SLINGER, Wis. (September 8, 2014) – Sunday’s TUNDRA Super Late Model Series finale provided a last-lap pass that Michael Bilderback will remember forever. It provided a win that went far beyond the reaches of Slinger Super Speedway. It provided excitement, an escape and hope.
Earlier in the week Bilderback’s grandfather fell ill. He, his family and his team huddled by his grandfather’s side and kept vigilant. Some wondered if he would race, but as one of his team member proclaimed on social media, “Bilderback Racing will be at Slinger Sunday, because that’s what we do.”
That’s what they did – and much, much more.
With just five laps remaining Bilderback took his slightly damaged racer to the high line, looking to steam past an upstart Ryan Farrell for the lead. Bilderback edged ahead at the white flag and secured the win on the final circuit in TUNDRA Round Eight Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes.
After his celebration Bilderback was handed a cell phone. On the other end was his grandmother, who typically is a fixture at the Bilderback pit. She was the first to be delivered the news. The news that she had to return was just as good for Bilderback.
“It’s amazing. He went into the ICU and hasn’t been responsive yet,” Bilderback explained in Victory Lane. “They told him we won and he started crying, so there’s hope.”
As for the pass, Bilderback said he was determined to charge to the front. He and Ryan Farrell gave the crowd one of the most thrilling TUNDRA finishes in the series’ four-year history.
“We were on the outside for so long earlier in the run then when we went to single file I thought I was going to have to get him on the bottom,” Bilderback said. “He ran me clean and gave me the option to the top. I wasn’t going to let this one go.”
Farrell, who made just his second TUNDRA start – and ninth Super Late Model start – knew the stakes, and was hoping he would be the story on the Sunday afternoon.
“I used every ounce of track, but he had the better car than me,” Farrell said. “We got beat by a couple of inches. I gave him all I had. Congrats to Bilderback. I’ll remember that forever. They had a rough week and they deserve it.”
It was the second photo finish Bilderback had been involved in this season. With Eugene Gregorich Jr. closing in quickly, Bilderback secured his first TUNDRA win back in May. This time it was Bilderback who was the aggressor rather than the defender.
The Country Plumber 75-lap feature was led to green by Brandon Selle and Randy Schuler. Schuler took a quick jump on the outside with Selle settling back in second. Behind them Dean’s Satellite Rookie of the Year contenders Reagan May and Mike Lichtfeld battled for third.
Just three laps into the main both drivers were sideways heading into turns three and four, sending cars throughout the field scrambling. A caution came out and the field was set to return to green with 72 to go.
Selle grabbed the lead from Schuler on the restart and showed the way until caution fell on lap 12. By this time Bilderback had slid to second. He chose the outside line when the Barricade Flasher System TUNDRA Barrel was placed and dashed away when the green fell.
Several quicker drivers in the field took the next 14-lap green flag run as a chance to move toward the top five. Farrell got to second by lap 18 and defending race-winner Brad Mueller took third one lap later. On lap 20 fast qualifier Dennis Prunty moved to fifth.
Another caution fell on lap 21 when Chris Blawat stalled attempting to exit the track. The restart pitted Bilderback, who chose the outside line, against Farrell. The green did not stay out long as the left rear tire on Travis Dassow’s machine disintegrated, sending him spinning.
Farrell held strong in the battle against Bilderback until another caution fell just before halfway. Paige Decker and May came together down the front stretch, leaving the two hooked in turn one. Once unhooked May went to the attention of her crew and was able to return to action on the lead lap.
The restart saw Farrell to the inside of Bilderback again. Mueller chose to follow Farrell, while Prunty trailed Bilderback. Eventually Bilderback jumped away, leaving room for Prunty to take the second spot. Prunty went to work on Bilderback and took the lead on lap 53. Mueller slipped past Bilderback into second just before the yellow came out for a spin involving Tom Gee and Brandon Selle.
Dalton Zehr, who had claimed the TUNDRA title by starting the feature, was hanging in and staying out of trouble up to this point. He neared the top five, but eventually was forced to drop out due to damage he sustained attempting to avoid spinning cars.
After four laps of a side-by-side tussle for the lead, Prunty nudged ahead. However, Mueller closed in quickly and began to challenge Prunty. Entering turn three with 17 laps remaining, both drivers vied for the same plot of race track. As a result Mueller would spin.
Under the subsequent yellow Prunty curiously passed the pace car as Mueller was closing in to express his displeasure. Prunty ducked off the track, sensing problems in the left rear of his machine. The team would later discover that the issues on Prunty’s machine were too big to return to the race for a sustained period of time.
With Prunty and Mueller out of the fray, the lead went back to Bilderback. He and Farrell were allowed to resume the battle they had started earlier, and had continued for third behind Mueller and Prunty.
With 13 laps to go James Swan had a left-rear tire go down, sending him spinning for what would be the final yellow.
A single file restart had Farrell in the top spot with Bilderback on his bumper. Bilderback closed in, surveyed several times, and eventually set up the last-lap pass.
Mueller stormed back through the field to finish third, Brad Keith secured fourth, and Randy Schuler rounded out the top five.
Behind them rookie Tommy Gee survived the skirmish with Selle to finish sixth. Trailing him was May, who had significant damage to her machine, but was able to carry on. She claimed the Dean’s Satellite Rookie of the Year title by 11 points over Lichtfeld. Lichtfeld had looked as though he had a chance to take the title from May, but he sustained damage trying to avoid the Mueller spin with 17 laps remaining.
The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series would like to thank its 2014 partners: The Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association, Advanced Engine Concepts, Bear Creek Cranberries, Best Western Derby Inn (Eagle River, Wis.), Bonafide Security Solutions, Coleman Racing Products, Country Plumber, Draco Springs, Eagle River Derby Track, Five Star Race Car Bodies, Habelman Brothers Company Cranberries, Howard’s Cams, Leo’s Upper Dells Bar, QA1 Shocks, Radiographic Services, TD Graphics, Tiry’s Race Engines, and Wegner Automotive Research.
TUNDRA would also like to thank the staff and management of its partner tracks for the 2014 season: Wisconsin International Raceway, Golden Sands Speedway, Jefferson Speedway, Norway Speedway, LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway, Marshfield Motor Speedway, Dells Raceway Park and Slinger Super Speedway.
The 2014 Championship Banquet will be held this offseason. A date and location are to be determined.
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).