Loves Park, IL- Defending Spring Classic winner Jon Reynolds, Jr has filed his entry for this Sunday’s Big 8 Late Model Series 108 lap feature at Rockford Speedway. Driver X has won four of the last eight Big 8 events at the famed quarter mile facility and is joined by seven time track Champion Bobby Wilberg and 2011 track Champion Ryan Carlson. Both Carlson and Wilberg posted runner-up efforts to Reynolds at Rockford last season. The past three event winners, Casey Johnson, Dale Nottestad and Reynolds will all be in contention for the win this weekend as well as defending Rockford NASCAR Late Model Champion Jerry Gille.
All told, thirty nine modern day Late Model Championships are represented thus far, with additional entries arriving daily for the 36th annual Spring Classic which officially begins the Midwest racing season this Sunday April 14. The Mid-American Stock Car Series and Illinois Vintage Racing Series will join in the action as well. Spectator gates open at 11am, time trials begin at 11:30 with the first race at 1pm. Adult general admission tickets are $20, students ages 12-17 are $10, ages 6-11 $5 with kids ages 5 and under admitted free. For additional information visit www.rockfordspeedway.com or call the Speedway Box Office at 815-633-1500. Here is a recap of the Champions and Challengers entered as of Wednesday.
Champions (Number of Championships)
2 Eddie May (2)- It took a year or so for this two time Lake Geneva Raceway Super Late Model Champion to adapt to the Big 8 Series cars, but now that he has, he has become a force, May scored a season high three feature wins at Rockford in 2012 and tacked one onto his tally while visiting Slinger Super Speedway last summer. May finished tenth in Big 8 Series points following the 2011 season and was the inaugural Late Model Showdown Match Race Champion at Rockford that season.
5 Casey Johnson (2)- There was perhaps no driver hotter in 2012 than Casey Johnson as he totaled seven feature wins on his way to recording Jefferson Track Championship number two while placing in the runner-up spot in Big 8 competition and fourth place at Madison. Perhaps more impressive is that he visited victory lane at four tracks, weekly at Jefferson, Madison and Slinger plus he dominated the July Big 8 appearance at LaCrosse.
X Jon Reynolds, Jr (3)- He is the defending Champion of the Spring Classic 108, as a matter of fact he swept both Big 8 Series events at his home track, Rockford Speedway in 2012 where he was the weekly point runner-up to go along with his third place point showing in the series. Having now won three of the last five National Short Track Championship Big 8 events, he has won four of the last eight Big 8 events at Rockford. Driver X is a two time Slinger Late Model Champion, became the inaugural Series Champion of the Big 8 during the 2005 season and is tied for second on the all-time wins list with seven.
14 Ryan Carlson (1)- He sits fourth on the all-time Big 8 Series win list with five victories and he also has the fourth all-time top five finishes. His fifth win came when he shot into the lead with just six laps remaining at Columbus 151 last Memorial Day. Carlson had four top five finishes in Big 8 competition in 2012 including runner-up efforts at Spring Classic and at Madison. Coming off his 2011 Rockford Speedway Championship campaign, Carlson recorded two feature triumphs during a partial schedule at his home track.
17 Jon Lemke (2)- A former ARTGO and NASCAR Midwest Touring Star, Lemke will return to the friendly confines of Rockford Speedway which have treated him well in past visits, including taking the famous “Faster Than a Speeding Bullet” award back to Minnesota with him. In limited Big 8 Series starts, the two time Elko Speedway Super Late Model Champion has led over forty laps and been in contention to win twice, is Spring Classic his time?
18 Mike Ehde (1)- Six years ago, Mike Ehde held off four time Series Champ Jeremy Miller in a Spring Classic battle for the ages, adding Ehde’s name alongside Trickle, Shear, Carlson, Detjens and Reffner in the great history of this event. Last June Ehde led the most laps during the Big 8 event at The Milwaukee Mile, eventually finishing fourth and his strong efforts resulted in a seventh place points finish for the 2008 Dells Late Model Track Champion.
