WAUSAU, WI - In what has become a breakthrough month in his young Super Late Model racing career, Gabe Sommers captured his biggest prize yet Saturday night at State Park Speedway.
Sommers added his name to a long list of winners of the prestigious Larry Detjens Memorial, wheeling his car to victory in the 125-lap ARCA Midwest Tour race that highlighted the second and final day of the 38th annual Auto Select Detjens Memorial Weekend at the track. The 16-year old from Plover took the lead on lap 50 and led all but four laps the rest of the way on the way to his third feature win of the month on three different circuits and at three different tracks in Wisconsin.
Sommers won for the first time on the ARCA Midwest Tour, won his first super late model feature at State Park and became the 24th different super late model driver to win the Detjens Memorial.
"It feels pretty good, the car was really good all night, and I knew we had a good long run car," said a very calm Sommers in Brickner Family Auto Group Victory Lane after leading 72 laps in all. "We were able to keep the tires under it and bring it to victory lane."
Sommers bested a talented 21-car field that included the defending Detjens Memorial winner, a Wisconsin short track racing legend, ARCA Midwest Tour veterans plus a number of former Detjens Memorial winners and State Park Speedway track champions.
In fact, it was 2018 Detjens Super Late Model winner Casey Johnson and four-time Slinger Nationals winner Rich Bickle Jr., both of Edgerton, who provided the stiffest challenges throughout the race, and specifically multiple times on restarts over the final 43 laps.
Sommers took the lead on lap 50 from Bickle, who slipped up high coming out of turn 2. He began pulling away and was running into heavy lapped traffic when John Beale spun on the frontstretch on lap 82 in front of Sommers, forcing the leader to take evasive action and just miss scraping the outside wall.
Bickle chose to line up on the inside behind the leader on the restart, allowing third-place running Johnson to take a shot on the outside of Sommers. Johnson actually led at the line on laps 83, 84 and 85, but Sommers remained on his inside and took first back on lap 86.
Sommers pulled away in the late stages, but Johnson had another chance on a restart with 14 laps to go. He moved up from third to start outside Sommers again and led lap 112 at the line, but Sommers quickly pulled in front again and led the rest of the way. That included through a final single-file restart with eight laps left, with Sommers winning by four car lengths.
"Yeah, these guys are good, it feels really good to be able to run against Casey," said Sommers. "He's really good competition and it feels really good to be able to beat him."
"He was lights out, he had huge forward drive," said Johnson in a post-race interview with ARCA Midwest Tour announcer Eric Huenefeld afterwards. "We had a really good car, I've got to thank Jason Schuler for letting me take his hot rod out again. Every time I get in this thing it seems to be pretty good."
The win for Sommers came with guidance from Chris Wimmer, nephew of the late Larry Detjens and a two-time Detjens Memorial winner. Wimmer won the event in 2000 and again in 2017 and serves as crew chief for Sommers, who thanked him in victory lane for the car setup for the night.
Roscoe, Ill., driver Austin Nason, the ARCA Midwest Tour winner at the Milwaukee Mile on Father's Day, finished third in the feature and also set fast time earlier in the night. Dillon Hammond of Grand Marsh finished a solid fourth, staying clean all night and moving into the top five late after Bickle and Carson Kvapil got together while racing for third with eight laps left. Defending State Park Speedway champion Luke Fenhaus came home fifth, while Bickle wound up 11th and Kvapil 12th in the final rundown.
Former State Park Speedway track champion Jeremy Lepak finished sixth even with heavy right side sheet metal damage after getting caught up in a late-race incident. Three-time Detjens winner Chris Weinkauf finished eighth, while fellow three-time Detjens race champion Mark Mackesy finished 20th.
ARCA Midwest Tour Late Models
Fast Qualifier: Austin Nason, Roscoe, Ill., 13.614 sec.
