We closed the month of May with a rollicking race night at Plymouth Dirt Track (PDTR) in Wisconsin on Saturday. Oddly, there were a dozen fewer sprint cars in the pits this week, and one more had to scratch with mechanical problems before the night began. Kids got their weekly bus ride through the pits before one lucky youngster won a bike and another was picked to ride in the pace truck. There was one very big winner when the 50/50 pot grew to over $1100, and on the track the rest had to work for their money.
After a meeting, it was decided that the previous week’s winners would no longer be required to start their features in the twelfth position as they had in the past. This made many racers happy before the show started. The track was quick, resulting in several new race records.
The sprint car heats were won by Kevin Karnitz and Jim Melis, with the top sixteen in passing points inverted by a random draw. This placed Chris Clayton and Donny Goeden in the front row, followed by Rusty Egan, Paul Pokorski, Melis, Karnitz, Tim Haddy and Justin Miller. Egan’s mount failed before the start, and the field realigned for the start of the 25-lap contest. At the drop of the green Goeden was ready, leading the hard-charging field and already beginning to lap cars after five circuits were complete. A couple laps later several cars got out of shape and recovered, the aftermath forcing a restart. No one spun, so no one was sent to the rear of the field this time.
The field closed up with Goeden again ready at the green flag. Some close calls came in heavy lapped traffic, and the race soon came to the checkered flag. A couple lapped cars separated Goeden from Pokorski and Melis, with Kyle Marten and Shane Wenninger completing the top five and Josh Walter coming from the sixth row to sixth place. Goeden took his victory lap before parking in front of the grandstands and climbing on the winning mount to the cheers of the crowd. His parents and family members were on hand to hear Goeden’s interview. Asked about his second win in this machine, Goeden replied, “I think it’s the car. They go through it every week. They’ve got a fast car. My mom and dad and family are here.” Asked about his front row start, Goeden responded, “I like starting in back. Starting in front you don’t know where the fast line is.”
The Grand National heats were won by Tyler Kulow, Tim Simon and Dan Sorce, who tied the record for his race. The B main ended with ageless Dick Hed leading the four transferees to the main. After the invert was set, the 25-lap feature began with Mark Fieber and Simon in front of Kulow, brothers Don and Dan Sorce, Brad Lubach, Aaron Hauck and Matt Yancey. Before a lap was complete a cluster of cars got together and the field was realigned. The second attempt was successful with Fieber taking charge of the race. The laps quickly sped along, Don Sorce Jr. soon challenging Fieber for the lead. Sorce was ahead on the backstretch, Fieber on the frontstretch as the laps counted down.
Sorce got ahead with seven laps remaining, but another caution flag waved three laps from the end, then another yellow with two circuits left. This made for an exciting dash to the finish line, Sorce Jr. staying ahead of Fieber and teammate Nick Strobbe Jr. getting ahead of Dan Sorce at the checkered flag. Lubach hung on for fifth place ahead of Kulow. For the second week in a row it was Sorce Jr. in winner’s circle, telling the audience, “That was a race. My dad (Donny Sorce) ran twenty years in the modifieds. This is my twenty-fifth,” adding that this was only his second car.
The Outlaw Compact field began with Scott Schlafke setting a new record in his heat race and Justin Erickson winning the second heat. The 15-lap feature started with Brian Chiminatti and Travis Arenz in front of Erickson, Schlafke, Chris Maas and Jonathan Otte. Before one lap was scored newcomer Brody Rivest spun to force a restart. Arenz sped ahead at the next green flag, holding the lead past another restart on the fifth lap. Arenz resumed his lead as the laps wound down, but was as surprised as the rest of us to see Rivest come from last place to the lead in a dozen circuits. Rivest amazed us even more when stating, “I never won before. This is my first time here. I raced before, but never in the top five.” Later Rivest told me he had never run a weekly show before and wasn’t planning to return. After netting his first win, the young racer will reconsider returning.
The late model heats began with Mitch McGrath setting a race record and Brad Mueller topping it in the next heat. The 25-lap feature started with T. J. Dolhun and Mueller in front of McGrath, Tim Buhler, Jim Schmidt and newcomer Eric Van Iten. Dolhun led the opening circuit and Mueller nosed ahead the next time around. Three laps later it was McGrath driving past Mueller. Mueller’s car got sideways four laps later, gathering Russ Scheffler and Kyle Odekirk in the process. Eleven cars remained for the next green flag, which was quickly replaced with another yellow when third-place Justin Schmidt spun.
Things sped up until just after the midway mark, when debris forced another slowdown. Four more laps were complete when challenger Buhler suddenly slowed with a flat tire. Because of the lack of visibility on the new high banked turns, cars may no longer reenter the race once the green flag is out. Buhler was caught in this predicament and forced to sit out the finish when he returned too late. McGrath, who posted his first win here a year ago, happily took his second win Saturday. Next across the stripe were Todd Jensema, Dave Thomas, Billy Rezutek and Tim Carman as only nine cars finished the event. The soft-spoken McGrath was heard to say, “The car was awesome.”
Before 9:30 fans flocked to the pits to join their heroes in shirtsleeve weather. A few teams had already left, facing several hours of work before returning next week. And thus we end the month of May.
Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.)