WAUSAU, Wis. (August 14, 2016) – The 75-lap TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes feature on Sunday evening at State Park Speedway was full of twists and turns. When the dust settled it was multiple-time track Champion Mark Mackesy who showed that there is little substitute for years of experience at the tricky quarter mile.
Mackesy aced the outside line on a restart with ten laps remaining to pull away from 14-year-old up-and-comer Derek Kraus. It was Mackesy’s second time on the podium in a TUNDRA race, and retribution for a Seventh Place finish in last year’s event.
“That’s pretty neat. We haven’t won a big race here since the Flip Merwin Memorial race in 2013,” Mackesy said. “To beat this stellar field of cars that’s here tonight is amazing. There is so much talent in this feature tonight, it’s unbelievable.”
The win was also satisfaction after a tough week of healing an ailing machine. Mackesy suffered what he thought were motor issues in State Park’s Thursday event.
“I thought we had some motor issues and we weren’t going to run,” he said. “We worked on it yesterday. It wasn’t the motor at all. I actually had some loose battery cables.”
The feature worked its way to a boil slowly. Ernie Schlough seized the lead from the pole position driving the #7-11 which is piloted by reigning TUNDRA Champion and fast qualifier Dalton Zehr at State Park on Thursday nights. Schlough looked every bit as confident behind the wheel as Zehr as he paced the field through the first 20 circuits while the quicker qualifiers were mired deep in traffic. Even a caution and restart on lap 15 couldn’t shake Schlough.
Once the field had settled in from the lap-15 restart the plot began to thicken. On lap 21 Zehr tried to duck to the bottom line in front of point leader Casey Johnson. Zehr spun and Johnson rode up the track. The point leaders and fastest qualifiers had just slid into the Top Ten after starting 11th and 12th on the grid. Zehr’s machine appeared to suffer the most damage with some body work hanging.
Zehr accepted blame for the incident and attempted to use the gentleman’s agreement to allow Johnson to take his spot back. However, both cars went to the pit area to assess the damage. By rule, once a car leaves the track it must restart at the tail of the field. Both Johnson and Zehr went to work regaining positions immediately after the green fell again.
Up front, Schlough continued to battle Billy Mohn for several laps after the restart, but was too strong on the inside line. Schlough’s solid effort forced Mohn to tuck back in line in Second. Through the next 15 laps, the field continued to tiptoe on the inside line while track position looked to be at a premium. However, another caution caused another shakeup on lap 37. It involved Zehr for the second time and he and Bryan Keske wrestled for position.
The lap 37-restart brought some changes to the front of the field. Ryan Farrell was able to work past Billy Mohn for Second and brought Kraus into Third. The duo of Farrell and Kraus feverishly worked to chase down Schlough, but would not catch up until a yellow came out for another spin on lap 47.
By this point two cars were starting to find their stride. Both Mike Lichtfeld and Mackesy had been hanging in the Top Ten throughout the first half of the race. On the lap-47 restart both were in the Top Six and were prepared to make some moves after the green fell again. Just after the field was set back into motion, Kraus stole Second from Farrell and Lichtfeld followed to Third. Mackesy moved past Farrell just four laps later.
Although Schlough had another comfortable cushion after the restart, he was unable to run away from Kraus. However, Kraus was caught by Lichtfeld on lap 59. A quick slide to the inside allowed Lichtfeld to take the runner-up spot and set his sights on Schlough. Mackesy soon caught Kraus and prepared to battle for Third.
On Lap 64 Lichtfeld was to the bumper of Schlough for the lead. Just after the lead pair crossed the line for lap 65, Lichtfeld prepared to make his move. He looked to the inside entering turn one, then tried to hold the line coming off turn two for a run down the back stretch. Unfortunately for both drivers, space became limited. The two came together, sending Schlough spinning into the infield. Lichtfeld would have to rejoin at the tail of the field and Schlough’s excellent TUNDRA debut was cut short.