Qualifier: 1. John Beale, Verona; 2. Jason Weinkauf, Merrill; 3. Wyatt Brooks, Amherst; 4. Paul Shafer Jr., Portage, Ind.; 5. Andrew Brocker, Jefferson
Odd Dash: 1. Casey Johnson, Edgerton; 2. Nason; 3. Ryan Farrell, Big Bend; 4. Rich Bickle Jr., Edgerton; 5. Carson Kvapil, Mooresville, N.C.; 6. John DeAngelis, Hubertus; 7. M.G. Gajewski, Wausau; 8. Jeremy Lepak, Ringle
Even Dash: 1. Chris Weinkauf, Merrill; 2. Luke Fenhaus, Wausau; 3. Justin Mondeik, Gleason; 4. Gabe Sommers, Plover; 5. Mark Mackesy, Wausau; 6. Brock Heinrich, Wausau; 7. Dillon Hammond, Grand Marsh; 8. Travis Volm, Mosinee
Feature: 1. Sommers; 2. Johnson; 3. Nason; 4. Hammond; 5. Fenhaus; 6. Lepak; 7. Shafer; 8. C. Weinkauf; 9. DeAngelis; 10. Mondeik; 11. Bickle; 12. Kvapil; 13. J. Weinkauf; 14. Brooks; 15. Beale; 16. T. Volm; 17. Farrell; 18. M.G. Gajewski; 19. Heinrich; 20. Mackesy; 21. Brocker
Schramm, Call, Ferge score emotional Detjens wins; Hartwig doubles up in Bandos
Young racer or veteran, the significance of winning a feature on Larry Detjens Memorial Weekend is not lost on drivers competing in Detjens' honor at State Park Speedway.
Add in varying personal circumstances, and just about every one of Saturday's nights Detjens feature winners was visibly emotional after earning big victories on the final night of the 2019 Detjens Memorial.
Brian Schramm has accomplished much in his State Park racing career in two different pure stock divisions, including feature wins and track championships. The Wausau driver had never won a Detjens race feature though until Saturday night, when he put his no. 25 car in Brickner Family Auto Group Victory Lane in the 20-lap Advance Auto Parts Pure Stock main.
Driving with the same number on his car that Detjens famously raced with, Schramm's opportunity appeared to have slipped away when Steve Brown slipped back ahead of him with four laps left, continuing a terrific run in his first action at the speedway in a couple years. Schramm sized up Brown, though, and performed a terrific crossover move coming out of turn 4, going high before cutting down low to get inside Brown and into the lead with three laps left.
Schramm still had to hold on through a restart with two laps left, and he received a challenge from Dave Cabelka before holding on to win by a car length at the checkered flag.
"This race has been a thorn in my side for 20 years!" Schramm shouted before even exiting his car and again said in his trackside post-race interview. "How cool is it to put a 25 car in the winner's circle tonight?"
One day after being involved in a racing incident that crumpled his car and resulted in a very frustrated competitor, Evan Call put a tough situation well behind him and bounced back with one of the best nights of his racing career at State Park Speedway. The Elderon driver won a spirited 20-lap battle in the Snap-on Mini Mods feature for his first-ever mini mods win and his second feature win at the track, including a previous limited late model victory.
Call and Noah Gajewski started on the front row together and raced side-by-side for 16 laps, including Gajewski leading the first 10 laps by no more than half a car length at the line. Call finally cleared him with four laps left, but then had a mirror full of Greg Blount and Mike Heidmann in the closing laps. Blount finished second one night after contact with Call sent him driver's side first into the first turn tires and wall, an incident that both drivers discussed before Saturday's races and were on good terms after.
"I don't think I looked out the front of the car once, I was looking in the mirror the whole time at the '22,'" said Call after the race. "That's what my main concern was Greg Blount. We talked about things earlier, yesterday's racing incident. I'm glad everybody made it pretty much unscathed tonight."
"I couldn't think of a better way to be back into victory lane than the Larry Detjens Memorial...I almost gave up on this track. It's been such a tough track for me, I've never been able to tame it. Tonight, obviously this was not the fastest car, but I was able to hold on. This win means the world to me, the hard work pays off, this is what it's for here."
Chad Ferge also recorded his second career feature win, but this time got to enjoy the full spoils including the trip to victory lane. Ferge got to the front quickly, taking the lead from Tom Lecher on lap 4 and leading the rest of the way to claim the Rockstar Energy Mini Stocks feature. He previously inherited a feature win earlier this season after a disqualification, but this was his first feature victory at the checkered flag at the track.
"Finally!" said Ferge afterwards in a post-race interview with track announcer Curt Keene. "This means everything, especially on a weekend like this. We've been working so hard at it, we've had multiple fast times. It hasn't panned out until this."
"I'm 43 years old, that's what the number on the car is all about," he also added. "Last year we were sitting around the fire pit at the campfire, everybody laughed, they said I was too old. You're never too old, you're never too young...it means the world, I'm shaking right here."
The lone double feature winner during the Detjens Weekend was Alex Hartwig, who won both features in the Bandolero class, backing up his dominant Friday night win with another victory Saturday night.
