KAUKAUNA, Wis. (May 8, 2016) – Saturday’s Duke FM 50 for the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series as part of Round One Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes was eerily reminiscent of the 2015 season opener. This time, however, Ty Majeski was the chaser instead of the chasee. And this time he was able to make the pass.
Majeski picked up his second straight TUNDRA season-opening win at Wisconsin International Raceway after carefully ascending through the field and making a late-race pass of Steve Apel, who chased Majeski to the finish line last season.
Just like last season, the battle between Majeski and Apel raged on for over a dozen laps before it was finally settled. Apel had paced the field for the first 27 laps from the front row without much of a challenge. Fellow front-row starter Brent Strelka kept close, but Apel was able to distance himself as the race matured.
Then, a caution on lap 27 tightened the field. By this time Majesi was to Third. After making the pass on Strelka after the restart, he set his sights on Apel. What ensued was another dazzling battle between the two young Super Late Model stars. Majeski began his challenges immediately after passing Strelka on lap 28, but could not make the pass.
With a Red, White and Blue Championship under his belt from last season, Apel looked like a sly veteran of the half-mile. Any time Majeski got to the inside to provide a challenge, Apel would get a perfect run off turn two or four to clear Majeski and settle back into the lead. As time ticked away, Majeski’s efforts stepped up. He eventually made his fateful move on lap 43.
Entering turn one Majeski was able to force Apel’s hand by changing his line. Apel tried to hold him off, but this time could not get enough of a run off turn two to defend the lead.
“It’s a little tough when you’re side by side,” Majeski said. “The outside is definitely preferred. I crowded him up just a little bit just to ruin his run off turn two and that was enough to do it.”
While Majeski and Apel were battling, last year’s Third Place finisher was reeling in the leaders. Casey Johnson was on Majeski’s bumper when he made the pass for the lead. He then followed Majeski into Second and had hopes of challenging for the win.
As the final laps clicked off Johnson held within striking distance of Majeski and looked to be setting up for a final challenge. He got his opportunity when the second yellow fell on lap 48 for oil spotted in the top racing groove in turns one and two. After the cleanup Majeski paced the field to perfection. He jumped away from Johnson to the tune of three car lengths and didn’t look back.
Although pleased with a strong run through the field to Second, Johnson was hoping to capitalize on the restart. He said his car was best on long runs, but may have had an opportunity. “On that last restart we thought we might have had something,” Johnson said. “But Ty knew what he had to do to hold on and he did it.”
In similar fashion to the previous two TUNDRA events at WIR, the 2016 version featured plenty of passing and drivers coming from deep in the field to challenge for the win. Majeski started 11th on the grid. Johnson started 12th. Ironically enough, Johnson had passed Majeski early in the race and blazed a path to the front. Majeski made his pass on the outside of Johnson on lap 11 for the Fifth position.
In fact, most of Majeski’s passes – with the exception of the one for the lead – were made by going to the high side. Johnson’s path to the front was similar. “I got to the outside really quickly and had a pretty good battle back there,” Majeski said of his run through the field. “After that I started picking them off one by one.”
Behind the Majeski and Johnson tandem, Apel came home Third. It was his second consecutive podium finish in the event after a Second Place finish to Majeski last season.
Aside from the incredible battles up front, there was plenty of movement in the Top Five all race long. Toward the end of the race defending Champion Lowell Bennett led a pack that included Travis Dassow, Dalton Zehr, Jeff Van Oudenhoven and fast qualifier Maxwell Schultz. Bennett had started Fifth, but fell back early in the race. He also had to take to the outside to move back up to a Fourth Place finish. He brought Travis Dassow with, who remained on the bumper of Bennett right up until the checkered flag.
In a field full of strong competition, a Sixth Place finish for Jeff Van Oudenhoven (who made his return to action after injury sidelined him for most of 2015) was a good indicator that the rust has been shaken off. Behind him, Maxwell Schultz came home Seventh. The fast qualifier fell back from his 13th Place starting spot early and fought hard to climb back into the Top Ten.
Those two had battled with reigning TUNDRA Champion Dalton Zehr, who looked to be on his way to a solid Top Ten finish. However, Zehr’s machine experienced issues in the closing laps of the race. He was forced to retire on lap 48, which marks his first TUNDRA DNF since the final round of 2014 at Slinger Speedway. He had already locked up the Championship in that race. A 20th Place finish for Zehr will leave little room for error over the rest of the TUNDRA season.
LAST LAP PASS GIVES TRUTE FIRST TUNDRA SPORTSMAN WIN
In a field full of some of the best Sportsman/Street Stock/Super Stock/Mid-American drivers the area had to offer, the king of the Sportsman was able to take down the Hall of Famer with a last-lap pass in the 30-lap affair.
The first ever TUNDRA Sportsman event featured a dazzling battle between three-time Mid-American Series Champion Bill Prietzel and five-time Dells Raceway Park Champion Dave Trute. When Prietzel made his pass of Trute after a restart on lap seven, the race looked like it was all over. Trute disagreed.
The duo of Trute and Prietzel came from Eighth and Ninth in the pack. Once outside pole-sitter Dusty Mann’s machine expired on lap seven, it became a battle of will between Prietzel and Trute. Although Prietzel nabbed the lead on the restart, Trute kept within two car lengths over the final 23 laps.
There were several opportunities for Trute to challenge Prietzel just past the halfway point. However, he could only get close enough to give Prietzel a slight tap to the bumper and remind him he was there. While the battle raged on, and the duo weaved through lapped traffic, Greg Back moved into Third. He looked to have a strong machine also, as he reeled in the top Two. However, Back ran out of time and had to settle for Third.
The final challenge was set up by Trute with four laps to go. After clearing lapped traffic, Trute closed to Prietzel’s back bumper. He surveyed the inside line over the next two laps until Prietzel left just enough room for Trute to get a run to the inside. Once the door cracked open, Trute was able to swing it wide open and take the inside line.
Charging out of turn two, Trute pulled even with Prietzel. With the preferred line he was able to push ahead entering three and four. However, Prietzel – who had won several Mid-American Series races at WIR – exited turn four well on the outside and drag raced Trute to the stripe. Unfortunately for Prietzel, Trute was able to outlast him and take a win in his first ever trip to the half-mile.
Back cruised home to the Third spot. Brian Wienfurter was Fourth and Jason Thoma rounded out the Top Five.
SCHNEIDER DEFENDS HOME TURF IN VINTAGE
It would have taken some pretty strong sandpaper to get the smile off Jerry Schneider’s face after the TUNDRA Vintage feature Saturday afternoon. The former Super Late Model racer at WIR brought his Chevelle home to victory in a wild Vintage 30-lap feature.
Schneider found himself in the lead about midway through the feature event. He then powered to the win after a late red flag for a wreck that involved Roger Stanczyk and Ken Olson. Both drivers were ok.
Behind Schneider, Royce Rossier, Ken Lewis, Pat Echlin, and Dick Kath rounded out the Top Five.
NEXT FOR TUNDRA
The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series as well as the Sportsman and Vintage divisions will head to Dells Raceway Park for Round Two Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes on Saturday, June 4. Qualifying is slated for 5:30 with racing at 7 P.M. The series will also be joined by the Midwest Truck Series.
Dells Raceway Park is located at N1070 Smith Road just north of downtown Wisconsin Dells. For more information visit http://www.dellsracewaypark.com