PORTAGE, Wis. (May 14, 2021) – Qualifying seemed all but settled in last year’s TUNDRA Super Late Model Series visit to Wisconsin International Raceway. But late in the qualifying session, a dark horse in his first visit to the track surged to the top of the charts.
Riley Stenjem’s 19.199 second lap to capture the Section 715 Axing the Competition Fast Qualifier Award seemingly came from nowhere. It left the remainder of the field and fans stunned. WIR isn’t an easy place to get around, so for the young driver to set fast time in his first visit was something special. The surprise wasn’t lost on Stenjem either.
“Yes, I definitely was surprised to set fast time at WIR my first time there,” Stenjem said. “We really didn’t prepare any different than I did going to any other track the first time, I just felt like being later in the year I had a few races under my belt and became a little more comfortable in car and had a better idea what I was looking for in the setup.”
For those who have followed the career of Stenjem, the fast time couldn’t have been too much of a shock. He cut his teeth at the always-tough Jefferson Speedway, the same place he made his series debut just a couple months earlier. In that debut Stenjem rounded out the podium with a Third Place finish.
Stenjem went on to finish 14th in TUNDRA standings, having missed the season opener at Dells Raceway Park. Had he not, he certainly could have posed a significant threat to fellow rookies Brock Heinrich and Kody Hubred in the EPYK Media Rookie of the Year battle. However, with the pressure of point racing off, Stenjem was able to hone his skills and learn each facility for the first time in a Super Late Model.
“The main thing I learned in my first TUNDRA season was how to be as prepared as possible when we showed up to the racetrack,” Stenjem said. “Being new to about half of the tracks , we just made sure we had a decent baseline to start and a good plan of attack for the short amount of practice time we had.”
Now having a feel for the facilities, Stenjem is ready to shake the expectation of being a dark horse, and become a favorite. If he rips off another monster lap on Saturday, no one should sit in stunned silence as they did last year. The same goes when he inevitably starts challenging for Top Fives and wins.
“For our second season in TUNDRA I definitely have a little higher expectations than my rookie year last year,” Stenjem said. “This year I’m hoping be closer to the Top Five everywhere we go, which will hopefully put us in position for our team’s main goal which is to win a race this year with TUNDRA.”
Stenjem returns to TUNDRA Super Late Model Series action this Saturday, May 15 in Great Lakes Testing Round One at Wisconsin International Raceway. Qualifying is scheduled for 12:30 pm and racing is slated for 2 pm. TUNDRA will be joined by the Midwest Dash Series, WIR ¼-Mile Late Models, and Wisconsin Sport Trucks.
Wisconsin International Raceway is located past the intersection of Highways 55 and KK just outside of Kaukauna, Wis. For more information visit http://www.wirmotorsports.com