Richards Rockets to WCS Victory at Marshfield
By Jeffrey Sachse and Mary Langreck
July 14, 2007; Marshfield, WI: – The largest racing event crowd of the 2007 season turned out at Marshfield Speedway to witness the local favorites take on the best of the traveling Wisconsin Challenge Series competitors. In the end it was Kenny Richards of Montello, besting current Marshfield Super Speedway point leader Eugene Gregorich Jr., in an action packed event, that ran the 80 lap distance in a mere 27 minutes, which included just a single caution flag, early in the contest. Gregorich would close as lapped traffic came into play during the final 10 laps, but was unable to get closer than six car lengths, the margin of victory at the checkered. Frank Kreyer would put on an impressive charge throughout the caution flag throughout the duration of the event, in a hurry no doubt, as his wife is expecting their first child before the conclusion of the weekend.
For Richards, it was his second career WCS victory, having reached victory lane last year on Memorial Day at Golden Sands Speedway. The victory elevated Richards to the top of the current standings by a mere four points over 2-time and defending series champion Nathan Haseleu of Marshall. Haseleu was the evening’s fast qualifier and looked strong early, but would begin to slow late in the race. The mechanical difficulty became apparent on the final lap as Haseleu broke and axle, nearly spinning coming off the final turn. Haseleu was able to gather up his machine and cross the line in fourth place.
The grid for the 80 lap main event, was presented with regular weekly competitors Chris Weinkauf and Gregorich Jr., making up the front row. The pair had earned 7 weekly feature wins between them, giving fans of the weekly hotshoes something to cheer about. Richards would start inside the second row next to Blake Horstman who was making his second WCS start of the 2007 season.
At the drop of the green flag, Weinkauf got a temporary advantage on Gregorich, but Gregorich worked the outside line to perfection, taking the lead spot before the completion of the first lap. On lap three Weinkauf drifted up the track slightly in turn four allowing Richards to sneak past into the second slot. Leaving Weinkauf to battle with Horstman for the third position.
The lead pair of Gregorich Jr., and Richards began to check out on the field, while Weinkauf and Horstman thrilled the fans with a side by side battle which went on for several laps around the semi-banked half-mile oval. Further back, Kreyer was beginning to show some muscle working into the fifth spot.
By lap ten, Richards had begun to apply pressure to Gregorich Jr., in effort to wrestle away the top spot. Richards preferred the low line, while Gregorich Jr., opted for the high groove in effort to maximize his straightaway speed. Richards handling proved to be the fast of the two options with his car hugging the turns and allowing him to maneuver under Gregorich coming off turn four on lap 13. After a brief side by side battle Richards would secure the top spot and begin to put some distance on Gregorich Jr.
Kreyer was also advancing, having worked by Horstman into the fourth spot prior to the first and only caution of the race when Minnesota hotshoe Trent Snyder looped his ride in turn two, after having worked his way up to the sixth spot. Snyder would fall to the tail of the field and take only two more laps before parking his machine for the day.
The balance of the 55 laps in the event would run without further interruption. In the restart Richards went back to setting the pace with Gregorich Jr. in tow, as the pair again separated themselves from third running Weinkauf. Kreyer, still on the move would work by Weinkauf for third on lap 34. It was the third place battle that became the focus of attention as now less than six cars would often be seeing running pack style as Kreyer, Weinkauf, Haseleu, Horstman and two-time series champion Mark Eswein all sought to take the position.
With 25 laps left to go lapped traffic began to come into play for Richards, but the lapped drivers did an excellent job of allowing the leaders to pass by unhindered showing a great deal of sportsmanship. Even so with the lapped cars moving quickly out of the way, Gregorich Jr., would use the opportunity to cut a dozen car length lead, almost in half as the race reached it’s final ten laps.
Kreyer had also shown some late race speed, beginning top close on the lead pair, but with the laps winding down it was apparent that without the aid of a caution he would not be able to reach the front of the pack. Haseleu meanwhile found his fourth spot in jeopardy, as veteran racer Gary Back, climbed into a race car for the first time in a year and a half and the 2003 WCS champion proved he hasn’t lost his touch working forward throughout the duration of the event.
Over the final 10 circuits, Richards was able to maintain his pace, and reach the finish line with a six car length advantage on Gregorich Jr., Kreyer would come home in third. Haseleu would bobble in the final turn as an axle broke on his machine, but he kept the car pointed the right direction and reached the finish line just ahead of Back for fourth. Back comprised the top five finishers.
Eswein driving a solid race would finish sixth followed by Weinkauf in seventh. Neil Knoblock, who won the WCS contest in the series last appearance at the track last September, overcame mechanical difficulties in practice and earned a solid eighth place showing. Horstman stayed in the top ten the entire event and ultimately finished ninth. Keith Bohmsach driving Eswein’s backup machine made his first WCS start of 2007 with an impressive run to complete the top ten.
16 cars were still on the lead lap at the finish in spite of Richards blistering pace and the lack of caution flags. 21 of the 28 starters were still on the track for the checkered. A special appreciation goes to several local cars which were able to join the event late in practice after working several days to complete their cars, making for a very exciting WCS event with a great showing of local talent.
The Wisconsin Challenge Series now travels to Golden Sands Speedway for the Sands 100, on Friday evening, July 27th.
The action packed 4-cylinder feature was led early on by Adam Eckes. Eric Haring held second for the first two laps before losing the spot to Brad Conant. Haring then had to deal with the likes of Kyle Opelt, who was on a mission to the front. The first caution of the 15 lap contest flew on lap seven for a spun car in turn two. Opelt used the re-alignment after the caution to position himself in second and hot after the lead. Eckes wasn’t about to give up easily though and continued to pressure Opelt for the lead back. Fast timer Jeremiah Strauss had worked his way from an 11th position start and into third with five to go. The final caution was out on lap 12, for contact between Conant and Steve Hauser. Conant was unable to finish the race. Opelt held strong in the lead, while Eckes and Strauss battled over second. JJ Flick, starting 14th, was up into the fourth spot along with Derk Hauser fifth. Opelt held out for the win and the Westside Service feature win award. Eckes second, Strauss third, Flick fourth and Derk Hauser fifth. Special thanks to Tom Loos Photography for the $200 bonus payout to the 4-cylinders tonight.
Dean Ashbacher led lap one of the pure stock feature event. Gary Haarklau led the next three laps, while Kyle Genett chased him down. By lap five, Genett had taken over the lead, and Haarklau now battled with Ryan Mork for second. Mork overtook Haarklau for second on lap eight and held out for the finish. Genett taking home another clean sweep. Mork second, Haarklau third, Ashbacher fourth and Coletta Gomes fifth.
Next Saturday, July 21st is The Bill Sherman Memorial & Miller Lite Nite. Red hot racing includes CarQuest Super Late Models, RZ Builders LLC Super Stock Triple Challenge #2, Motorcycles and Junkyard Warriors. Pit gates open at 3:30, grandstand gates open at 5 p.m., Miller Lite time trials at 5:30, racing starts at 7 p.m. Marshfield Super Speedway is located 3.5 miles west of Marshfield on County Road H with weekly Saturday night stock car racing April through September. Adult grandstand admission is just $10.00, Students ages 10-15 yrs. $5.00 and under 10 yrs FREE with a parent. The family ticket is $25.00. Rain date for Sunday two hours earlier.
Everyone 16 yrs and older may sign up FREE every race night to win the PT Cruiser Convertible Pace Car. Sponsored by: WDEZ 101.9, Brickner Family Dealerships, Abby Gas Service, King’s Campers, Subway, CarQuest, The Home Front.