19 Dan Lensing (1)- This second generation driver was involved in a lap three incident at Spring Classic last year, which inflicted major damage on his machine. Not the way the younger Lensing wanted to start off his campaign, at a track where his dad Wayne was a three time Champion. Turn the calendar five months and Dan had put together a dominant season at Dells Raceway Park. Lensing recorded a season high seven feature victories, set a new track record and was crowned the Late Model Track Champion.
20 Steve Rubeck (2)- Rubeck has realized the joys of winning Spring Classic twice, back to back in a Super Late Model in 2006 and 2007. The 2002 National Short Track Champion will be looking to make both his Spring Classic and Big 8 win total three during this year’s running. After a limited schedule last season, Rubeck looks to run full time in 2013 and build upon his 2011 Big 8 Late Model Series Championship. The Flyin’ FIB was also the 2004 Track Champion at Dells Raceway Park.
28 Bobby Wilberg (14)- Count ‘em, fourteen Late Model Championships for this man, seven at Rockford and seven at Madison to go along with three Modified titles at Madison. Wilberg has three victories at the National Short Track Championships, twice in the 1990’s in the Northern Series and once in ASA Late Model competition. One of the strongest supporters of the Big 8 since its inception, Wilberg is tied with the second most all-time top five performances with nineteen. He was third in the final point standings at Madison on the strength of two wins, along with a win during the JMcK 63 at Oktoberfest in LaCrosse in 2012, he looks to record that first Big 8 Series win in 2013.
51 Dale Nottestad (2)- After pushing Steve Rubeck to the limits in the pursuit of the 2011 Big 8 title, Dale Nottestad grabbed a title of his own in 2012, the Madison International Speedway Championship while also finishing in the top ten in points at Jefferson. Nottestad turned in quite the performance during the Wisconsin State Championships last fall, recording his third career Big 8 triumph while capturing the overall Wisconsin crown. Nottestad was also the 2004 Madison Super Late Model Champion.
54 Rich Schumann, Jr (2)- This two time Dells Raceway Park Champion just missed out on his third title at the 3/8 mile oval in the World’s Waterpark Capital. While he couldn’t follow up his 2007 and 2011 feats, he went on quite the run during the hot summer months of 2012, taking home the winner’s hardware on four occasions. When he took his show on the road, he was fast qualifier at the Big 8 All-Stars invitational event at Elko Speedway last September.
82 J. Herbst (2)- Taking on a new challenge in 2013, J. Herbst has made quite the name for himself in the Coulee Region, more specifically LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway. NASCAR honored him in Charlotte as the 2011 NASCAR Wisconsin State Champion following his second of two LaCrosse NASCAR Late Model Track Championships. While some mishaps along the way relegated him to a fourth place finish in the final points, J. recorded four weekly feature wins in 2012.
95.3 Wayne Freimund (1)- Insane Wayne Freimund as he is referred to across the Midwest has positioned himself as a sleeper of sorts. A former Modified Champion that found his calling when he strapped into a Big 8 Late Model, Freimund fought tooth and nail to earn the 2011 Slinger Super Speedway Late Model Championship. He had previously taken top honors in the Late Model segment of the 2010 Slinger Nationals and found victory lane again in 2012, this time in weekly Rockford action.
99 Jerry Gille (4)- He was the 1999 Madison Super Late Model Champion, but a Rockford Speedway title eluded Gille, once by a mere point, in 2007. That was then, this is now for the People’s Champion, he won back to back titles in 2008 and 2009. But after coming up short in 2010 and again in 2011, Gille used the strength of two wins and eight fast times to reclaim the Rockford Late Model Championship and became the NASCAR Illinois State Champion in the process.
2 Jimmy Ganski- This Central Wisconsin driver has bounced throughout the Late Model ranks, from crate models to the Big 8 Series, where he was named the 2010 Assembly Products Sportsman of the Year. Ganski showed moments of brilliance, picking up a tough win at Columbus 151 Speedway during weekly competition last Spring and led the opening twenty laps when the Big 8 cars visited his home track, State Park Speedway in Wausau.
04 Natalie Decker- At fifteen years of age, Natalie Decker is making the jump into Big 8 competition after finishing fifteenth in her lone series start at State Park last July. Having grown up in a racing family, Decker has five karting Championships to her credit and has totaled seven feature wins in just two years behind the wheel of a Central Wisconsin Super Stock. Not to be outdone, Decker topped thirty five other drivers to lay claim to the 2012 CWSSA Championship.
