Eswein Claims WCS Championship Feature
By Mary Langreck and Jeffrey Sachse
September 15, 2007; Marshfield, WI: – The Nasonville Dairy, Weber’s Farm Store, WYTE 106.5 and Earth Inc WI Challenge series championship night brought 39 super late models to contest for the win. Mark Eswein would prove to be the strongest and quickest car throughout the night, first topping all the qualifying efforts and then taking the 80 lap feature win by passing 2007 MSS track champion Eugene Gregorich Jr for the lead with 26 laps remaining. Jeremiah Strauss, 2007 track champion, in the 4-cylinder division set the quickest lap, but would run out of laps in the feature trying for the win, finishing fourth to Kyle Opelt. Jonathan Zuelke, 2007 track champion, would set fast time in the junkyard warriors, but finish second to teammate Kyle Rasmussen.
Mark Eswein of Wisconsin Rapids turned in his best career performance in WCS action. And that takes some effort. as Eswein is the All-Time series point leader and two-time series champion. While much of the attention during the 2007 season finale for Wisconsin Challenge Series focused on the point battle between Nathan Haseleu and Kenny Richards, Eswein simply worked on collecting the checkered flag. Eswein’s victory was his third career feature flag in WCS competition, and his first victory in the series since the 2004 season. The six-time Golden Sands Speedway champion would make a sweep of the day as he earlier set the fastest lap in qualifying with 39 cars checked into the pit area.
The other highlight of the event included a genuine showdown between title contenders Richards and Haseleu, Richards, who had lead the standings by a mere four points heading into the show, saw the margin trimmed to a single point advantage as Haseleu out qualified Richards. In the feature contest, it would be a simple matter of who would reach the finish line first. The driver doing so would win the title. Richards was seventh on the grid for the contest, while Haseleu would start tenth. For the first 30 laps of the contest it appeared it would be Richards day as he rocked forward into the fourth place slot, while Haseleu made little progress.
However, as the race neared the midway portion of the contest, Haseleu began to move forward, steadily picking off cars. Even more noticeable was the fact that the Richard’s machine began to lose speed, slowly drifting back in the field. At lap 45 of the 80 lap contest, Haseleu would dart to the inside of Richards heading down the backstretch into turn three, and advancing to the sixth spot. The pass would prove to be the turning point of the contest. Richard’s handling problems worsened throughout the balance of the race and he would eventually struggle to finish the contest taking 18th place at the finish. The culprit for the loss of speed was a broken suspension component. Haseleu on the other hand continued at a steady pace, avoiding a late race accident and crossing the finish line in sixth place. The end result, a third consecutive series title, by a margin of 39 points over Richards. Eswein’s strong performance on this day, has closed him within 60 points of Haseleu in the title chase.
The feature event itself proved to be quite dramatic, with the first 74 laps going without a caution, but the final 6 laps would see a pair of yellow flags, keeping the finish in question until the checkered flag. The green flag would fall for a starting field of 24, with two track champions on the front row. Jason Weinkauf who earned his first career track title at Golden Sands Speedway this year sat on the pole with two-time and newly crowned Marshfield Speedway champion Eugene Gregorich Jr., to his outside. At the drop of the green flag it was Gregorich who would bolt into the lead, with Weinkauf and 2007 Wisconsin International Raceway champion Tim Rothe holding down the third place.
The trio of champions held the first three spots until lap seven when Andrew Morrissey worked past Rothe for the third position. Morrissey, who finished runner-up to Andy Monday in the most recent WCS contest, one week ago at Madison International Speedway, was quickly adapting to the Marshfield Speedway oval in spite of very few appearances at the semi-banked half mile oval.
With ten laps in the books Gregorich was showing the way chased by Morrissey who had worked by Weinkauf on lap nine for the second spot. Weinkauf, Rothe and Richards would comprise the top five at the time Gregorich and Morrissey would begin to separate themselves from the field, while third became a contest between Weinkauf, Rothe and Richards. Weinkauf, drifted high on lap 14 and lost several spots, allowing Rothe to scramble to third and Richards to fourth. NASCAR competitor Chris Wimmer of Wausau, making a local racing appearance and his first WCS start in several seasons was also showing some good speed reaching the top five after starting eleventh on the grid.
Meanwhile Eswein, who had started in the twelfth spot began to work forward, picking off car after car dropping Wimmer from the fifth spot on lap 33. Richards, who now began to slow would fall to Eswein’s charge moments later giving Eswein the fourth spot.
The climb continued as Rothe was Eswein’s next target, as Eswein motored past for third on lap 38. Clearly the fastest car on the track Eswein quickly closed the gap on Morrissey and after a brief battle Eswein found himself in the second spot with 34 laps to go in the contest.
Gregorich meanwhile had built up a dozen car length lead which acted as a caution between himself and Eswein as he sought to win his second career WCS contest at the Marshfield oval. Gregorich had previously turned the fete in the season ending event in 2005.
The lead however was quick to evaporate as Eswein drew in on Gregorich’s reach bumper finally working to his inside coming off turn four on lap 54. After a brief side by side battle, Eswein would assume command slowly moving away from Gregorich with each passing lap.
