By Jordan Kuehne -- (MASCS story courtesy of Matt Panure)
LOVES PARK, Ill. (Sunday, April 17th, 2011) – Dale Nottestad showed patience when many others didn’t, biding his time and picking off cars to get to the front before putting it on cruise control and never looking back on the way to victory lane today. A crash-filled opening 20 laps marred the beginning of the 34th annual Spring Classic at the historic Rockford Speedway, knocking out several contenders for the win in the Big 8 Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet ‘Spring Classic 108’ and allowing Nottestad to put a chokehold on the top spot, riding it all the way to his second career Big 8 Series win and the early points lead.
In the opening act, the Mid-American Stock Car Series ‘Spring Classic 50’, action didn’t disappoint either. Wily veteran Bill Prietzel showed some craftiness to survive a nudge from a hard-charging James Swan with two laps remaining to race his way back to victory lane and fire the opening salvo in the 19th season of MASCS action.
The Big 8 Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet had action on the very first lap of the 2011 season. Veteran Bobby Wilberg and young gun Matt Byrne got together on the opening turn of the ‘Spring Classic 108’ at the Rockford Speedway and Byrne spun towards the outside wall, bottling up the 24-car field and collecting Wilberg, defending Spring Classic champion Casey Johnson, Mike Ehde, Kyle Shear, and Jon Reynolds Jr in the incident.
Johnson, Reynolds Jr, and Ehde had to leave the track with damage and only Johnson managed to return in time for the second go-around at the initial green flag, sporting a crunched nose and no hood. Reynolds Jr. had to call it a day with radiator issues while Ehde suffered the brunt of the damage in the accident, forcing the 2007 Spring Classic champ to load it up before he managed a lap.
The second attempt didn’t go far either as Wilberg went for a solo trip through the spin cycle after suffering a flat right rear tire in the initial incident.
When the 34th annual Spring Classic finally got underway, it was ‘Showtime’ Zach Riddle that jumped out front and assumed command after fending off Slinger regular Steve Apel’s advances. Riddle quickly came under fire from fellow Madison International Speedway wheelman Dale Nottestad for the lead in the opening five laps.
Nottestad dug deep and grabbed the top spot on the low line with ten laps down while Ryan Carlson made a bold move for second, squeezing three-time Big 8 Series champion Jeremy Miller for the spot and relegating Miller to fifth. The third caution of the race flew soon after when fast qualifier Steve Rubeck went around in turn two with a little help from Riddle. Showing off their collective prowess behind the wheel, the whole field emerged unscathed as both drivers involved in the mishap dropped to the back.
When the race resumed, Nottestad nudged his way back to the front while Carlson and Miller gave chase; it wasn’t long though before another caution slowed the proceedings after Dave Edwards went around with 16 circuits completed.
Dan Lensing spun to avoid the Rockford regular but couldn’t miss him, smashing into the side of Edwards’ machine and severely damaging his front end. Jimmy Ganski also got collected in the mayhem sending all three drivers to the pits for repairs. Lensing did manage to return to action on the lead lap after his crew fixed some minor issues on his car.
On the restart, Nottestad surged to a three car length lead while a hungry Matt Berger applied pressure to Carlson for second. Jeremy Miller jumped into the fray, filling up Berger’s mirror and running him up the high banks in turn four to take the third position away.
Behind the pack out front, Bobby Wilberg was working hard after his earlier mishap, breaking into the top five with 25 laps in the books after a pass on ‘Fast’ Eddie May. Steve Rubeck wasn’t far behind on his race to redemption, maneuvering through the field and claiming sixth from Kyle Shear before a debris caution came with 75 laps remaining. Unfortunately for the defending series champion, that debris meant a broken axel and the end of Jeremy Miller’s day.
Wilberg and Rubeck continued their charge to the front in tandem on the restart, using the low line to work past Matt Berger for third and fourth respectively. As Nottestad slipped away up front, Rubeck began to explore the low line looking for a path past Wilberg. The door for third opened up and Rubeck drove past his MIS rival into a podium spot before setting his sights towards Carlson and second.
The ‘Mayor of Monroe Center’ swiftly erased the ten car length gap to the bridesmaid’s position but couldn’t find the space to steal second as Carlson held him at bay. With 40 laps remaining, Nottestad had built up a straightaway lead and continued to negotiate lapped traffic.