4 Tom McClintock- The Onalaska driver has turned numerous laps in numerous types of racing vehicles, from weekly NASCAR Late Models at LaCrosse, to the USST Super Trucks, in which he was the 2006 Champion and most recently the Mid-American Stock Car Series. He has won in everything he has raced and now sets his sights on the Big 8 Series.
5 Dave Edwards- If 2012 proved anything, Dave Edwards wants to race and he has a bright future in this sport. Edwards started the season off on the right foot, recording his first ever top five effort in Big 8 Series competition during the 35th annual Spring Classic at Rockford. Edwards started off the weekly season at area tracks with strong performances before gremlins dampened his season. But as a true racer does, he kept digging to get the car back to the track and raced in various support divisions as well.
07 Cory Kemkes- Each and every Thursday night, Cory Kemkes was near the top of the Fox River Racing Club’s Late Model results from Wisconsin International. After a couple rough outings to start his 2012 Rookie season in the Big 8, Kemkes took that fast car of his and concentrated on his weekly efforts, recording one feature victory on his way to a runner-up point finish at WIR. Kemkes returned to Big 8 action at Oktoberfest, capturing a preliminary event to place him in the field which saw 58 cars attempt to qualify.
7 John DeAngelis, Jr- He has already won the Late Model portion of the Slinger Nationals and stood upon the podium following the JMcK 63 at Oktoberfest. John DeAngelis, Jr enjoys racing, and whether it is putting cars together or traveling to unchartered territories like Elko Speedway in Minnesota, DeAngelis takes each challenge head on. 2012 saw John try his hand at both Slinger and Dells, he finished the season fourth at Slinger where he also recorded a feature win.
16 Steve Apel- There is no arguing that Steve Apel is a rising star in the Midwest racing scene. With much success in Super Late Models, including three wins at Slinger last summer where he fell just ten points short of the track Championship, Apel is no stranger to the high banks of Rockford Speedway. After a broken suspension component ended his bid for the 2010 Super Late Model National Short Track Championship Crown, his team returned to win the Pit Stop Challenge in 2011 and that good fortune carried over into a top five finish in the prestigious event in 2012.
17 Eric Connell- After a part time stab at Big 8 competition to go along with weekly Late Model appearances at Jefferson, Dells and Columbus 151 in addition to the American Short Tracker division at Rockford, Eric Connell has his sights set on a full Late Model season, including the Big 8 Series. With a new power plant and a new racecar, Connell is ready to take the next step after finding victory lane on multiple occasions in support divisions across Wisconsin.
23 Austin Nason- The 2011 Rockford Speedway Sportsman Champion followed that effort with the 2012 Rockford Late Model Rookie of the Year title. Nason scored his first Late Model triumph at Rockford last summer, while finishing seventh in the final Rockford tally. Perhaps most impressive, after relinquishing his seat to keep teammate Ryan Carlson in Big 8 Championship contention at National Short Track Championships, the seventeen year old jumped back in the following week at LaCrosse and won the fast dash before finishing third at Oktoberfest.
23 Casey Strese- After a highly successful career in the International division at Jefferson Speedway, Strese has made the jump into the Late Model ranks at his home track and last year ventured into Big 8 Series competition as well. While the wins have not racked up for him like they had in the support division, success is just around the corner for this Ford powered driver from Johnson Creek, WI.
28 Jesse Bernhagen- When the 2012 campaign began for Jesse Bernhagen, he had never set sight on the majority of the tracks the Big 8 Series would visit. He didn’t show any Rookie signs, charging from a fifteenth starting spot to finish fourth in last year’s Spring Classic 108. The finishes just kept coming for this nineteen year old driver, fourth at Columbus 151, top ten finishes at Madison and LaCrosse over the Independence Holiday, fifth at Rockford last fall before racing his way from seventeenth to sixth at Oktoberfest to solidify his Rookie of the Year title and top five point finish. Meanwhile the son and father team of Bernhagen finished fourth in points at the Dells. This January Jesse was named the Big 8 Assembly Products Sportsman of the Year.
