Slinger Speedway Honors 2011 Champions

Lepak, Freimund, Swan, Goetzke, Welter, Wagner

Written by: Todd Thelen and Gregg Paul
(Slinger, WI) January 31, 2011 – The Slinger Speedway awards banquet was held Saturday January 28 at the Schauer Arts Center in Hartford, Wisconsin. Drivers, car owners, crews, fans and track staff were on hand to honor the champions and all the racers in each division. There was an added treat with the new venue at the Schauer Center it also allows fans to take in the SE Wisconsin Short Track Hall of Fame, housed in the same building. LeRoy Meats of Horicon catered the evening’s dinner.

Long time Slinger Speedway Announcer and Host of The LTN Hour Todd Behling was the MC for the event, and he got things going by introducing Slinger Speedway MRO Track Chaplain Jim Zierke. Jim opened with a prayer and asked to remember Tom Powell, Wes Biswell and others we lost during 2011.

The Slinger Bee’s were the first division to accept their awards for the 2011 season. Nick Wagner captured his first track championship in dominating fashion. Wagner recorded 16 fast times and 17 feature wins on his way to the title. Rounding out the top five were Braison Bennett, Brandon Tackes, Allen Maher, and Marty Tackes. Allen Maher would also collect the Rookie of the Year honors in the Slinger Bee Division.

2011 Thunderstock Champion Andy Welter continued his steady climb up the ladder in this division. He went from 5th in 2009, 3rd in 2010 to Champion in 2011, but there won’t be another Thunderstock championship for him next year because he is moving up to the Late Model division in 2012. Welter collected 15 top fives and 5 feature wins on his way to the title. Brad Hetzel, John Daley, Ken Schrafnagel, and Nate Fick rounded out the top 5 with Tyler Schley taking home Thunderstock Rookie of the Year honors.

The Figure 8 Division was next to take the stage and returning champion Scott Goetzke stood on familiar ground as he not only repeated, he was crowned champion for the 5th straight year! Goetzke had a division leading 18 top fives to go with 5 feature wins on his way to claiming his 5th straight championship. In typical fashion Willy VanCamp spotted the field 4 races and still finished 2nd in the point standings. Willy had a division leading 7 wins. Rick Bruskiewicz finished 3rd in the standings but would pick up the title of hardest hit ever in the X. Rick’s pickup truck was destroyed late in the season from a direct hit in the X with Ryan Lovald. Cop car driver Brandon Wolf and Shane “THE SHARK” Becker rounded out the top five.

The Midwest Sportsman Division was dominated by the 2011 Champion, James Swan. Swan had a division leading 17 top fives, 10 fast times, and 11 feature wins. Over the last five seasons Swan has accumulated 22 Midwest Sportsman Feature wins and 22 Fast Times at Slinger Speedway. Second and Third place went to team mates Ryan Farrell and Dan Church. Farrell took the second place honors beating his car owner/team mate Dan Church. Jack Stern was fourth with Jay Shambeau fifth.

The Late Model division’s top honors went to Wayne Freimund. Wayne had a division leading 17 top tens to go with 2 feature wins. Wayne thanked his engine builder Motor Masters and said his Championship wouldn’t have been possible without them. He also thanked Dan Church for his support. Alex Prunty claimed the second spot in the Late Model standings and he also picked up the Late Model Rookie of the Year award. Alex had a division leading 4 fast times and also picked up 2 feature wins. Dave McCardle was third in points with 16 top tens and one feature win. John DeAngelis was fourth with one feature win while Jerry Mueller rounded out the top five. The Late Model Champion also had the honor of drawing the name of the Five Star Race Car body’s $500 gift certificate. Wayne Freimund pulled Alex Prunty’s name from the hat.

The final awards of the evening went to the Super Late Model division. Jeremy Lepak was the last one standing on the stage after being crowned the 2011 Champion. Lepak teamed up with legendary car owner Jerry Gunderman in a chase for the 2011 Slinger Speedway Super Late Model Championship, something Jerry Gunderman had not yet accomplished; together they dominated the season. Lepak led the division with 14 top fives and 7 feature wins. Lepak also won the three race Pepsi Challenge Series by winning two of the races and finishing 4th in the other. Lepak thanked Wayne Erickson, B&B engines, a long list of supporters, his sponsors, his wife, his crew, and his car owner, Jerry Gunderman.

Lepak, who had said on the day he clinched the championship that it felt so surreal had a few months to reflect on his accomplishment and to see if it had sunk in yet.

“I think tonight helped it sink in quite a bit,” said Lepak. “On the ride down it still hadn’t sunk in yet, but I think when I walked up there for everything, get the trophy, do the speech, you know I think it helped to sink it in.”

Considering the laundry list of drivers who have driven for Jerry Gunderman, Lepak was genuinely honored to be able to be mentioned with the great drivers who held that seat before him.

“Is that number unreal?” asked Lepak. “Are the names on there incredible? I think that list helped me understand that when I walk into the shop and I know the history there. Then you hear the names read off and yours is on that list. To be with those drivers….that’s enough said. I don’t even know what to say about it.”

When you consider the drivers that have driven for Jerry Gunderman, and that Lepak gave him just his second ever championship, it is definitely an accomplishment worth noting. Names like Bobby and Davey Allison, Alan Kulwicki, Mark Martin, Ted Musgrave, Scott Hansen, Darrell Waltrip, Neil Bonnett, Harry Gant, Ken Schrader, Matt Kenseth, Dick Trickle, Kyle Petty, Jimmy Johnson, and scores of others have all piloted a Gunderman car and have recorded numerous victories.

Jeremy Lepak’s name is now next to Mark Martins (’86 ASA) as the only two championship drivers for Jerry Gunderman.

“I was very honest when I said he (Gunderman) could have any driver he wanted,” said Lepak. “I firmly believe that. But when I see my name on those cars it’s incredible. It’s a hell of an accomplishment.”

Steve Apel drove the Sonya’s Rose Danny and Sonya Delcamp owned car to second in the Championship Standings. Apel won 3 features in the Super Late Model division and one feature in the Late Model division. He also collect 8 top fives, 11 top tens and was fast qualifier twice.

The 3rd place finisher in the Super Late Models was 7 time Slinger Speedway Champion Lowell Bennett. Bennett had one feature win to go with 10 top fives, and 14 top ten finishes. Jon Reynolds Jr made the trek to Slinger Speedway each week from Rockford and wound up 4th in the standings. The 2011 Super Late Model Rookie of the year Rob Braun finished in fifth place. Chris Blawat, Mike Egan, Randy Schuler, Mike Graczkowski, and Conrad Morgan rounded out the top ten.

Jeremy Lepak had the honors of drawing the winner of the $900 Five Star Race Car Bodies award and he drew his own name. Proving he is the ultimate sportsman Lepak threw his name to the side and drew another name, this time Rob Braun’s ticket was the winner, Rob gladly accepted the gift from Five Star.

Todd Behling finished the evening by thanking many of the staff at Slinger Speedway along with other supporters, and that put an end to the 2011 season at Slinger Speedway.