NORWAY, Mich. (July 6, 2014) – Expectations aren’t always easy to live up to – just ask defending Norway Speedway Champion Dalton Zehr.
Viewed as a favorite for Saturday’s Island Resort and Casino Stateline Challenge at Norway, Zehr was able to meet and exceed those expectations by capturing his second TUNDRA Super Late Model Series feature win of the season.
In an event that has featured winners from Upper Michigan and Wisconsin, Zehr put the state of Florida on the prestigious list. Although he calls Florida home, Zehr spends the summer months in Menominee, Mich.
“I’ve been racing with these TUNDRA guys for a long time and I’ve had pretty good success here at Norway, so they all kind of expected it out of me. It was a lot of pressure,” he commented in victory lane of TUNDRA Round Four Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes.
After setting fast time earlier in the evening, Zehr charged to the front and stole the lead from Dan Lindsley with 17 laps remaining in the feature.
“It was a tough field. On the initial start we kind of moved backwards, but we had a really fast car,” Zehr said. “Nick Panitzke and Dan Lindsley were strong all night. It’s just really cool to be here in Victory Lane at Norway Speedway.”
Before getting his chance to work through the field, Zehr and his fellow fast qualifiers were forced to exercise some patience. The initial start was waved off when Jeff Weinfurter spun in the middle of the field. Travis Dassow took advantage of a clean start the next time around as he jumped away from pole-sitter Brandon Selle to pace the early circuits.
The outside line moved quickly at the start. Michael Bilderback followed Dassow into second and brought Panitzke and Lindsley to third and fourth. Before the leaders could start battling for position the yellow flew for a spin involving several cars at the tail of the field.
Again, the outside line was the stronger on the restart, but this time it was Bilderback who was able to jump away after choosing the top line when the Barricade Flasher Service TUNDRA Barrel was placed. His opportunity to get away from the pack was short-lived as another caution fell on lap five when Mike Lichtfeld and Bobby Kendall tangled.
Bilderback swung to the outside for the restart and again was able to get away from Dassow. This time, however, Panitzke followed into second. Two laps after the restart Panitzke made the move past Bilderback to the top spot. The night then came to an unfortunate end for Bilderback as water spewed out of his machine on lap 13. He dropped out, surrendering the second spot to Lindsley.
As Panitzke built up his advantage over the field the tandem of Claire Decker and Dalton Zehr began to work through the top five. By lap 16 Decker and Zehr had worked past Dassow to third and fourth. Slowly the duo began to reel in Lindsley, who, in turn, was closing the gap on the leader.
The field tightened up after a caution on lap 23 when Jordan Ives and Frank Nitzke came together. As the field rolled under the caution flag Claire Decker’s machine appeared to lose power. Decker pulled into the infield and was pushed back to the pit area, bringing an end to her bid for the win.
With weather approaching the field was set free on a single-file restart. The trio of Panitzke, Lindsley and Zehr quickly dashed away from fourth-place Eugene Greogorich Jr. Although Panitzke held the lead, he was anything but comfortable. Lindsley challenged Panitzke, while Zehr tried to swipe second. Another yellow flew on lap 28 when a physical battle between Dassow and Reagan May reached a breaking point, sending May spinning.
The top three again broke away on the restart to settle the lead amongst themselves. Panitzke showed the way until lap 32 when Lindsley moved to the inside and took the lead. Zehr was also able to move past Panitzke into second. Once clear of Panitzke, Zehr prepared to challenge Lindsley.
A few attempts to the inside came up shy for Zehr until a yellow came out with 23 laps remaining for debris falling off May’s machine. At this point a new face had moved into the top five an appeared ready to challenge for the lead – Mark Mackesy.
Lindsley led the charge back to the green flag with Zehr right on his bumper. As they prepared to battle, Mackesy started to survey lines around Panitzke, who was nursing a machine with braking problems.
With 17 laps remaining Zehr found his opening and ducked to the inside of Lindsley to grab the top spot. Lindsley was left to try to hold off Panitzke and Mackesy until another yellow fell with just ten laps remaining.
Zehr and Lindsley stepped away for the next six laps. Lindsley stayed close, but not close enough to attack. He would get one final shot on another restart with four laps to go, but again Zehr eluded Lindsley. He would cruise to the checkered flag by three car lengths over the field. Mackesy made a late pass to grab third from Panitzke and Frank Nitzke completed a strong late run to round out the top five.
A fast time and a feature win marked the second time Zehr managed to accomplish both. He set fast time and won at Dells Raceway Park on July 1, 2011. It was the second race in a row the top qualifier also grabbed the checkered. This season fast qualifiers have finished no worse than second.
By grabbing the win Zehr built up a 16 point cushion over Gregorich. The pair had shared the point lead entering the event. Panitzke’s strong run propelled him to third in the standings, Mackesy and his teammate Ty Majeski now sit fourth and Kendall rounds out the top five.
TUNDRA will take a three-week break before springing into action for two consecutive weeks. Round Five is scheduled for Saturday, July 26 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis. The following week, Saturday, August 2, TUNDRA will travel to Marshfield Motor Speedway for Round Six.
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 2014 standings, archived results and standings, and more visit http://www.tundrasuperlates.com. Also, interact with us on Facebook (facebook.com/TundraSuperLateModels) or Twitter (@TUNDRAslms).