By Jeffrey Sachse
Kaukauna, WI; May 22, 2014 – It had been over 260 days since the last checkered flag fell in Fox River Racing Club action at Wisconsin International Raceway. Both drivers and fans were treated to excellent weather conditions for the first race of the 2014 season. The program presented by the Times Villager Newspaper saw three news faces earn their first career feature wins. Rookie Dalton Zehr was able to fend off four-time FRRC Super Late Model champion Jeff Van Oudenhoven for his first career win.
Corey Manders simply outran the competition on his way to a career first victory in the Late Models and Hayden Watzka continued the theme with career win number one in the Wisconsin Sport Trucks.
Two-time and defending Super Stock champion Dylan Wenzel spoiled the first time win party earning top honors having collected his fair share of wins in the past.
Michael Anthony sat next to rookie Jesse Oudenhoven for the start of the 35 lap Schmitty’s Tickets Super Late Model main event.
Oudenhoven a former standout in the Late Model class proved his quick adaptation to the Super Lates securing the opening lead. Dalton Zehr, who took over the Chase Motorports ride this season, having replaced area racing legend Terry Baldry, worked into third.
Champions Lowell Bennett and Jeff Van Oudenhoven made it a three car scramble for second as Oudenhoven stretched out his lead.
On lap eight Anthony slipped from second to fifth giving Zehr and Van Oudenhoven the second and third spots respectively.
Soon the top four became a freight train with Oudenhoven, Zehr, Van Oudenhoven and Bennett lined up nose to tail on lap 18. Zehr would dive low in turn one on the next circuit taking the lead position brining Van Oudenhoven and Bennett with him.
Zehr who won a Tundra Series Super Late Model contest at the track two weeks ago was out to prove that victory was no fluke and he now had four-time and defending champion Van Oudenhoven on his tail.
On lap 25 Jim Ebben went for a harmless spin in turn four forcing a slowdown and putting the entire field on Zehr’s rear bumper.
The field came back to full song with Zehr able to fend off both Van Oudenhoven and Bennett. The battle for the lead began to heat up again when rookie Sawyer Effertz got sideways and came to a stop between turns three and four with six laps left to run in the event.
Action would resume with a dash to the checker and Zehr again came away with the top spot using the high line to slingshot to the top spot down the backstretch. Van Oudenhoven began to rally working under Zehr as the white flag flew, but Zehr was able to withstand the challenge and he came away with his first career “Thursday Night Thunder” Super Late Model victory. Van Oudenhoven was second by less than a car length. Bennett earned the third spot besting Kyle Calmes in a late race duel. Maxwell Schultz the evening’s fastest qualifier made a late race charge to reach fifth.
Jake Carpenter and Todd Verhagen made up the front row for the 20 lap Late Model main event. Verhagen who returned to action after a year off proved he lost nothing in his absence leading briefly before Corey Manders charged to his inside to grab the lead at the completion of lap one.
2013 Rookie of the Year Alex Stumpf dropped Verhagen back to third on lap three and sent out after Manders. The lead pair separated themselves from the field while Manders continued to build his lead.
Manders, Stumpf, Verhagen, Brett Wenzel and Brent Strelka held down the top five spots at the halfway point of the event.
With no cautions to slow his pace Manders would check out over the second half of the contest taking a convincing win, the first of his career in a feature contest in the division. Stumpf finished comfortably in second. Wenzel reached third by the finish followed by Strelka and Cory Kemkes.
The Super Stock feature field accepted the green flag 18 cars strong.
Neal Sannes set the opening pace outsprinting Randy Yaeger. The first caution of the contest flew on lap two when fast qualifier Greg Hauser cut down a tire and did a quick spin in turn two. He was able to get the tire changed and rejoined the field at the tail for the restart. Andy Meyerhofer chose the outside line for the restart and became locked in a duel for the lead with Sannes, while Yaeger had his hands full with Ed Howard contesting the third spot.
By lap five two-time and defending champion Dylan Wenzel reached the top five. He continued to pick off fellow competitors using the high line working into second by the halfway point. Sannes held tenaciously to the top spot holding off Wenzel, when the second caution flew with eight laps to go as Evan Sannes slipped going for a quick spin in turn four.
When the green flag flew again Wenzel wasted no time blasting into the lead spot dropping Sannes to second. Only two more laps went in the books before Ed Howard and Andy Meyerhofer locked horns coming to a stop in turn three.
A single file restart was in order and six laps remained when Wenzel brought the field back to full speed. Wenzel would prove untouchable over the final laps taking a comfortable victory. Sannes held off Dave Meyerhofer to secure the second spot.
Coming to the line Andy Casavant and Hauser traded paint heading for the checker. Hauser earned the fourth spot after coming from the tail of the field after his early race pit stop. Casavant completed the top five finishers.
17 snowmobile engine powered Wisconsin Sport Trucks accepted starter Patrick Barrett’s green flag to start their main event which would run without a single slowdown.