Hartwig started 11th in a 15-car field and had to bide his time getting to the front. He moved into the runner-up spot on lap 10 of the 15-lap race, and then took full advantage of leader Anna Malouf running into heavy lapped traffic. Hartwig split Malouf and a lapped car to take the lead on lap 11 and rolled from there to the win.
Laney Osborne finished second, while Malouf made an impressive return one night after losing a tire and hitting the front stretch wall. She led the first 10 laps and appeared on her way to a feature win until running into lapped traffic. Malouf eventually wound up fifth at the end of the race.
Racing continues at State Park Speedway again next Saturday when the TUNDRA super late model series visits the track. Support divisions also will be on hand, with fan gates opening at 3:30 p.m., Fred Mueller Qualifying at 5 p.m. and racing to follow at 6 p.m.
Advance Auto Parts Pure Stocks
Fast Qualifier: Alex Volm, Mosinee, 15.479 sec.
First Heat: 1. Jeff Spatz, Wausau; 2. Jeff McIntee, Plainfield; 3. Steve Brown, Tomahawk; 4. Mark Alexander, Eagle River; 5. Dustin Ochodnicky, Ogema
Second Heat: 1. Dave Cabelka, Wausau; 2. Brian Plisch, Athens; 3. Brian Schramm, Wausau; 4. Jeff Kostroski, Wausau; 5. A. Volm
Feature: 1. Schramm; 2. Cabelka; 3. Brown; 4. Ochodnicky; 5. McIntee; 6. Kostroski; 7. Spatz; 8. Plisch; 9. A. Volm; 10. Alexander
Snap-on Mini Mods
Fast Qualifier: Greg Blount, Marathon, 15.721 sec.
First Heat: 1. John Lietz, Mosinee; 2. Evan Call, Elderon; 3. Dale Louze, Mosinee; 4. Jim Lietz, Mosinee; 5. Noah Gajewski, Marathon
Second Heat: 1. Blount; 2. Mike Heidmann, Edgar; 3. George Seliger, Wausau; 4. Garret Strachota, Wausau; 5. Gary Garand, Weston
Feature: 1. Call; 2. Blount; 3. Heidmann; 4. Louze; 5. Seliger; 6. N. Gajewski; 7. Strachota; 8. John Lietz; 9. Jim Lietz; 10. Garand
Rockstar Energy Mini Stocks
Fast Qualifier: Shawn Kemnetz, Hancock, 16.664 sec.
First Heat: 1. Ashley Schoone, Tomahawk; 2. Amanda Rowe, Mosinee; 3. Brad Lecher, Wausau; 4. Ryan Brock, Wisconsin Rapids; 5. Randy Zieglmeier, Wausau; 6. Kendra Baumann, Wausau
Second Heat: 1. Kyle Check, Shantytown; 2. Kole Ferge, Schofield; 3. Chad Ferge, Wausau; 4. Tom Lecher, Wausau; 5. Evan Pingel, Ringle; 6. Kemnetz; 7. Tyler Custer, Stratford
Feature: 1. C. Ferge; 2. K. Ferge; 3. T. Lecher; 4. Pingel; 5. Kemnetz; 6. Schoone; 7. Rowe; 8. Check; 9. Custer; 10. Brock; 11. Zieglmeier; 12. B. Lecher; 13. Baumann
E.H. Wolf & Sons Bandoleros
Fast Qualifier: Alex Hartwig, Portage, 16.203 sec.
First Heat: 1. Kooper Guralski, Wausau; 2. Tyler Muller, Sun Prairie; 3. Paxton Benz, Wausau; 4. Weston Marthaler, Glenwood, Minn.; 5. Cooper Bodendorfer, Muskego
Second Heat: 1. Tucker Bodendorfer, Muskego; 2. Michael Guderski, Markesan; 3. Anna Malouf, Rhinelander; 4. Cohen Henze, Juda; 5. Keagen Benz, Wausau;
Third Heat: 1. Jevin Guralski, Wausau; 2. Hartwig; 3. Ayrton Brockhouse, Shakopee, Minn.; 4. Laney Osborne, Janesville; 5. Robbie Rucks, Deerfield
Feature: 1. Hartwig; 2. Osborne; 3. Guderski; 4. J. Guralski; 5. Malouf; 6. Henze; 7. Muller; 8. K. Benz; 9. P. Benz; 10. Brockhouse; 11. T. Bodendorfer; 12. Rucks; 13. K. Guralski; 14. Marthaler; 15. C. Bodendorfer
-State Park Speedway Press Release
-Photo credit: ARCA Midwest Tour