Kyle Shear moved into the top five on lap 80, inheriting fifth after Matt Berger fell victim to motor troubles and pulled off to the infield.
Carlson fell off the pace for a couple laps with 15 circuits remaining allowing Rubeck to ease past him for second. Rubeck’s best hope to challenge for the win was a caution that never came and Nottestad survived a close call with Zach Riddle in the closing laps to cruise home for a convincing victory in the ‘Spring Classic 108’.
The win marked his second Big 8 Series triumph as Nottestad grabbed the early points lead with the strong start to his 2011 campaign.
“It’s pretty awesome and we’ve contended here a few times but it feels good to win,” Nottestad acknowledged in victory lane. “This place is tough on equipment and it was important to get out front so I could save my stuff a bit there. We’ll be running all (the Big 8 Series races) this year so it’s definitely a good way to start.”
While Nottestad wore the wreath with pride, Rubeck rallied for second after his early race troubles.
“The cone is beautiful isn’t it?” Rubeck quipped after the race. “I got up from the sixth or seventh row to third. When I spun, I turned around and I didn’t wanna heat the tires like that but when there’s 20 guys coming at you, you don’t have much of a choice. We picked guys off after that and hoped to get back in the top-five. This car was a rocket ship from the minute we unloaded and after everything that happened, second isn't so bad.”
The guy Rubeck passed for second in the final 15 laps, Ryan Carlson, admitted he was either going to finish third as he did, or blow the motor up trying.
“Something went amiss with the motor there,” Carlson admitted. “I almost pulled off but I figured screw it, I’ll blow it sky high and kept going. I wish I had a chance to race with (Nottestad) but we fought for a top three today.”
Carlson’s podium finish marked the end to a long day for the Rockford regular while Wilberg held on for fourth after coming back strong from a flat tire. The Powersource Engines Mover of the Race was Kyle Shear, who gained 16 positions after overcoming adversity of his own, working his way from a 21st starting spot to finish fifth and round out the top five.
Matt Byrne returned to the Big 8 Series in style with a sixth-place finish while Casey Johnson ended up eighth with an aesthetically-challenged hot rod.
In Mid-American Stock Car Series action, a classic rivalry was rekindled on the legendary high banks of the Rockford Speedway. And whether it’s for feature wins or championships, Bill Prietzel and James Swan keep finding each other. Representing seven of the last 11 MASCS championships – many of which were contested head-to-head – the two put on another show Sunday.
Prietzel and Swan captivated an eager crowd through all 50 circuits of the Mid-American Stock Car Series feature at Rockford Speedway with Prietzel performing a goal-line stand in the final laps to hang on for his first MASCS win at the quarter-mile.
“It was definitely a challenge all the way,” Prietzel said. “James is really good here, and he was a little faster than we were. But I was in the preferred lane and he just couldn’t get by us on the bottom.”
It wasn’t for lack of effort on Swan’s part. Closing the gap several times throughout, Swan made contact with Prietzel’s left rear quarter-panel in an attempt to shake the long-time MASCS veteran and three-time champion.
“I really, really wanted to pass Bill, you have no idea. But I wasn’t going to wreck him to do it,” Swan said. “I gave him a little shove here and there just to play with him, because I knew I had the better car. If I couldn’t pass him clean, I wasn’t going to pass him.”
No harm, no foul, Prietzel said. “He tried and bumped us a couple times, but that’s Rockford, it’s not an issue.”
The biggest break of the race for Prietzel happened before the green flag was in the hand of MASCS starter Dave Sankey. Prietzel was scheduled to start on the outside of the second row, behind Jake Finney. After his heat race, Finney noticed issues on his machine and decided it was not in race condition. Prietzel moved to the outside of the front row alongside Ryan Gutknecht.
With Swan in tow, Prietzel seized the lead at the drop of the green. Swan followed in his tire tracks, bringing Rick Corso and fast qualifier Travis Rodewald past Gutknecht. The four broke away from the pack with Swan and Prietzel left to duel for an uninterrupted first half of the feature.
The first caution of the race fell on lap 26 when Chris Storey spun up to the outside retaining wall in turn two. On the restart Prietzel chose to keep the high lane with Swan settling to his inside on the front row.
Prietzel said it was a no-brainer selecting the high lane. “Not here, not a chance,” Prietzel responded when asked if he considered the inside lane.
After the green fell, Swan clung desperately to the inside in an attempt to get position on Prietzel. As the duo raced into turns three and four Swan made contact with Prietzel. Both drivers slowed as they collected their machines.
The rest of the field stacked up behind, with Jay Foster and Scott Null getting the worst. Foster lost the nose on his machine while Null lost the battery from his. Foster continued along with the remainder of the field.
On the ensuing restart Swan and Prietzel again broke away from the pack. Travis Rodewald, who had been surveying ways to pass Corso, slipped into third. He brought 2010 MASCS champion Lyle Nowak with him into fourth.
Rodewald’s attempt to reel in the top two was stopped short when he slid into turns one and two and tapped the outside retaining wall on lap 30. He continued, but lost a spot to Nowak. Nowak felt the curse of the being in the third spot ten laps later when he lost his water pump, spun and stalled, ending his day.
Swan continued to harass Prietzel over the final ten trips around the high-banked facility, but could get no further than Prietzel’s door. Rodewald settled for a third-place finish, Jeremy Spoonmore was fourth and Brian Back slipped into the top five late.
With wins in a modified and two in his Midwest Super Truck at Rockford, Prietzel was happy to take the checkered flag for a victory lap for the first time in his stock car.
“It’s a great way to start the year,” Prietzel said. “A top five and coming home clean is a great way to start. To win is icing on the cake, it’s great.”
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action kicks off next Saturday night at the Rockford Speedway as the 64th Pepsi Season Opener features a full slate of action including Stanley Steemer NASCAR Late Models, Bargain Hunter Sportsman, Budweiser American Short Trackers, and Mtn Dew RoadRunners plus the Sam's Drive-In RoadRunner Challenge featuring the Fan/Driver Egg Toss.
Gates open at 5pm with qualifying set to get underway at 6pm and the green flag waving at 7:07pm. Adult admission is $12 and students (ages 12-17) can get in for $8 while kids ages 6-11 cost just $5 and children 5 and under get in for FREE. All fans can save $2 off admission with any Pepsi product.
For more information on the Rockford Speedway, including a full 2011 schedule of events, visit the track website at www.rockfordspeedway.com or call the Speedway Box Office at (815)633-1500.
34th annual Spring Classic Results
Big 8 Series Late Models
'Spring Classic 108' -- 1. Dale Nottestad, Cambridge, Wis; 2. Steve Rubeck, Rockford; 3. Ryan Carlson, Loves Park; 4. Bob Wilberg, Beloit, Wis; 5. Kyle Shear, Roscoe; 6. Matt Byrne, Burlington, Wis; 7. Eddie May, Crystal Lake; 8. Casey Johnson, Stoughton, Wis; 9. Tim Sargent, South Beloit; 10. Wayne Freimund, Elkhorn, Wis; 11. Dan Lensing, Poplar Grove; 12. Davey Pennel, Sparta, Wis; 13. James Swan, Lake Geneva, Wis; 14. Zach Riddle, Cottage Grove, Wis; 15. Jimmy Ganski, Rosholt, Wis; 16. Matt Berger, Loves Park; 17. Steve Apel, Colgate, Wis; 18. Ed Szelagowski Jr, Westfield, Wis; 19. Jeremy Miller, Rockton; 20. Dave Edwards, Salem, Wis; 21. Ty Majeski (r), Seymour, Wis; 22. Vern Fagerberg, Bloomingdale; 23. Jon Reynolds, Jr., Rockford; 24. Mike Ehde, Prairie du Chien, Wis.
Last Chance "A" 01 -- 1. Casey Johnson, Stoughton, Wis; 2. Mike Ehde, Prairie du Chien, Wis; 3. Kyle Shear, Roscoe; 4. James Swan, Lake Geneva, Wis; 5. Steve Dobbratz, Rio, Wis; 6. Tony Bagstad, Westby, Wis; 7. Jacob Vanoskey, Hartford, Wis; 8. Ed Szelagowski Jr, Westfield, Wis; 9. Shayne Poehnelt, Spring Green, Wis; 10. Vern Fagerberg, Bloomingdale.
Heat 01 -- 1. Wayne Freimund, Elkhorn, Wis; 2. Jon Reynolds, Jr., Rockford; 3. Mike Ehde, Prairie du Chien, Wis; 4. Jacob Vanoskey, Hartford, Wis; 5. Tony Bagstad, Westby, Wis; 6. Steve Dobbratz, Rio, Wis; 7. Shayne Poehnelt, Spring Green, Wis.
Heat 02 -- 1. Dave Edwards, Salem, Wis; 2. Jimmy Ganski, Rosholt, Wis; 3. Casey Johnson, Stoughton, Wis; 4. Kyle Shear, Roscoe; 5. James Swan, Lake Geneva, Wis; 6. Ed Szelagowski Jr, Westfield, Wis; 7. Vern Fagerberg, Bloomingdale.
Time Trial -- 1. Steve Rubeck, Rockford (13.854 seconds); 2. Ryan Carlson, Loves Park; 3. Dan Lensing, Poplar Grove; 4. Jeremy Miller, Rockton; 5. Bob Wilberg, Beloit, Wis; 6. Matt Berger, Loves Park; 7. Matt Byrne, Burlington, Wis; 8. Dale Nottestad, Cambridge, Wis; 9. Ty Majeski (r), Seymour, Wis; 10. Tim Sargent, South Beloit; 11. Steve Apel, Colgate, Wis; 12. Zach Riddle, Cottage Grove, Wis; 13. Eddie May, Crystal Lake; 14. Davey Pennel, Sparta, Wis; 15. Casey Johnson, Stoughton, Wis; 16. Jon Reynolds, Jr., Rockford; 17. Kyle Shear, Roscoe; 18. Mike Ehde, Prairie du Chien, Wis; 19. Dave Edwards, Salem, Wis; 20. Jacob Vanoskey, Hartford, Wis; 21. Jimmy Ganski, Rosholt, Wis; 22. Wayne Freimund, Elkhorn, Wis; 23. James Swan, Lake Geneva, Wis; 24. Tony Bagstad, Westby, Wis; 25. Ed Szelagowski Jr, Westfield, Wis; 26. Shayne Poehnelt, Spring Green, Wis; 27. Curt Tillman, Roscoe; 28. Steve Dobbratz, Rio, Wis; 29. Vern Fagerberg, Bloomingdale; 30. Kyle Jarlsberg, Cambridge, Wis; 31. John DeAngelis, Jr, Hubertus, Wis.
Fast Dash 01 -- 1. Steve Apel, Colgate, Wis; 2. Eddie May, Crystal Lake; 3. Steve Rubeck, Rockford; 4. Matt Byrne, Burlington, Wis; 5. Dan Lensing, Poplar Grove; 6. Bob Wilberg, Beloit, Wis; 7. Ty Majeski (r), Seymour, Wis.
Fast Dash 02 -- 1. Zach Riddle, Cottage Grove, Wis; 2. Dale Nottestad, Cambridge, Wis; 3. Jeremy Miller, Rockton; 4. Ryan Carlson, Loves Park; 5. Matt Berger, Loves Park; 6. Tim Sargent, South Beloit; 7. Davey Pennel, Sparta, Wis.
Mid-American Stock Car Series
'Spring Classic 50' -- 1. Bill Prietzel, Richfield, Wis.; 2. James Swan, Lake Geneva, Wis.; 3. Travis Rodewald, Manitowoc, Wis.; 4. Jeremy Spoonmore, Somonauk, Ill.; 5. Brian Back, Rudolph, Wis.; 6. Tyler Bauknecht, Reedsville, Wis.; 7. Dan Church Jr., Big Bend, Wis.; 8. Rick Corso, McHenry, Ill.; 9. Mark Pluer, Brookfield, Wis.; 10. Adam Bendzick, Apple Valley, Minn.
15-lap Last Chance:
1. Tom McClintock, Onalaska, Wis.; 2. Frank Slabenak Jr., Palos Park, Ill.; 3. Bret Widdis, Manistique, Mich.; 4. Darrel Phillips, Esmond, Ill.
Heat Race Winners:
Slabenak, Ryan Gutknecht, Oak Creek, Wis.; Church
Rodewald – 14.171 seconds
This article was posted to the website on April 17th, 2011
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