It now became a race for second as Morrissey now began to close on Gregorich and like Eswein Morrissey would find room on the inside to steal the runner-up slot with just ten laps to go. The race appeared headed for a quick finish, when the first caution of the event flew for Jeremy Switlick who spun in turn three with 6 laps to go in the contest. The caution erased the large advantage Eswein had built up and placed, Morrissey, Gregorich, Wimmer and Rothe on his rear bumper.
As the green waved Eswein got a good jump on Morrissey to retain the lead while the battle for third became hotly contested between Gregorich, Rothe and Wimmer. The trio would trade paint on several occasions as each sought the final podium spot. The action got a bit too heavy for Rothe and Wimmer with the duo going around in turn two, with just two laps to go. Rothe would retire to the pits, while Wimmer dropped to the tail of the field. This left Eswein, Morrissey and Gregorich in the top three spots. Steve Holzhausen, who had quietly worked forward all race now found himself in fourth followed by Jeremy Lepak who now had a top five spot.
The two lap dash to the checkered would see Eswein keep a one car length advantage over a determined Morrissey who would settle for second for the third time in a WCS contest this year. Holzhausen was successful in making a last lap passing attempt on Gregorich to nab third with Gregorich holding into the fourth spot. Lepak’s steady performance would net a fifth place finish.
Haseleu secured the title with a conservative sixth place run followed by Jesse Saunders who claimed seventh in his first career WCS appearance. Andy Monday, winner of the most recent WCS event would finish eighth with Wimmer and Jay VanderGeest completing the top ten finishers. 19 of the 24 starters were still on the track at the finish.
In earlier action Jeff Van Oudenhoven sliced through the field to collect a victory in the first of two qualifying races, fending off the challenges of VangerGeest for the victory. Ben Pettis would take third taking the final transfer spot. Ken Reiser and Derek Gress comprised the top five just missing the show.
In the second qualifier local competitors Jeremy Switlick and Cale Laessig provided plenty of close racing for the fans as the dueled for the win. Switlick would nab the victory edging Laessig for the victory. Dean LaPointe would narrowly defeat Wes Coon for third and the final transfer spot. Coon would finish fourth and Pete Vandermolen completed the top five.
The final event of the night was a 30 lap B-Feature contest. In the race, Jeff Weinfurter and Reiser fought tooth and nail for the lead of the event during the last ten laps of the race. The duo would race side by side the final rounds with Reiser earning the win by less than six inches over Weinfurter. Gress would finish third, with early race leader Keith Bohmsach coming home fourth. Vandermolen completed the top five performers.
The Wisconsin Challenge Series heads into it’s eighth season on action in 2008, and the 2007 series awards banquet will be announced shortly.
The 15 lap 4-cylinder feature event was tough competition, with four lead changes. Brad Conant took the early lead from his outside pole position start. Conant held back Wayne Elmhorst for several laps, but then Steve Hauser made the pass on Elmhorst and worked on Conant. Hauser was able to take away Conant’s lead on lap eight. Hauser’s lead was short-lived, as fast timer and 2007 MSS track champion Jeremiah Strauss passed him two laps later. Strauss brought with him, Don Dunow, Ricky Brandl, and JJ Flick. Kyle Opelt was moving fast to the front, with only three laps to go, he began pressuring Hauser for the lead. At the white flag, one lapped car separated Hauser and Opelt. As the final lap was completed, Opelt pulled ahead for the win, earning the Westside Service of Auburndale feature win award. Steve Hauser finished second, Erin Schlough moved up for a third place finish, Strauss fourth and Dunow fifth.
Kyle Rasmussen led the entire junkyard warrior feature race, but not without holding off fast timer and 2007 track champion Jonathan Zuelke, finishing second. Matt Phelps third, Andy Dean fourth and Jeff Rasmussen fifth. The top three feature finishers are awarded trophies compliments of Humbird Jackets and Embroidery Werks.
Trophies for Season Championship night were sponsored by the Marshfield Visitors & Convention Bureau. Drivers could earn a trophy based on the number of points accumulated tonight which included qualifying, heat and feature. The 4-cylinder division first place went to Kyle Opelt, Jeremiah Strauss second and JJ Flick third. In the junkyard warriors Kyle Rasmussen earned first, Jonathan Zuelke second and Andy Dean and Matt Phelps tied for third.
The 2007 Season Championship trophies will be awarded at the Marshfield Super Speedway Awards Banquet at the Marshfield Eagles Club on Friday, November 9, 2007.
The junkyard warrior powder puff race was won by Megan Rasmussen.
Congratulation to Gayle Kronberger of Neillsville for winning the PT Cruiser Convertible Pace Car. Special thanks to our sponsors, WDEZ 101.9, Brickner Family Dealerships, Abby Gas Service, King’s Campers, Subway, CarQuest, The Home Front & Cellcom.
Fall Spectacular Racing Weekend Friday, Saturday & Sunday, September 21-23. No cover charges for the music in the bar all weekend. FREE Camping @ the Speedway. Friday, September 21st Practice Night, 4 pm until 8 pm. – FREE Grandstands,Post Practice Party in the bar with DJ music. Saturday, September 22nd Limited Lates~40 Lap Feature, Mid-American Stock Cars~40 Lap Feature, 4-Cylinders, Motorcycles, Bus Races, Oldtimers &