Slinger Nationals preview
By NICHOLAS DETTMANN
If watching Matt Kenseth and an estimated 30 additional of the top Super Late Model drivers of the region isn’t incentive enough to check out the 35th annual SuperSeal Slinger Nationals presented by Miller Lite, here’s something that will be neat to see.
According to Slinger Superspeedway co-track promoter Todd Thelen, at least four women are committed to competing in this year’s event, which will be July 15. It could get up to six, far and away a record for the event.
In addition, SuperSeal is once again putting up $9,999 to win the 199-lap event, plus incentives. Last year, Rich Bickle Jr. won his fourth Nationals title, collecting $12,000 for the victory. That is believed to be the largest payout for an asphalt short-track race in Wisconsin history.
“Everywhere you go, there’s a dirt track that’s $10,000 to win,” Thelen said.
“You just don’t see it in asphalt racing anymore,” he added.
The figure $9,999 was selected in honor of the late Dick Trickle, who raced the No. 99 throughout most of his racing career. Trickle, along with Wayne Erickson, father of co-promoter Rodney Erickson and long-time track owner, are the founding fathers of the event, which was first contested in 1980 and won by the late Larry Detjens.
“It puts us up there with the who is who of racing,” Thelen said. “When the racers get excited for the big events, the fans get excited. It’s a win-win.”
The women drivers expected to compete are Claire Decker, Natalie Decker, Becca Kasten, Kelsey Bauer and Reagan May.
Paige Decker, who became the first woman to win a TUNDRA Super Late Model race last season, is a maybe. She made her Slinger debut last season and finished 16th in the TUNDRA event Sept. 8.
Natalie Decker won a Limited Late Model race June 5 at State Park Speedway in Wausau.
May is a former dirt Modified winner at Luxemburg Speedway and is currently eighth in the TUNDRA Series points standings in her rookie season.
In 2011, Kasten, a native of Mequon, became the first woman to lead The Slinger Nationals, leading 37 laps en route to a fifth-place finish.
Women at The Slinger Nationals haven’t been a common sight. Before Kasten in 2010, Butler’s Cindy Peterson was the last woman to appear at The Slinger Nationals, doing so in 2001.
“We’re excited,” track co-promoter Rodney Erickson said about the upcoming Slinger Nationals.
Because of the economic hardships with racers and fans, the mystique of The Slinger Nationals may have been fading, simply because racers and teams couldn’t afford to make the trip to any race track as often as it would like, including Slinger for The Nationals.
That’s why Thelen and Erickson decided they needed to step it up and preserve the track’s marquee event.
“I don’t think the economy is back yet, but we’re trying to weather that storm and move forward with good sponsors, like SuperSeal,” Thelen said. “It helps keep you on the map.”
Other racers expected to compete are Kenseth, the two-time Daytona 500 and 2003 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion, 2005 Slinger Nationals champion Nathan Haseleu, Ross Kenseth, Travis Sauter and Chris Wimmer, and 16-year-old Paul Shafer Jr., the 2013 Grundy County (Illinois) Speedway champion.
The field, Thelen said, promises to be one of the stoutest fields in recent memory, all chasing a $9,999 prize.
“There’s a lot of excitement; people are talking about it,” Thelen said. “We’re trying to build up The Nationals, get it back to where it was when racers wanted to come to it.”
The hope is to get upward of 50 cars at Slinger for The Nationals. This would be the highest car count since 2006 when there were 52 cars present. Last year, 34 cars were on-hand.
“It brings a lot of excitement for the fans,” Erickson said. “The fans get a chance to see a lot of guys that race at other tracks, which is what The Nationals started as. It’s nice to get these guys from other tracks that they race locally.”
Follow Nicholas on Twitter: @dettmann_wbdn
35th SuperSeal Slinger Nationals presented by Miller Lite
51 entries as of July 7
Race is July 15
Car No. Driver
0D Ryan DeStefano Hartland WI
03D Paige Decker Eagle River, WI
04D Natalie Decker Eagle River, WI
2B Lowell Bennett Neenah WI
2M Michael Bilderback South Beloit IL
3H Tommy Hromadka Brookfield WI
5J Casey Johnson Edgerton WI
5S Travis Sauter Prairie du Sac WI
6L Austin Luedtke Adell WI
7B Kelsey Bauer West Bend WI
7D John DeAngelis Hubertus WI
7S Paul Schaefer Jr. Portage, IN
8K Matt Kenseth Cambridge, WI
9B Braison Bennett Neenah WI
9L Tim Lampman Oak Creek WI
9P Tommy Pecaro Markesan, IL
10D Steve Dorer Lakeland, FL
10jr Jon Reynolds Jr. Rockford, IL
11M Race McComb Hartford, WI
16A Steve Apel
17P Dale Prunty Fond du Lac, WI
18M Robert Mayner Hartland, WI
35D Travis Dassow West Bend WI
35M Patrick McIntee West Bend WI
36S Kyle Shear
38H Jeff Holtz
38W Nick Wagner Hartford WI
39M Andrew Morrissey DeForest, WI
40T Curt Tillman Roscoe IL
42P Dennis Prunty Knowles, WI
43K Matt Kocourek Franklin, WI
48K Brad Keith
52W Chris Wimmer Wausau, WI
55L Rich Loch
61E Jerry Eckhardt Johnson Creek WI
66M Dave McCardle Menomonee Falls WI
68J Dan Jung
72S Randy Schuler Mequon WI
75W Fred Winn
76J Brian Johnson Jr. Machesney Park, IL
77k Ross Kenseth Spring Valley, IL
87H Nathan Haseleu Marshall, WI
88R Chris Ratajczyk West Bend WI
89E Mike Egan
89F Ryan Farrell Big Bend WI
89M Brad Mueller Random Lake WI
91M Ty Majeski Seymour, WI
92M Conrad Morgan Waukesha WI
93F Dave Feiler Sun Prairie, WI
97S James Swan Genoa City WI
98B Robert Braun Wales WI