Hayden Watzka set the pace in the early going as the faster qualifiers began to work their way forward. He would encounter lapped traffic by lap six allowing Jason Plutz to close in and challenge for the lead.
Meanwhile defending champion Brett Van Horn was on the move reaching fourth by the halfway point of the event. Matt Rhode worked his was past Plutz for second moments later but Watzka had build a dozen car length lead.
Watzka never faltered over the final laps and earned his first career main event win by six car lengths. Rhode finished second followed by Van Horn, Plutz and Brian Vixmer.
A wild three and four wide start punctuated the opening laps of the Sizzlin’ 4 contest as Alex Siedl worked his way to the lead.
Wayne Sonkowsky was the first driver to seriously challenge Seidl with seven laps to go in the event. Austin Birling and Randy Sonkowsky soon made it a four car battle for the lead. Seidel would slip wide on lap 11 dropping back to fourth turning the top spot over to Wayne Sonkowsky.
Wayne Sonkowsky set the pace to the checkered earning his first victory of the 2014 season. Randy Sonkowsky earned the second spot followed by Birling, Braison Bennett and Seidl in the top five spots.
The Figure Eights presented it’s largest opening night field in many seasons and presented fans their first meeting in the “x” as Craig Vanderwettering and Evan Beattie used up their machines while emerging unhurt from the major impact.
Terry Van Roy collected the win after a last lap fender rubbing duel with Willy Van Camp. Jared Baughman, Jeff Wohlrabe and Jamie Verstegen made up the top five runners.
Racing action continues next week as AC Delco Night at the races will present another six division night of action. Adult admission for the show is a mere $10 and remains one of the best values in short track racing.
Super Late Models:
35 Lap Feature: 1. Dalton Zehr; 2. Jeff Van Oudenhoven; 3. Lowell Bennett; 4. Kyle Calmes; 5. Maxwell Schultz; 6. Brett Piontek; 7. Nate Van Wychen; 8. Randy Schuler; 9. Mark Schroeder; 10. Jesse Oudenhoven; 11. Pete Vandermolen Jr.; 12. Michael Anthony; 13. Robb Vanderloop; 14. Sawyer Effertz; 15. Jim Ebben; 16. Kyle Rhodes; 17. Andy Monday
First 8 Lap Heat: 1. Oudenhoven; 2. Zehr; 3. Ebben
6 Lap Dash: 1. Bennett; 2. Van Oudenhoven; 3. Piontek;
Fast Qualifier: Schultz, 19.273 Seconds
20 Lap Feature: (Top 10) 1. Corey Manders; 2. Alex Stumpf; 3. Brett Wenzel; 4. Brent Strelka; 5. Cory Kemkes; 6. Jim Duchow; 7. Brandon Reichenberger; 8. Todd Verhagen; 9. Brad Anthony; 10. Tim Springstroh
First 8 Lap Heat: 1. Verhagen; 2. Wenzel; 3. Kippenhan
6 Lap Dash: 1. Stumpf; 2. Duchow; 3. Anthony
Fast Qualifier: Duchow, 20.159 Seconds
20 Lap Feature: ( Top 10 ) 1. Dylan Wenzel; 2. Neal Sannes; 3. Dave Meyerhofer; 4. Greg Hauser; 5. Andy Casavant; 6. Erik Turner; 7. Larry Raygo; 8. Randy Yaeger; 9. T.J. Spierowski; 10. Jeff Treml
First 8 Lap Heat: 1. Sannes; 2. Yaeger; 3. Andy Meyerhofer
Second 8 Lap Heat: 1. Larry Raygo; 2. D. Meyerhofer; 3. Ed Howard
Fast Qualifier: Hauser, 15.685 Seconds
Wisconsin Sport Trucks:
20 Lap Feature: (Top 10) 1. Hayden Watzka; 2. Matt Rhode; 3. Brett Van Horn; 4. Jason Plutz; 5. Brian Vixmer; 6. Kyle Quella; 7. Jacob Boldig; 8. Todd Kostichka; 9. Kyle Vandermoss; 10. Nettekoven
First 8 Lap Heat: 1. Nettekoven; 2. Vandermoss; 3. Mike Burg
Second 8 Lap Heat: 1. Bryan Monday; 2. Watzka; 3. Plutz
Fast Qualifier: Vixmer, 16.495 Seconds
15 Lap Feature: ( Top 6 ) 1. Wayne Sonkowsky; 2. Randy Sonkowsky; 3. Austin Birling; 4. Braison Bennett; 5. Alex Seidl; 6. Steve Van Oudenhoven
First 8 Lap Heat: 1. Devin Yaeger; 2. R. Sonkowsky; 3. Bennett
Second 8 Lap Heat: 1. Birling; 2. W. Sonkowsky; 3. Tarra Springstroh
15 Lap Feature: 1. Terry Van Roy; 2. Willy Van Camp; 3. Jared Baughman; 4. Jeff Wohlrabe; 5. Jamie Verstegen; 6. Jeff Wilz