing a different feel and the best arrangements to showcase drivers in each division.”
Big names litter the Oktoberfest win list, including Joe Shear, Larry Detjens, Dick Trickle and Matt Kenseth. Over the past four years, Travis Sauter, Dan Fredrickson, Ty Majeski and Johnny Sauter have taken the checkered flag in the 200-lap event.
“I’m proud of the wins there,” Travis Sauter said. “It’s not easy to do. But that said, I’m more motivated now than ever. This year may be a challenge with our engine package, but we won’t get better sitting on the couch. We only have six races on this car and I think we finished second four times. It’s only gonna keep getting better if I ever get a chance to work on it.”
“Teams are figuring out how to best utilize the controlled pit stops, which saves money, allows them to adjust on the cars throughout the race and provides the fans a lot of twists and turns throughout the 200-laps,” McKarns said.
Over the last few years, heavy hitters from across the county have traveled to Wisconsin for the 49-year event, including arguably the hottest short track driver in the country, Bubba Pollard.
“I had always heard it was a great race to attend,” Pollard stated. “I decided to come back this year because of the fans, great racing and the atmosphere of the race. Plus, I wanted to improve from last year.”
Local or not, the October race weekend has always seemed to be a must-see race event for drivers across the Midwest. The entry list is long, littered with talent and even drivers who don’t seem to be on track as much throughout the year make sure to have Oktoberfest on their calendar. And, quite frankly, it’s because Fest is the best.
“It’s on my list because it’s a lot of racing over a weekend and it’s fun to drink beers with my buddies,” Johnny Sauter said.
“You see guys like Johnny Sauter and Ty Majeski win races here,” Pollard said. “I want to add my name to that list. I love supporting short track races.”
“We enjoy having those drivers,” McKarns said. “Perhaps more enjoyable is when an ‘unknown’ will put together a dream Fest and put their name on the map for top drivers in 2019. I can see that happening this weekend.”
“This race is a bucket list race for Late Model drivers,” Travis Sauter said. “You feel it when you arrive there. That’s the reason I race. Chuck and Gregg and their staff should be commended. This is what racing should be. Sometimes you go to the track and on the way home you wonder what you’re doing with your life. Fest doesn’t feel like that.”
For those who can’t experience the glory of “Fest” in person, Speed51.com will offer live video streams of all four days of racing beginning Thursday night with a live video stream for Speed51 Network premium subscribers. Discounted three-day video tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday can be purchased here.
-Story by Jana Wimmer, Speed51.com Midwest Editor
-Photo credit: Speed51.com