Schmuhl finds success at multiple tracks
By Bert Lehman
Jeff Schmuhl has raced in the SportMod division since he started racing when he was 21 years old.
“It was a new and upcoming class,” Schmuhl said. “It was supposed to be a budget class for beginners that wanted to get into racing. Obviously it’s kind of outgrown that.”
That was eight years ago. Schmuhl, 29, continues to race in the SportMod division, but his racing program has definitely changed over the years.
“I raced locally at Beaver Dam Raceway,” Schmuhl said about his racing beginnings. “I won a championship and rookie of the year my first year out. Ever since then I’ve worked my way north and have been running IMCA stuff.”
Even though Beaver Dam Raceway is closer to his home than the tracks in Northeast Wisconsin, Schmuhl said the more he raced the more he wanted to race against different competition and learn about different setups. This also allowed him to learn different driving styles.
“It taught me a lot,” Schmuhl said. “There are a lot of guys who have moved their way up to and are racing Modifieds who started out in SportMods.”
Schmuhl said he sets goals for himself every season. Prior to the 2015 season, his goal was to race weekly at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway and Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam in an attempt to win the SportMod track championship at both tracks.
When the dust settled on the season, he accomplished his goal.
“We did have a couple of bad nights at each track, but I’ve always prided myself in being a good point racer,” Schmuhl said. “I’m very good at being consistent at tracks. If I know the car’s not quite where I want it to be I’m not going to go and try to take a chance to gain another position when you could potentially spinout.”
It was a grueling experience, though.
“By the end of the season we were so burnt out from everything,” he said. “There are days when I wish I could just sit and enjoy the accomplishments but I feel like you just keep going, roll it into next year.”
Rolling in 2016, Schmuhl’s goal was to travel to as many tracks in Wisconsin as he could, as well as learn how to get to the front from the back.
“It’s been fun,” Schmuhl said.
Midway through the season, Schmuhl said he has experienced his share of ups and downs.
One of the ups was winning a feature at 141 Speedway on the first night of the Clash at the Creek. It was something that was on his bucket list to do.
“I remember the very first night that this track (141 Speedway) went back to dirt, we came up here, we had our car done early, it was my second year racing and in the feature I got the rear-end ripped right out of that car. Everything was brand new and it got ripped right out,” Schmuhl recalled. “I hesitated on coming back for awhile because I thought about the luck thing, but I started learning luck has nothing to do with racing. It’s just the way the night goes.”
One of the downs was a nasty rollover at Oshkosh Speedzone in early June.
“We had to tear the car down to the bare chassis,” he said. “We managed to tear the car down, get it to the builder and he turned it around within a day, got it back to me, and we still made it out by the next Friday without missing a race.”
A fellow competitor borrowed Schmuhl a SportMod to race at Dodge County Fairgrounds that Sunday, but rain eventually washed that program out.
Schmuhl’s travels haven’t taken him out of the state of Wisconsin much, but he did make his first trip to Boone Speedway in Boone, Iowa for the IMCA Super Nationals last year.
“You hear all these stories, but I never paid real close attention because I didn’t know if I’d be able to get down there,” Schmuhl said. “By the end of the week, after I made it in the show, I was so sick of watching race cars go around the track.”
The IMCA Super Nationals is a weeklong event.
Schmuhl was involved an accident in the IMCA SportMod feature at the Super Nationals, resulting in a finish near the back of the pack.
Another trip to the Super Nationals is planned for this season, despite the fact he’ll be getting married soon after that.
“She (fiancé Mandi Nickerson) is going to allow me to go to Boone right before our wedding,” Schmuhl said.
Schmuhl added that he appreciates Nickerson putting up with him racing week after week, as well as the late nights in the shop.
(This article appeared in the August 2016 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)