By Jeffrey Sachse
Friday, August 26, 2011 - Oshkosh, WI. - Huge crowd witnessed Mike Kertscher hold off Billy Balog in a 6 lap dash to the checkered flag following a late race caution in the IRA Outlaw Sprint Main event held Friday Night at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway. After the restart, Balog got underneath Kertscher on several occasions but Kertscher was up to the task to score the win. Balog would settle for second a car length behind while Donny Goeden would finish third.
The point races in each of the attending weekly divisions would close up during the evening which will make for an especially exciting Championship Night next week.
In the Miller Lite Grand National division, visiting driver Phil Coppersmith appeared headed to victory as he was holding off defending division champion Larry Richards. However with three laps to go Coppersmith blew a right front tire turning the lead over to Richards. Richards then held off a last lap passing attempt by current point leader T.J. Smith to score his second feature win of the 2011 season.
Trevor Schmidt came out on top of a torrid race long battle with Jon Ashcraft to grab his second straight Total Power Sales Street Stock feature race. The pair traded the lead nearly every lap of the contest until Schmidt gained a small advantage with three laps to go taking the win by a car length.
The Lynn's Service Center Dirt Devil division would see their main event go caution free. On the final lap race leaders Cory Wegner and Dan Juszczyk swapped paint breaking their momentum and allowing third place Steve Lemay to make a brilliant move to steal the lead and the victory. The win was the third of the year for Lemay tying him with Juszczyk for the most victories on the season. Wegner would settle for second followed by Juszczyk.
With 28 entries in the pit area the IRA Sprints narrowed their field down to 20 starters for the A-Main after a hotly contest B-feature captured by Kurt Davis.
The 30 lap A-Main event would roll out with Mike Kertscher on the pole and Donny Goeden to his outside. Kertscher would get the jump on Goeden grabbing the opening lead. Tommy Sexton would hold down the third spot followed by Scotty Neitzel and Bill Balog the winner of the last IRA Sprint event head at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway in June.
Balog began to make his move forward, working past both Neitzel and Sexton to reach the third position by lap seven. A spin by Phillip Mock in turn two on the eighth lap would bunch the field back up and erasing a healthy lead Kertscher had built up.
With the race resuming Kertscher was back to the lead with Goeden and Balog giving chase while Mike Reinke and Todd King held down the top five spots at the halfway point.
On lap 20 Balog managed to dive to the inside of Goeden and secure the second spot. Balog's next task would be to erase a dozen car length lead Kertscher had build up as the pair weaved through lapped traffic. Kertscher would opt for a high line around the raceway while Balog worked a much lower groove. Balog managed to whittle the gap to less than a car length when Kurt Davis lost power and came to a stop in turn four just in front of the leaders on lap 24. Kertscher narrowly missed the slowing machine as the caution appeared.
The restart would setup a six lap dash to the checkered. The first attempt at a restart Todd King looped his ride and was pushed off to the pit area giving up his top five position.
As the green flag flew a second time Kertscher got a great restart but Balog was quick to narrow the gap and with three laps to go began to work the inside line. Balog on made several attempts to complete a pass of Kertscher coming off turn two as the laps clicked by. However in each case Kertscher was able to find the momentum on the high side and pull ahead. On the white flag lap Kertscher got a good run off turn two and extended his lead to a car length, a gap he would hold to the checkered flag. Balog would settle for second but increase his series point lead over his nearest rival Mike Reinke. Goeden would finish third, with Reinke fourth and Neitzel comprising the top five.
The Miller Lite Grand National division has been featuring one of the closest point battles of the 2011 season as point leader T.J. Smith and his nearest rival Tim Warner had been trading the point lead back and forth. Smith would lose several points to Warner after the heat races as Warner won his event while Smith dropped from his contest.
The feature race began with Justin Jacobson driving his IMCA Stock Car showing the way as visiting driver Phil Coppersmith and Tim Doehling gave chase. Jacobson would three wheel through the turns but kept the field behind him until lap four when Coppersmith shot by for the lead brining Doehling with him. Doehling would take advantage of a wiggle by Coppersmith on lap eight and shot to the lead with an inside pass.
At the halfway point Doehling maintained the lead with Coppersmith, Jason Fish, Brian Henry and Larry Richards holding down the top five. On lap 14 Doehling's car began to smoke and moments later it began to slow losing power down the backstretch, Doehling guided his machine back to the pit area. This turned the lead back over to Coppersmith.
Behind Coppersmith, Richards was picking off cars moving into the second spot with five laps to go. Behind the lead pair T.J. Smith had come from deep in the field to reach the third spot.
Out front Richards began to close the gap on Coppersmith who still had a eight car length lead as lap 17 began, however fate would intervene and Coppersmith suffered a flat tire heading into turn four as he was about to began lap 18. Coppersmith slowed and limped to the pit area, and Richards now inherited the top spot.
