MARSHFIELD, Wis. – Riley Stenjem stormed to the lead on lap nine of the 60-lap Bev Aschenbrenner Memorial Presented by IncredibleBank and A&A Lock Service and never looked back on the way to his first TUNDRA Super Late Model Series win Saturday night at Marshfield Motor Speedway.
The win comes as yet another notch in the belt of the 21 year old from Utica, Wis., who made the move to Super Late Model racing last season. He and his team have been working hard toward their goal of being a contender, and the effort paid off in a huge way.
“We worked so hard on this thing last night and got done around 4:30 in the morning just trying to dot our ‘i’s and cross our ‘t’s, and man, it’s unbelievable,” Stenjem said. “I came here once last year and we just got embarrassed. It’s pretty damn awesome to come back like this.”
Stenjem made quick work of getting to the front of the field from his Fifth Place starting spot. EPYK Media Rookie and Kulwicki Driver Development member Max Kahler outpaced fellow front-row starter Kevin Knuese to grab the lead at the drop of the green and began to build a healthy advantage as Stenjem went to work. He slipped past Corey Jankowski on lap two to grab fourth then followed Jordan Thiel past Knuese one lap later. Stenjem made his move around Thiel on lap five and began to track down Kahler.
As Stenjem closed the gap, the battle was on between Thiel and Darren Jackson for Third. All the while some of the faster qualifiers were starting to close in on the Top Five. A caravan containing defending series Champion Casey Johnson, Justin Mondeik, Mark Eswein, and Section 715 Throwing Co. Fast Qualifier Brock Heinrich were aligned and climbing to the front.
By lap nine, Stenjem had chewed up the real estate that was left between him and Kahler. He quickly swept to the low side, grabbed the lead, and began to build his advantage.
Things began to heat up as the race clicked off green flag laps. Thiel and Jackson were soon joined by the quartet of Johnson, Mondeik, Eswein, and Heinrich, and spots started being swapped around lap 17. When the dust settled by lap 26 Mondeik had surged to Second with Johnson battling Thiel and Eswein in hot pursuit.
The lone caution of the race came right at the halfway point when Kahler and Jankowski tangled, sending Kahler spinning to the outside wall without making contact. Jankowski invoked the gentleman’s agreement to give Kahler his spot back, but Kahler elected to make a stop in the pits to check over his machine.
When the barrel came down for the restart there was no hesitation by Stenjem and Mondeik to take the inside row. That left Johnson with a chance to move up to the front row – which he did – setting up a duel between the former Champ and the up-and-comer.
Whatever doubt that it was going to be Stenjem’s night was erased when he powered away on the restart and began to build his gap over the field again. He left Johnson to contend with Mondeik again for Second, with Mondeik retaking the runner-up spot on lap 34.
“I felt like the car was good, but obviously with those guys coming from so far back, you never really know what they have until they get to you,” Stenjem said. “This thing was just unbelievable tonight.”
As Stenjem cruised out front, another competitor was picking through the field. John Beale may have been quietly hanging inside the Top Ten by the halfway point of the race, but his second-half push to the front was impressive. Beale moved into the Top Five on lap 37, then passed Johnson on lap 43, then after a spirited battle, took Third from Mark Eswein on lap 50. He continued to gain on the leaders, who had built too big of a gap to overcome.
In the final ten laps of the race, Eswein, Johnson, and Heinrich tussled for the final spots in the Top Five. Johnson was able to secure Fourth and Heinrich made a late move to grab Fifth.
As the frantic racing in the Top Five raged, it was smooth sailing for Stenjem through lapped traffic. He was trailed to the line by Mondeik and Beale rounding out the podium spots.
“This is unbelievable, we’re a small family team with one car,” Stenjem said. “To be able to race against these teams…this is a huge win for us.”
Mondeik and Beale were both impressed with their efforts, but also felt they had winning machines. In all, it was strong efforts by both making their moves to the front, and excellent bounce backs after tough days in Round One at Wisconsin International Raceway.
The win for Stenjem helped him climb the charts to Second in the TUNDRA standings, just 24 points back of Johnson as the series next stop is at the track where both cut their teeth – Jefferson Speedway. The duo sit just ahead of Grant Thompson – who charged from 15th to Eighth in his first visit to Marshfield – Heinrich, and Thiel, who round out the Top Five. Beale and Mondeik are close behind, as well.
TUNDRA heads to Wisconsin’s Action Track, Jefferson Speedway, on Saturday, July 17. Racing is scheduled to begin at 7 pm. More information on the race date will be available soon through TUNDRA’s web site and social media outlets.
Jefferson Speedway is located on US Hwy 18 between Jefferson and Cambridge, Wis. For more information visit www.jeffersonspeedway.com.
-TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Press Release
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo