By Dan Margetta
Slinger, Wis., May 2—Eric Fransen wore out the competition Sunday afternoon at the Slinger Super Speedway, driving to a convincing win in the season-opening Miller Lite 120 over Lowell Bennett and Dennis Prunty.
“The car was so good today,” Fransen stated afterwards, “I was just able to save the tires for the final laps and then I was on Cruise Control.”
Randy Schuler brought the field to the green and set the early pace, leading the opening laps while Prunty used the inside groove to snag second place from outside front-row starter Mike Egan as Bennett and Mike Meyerhofer followed in their tire tracks. Prunty pressured Schuler handily for the lead before reverting to the outside lane, making the pass to take command of the race on lap 12. Prunty edged ahead slightly with Schuler falling into the clutches of Egan, who opened the door to the inside to advance to the runner-up slot a few laps later. With Schuler caught in the upper groove, Bennett, Meyerhofer, and Jeff Holtz all took advantage of the open inside lane to charge into the top five by lap 15. Steve Apel became the first casualty of the event when a broken trailing arm bracket sent him to the sidelines on lap 17 while the top five remained stable as both Fransen and Conrad Morgan began to march toward the front in sixth and seventh respectively. The leaders began to maneuver their way around lapped traffic by lap 30 and Meyerhofer’s strong run came to an end a lap later when slight contact with a lapped machine sent his car careening hard off the turn four wall before rebounding back down the track where it was struck by the car of Tom Hromadka, drawing the first caution flag of the event.
Prunty led Egan and Bennett on the restart and Bennett darted to the inside to first pick off Egan for second and then Prunty for the lead on lap 34. Fransen followed Bennett’s moves in the inside lane to race into second place a lap later, leaving Prunty and Egan to battle Al Schill for the third position. After a few laps of hard racing, Schill was able to take the spot by lap 40, sending Prunty and Egan to fourth and fifth place respectively while Bennett maintained the lead over Fransen. After Austin Luedtke looped his machine in turn two to produce a caution flag on lap 53, Bennett and Fransen renewed their battle for the top spot with the halfway mark approaching. Fransen was able to clear Bennett for the lead on lap 59 just before the scheduled slow-down at lap 60 and the field headed for the break with Fransen leading over Bennett, Schill, Prunty, Egan, and Brad Keith.
With the second half of the race underway, Bennett shot to the point on lap 61 but couldn’t shake Fransen, who stalked him for the lead for several laps as behind them, Prunty charged around Schill for third by lap 78. Fransen’s car was hooked up beautifully on the inside and was better off the corners than Bennett’s ride as noticed by several slight taps to Bennett’s bumper as the two exited both the second and fourth turns. Bennett couldn’t keep his car down to inside under the sustained pressure and Fransen was able to duck to the inside to take command of the race on lap 81. Once out front, Fransen began to pull away, building up a lead as much as a straightaway by lap 105 while farther back, Egan raced his way around Schill to take fourth. The best battle on the speedway was over the sixth position as Brad Dahmer, Randy Schuler, Conrad Morgan, and Brad Keith all fought intensely for the spot. In the final lap, the fender-rubbing duel between them, produced some anxious moments for the leader as contact with Morgan, sent Keith’s car momentarily airborne directly in front of Fransen, who was racing toward the checkered flag. Fransen avoided any problems and all the drivers kept control of their cars as Fransen charged to the victory over Bennett and Prunty. Egan took the checkered flag with a strong fourth place result and Schill crossed the finish line in fifth. Brad Dahmer finished in sixth ahead of Schuler and Morgan in seventh and eighth place respectively. Keith and Frank Nitzke completed the top ten finishers.
“That was all this No. 2 car had today,” Bennett said following the race, “He (Fransen) just had us covered, but we’ll take second and go on from here.”
“With the tires we had, I couldn’t run the outside like I wanted to,” Prunty stated after finishing third, “It took me three laps to pass cars on the outside and it shouldn’t have been that way. I should have been racing for the lead.”
Conrad Morgan took the victory in the fast dash and Fransen was the afternoon’s fastest qualifier with a lap of 11.507 seconds.
Pat McIntee started his season off on the right track, leading the 35-lap late model feature wire to wire to score the win.
McIntee jumped to the lead at the drop of the green flag while Chris Blawat, Dan Wood, Wayne Freimund, and Mike Graczkowski all battled for second. Graczkowski took over second place by lap 5 followed by Blawat, Freimund and Wood. One lap later, Blawat made contact with the frontstretch wall and rode the concrete all the way through turn one to bring out the caution flag with McIntee leading over Graczkowski, Freimund, and Wood. McIntee was on the mark for the restart and he maintained the lead while behind him, things got dicey when Wood looped around in turn two and sliced his way through the heavy traffic untouched and into the infield grass as the race remained under green. With McIntee holding the point over Graczkowski, Ryan DeStefano began to move forward, using the inside lane in turn one to take over third place, bringing Jake Vanoskey with him into fourth as Freimund was relegated to fifth. Vanoskey was able to race his way into third place a few laps later while McIntee continued to lead. Working his way through lapped traffic in the final laps, McIntee could not be caught and he charged to the victory over Graczkowski and Vanoskey while Ryan DeStefano and Freimund completed the top five finishers.
Earlier, Dan Wood capped off his first ever late model race with a victory in the fast dash while Dave McCardle was the fastest qualifier at 12.581 seconds.
Jimmie Evans held off Jay Shambeau and James Swan to win the exciting and competitive 30 lap Midwest Sportsman feature event.
Evans took the lead at the start while Shambeau and Swan quickly worked their way through the field and into third and fourth place behind the leader Evans, and second running Mike Lang. Behind the top four, Scott Shambeau, Gregg Pawelski, and Mike Borchardt raced for position just before the caution flew on lap 11 when the hard racing between them sent Shambeau spinning on the frontstretch and Borchardt’s machine sliding to the infield to avoid the incident. As the green flag appeared, the race boiled down to a tense three-car battle for the win between Evans, Swan, and Shambeau with Evans and Shambeau nose to tail on the inside and Swan alongside Evans in the high groove. As the laps began to wind down, Swan’s car was strong on the outside but a loose condition in turn four prevented him from clearing Evans for the lead while Shambeau remained glued to his bumper in third. Evans was able to turn back Swan’s challenges on the final lap and as the three came to the stripe, Evans took the victory while Shambeau got a great run out of turn four to nip Swan at the line for second. Pawelski battled back to finish in fourth place followed by Brian Holtz and Borchardt.
Borchardt captured the win in the Midwest Sportsman fast dash and Swan set fast time for the division at 12.690 seconds.
Ryan Farrell bested a tight field to nail down the win in the 18-lap Thunderstock main event after a grueling four car battle for the victory.
Farrell, Andy Welter, Ken Schraufnagel, and Eric Lingford all traded the top spot in the closing laps all while threading their way through lapped traffic. Finally with three laps to go, Farrell darted to the inside on the backstretch and charged by Welter for the lead while Schraufnagel and Lingford occupied the lanes around directly behind them in a tight formation. Farrell was able to hold off strong challenges from both Welter and Schraufnagel to score the win while Welter edged Schraufnagel for second. Lingford finished in fourth place, just a tick behind the top three and just ahead of a fast closing Al Stippich in fifth. Earlier, Welter took the win in the Thunderstock fast dash and Farrell took top honors in qualifying with a lap of 13.701 seconds.
Mark Johler raced to a dominating win in the Nate Strobel 25 feature event for the Slinger Bees held in honor of the late Nate Strobel. Johler charged to the lead by lap ten and steadily pulled away from the field as Joe Lang sliced his way through traffic to take second place just ahead of Mike Held, Alex Prunty, and Nick Wagner. Johler built up a lead of nearly a straightaway in the final laps and cruised to the win while Lang settled for second place. Prunty used a late charge to finish third while Held and Wagner rounded out the top five.
Karl Gebhard took the win in the 12-lap Slinger Bee semi-feature over Dylon Ashbaugh and Jeremy Esser while Joe Shelby and Alexis Strobel were fourth and fifth respectively. Johler was also the Slinger Bees fastest qualifier after circling the speedway in 15.850 seconds.
Natalie Soto led flag to flag to win the Speedway Guest car event and Willie Van Camp closed the afternoon with a victory in the ten lap Figure 8 event.
This article was posted to the website on May 2nd, 2010