Richards would lead lap 18 with Smith now in second, closing fast in an attempt to steal a victory. Smith dove to Richards inside after taking the white flag, but Richards was up to the task using the high line to pull away down the backstretch. Richards would take the win by a car length with Smith having to settle for second after a brilliant run to the front after starting deep in the field. Warner would reach third in the closing laps. Henry and Fish would complete the top five finishers.
Heading into the final point night next week Smith holds down a six point lead on Warner. Richards now sits 13 markers back from the top spot and is still in contention for the title should both Smith and Warner encounter difficulties.
There was also excitement aplenty in the Total Power Sales Street Stock division as Jon Ashcraft jumped to an early lead only to be challenged by Richard Garb before the first lap was complete. Trevor Schmidt rolled up to the third spot behind the lead pair with Frank Knaus holding down the fourth spot.
Jon Schultz who currently had been sitting third in the standings began to smoke heavily on lap four. Moments later Schultz's machine burst into flames coming down the front stretch. The red flag was immediately thrown and the field stopped while the track safety crew quickly extinguished the flames.
Schultz was unhurt in the incident but done racing for the evening. After a cleanup to remove fluid from the racing surface action would resume.
Ashcraft would go back to the lead at the drop of the green while Garb had his hands full with Schmidt working by for the second spot. On lap six Schmidt caught Ashcraft and the pair began a side by side battle for the lead which would run throughout much of the remainder for the contest. With each passing lap the pair would swap the lead and switch lines in an attempt to gain the upper hand.
Several times the pair would trade paint yet continue their rubbing never slowing their pace nor allowing Garb a shot at the front spot. The frantic action continued past the halfway point with Garb often challenged by Knaus for the third spot.
With less than five laps to go Schmidt would finally gain the upper hand on the lead pulling ahead of Ashcraft by a car length. Garb continued in third having successfully defended the spot from Knaus.
As the laps wound down Schmidt clung tenaciously to the lead and would reach the checkered flag for the win by less than a car length over Ashcraft. Grab would settle for third. In the closing laps title contender Jerry Winker managed to work past Knaus for the fourth spot with Knaus completing the top five. With a victory in his heat race and a fourth place feature finish Winkler has closed within 4 points of Jeff Jungwirth for the point lead in the division.
The Lynn's Service Center Dirt Devils would see Chris Maas set the early pace with Steve Lemay and Joe Minks giving chase. Lemay would make a pass for the lead spot on lap four. Lemay then built up a small advantage while Cory Wegner and Dan Juszczyk moved forward to join the battle just past the halfway point of the contest.
Wegner would grab second on lap 15 and began to challenge Lemay for the top spot on the next circuit. Wegner would successfully take the top spot with three laps to go as Juszczyk now began to pressure LeMay for second. Juszczyk was also successful in moving Lemay back a spot and he now sought to run down Wegner for the lead with two laps left in the contest.
Juszczyk caught Wegner as the white flag flew and the pair began the final lap side by side. Heading down the backstretch the pair rubbed slowing them momentarily and allowing Lemay to slip by both of them on the outside. Lemay held the lead heading into turn four and would take the victory over Wegner by less than a car length. Juszczyk would settle for third followed by Maas and Minks. Jason Fairbank would reach the finish line in sixth and holds down a 10 point lead in the standings heading into the final point night over Juszczyk.
Next week on Friday Night September 2nd, the LeSure's Banquet Hall Championship Night will conclude the 2011 championship chase as the final point night will take place in all five weekly divisions. Champions will be crowned in the Automotive Supply Company Modifieds, Miller Lite Grand Nationals, Total Power Sales Street Stocks, Leon's Frozen Custard Sport Modifieds and the Lynn's Service Center Dirt Devils.
Adult tickets for the championship night are just $10, with student tickets for those with ages from 11 to 15 at the discounted price of only $5. Children 10 years of age and under are admitted FREE with an adult.
Grandstands Open at 5:00pm with racing set to get underway at 6:30pm.
The final race event on the third mile clay oval will be the two-day Speedzone Fall Classic, with racing taking place in IMCA Type Modifieds and Sport Modifieds, Grand Nationals, Street Stocks and 4 Cylinders. Preliminary racing events will take place on Friday evening, September 9th beginning at 6:00pm. Feature events and last chance races will take place at 3:00pm on Saturday Afternoon September 10th.
Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway is a 1/3 mile semi-banked clay oval located at the Sunnyview Expo Center which resides near the intersection of Highways 76 and County Trunk Y in Oshkosh. Weekly racing Friday Night racing continues until September. Fans and drivers are encouraged to visit the track website at www.oshkoshspeedzone.net for additional information on upcoming racing events.
This article was posted to the website on August 27th, 2011