Fireworks added to the already exciting race program at Slinger Speedway Sunday night. With close to one hundred competitors on hand, the explosions in the sky could not match what happened on the high banks. Very tight competition left some racers with hard feelings, at least one engine expired, and many mechanical maladies thwarted plans for success. This is not what the teams need with big races coming up for the next two weeks.
Brad Mueller topped a large field of super late models halfway through the qualifying line, one of the few who still compete on dirt and asphalt regularly. Corey Funk, Nick Wagner and seven-time track champion Lowell Bennett won their closely-contested heat races, and Rob Braun led the four who transferred from the 30-lap semi. The night’s feature was set at 75 laps, with the roll of the die setting the inversion at nine cars. The front row held Ryan DeStefano and James Swan, followed by six-time champion Conrad Morgan, Bennett, Casey Johnson, Tim Lampman, defending champion Steve Apel and Rich Loch. The starting field swelled to 21 cars when Dale Prunty used his one-time provisional at the end of the line. Missing was Mueller, who found a problem that sidelined him for the night.
Swan got ahead at the green flag, which was quickly replaced with the yellow banner when the two number seven cars collided. Dan Jung used the gentleman’s rule and took responsibility for the incident, which returned Kelsey Bauer to her position while John De Angelis missed a lap repairing damage. This practice isn’t used everywhere, and not everyone will admit fault. We truly appreciate it when a driver shows such maturity. The drivers were allowed to choose their lanes for the restart, and Swan picked the outer groove to lead the first dozen laps. Mike Egan’s mount suddenly veered into the wall to halt the action, but was unhurt. Swan again chose the outer lane, and the next time around it was Bennett in the lead. Five more laps were complete when Dave McCardle Jr. and Bauer collided to force another caution.
Bennett used the inside lane with Apel challenging on the outside as the laps sped by, the pair locked in a close duel until Apel took advantage of lapped traffic to make his move with 25 laps remaining. Bennett did not give up trying as the contest wound down, and just when the white flag was about to wave a spun car changed everything. The flurry of green, white and checkered flags flew over the field as Apel won the hard-fought battle over Bennett, followed closely by Morgan, Dennis Prunty, Dale Prunty from the back and Lampman. Braun’s car was in the wall in the first turn as the field roared out of the fourth corner to the finish line, seeing the checkered and yellow flags together. The outcome remained the same, with Apel notching his third consecutive win. Followed by a mob of kids in quest of his troply, Apel wiped the sweat from his face for his winning interview. “It was a pretty hot night,” began Apel, adding, “It was a lot of work. The outside is where you wanted to be. I like the outside for side by side racing.”
The area sportsman again found Kyle Chwala taking quick time honors, with Rich Wagner and Nick Egan winning their heats. The inversion set Joe Shelby and Egan in front of Brad Hetzel and Mike Deporter for the 30-lap contest. Egan surged ahead at the start, leaving the rest to duel two abreast as the laps ticked by. Beginning to lap the back of the pack just before the halfway mark, Egan should not have looked in his mirror, for it took a while for Chwala and Deporter to get past the others to tail the leader. With nine laps remaining a spun car made Egan’s lane choice critical for the restart, the pair of heavy hitters ready to take over at the slightest opening. Three laps later it was Chwala who did just that with six laps remaining.
Only two laps were left when Chwala’s engine suddenly soured, and he was forced to park as Egan saw a clear track ahead. Coming to the final flags, Egan edged out Deporter for his first win in this division, followed by Shelby, Andy Welter and Wagner. Later the second-generation racer talked about trying to keep from looking in the mirror and concentrating on making his marks. His father Mike was happy to see this before leaving early to start repairs on his damaged machine.
Danny Church topped the limited late model qualifers before Wayne Freimund and Tim Sargent won the heats. The forty-lap feature began with Steven Schulz ahead of Ricky Heinan, Jack Stern, Mike Held and Mike Meyerhofer. Schulz got a good start and happily led the way as the pack battled behind him. The contest was just past the halfway mark when two cars spun and a third got the black flag for his part in the mishap. Lane choice may not have mattered that much, for Meyerhofer was already showing his strength before the caution. At the restart Meyerhofer cleared Schulz to lead the rest of the race. Alex Prunty and Church also got past Schulz before the checkered flag, with Held completing the top five. On his first visit to Slinger this year, Meyerhofer told the crowd, “I just wanted to get up here before the Big 8 (Late Model Series) race in two weeks. We’re going camping next week, so I came this week.”
Steve Dickson stole quick time away from Brandon Tackes late in Slinger Bees qualifying. Kevin Bush, Nicole Mueller and defending champion Nick Schmidt won their heat races, with teen Jared Deming coming from the back to win the semi. Rick Schaefer and Heather Stark got the front row for the 25-lap feature, followed by Schmidt, Jake Schraufnagel, Carl Benn and Tackes. The pack swarmed to life at the start and never slowed until the end. Schaefer led until Schmidt got past on the tenth lap, and Dickson roared by on the high side the next time around. Schmidt rallied to take the point back after a couple circuits before Dickson charged ahead again for the final ten laps. With lapped cars between then, Dickson was followed by Schmidt, Schraufnagel, Benn and Schaefer. This was Dickson’s third win at Slinger, and fourth consecutive win here and at his home track of Rockford Speedway.
The spectator eliminations preceded the Figure 8 contest, and Scott Goetzke was the final winner of Sunday. It was shortly after ten o’clock and we were still in shirtsleeves. The crowd flowed into the parking lot as well as the pits, and an hour later the rain began. Perfect timing.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.) Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks.