Diemel wins biggest race of career
By Bert Lehman
When A.J. Diemel travels to eastern Wisconsin to race his dirt Late Model it’s like coming home again. After all, Diemel grew up in Bonduel and honed his racing skills on area dirt tracks.
Along with that “home again” feeling of racing in front of longtime fans, comes a little added pressure.
“I’d like to come over here and get a good finish for them (fans) for once,” Diemel said prior to the night of racing for the Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model show at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway, Friday, May 20. “We were pretty decent last year and had a bolt failure. It was my own fault but we would have had a top five finish here last year. It’d be nice to come over here and get a good run.”
Diemel is no stranger to Oshkosh Speedzone, which doesn’t hurt.
“This place has been prepared nice the last few times we’ve been here so I think it will play into our hands,” he said.
When asked prior to racing action what he thought his prospects were for the night, he responded, “I don’t know. First we have to make the show. We’ll see where we start from there.”
Diemel had quick time in his qualifying group.
“Everything kind of worked out really good. We didn’t draw the best number but we landed in a decent group, not all the heavy hitters were in our group,” Diemel said. “That helps not qualifying and racing against those guys until the A Main. If you can start in front of them, especially the way the track was tonight it all worked out in our favor.”
This placed Diemel on the front row of his heat race next to defending Lucas Oil Dirt Late Model Series champion Jonathan Davenport of Mount Airy, North Carolina.
Diemel said his motor bobbled at the start of the race, while Davenport tried to fire off into the lead.
“I was in the traction, that was the only thing that helped me,” Diemel said. “Once we got situated I just kind of maintained, trying not to give him the bottom. It all worked out, it must have been my day.”
Diemel went on to win his heat race.
So after a solid qualifying run and a heat race win, not only did Diemel accomplish his goal of qualifying for the feature, he started the feature on the front row.
Even though the heat races were a fight for the bottom lane on the track, Diemel said his strategy going into the feature was to initially use the high side of the track.
“I noticed there was some pretty good traction out on the outside which I knew we could probably run for a while, until everybody started knocking those tires back into the infield and that kind of took the race track away,” Diemel said. “Once that happened we were on top of sand so I just had to get back down and go through it with everybody else. When it started to do that it probably sealed it up for us unless I made a mistake.”
Once in the lead Diemel was able to main his lead. He even lapped Scott Bloomquist of Mooresburg, Tennessee. Bloomquist did get back around Diemel.
“I passed Scott there and then he passed me back and I thought, ‘I better get back down there because I wasn’t doing anything else out on the outside,” Diemel said. “It was just too much sand and silt out there. Once I did that I was just making sure we didn’t hit one of those tires or spin somebody out. Just make sure you keep your nose clean.”
Even though he had the lead at the time, Diemel said he was glad a caution came out with around eight laps remaining in the 50 lap race.
“The way the tire rule is, we probably would have had harder tires on but the right front is pretty soft and running the bottom it got pretty hot on me,” he said. “I was having problems finishing the corner off, so that helped out a fair amount.”
This race wasn’t the first national touring race Diemel has led. In 2013 he led most of the first half of the USA Nationals at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, only to have to retire from the race with mechanical issues. But he said he wasn’t thinking about that as the laps dwindled in the Lucas Oil race.
“A lot of other people bring that race up more than me I guess, which is fine. It’s not a big deal. I think we have a car good enough that we can go back there and actually seal the deal. We’re going to keep digging and try to get faster yet,” Diemel said.
When the checkered flags waved, Diemel had pulled off the upset, winning the biggest race of his career.
“A lot of hard work paid off,” he said. “It’s awesome that a lot of my family is here.”
Afterwards he said he knew this victory would eventually come.
“It just took awhile,” he said. “I’m not saying we didn’t earn it or anything like that. We’ve been around it now for awhile. I think we paid our dues so to speak. You have to have a lot of luck on your side too. I think we had some of that tonight.”
He added, “I have to thank everyone who helped me. It took a long time but we finally got one.”