Sunday was a very busy day for us, arriving late at Slinger Speedway for the annual reunion and race program. We missed all the heats and arrived just as Braison Bennett won the super late model semi. The first inductees into Slinger’s Wall of Fame were announced. The first midget champion in 1948 was the late Billy “The Cat” Johnson Jr., who followed with four winged modified crowns in the 1960’s. Miles “The Mouse” Melius was the second midget champ, and won a stock car title before moving to the winged mods for five more championships and an outstanding winning record. The late Rollie Heder headed the original dirt track’s first 30 years and Wayne Erickson led the way to the paved oval for 34 years. These four people had much to do with shaping today’s racing and deserve to be honored, thanks to the efforts of Dick Melius.
Lowell Bennett poses with his No. 2 Super Late Model at Slinger.
With Slinger’s reunion of former racers welcoming back legends of the past, it was fitting to have vintage race cars from three states compete on the track. We were happy to see Fuzzy Fassbender with sons Lance and Kent as we entered, and joined the cluster of people as the Slinger legends were introduced by former racer Gib Wiser. Ninety-year old Melius was joined by Willie Goeden, Roger Regeth, Aaron Solsrud, Gino Wagner, Billy and Gene Schwister, Bob Robel, Carl Schultz and Hermie Stern. Too soon we had to get to the race program.
The limited late model began their 40-lap feature with Ryan Zielski and Tim Lange in front of Mike Held, Wayne Freimund, Jack Stern and Danny Church. Zielski was leading until passed by Held on the third lap, a three-wide situation that forced a caution to assess the penalty on Held and send him to the back. Many years ago this rule was made to reduce crashes. The next leader was Freimund, who was passed by Ricky Heinan from his fourth row start. The race sped past the halfway point when a spun car forced the next caution flag, and the field chose their lanes.
Ryan Miles took the point until the next spin with thirteen laps remaining. A final restart saw a classic battle as Alex Prunty made his way up from the fifth row to lead the final seven circuits. Followed by Miles, Freimund, Heinan and Church, we later learned Miles did not pass post-race inspection. Afterwards Prunty stated he had been working on getting his car to work on the outer lane, which resulted in his second win of the season.
Tim Lampman and Mike Egan were in the front row for the 60-lap super late model feature, followed by Dale Prunty, Travis Dassow, Conrad Morgan, Lowell Bennett, Austin Luedtke and fast qualifier Rob Braun. Egan enjoyed clean air as he led the way and the rest battled two abreast. An incident ended in a spun car before twenty laps were scored, the only slowdown of the contest. Drivers chose their lanes and four laps later defending champion Steve Apel was leading the way from his fifth row starting position. Bennett worked his way to the front to challenge Apel in the final twenty laps, the pair staging a classic duel side by side. Bennett was ahead in the first turns, Apel ahead in the last corners, until finally Bennett gained enough ground in the final lap to earn his second win of the season.
“I’ll tell you what,” began Bennett, “That guy is an awesome driver. I didn’t know if I could keep it on top or not,” adding thanks to his crew and wishing a happy birthday to someone’s mother. Apel was happy with his car, stating, “It didn’t matter, inside or outside, the car was good. Lowell drove a heck of a race. I could have moved him, but he wouldn’t do it to me, so I didn’t do it to him.” It was much later when the pair had finally cleared the extensive technical inspection, both passing to make everyone happy. Behind them Luedtke, Morgan and Braun rounded out the top five.
The Area Sportsman field began their 30-lap feature with newcomer Adam Cartwright sharing the front row with former champion Andy Welter. The green flag flew and Welter roared into the lead, leaving the pack battling side by side. The nonstop contest gave no chance for a break as many were blocked from moving through the field until late in the race. This was most notable in the closing laps as quick qualifier Kyle Chwala made a valiant effort to earn his third clean sweep of the season. Welter did not agree to this, however, keeping himself ahead at the checkered flag to score his first win of the year. Chwala padded his point lead in this division, with Steven Sauer, Ken Schraufnagel and Cartwright completing the top five.
The Slinger Bees had a 25-lap main with Brandon Berens, Marty Tackes, Carl Benn, Heather Stark, Paul Reagles and Brandon Tackes in the front rows. Marty Tackes was ahead for the first seven circuits, but the rest of the race belonged to Benn. The nonstop contest quickly came to conclusion, Benn lapping several cars along the way to earn his first win in two years in a borrowed car. Stark hung onto second despite glowing brakes on both front hubs. Steve Dickson came from the fifth row to third, with Reagles and Schraufnagel rounding out the top five.
The vintage race had drivers from Minnesota, Indiana and Illinois join the Wisconsin chargers in restored race machines. Their 15-lap contest began with Paul Dolphy and Royce Rossier in the front row, Vince Heywood, Bob Heinz, Pat Heaney and Rex Rossier following. Paced by restored modified cars, the green flag was followed by Royce Rossier leading the first few laps before Echlin got past. Ray Novara was slowly rolling around the track on a flat tire, forcing the only caution of the race. Echlin was not the only former racer in the field, but he was the only one who won Sunday. Behind him were Jerry Schneider, Rex Rossier, Heywood and Royce Rossier.
The Figure 8 finale followed the spectator eliminations, closing the show with Ryan Lovald the final winner of the night. We had seen over 100 drivers race here, ending just past ten o’clock as the air grew chilly. After three days at The Milwaukee Mile, a race reunion at Cedarburg and another here, we have had a very busy weekend. Next week is a new adventure.
Story and photos by Fay Hendricks
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.)