28 Jacob Finney- Having cut his teeth in the Mid-American Stock Car Series, Jacob Finney has proven that he is a tough competitor. With three wins to his credit on the ultra-tough Mid-Am circuit, he has dabbled in Late Model action the past three seasons, away from his home track, Grundy County Speedway. Finney made five starts in Big 8 competition last season, with a gutsy thirteenth place effort during Rockford’s National Short Track Championship 108 last fall his best result, he was also part of the Big 8 All-Stars event at Elko Speedway in Minnesota last September.
31 Darren Wolke- The past two seasons, Darren Wolke has ventured down from his Belle Plaine, MN home to challenge the Big 8 Series regulars. He has made appearances at Slinger, Rockford, Milwaukee and LaCrosse, even leading laps last July at LaCrosse. He acquired the car of former Big 8 Rookie of the Year Dennis Schmidt and looks to run the full Big 8 schedule in 2013, building upon his success at his home track, Elko Speedway.
32 Andy Welter- Another newcomer to the Big 8 Series, Welter brings with him the Slinger Super Speedway 2011 Thunderstock Championship Crown. Last season saw him make the jump into the Late Model class at Slinger where he finished eighth in the final standings. At just twenty years of age, Welter will be attempting to make his first Big 8 appearance when he rolls into Rockford Speedway this weekend.
38 Jeff Holtz- Another Super Late Model veteran looking at a new challenge, Jeff Holtz will travel from the Milwaukee area to tackle the tough high banks of Rockford Speedway. Holtz has been a front runner at Slinger Super Speedway, having recorded two Modified Championships as well as a Sportsman Championship before moving into the Late Model ranks.
39 Alex Papini- He was the 2008 Rockford Late Model Rookie of the Year, but Alex Papini scored his first Late Model feature victory at the track his dad Al won two titles, Jefferson Speedway in 2010, before returning to claim the Rockford RoadRunner Championship in 2011. He bounced between Jefferson and Rockford with his Late Model in 2012 before experiencing victory in Rockford’s Bahama Bracket Nationals. Perhaps his strongest 2012 showing was during the National Short Track Championship 108 which saw the youngster record his first top five Big 8 effort, a fourth place finish.
52 Steve Dobbratz- He competed in a limited schedule in 2012, but the fan favorite known as ‘Dobbie’ made his mark known. Dobbratz set a new track record when the Big 8 Series visited Columbus 151 Speedway last May and experienced the sweet taste of victory twice at Jefferson in weekly competition last season. The veteran driver returns to Rockford, a track that he has had a love/hate relationship with in the past, let’s see if he can rekindle that flame that carried him to a fifth place Super Late Model showing at the National Short Track Championships in 2010.
57 Ryan Miles- We hear Most Improved and Champion a lot in racing circles. Ryan Miles has earned those recognitions in another sport, football. After a successful career in Legend cars, Ryan tried his hand at Late Model racing, and has one Big 8 Series fast time to his credit, but he traded his racing helmet for a football helmet. While playing defensive lineman, Miles was named the most improved player on the 2011 NAIA National Football Champion Saint Xavier University Cougars.
84 Jacob Vanoskey- Another driver that is climbing the short track ranks in Hartford, Wisconsin’s Jacob Vanoskey. After multiple wins in the four cylinder class at both Columbus 151 and Slinger, he graduated into the Midwest Sportsman class where he recorded a win during the Slinger Nationals. Since making the jump into Late Models he scored multiple feature wins before trying his hand in the Super Late Model ranks. Vanoskey enjoys the Late Models and plans to run weekly at Rockford this season in addition to Big 8 competition.
87 Kyle Jarlsberg- Jarlsberg has twice scored Big 8 Series victories, both coming at his weekly playground, Jefferson Speedway. His first win came in 2007 and his final win came in 2009, but don’t let that fool you. With a strong racing lineage, Jarlsberg is always in contention when he straps behind the wheel of his Chevrolet, recording eight top five series finishes including a runner-up at Rockford in 2009. A fourth place point finish to go along with his three wins at Jefferson have this driver on everyone’s radar in 2013.
This article was posted to the website on April 10th, 2013
Click to view all related content in that category