APEL WINS ROUND ONE OF PEPSI CHALLENGE SERIES

By Dan Margetta

Slinger, Wis., June 2—Steve Apel took the lead on lap 18 of the 60-lap Pepsi Challenge Series Round One super late model feature Sunday night at the Slinger Super Speedway and turned back a late charge from James Swan to score his first main event victory of the season.

“I just didn’t want to hit the wall coming off turn four, that was the biggest thing, “Apel said from victory lane describing the battle with Swan over the final laps, “I knew I had a car that could win and it was just a matter of hitting my marks and not making mistakes.”

“I was going to try and scratch his (Apel’s) rear bumper again, “ Swan told the crowd following his runner-up finish in which he had one final chance to wrestle the lead away from Apel, “I just got loose on that last lap and lifted a little too late and was out too far and got into the marbles. I held onto to it though and that was an awesome finish.”

Fred Winn and Chris Blawat brought the field to the green flag and Blawat raced to the early lead from the outside line as Winn battled with Travis Dassow for second, just ahead of Dennis Prunty, Steve Apel, and James Swan. Rob Braun, who scored his first career win a week ago, experienced a mechanical issue on lap three and as he slowed, the field gridlocked behind him, resulting in spins by Curt Tillman and Mike Graczkowski in turn four to draw a caution flag. Blawat held the lead for the restart while Dassow chose the outside groove at the cone and as racing resumed, Blawat remained out front while Dassow’s outside move proved costly as Prunty and Apel passed by on the inside. Prunty tracked down Blawat for the lead on lap 11 and Apel also worked his way around Blawat for second place a lap later. Prunty eased out to about a ten car length lead over Apel by lap 15 as further behind them, James Swan advanced to challenge the top five runners. Prunty’s night came to an abrupt end just three laps later when reported transmission problems forced him to retire to the infield while leading, handing the lead over to Apel who enjoyed a comfortable margin over Dassow, Blawat, and Swan. Swan continued his charge toward the front, working his way by Dassow for second place by lap 25 while Conrad Morgan joined the leaders by moving into fourth place ahead of Blawat and Fred Winn as they raced side by side over fifth. Blawat and Winn staged their door to door battle for several laps before both cars spun entering turn one on lap 38 to produce the second caution flag of the event with Apel’s sizeable lead over Swan erased. Swan chose to start outside of Apel for the restart by way of the cone and as the green flag waved, Apel was able to pull ahead from the inside lane. Swan maintained second place as Morgan advanced into third ahead of Dassow while behind them Lowell Bennett and Michael Bilderback scrapped for fifth place. Bilderback eventually claimed the fifth spot after a heated battle with Bennett while up front, Swan began to gradually close in on Apel for the lead. In the closing laps, Swan was able to reach Apel’s rear bumper but Apel proved to be too strong as he negated any challenges Swan was able to muster for the lead. On the final circuit, Swan made a charge into turn one, but when his car washed loose a bit in turn two, Apel was home free and he charged to the checkered flag for his first feature win of the season. Swan settled for second place at the stripe with Morgan coming home with a solid third place finish. Bilderback was able to edge Dassow to gain fourth place on the final lap, leaving Dassow to finish fifth. Lowell Bennett finished sixth ahead of Jeff Holtz and Dave McCardle in seventh and eighth place respectively. Mike Graczkowski and Fred Winn rounded out the top ten finishers.

Curt Tillman was declared the winner of the 20-lap super late model semi-feature after his front stretch spin while racing toward the checkered flag off the nose of Mike Egan was judged to be intentional by track officials. As a rule, the race was reverted to the last completed lap with the car involved in the incident placed at the rear of the field which resulted in Tillman being declared the winner over Tommy Hromadka and Jake Vanoskey. Super late model heat race wins were picked up by Mike Egan, Jeff Holtz, and Dennis Prunty while Steve Apel was the fastest qualifier with a lap of 11.498 seconds.

The late model team cars of Dan Church and Ryan Farrell nearly never made it to the race track after problems with the hauler on the way to the speedway threatened to prevent them from competing. The team arrived late to the speedway and in a strange twist of fate, Church and Farrell found themselves racing for the win in the 40-lap late model main event, with Church collecting the checkered flag for his first late model feature victory.

It was Farrell who jumped out to a commanding lead early on and he seemed poised to cruise to victory as his advantage grew while those behind him all raced hard for position. Church eventually broke from the pack and began to track Farrell down for the lead as the laps began to click away. On the final lap, Church caught Farrell and made a bid for the lead on the high side entering turn three. As they raced alongside each other, Farrell’s car broke loose from the inside and he looped his car around off turn four as Church raced to the stripe to collect the victory. With Farrell’s car sitting in the infield, Braison Bennett claimed second place following a spirited battle with Alex Prunty who finished third. Ryan DeStefano and Mike Lichtfeld rounded out the top five.

Steve Schulz and Mike Lichtfeld each took top honors in the two late model heat races while Dan Church set fast time with a lap of 12.497 seconds.

Kody Hubred drove to a convincing win in the Area Sportsman feature, dominating the event en route to victory. Kyle Chwala’s crew repaired his car following a hard heat race crash and he completed the feature with a strong second place performance while Jim Tate Jr. finished a close third. Joe Shelby crossed the finish line in fourth place while Nick Egan rounded out the top five.

Kody Hubred also won the Area Sportsman heat race over Jim Tate Jr. and Joe Shelby and fast qualifier honors went to Jim Tate Jr. with a lap of 13.111 seconds.

Steve Dickson won the 25-lap Slinger Bee feature after charging to the lead just past the halfway mark. Nick Schmidt finished a strong second while Ricky Heinan took the checkered flag in third place. Marty Tackes and Zachary Clark rounded out the top five finishers.

Dale Kiley-Schaefer won the Slinger Bee semi-feature over Allen Maher and Nicole Mueller. Zane Schmeling and Kevin Bush were fourth and fifth respectively. Slinger Bee heat race wins were recorded by Jacob Thomas, Dale Kiley-Schaefer, and Marty Tackes while Brandon Tackes was the fastest qualifier at 14.913 seconds.

Al Roberts drove his pick-up truck to the win in the Spectator Eliminator events and Scott Goetzke held off Willie Van Camp to win the 10-lap Figure 8 race.