The tangle between the leaders set up the lap-65 restart in which Mackesy elected to take the high line on Kraus. No other driver was able to make the line work, but the years of experience paid dividends for Mackesy.
“I could see when I was behind Derek that he couldn’t get up and out of the corners and I could get a good run,” Mackesy said. “I knew if I could get a run on him through the corner I could get around him on the outside.”
“That was a lot of work,” he commented. “We started so deep in the field and we just had a hard time getting through traffic.”
Behind Mackesy Kraus settled for Second. “We had a pretty good car, we just didn’t have the forward drive off and that’s where he beat us,” Kraus commented.
Although his bid for three straight feature wins came up just one spot shy, Kraus was pleased with the run. He continues to impress with a calm demeanor, and an ability to stay out of troublesome spots.
The frantic day of Dalton Zehr continued behind Kraus. While most attention was focused on the battles for the lead up front, Zehr was on a mission. He had moved to Fourth with just two laps to go and quickly closed on Farrell as the white flag fell. Zehr used some physicality to open up the inside line in the final sweep through three and four, and stole Third at the checkered. Farrell settled for Fourth and Mohn rounded out the Top Five.
With his move into Third, Zehr was able to salvage what could have been a harmful day in the TUNDRA points race.
“It definitely wasn’t my proudest race,” Zehr said. “We were involved in a lot of yellows and I really don’t like being in any of them. It’s a tight track and tough to get around. Unfortunately we made more contact with guys than I would like to. But we were able to make it back up to Third all the same.”
Johnson was able to salvage his day after the incident with Zehr as well. Although he did not make the same kind of late run, Johnson was still able to return to the Top Ten and finish Seventh. His lead now sits at 29 points atop the standings heading into the next race at Golden Sands Speedway.
TRUTE HOLDS OFF VOLM IN SPORTSMAN
An incredible battle for the win wasn’t just for the Super Late Models to display. The 30-lap Sportsman race came down to the final circuits as fast qualifier Travis Volm pressured Dave Trute. Trute was able to hold on and secure his second win of the season.
Scott Luck grabbed the early lead from the front row and began to check out over the rest of the pack. Behind him Jason Thoma had secured Second and would soon be run down by the trio of Trute, Volm and Greg Back.
At the halfway point Trute made his move on Thoma for Second. By opening up the inside line, Trute brought Volm to Third and Back to Fourth. Just three laps later the trio had caught Luck and were ready to test him for the lead.
On lap 19 Luck was shaken off the bottom line, which allowed Trute to cruise to the lead. The slip by Luck was unfortunate for Volm who was challenging for Second on the outside. Volm fell back behind Back and had to recover quickly. By lap 25 he moved past Back into Second and set his sights on Trute.
After three laps Volm had caught the back end of Trute. He took a quick look to the outside, but then tucked back in line before the white flag fell. Volm kept right on Trute’s bumper through one and two, but could not get to the inside. Entering three and four, Volm again looked low, but found no space to make the pass.
Trute went on to win by a car length over Volm, Back was Third, John Zuch finished Fourth, and Thoma rounded out the Top Five. The win propelled Trute back into the point lead of the division.
ROSSIER ROCKETS TO ANOTHER VINTAGE WIN
Rex Rossier made it two Vintage wins in a row after he carefully picked through the field in the 30-lap feature. Rossier took the lead from Pat Heaney on lap 18 and didn’t look back.
There was one final challenge that Rossier would have to face – a long yellow after one of the machines dropped fluid around the track. With some oil dry down on the surface, Rossier was still able to hold off Heaney and his brother Royce on the restart.
Heaney went on to finish Second, fast qualifier Jerry Schneider made a late pass on Royce Rossier for Third and Darrell Paasch finished Fifth.
The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series heads to Golden Sands Speedway for Round Five Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes on Labor Day, Monday, September 5. Racing will begin at 2 P.M. TUNDRA will be joined by the Midwest Truck Series, Vintage, and Sportsman.