The winged sprint cars took center stage Friday at the Sheboygan County Fairground, also known as Plymouth Dirt Track. With a 50-50 chance of rain, they beat all the odds and had clearing skies by feature time. To be fair, the racing at the fair was superb, and the packed house awarded $1,400 to one ticket holder in the evening’s 50/50 drawing. Not everyone could be a winner, however. Only two of the sixty drivers ended up in victory lane.
The IRA Sprints sport 410 engines and are a bit heavier than their weekly 360-powered counterparts. They also qualify to set their heats, with Mike Reinke setting a new track record in the process. Kyle Marten, Jason Johnson and Ken Jay Fiedler brought cars for both fields. Lance Fassbender began with Dannon Tessmer’s 360 mount in the IRA Sprints, then scratched and ran with the weekly warriors. IRA heats each transferred five cars to the main, headed by Brian Kristan, Jeremy Schultz and Ben Schmidt. The latter two recently left Plymouth’s weekly racing to join the IRA tour, along with Fassbender, Scotty Thiel and Brandon Thone, joining several other weekly racers from other arenas.
Phillip Mock borrowed a car for the IRA field, but began the B main began by sliding into the wall and missing the main. Dave Uttech was closely followed by brother Scott in the B main as the final seven cars made the feature field. The crowd stood to enjoy the sight of 22 cars four abreast before they settled into two lanes for the 30-lap contest. The random inversion placed current IRA rookie contenders Thiel and Schmidt in the front row, followed by Raymond Hensley, Billy Balog, Reinke, Kristan, Schultz and Scotty Neitzel. The green flag was followed by the roar of engines as the field got up to full speed in a hurry. Schmidt sprung into the lead and began lapping cars before ten circuits were complete. While negotiating through dense traffic Thiel got past a couple laps later, and Balog did the same before the halfway mark.
One caution for a spun car slowed the pace with twelve laps remaining, and Balog led the pack to the checkered flag without further delay. Amid lapped traffic, Thiel crossed the finish line second, followed by Reinke, Neitzel and Kristan. Balog was asked about lapped traffic, stating, “That was tough at the end. The lapped cars were all over the place.” Balog followed with advice to anyone wanting to race a sprint car, “It’s pretty easy to hook up with these things, so you’ve got to be careful.” At full speed, weaving between cars, and fending off challengers, we may add.
Thiel told the crowd, “It’s great to be back. It was a good race. It’s strange racing, I started on the top.” Asked about racing for rookie of the year points, Thiel replied, “We were points racing early on and weren’t finishing races, so we forgot about points and focused on racing.” Reinke commented, “We had a really good starting spot. The car was really good. You’ve just got to be consistent. We were right there. There were lapped cars in the way and there just wasn’t anywhere to go.”
The 360 sprint field began with drivers drawing for heat positions, which used passing points to place the first 16 entries into the feature. Brandon McMullen, John Krebsbach, Danny Schlafer and Kurt Davis won the heats and visiting Illinois racer Rusty Egan set a new track record winning the B main. It took a moment to get the feature field set, as Randy Walter pulled into the pits and the alternate starter was at the back of the pack. Walter returned in time to keep his fifth-place start, following Fiedler, Josh Walter, Al Schlafer and Paul Pokorski. Walter was ahead at the start, but unable to keep Pokorski from getting past on lap eight. A spun car forced a caution just past the midway mark, with another on the restart when Justin Miller bounced before rolling onto his side.
Miller’s crumpled wing was pounded out in the work area and he returned to the field in the mandated two-minute time limit. Four laps later part of Miller’s wing came off to force the next yellow flag, and again he returned to action. The race quickly went to the finish with Pokorski netting his first win of this season in front of the best audience. Shadowed by Al Schlafer to the finish line, son Danny Schlafer nosed past Walter before the checkered flag with Donny Goeden coming from sixteenth to fifth in 25 laps.
Pokorski celebrated the moment by taking a reverse victory lap before rolling into victory lane. “My car was really working out there,” began Pokorski before commenting, “We were in lapped traffic. There really wasn’t anywhere to go.” After so many close misses, the policeman claimed, “We finally got ‘er done.”
Before 10:30 the fans joined their heroes in the pits and the crowd in the fair. It was not too many miles later that we encountered rain on our way home. Perfect timing.
(Editors Note: Fay Hendricks is a long-time racing columnist and periodically will share her racing stories on Speed 51.com)
Photo Credit: Fay Hendricks