Overshadowed by the commotion surrounding post-race technical inspection that saw three drivers disqualified following Sunday’s Oktoberfest 200 at La Crosse Speedway (WI) was Dalton Zehr celebrating his first ARCA Midwest Tour championship.
The title didn’t come without its own set of drama for the Michigan native though, who came into the weekend just two points ahead of Austin Nason.
With just 30 laps left on the table, a caution pitted the two championship contenders nose-to-tail just outside the top five. When the field went down into turn one on the restart, contact was made between them, sending Nason up the hill and back to the 17th position.
Zehr fell back to 7th, holding just enough spots to clinch the championship over Nason.
After the checkered flag, Nason piloted his car through the field and stopped in front of Zehr, then proceeded to get out and express his frustrations before pulling it back into the pits.
“The 119 [Zehr] just drove right through me like I wasn’t even there,” Nason said. “I don’t know where he thought I was going but there was a car outside of me, a car on my nose. It’s a restart, don’t try to divebomb everyone. He’s got one coming.”
Zehr, who enthusiastically accepted the championship trophy from track officials, had a different take on the incident.
“We went down into (turn) one, and Nason was trying to get to the bottom. I didn’t want to give it up and unfortunately we made contact,” Zehr said on the championship stage. “I know Nason is upset, but that’s the way I saw it.”
Both competitors have gone through the conventional ups and downs on the road to Sunday’s championship finale. At the beginning of the year, Nason wasn’t sure about his plans for the season. He was still unsure when he won the season opener at Madison International Speedway (WI).
“Definitely would have been cool to come home with, but I guess we finish second,” Nason said when asked about his overall season. “We were good all year, they knew we were here.”
The weekend for Zehr was an uphill battle after getting caught up in a wreck Thursday night during the Dick Trickle 99 race. Because they only had the one car, there was no choice but to fix it.
“The wreck tore the whole right side of the car off and wrecked the radiator,” Zehr stated. “I have a great group of guys behind me that made it possible to be on the track the next morning. It’s been a long weekend, but it paid off.”
Ty Majeski and Johnny Sauter, the two previous winners of the event, crossed the finish line first and second but were disqualified along with third-place finisher, Jacob Goede, for infractions during post-race technical inspection. That gave the win to Andrew Morrissey, who added his name to the long list of winners of the Oktoberfest 200.
-Story by: Caleb Slouha, Midwest Contributor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com