By Bert Lehman
Fans at 141 Speedway were treated to a white knuckle, edge of the seat type of feature when dirt Late Models returned to the Speedway for the first time in several years Thursday, Sept. 29.
Jim Schmidt and Brad Mueller paced the feature field with Schmidt jumping out to the quick lead. Schmidt said his plan entering the race was to get the lead, get into open air and run whatever line felt best.
“I knew if I was by myself I’d be fast,” Schmidt said.
Mueller settled into second place early on and was biding his time when he was involved in an incident with a lapped car, causing Mueller’s car to slap the wall coming out of corner four.
After the race Mueller said the car got tight after he hit the wall. He eventually finished fifth.
While Schmidt continued to lead, Mitch McGrath was using the cushion in an effort to advance on the leader. Racing the high side wasn’t McGrath’s original plan.
“I didn’t think there would be much up there, but we had to do something because we weren’t any good in the middle [of the track],” McGrath.
As the race progressed traffic became an issue, something that didn’t bother Schmidt.
“I wanted to get in traffic because I felt I was fast enough that I could weave through there,” Schmidt said. “We just got into it and I passed around three cars in one corner and I was sitting really good. I thought I could get some cars between us and then the yellow came out.”
McGrath said he was glad to see the caution flags.
“When I was in second we might have been able to take the lead but I got jammed up in traffic,” McGrath said. “I was glad to see the cautions to clear it out a little bit.”
While the top two cars battled, Jared Siefert and Nick Anvelink had their own battle.
Starting eighth, Siefert said his plan was to use whatever line on the track felt the best. He said late in the race his car was fast on the bottom in corners three and four.
“Sometimes you pick up on something a little late,” Siefert said. “The last 10 laps were probably our best laps.”
For Siefert, returning to 141 Speedway was a homecoming of sorts as he has logged many laps in a Modified at the track.
“It’s really nice to come back,” he said. “I appreciate 141 Speedway having us back. Hopefully we’ll have some more races here in the future.”
Siefert was all smiles after finishing third.
“I hope it was as fun to watch as it was to run because that was the diciest race I’ve been in in a long time,” Siefert said. “That was just a blast. You just never knew who was going to go where and whose way you were going to be in.”
Anvelink said his plan was to stay out of trouble.
After starting 10th, he worked his way up to third midway through the race.
“I was trying to run different lines than everybody else,” Anvelink said. “We were decent. We weren’t great tonight. It was good to get out of here finishing fourth.”
He added that the configuration of the track presents many challenges.
“It’s tough for the guys here who run on the bottom because they want to come out to the fence. The way the track is, you meet in the middle of the straightaway and if they don’t leave you a lane you’re kind of in trouble,” Anvelink said.
For a brief moment, Anvelink had his sights on the lead during a late race restart, only to have it waved off.
“I was pretty disappointed,” Anvelink said. “It was looking like I was going to be in the lead. That would have worked out nice. Mitch just kind of messed up a little bit and that’s all it takes on this track.”
When the race was restarted, McGrath powered into the lead on the high side, but Schmidt didn’t give up.
“I was getting closer,” Schmidt said. “All you had to do is miss a corner. He’s running on the edge up there and I had a really good car. I tried different lines, sometimes I’d gain a little bit, sometimes not. I tried everything I had.”
Schmidt wound up finishing second to McGrath.
McGrath said he was running wide open on the cushion on the high side.
“Jim Schmidt had a fast car, probably a little better than we were,” McGrath said. “We just got up on the wheel on the top and made something happen.”