SLINGER, Wis. (September 12, 2013) – Plenty of buzz surrounded the Slinger regulars prior to TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Six last Sunday, and for good reason. Drivers with Slinger ties swept the top six spots in the 75-lap feature.
However, the next six spots were taken by TUNDRA Travelers. Among those next six were TUNDRA Champion Nick Panitkze, a hard-charging Dalton Zehr and Eugene Gregorich Jr.
“We needed a little bit more to be competitive, especially at the beginning,” said Panitzke, who sealed the title by starting the main. “The car came around for the end; we just didn’t have enough laps. We had a couple circumstances that kept us out of the front pack, but we’re happy with it. It gave us something to work with if we come here next year.”
Panitzke started in the sixth spot and fell out of the top ten early in the race. After about the midway point the Lakeville, Minn., driver found his way back into the top ten. He continued to challenge the likes of Mike Egan, Frank Kreyer and Travis Dassow in the second half of the race, but could not catch the front six.
Having the title sealed gave Panitzke an opportunity to feel comfortable becoming reacquainted with Slinger. His strong runs in Rounds Two through Five, coupled with Cardell Potter’s podium finish at Golden Sands were enough to give him that breathing room.
“Obviously we got a great start with what Cardell did at Golden Sands,” Panitzke said. “We started off winning at Jefferson, and that was a great start for us. We had everything go right for us right from the get-go. We couldn’t have asked for a better year and we look forward to next year.”
If not for a few bad luck runs by Zehr in the middle rounds of the season, Panitzke may have been sweating a little more behind the wheel of his machine Sunday.
After failing to time in, and missing the cut in the Gong Show by one spot, Zehr was a man on a mission from the drop of the green in the 15-lap Bonafide “Locked In” Last Chance Race. Zehr easily captured the win and began the feature in 23rd.
Zehr’s machine remained on point through the 75-lap feature. By the midway point he had moved from the final row up into a top ten spot. On the final restart Zehr chose the outside at the TUNDRA Barrel and restarted sixth. Unfortunately for Zehr the extra laps and hard charging resulted in weary tires. He recorded a seventh-place finish.
Of the top three in TUNDRA standings coming in, Zehr and Panitzke had tested Slinger Speedway in the past. Eugene Gregorich Jr. had not. Coming off a feature win and a title at Marshfield on Saturday, Gregorich qualified 22nd. He received a provisional into the feature. Gregorich hung in and spent most of the race contesting seven-time Slinger Champion Lowell Bennett. He finished 12th, but dipped to third in standings because of Zehr’s strong run.
Paige Decker – 2013 Dean’s Satellite TUNDRA Rookie of the Year (Dave Olson speedgraphicscompany.com photo)
Several other TUNDRA spots in the top ten swapped hands at Slinger. The most significant swap was the difference in the Dean’s Satellite Rookie of the Year battle between Paige Decker and Matt Pyburn. Pyburn had a four-point lead over Decker heading into Sunday. Both drivers qualified for the main, but Pyburn was left with an uphill climb.
Decker qualified in the 12th spot which granted her a third-place start in the feature. Pyburn, although admittedly thrilled to make the show on time, needed to climb from 16th to content. However, Pyburn would have the opportunity to accumulate passing points while Decker needed to hold at the front of the field.
As some of the Slinger regulars ascended through the field Decker patiently held in the top ten. With Decker continuing to ride, Pyburn was in need of a charge through the field. Unfortunately for Pyburn, it was a charge that did not come. Just past the midway point Pyburn spun in turns one and two and made contact with the outside retaining wall. Pyburn retired, finishing 23rd while Decker carried on to finish 16th. She grabbed the Rookie of the Year title by just three points over Pyburn.
The TUNDRA Travelers, most making their first trip to Slinger, fared much better against the Slinger regulars than anticipated. The feature was evenly split with 12 TUNDRA drivers (including Mike Egan and Travis Dassow) and 12 Slinger Standouts. Both last chance races were won by TUNDRA drivers who had to wrestle spots away from Slinger regulars.
Perhaps Round Six winner Brad Mueller put the best wrap on the TUNDRA Travelers’ day at Slinger. “For the most part, the people that had never seen the track before that were all pretty green, they did a really, really good job. They have a lot to be proud of because this isn’t the easiest place in the world to race at.”
The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) Super Late Model Series was formed in 2011 as the Alive For Five Super Late Model Series at Dells Raceway Park. TUNDRA’s business plan is based on a sustainable program for promoters and race teams alike, while still providing high-quality Super Late Model entertainment to fans.
For more information on TUNDRA including news, results and the final 2013 standings, archived results and standings, and more visit http://www.tundrasuperlates.com. Also, interact with us on Facebook (facebook.com/TundraSuperLateModels) or Twitter (@TUNDRAslms).