GREGORICH A HOMETOWN HERO IN ROUND FIVE
Eugene Gregorich Jr. (14) passes Cardell Potter for the lead in TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Five (Tommy Loos Photo)
MARSHFIELD, Wis. (August 10, 2013) – Throughout the TUNDRA Super Late Model season Eugene Gregorich Jr. had been foreshadowing a good chance of success in Round Five at Marshfield Motor Speedway. On Saturday night, even though he didn’t sleep much the night before, the two-time Marshfield Champ turned that dream into a reality.
“I knew this was going to be our time to show the [other TUNRDA Travelers] that we’ve got something for them and things worked out,” Gregorich, of Amherst, Wis., said. “Right from the drop of the green I knew that it was going to be a good car all night.”
Gregorich and several team members pulled a near all-nighter to prepare his machine for the 50-lap main event. After sustaining damage in a race at Golden Sands two weeks ago Gregorich finally found some good luck on the track where he claims he has turned the most laps. Several early cautions allowed Gregorich to move to the front, take the lead on lap eight and turn aside several challenges on restarts.
“Everything kind of opened up for us,” he said. “We had a fairly clear shot. It was one of those deals where we were at the right place at the right time.”
Starting ninth in the 26-car main event, Gregorich caught a break right at the start of the feature. Outside pole-sitter Davey Pennel sagged back and the inside line made a quick jump through the first two circuits. By the time lap three clicked off Gregorich was up to third behind pole-sitter Cardell Potter and Billy Mohn.
The first caution of the race came on lap six when Jeremy Lepak spun in turn one. With the TUNDRA Barrel placed, Potter and Mohn squared off in the front row. Gregorich selected the inside of the second row and was flanked to the high side by Mark Eswein.
A jousting match ensued after the green flag between Mohn and Potter. Mohn initially got the jump, but Potter dashed back to the lead on the inside line of turn three. Unable to tuck back in line, Mohn was forced to watch Gregorich slide to the runner up spot and begin challenging for the lead. Gregorich surveyed quickly and stole the lead from Potter exiting turn four on lap eight.
Before Gregorich had the chance to build on his advantage, a second caution flag flew when Frank Nitzke’s machine went up in smoke at the pit entrance. By this point on lap ten fast qualifier Brandon Selle and dash winner Dalton Zehr were on the heels of Colin Reffner for the final spot in the top five. After the caution those three continued their battle with unfortunate circumstances.
Two laps after the restart Selle and Reffner were racing in close quarters. Selle was sent spinning off the backstretch, and with nowhere to go Dalton Zehr went off track as well. Selle’s car was too badly damaged to continue. Zehr, who entered just 11 points behind Nick Panitzke in the TUNDRA title chase also saw his day come to an end as he spun and nearly launched off the berm.
With two top contenders out of the event, Gregorich continued to capitalize on his chance to dominate in front of his family, friends and sponsors. The strongest challenges came from Billy Mohn on several restarts, but Gregorich was able to keep him at bay.
“With that many restarts he starts learning what you’re doing so it’s easier for him to get a jump,” Gregorich said. “You try to mix it up and maybe he catches you once, but the next time hopefully you get him.”
Mohn’s final restart chance came on lap 22 as a result of a skirmish between the top two Dean’s Satellite Rookie of the Year contenders. Just outside the top ten Matt Pyburn and Paige Decker were racing for the same plot of real estate entering turn three. The end result was Pyburn’s machine jumping on the hood of Decker’s as the two slid off the track and came to a rest just before riding the berm. Both drivers were ok.
After a red flag for the cleanup, Gregorich and Mohn once again stared each other down to the green flag. The end result was the same as Gregorich pulled away and went uncontested over the final 18 circuits.
Behind Gregorich, Mohn, Potter, Eswein and Panitzke scrambled for spots in the top five. Potter returned to the runner up spot on lap 25, only to be overtaken by Eswein five laps later. Potter later relinquished a spot to Mohn and eventually to his TUNDRA co-point leader Nick Panitzke. With just four laps to go Panitzke took the opportunity to steal one more spot from Mohn and round out the podium.
“That’s all we were hoping for. We figured this was our last shot,” Gregorich said of sealing the win at Marshfield. “Slinger is one of those tracks where not a lot of [TUNDRA Travelers] race. It’s going to open it up to whoever stays clean and brings the best car. I feel we have a really good car for every track.”
A late run through the field, coupled with Zehr’s DNF allowed Panitzke to stretch his point lead to 39 markers and put a virtual stranglehold on the TUNDRA title heading to Slinger’s Round Six in September.
“It’s in the back of our minds really. We really want to go to Slinger and do well more than focus on points,” Panitzke said. “It’s really not playing too big of a role. That’s why we’re doing things the way we are. We’re still racing hard.”
The late run was all a part of the plan after coming to compete at the facility a week before, Panizke said.
“If we learned one thing from last week when we came here and tested it’s just conserve,” Panitzke said. “I guess I should have picked a little earlier time to get going. I don’t know if I would have had anything for the two locals that are obviously pretty quick here.”
Eswein’s second-place finish met his goals. Although he didn’t get his chance to contend with Gregorich, he was content with a car that was far better on the short runs that it was during the early cautions.
“I knew I could probably at least get to second seeing the tendencies of the cars ahead of me were and how good this one was getting on the long run,” Eswein said.
To contend among the 37 entries and come out with a podium at one of his home tracks left the long-time Central Wisconsin ace with a good impression. “It’s a fairly inexpensive way to travel and it was nice for me to come here because it’s close to home. We’ll see what kind of mood we’re in by the time TUNDRA goes to Slinger.”
When TUNDRA does head to Slinger for the sixth and final round it will be Gregorich in the runner up spot. To gain 39 points would require fast time and a max invert of 14 for Gregorich to make up 39 points in the feature on Panitzke. If Panitzke makes the dash, the invert is less than 14 or someone else sets fast time, he will seal the title.
Behind Panitzke, however, plenty of battles will be left to decide. The separation from Gregorich to Pyburn in seventh is a mere 20 points. Pyburn and Decker will also have a Rookie of the Year battle to settle as he leads her by four points. Should they falter again, Claire Decker sits just 19 points back.
More details of TUNDRA Round Six at Slinger Speedway on Sunday afternoon, September 8 will be available as the event nears. All weekly Slinger divisions except the Super Late Models will crown Champions on that afternoon.
Most weekly Slinger Super Late Models have expressed interest in joining what could be TUNDRA’s strongest car count in the three-year history of the series.
Slinger Speedway is located off of Hwy 41 and Highway 144 at 280 Cedar Creek Road, Slinger Wisconsin 53086. For more information visitwww.slingersuperspeedway.com
The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) Super Late Model Series was formed in 2011 as the Alive For Five Super Late Model Series at Dells Raceway Park. TUNDRA’s business plan is based on a sustainable program for promoters and race teams alike, while still providing high-quality Super Late Model entertainment to fans.
For more information on TUNDRA including news, results and standings, archived results and standings, the 2013 schedule and more visit www.tundrasuperlates.com. Also, interact with us on Facebook (facebook.com/TundraSuperLateModels) or Twitter (@TUNDRAslms).