IDENTIFYING FAVORITE FOR TUNDRA ROUND FIVE A GUESSING GAME
A win for Nick Panitzke (22) would go a long way toward the title chase. He’ll have to fend off hungry TUNDRA Travelers, Outsiders and Marshfield regulars Saturday Night (Jeff Blaser Photo)
PORTAGE, Wis. (August 6, 2013) – A quick scan of the 35 drivers on the early entry list for TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Five at Marshfield Motor Speedway stirs some intrigue as to which driver will reign supreme this coming Saturday, August 10.
Should TUNDRA point leader Nick Panitzke be labeled the favorite?
Panitzke admits he’s struggled at the half-mile in the past. To make sure he wouldn’t be trying to remedy those struggles Saturday, Panitzke and his team headed to Marshfield a week early. The trip should have eased their minds as Panitzke set the fastest lap in qualifying.
In the race Panitzke hung back and waited for the field to spread out. By the time it did, he began his charge, but was only able to race to seventh before the checkered fell. It was still a successful day in Panitzke’s book as they left with a few ideas to come back with for Round Five.
“There are a couple different things that will play a factor. We’ll come back change some little things and hopefully be a little faster.”
One question is whether or not the TUNDRA point lead will play a factor in how Panitzke approaches Marshfield. With only two races left he holds an 11-point advantage over Dalton Zehr.
A strong run at Marshfield could give Panitzke some insurance heading into TUNDRA’s Championship Round at Slinger on September 8.
“It’s important to us, but the main thing is to come out here and compete,” he said. “We’re not racing any one or two guys in particular. We want to get the best out of every race that we can.”
Panitzke may also have to worry about his team driver Cardell Potter who was lightning quick last Saturday before a broken trailing arm ended his race early. Potter will be racing for only pride as Panitzke will continue to shoulder the load for the team.
Another driver that Panitzke may see closing in the rearview mirror after Round Five is current Marshfield point leader Eugene Gregorich Jr. Gregorich is tied for sixth in TUNDRA standings, but expects to have a strong run at what he considers his home track.
“It’s nice to finally get one at a track we’re comfortable with. We’ve been here a long time and won a couple of championships, so we should have a good run.”
The season has been up and down for Gregorich. With strong runs at LaCrosse and Jefferson, Gregorich feels as though he should be in better position in the TUNDRA points. Marshfield may be the race that puts him back in the title hunt.
“We need to have that good run here,” Gregorich said. “We struggled a little bit at Golden Sands which was unexpected for us, but coming here hopefully gives us a shot. I think Slinger is going to be a wild card.”
Before that wild card race can play any sort of factor, Gregorich will have to make the necessary repairs to his machine after being involved in an accident at Golden Sands last Friday. This past Saturday night he borrowed Wisz Racing’s machine normally driven by Chris Brooks. Gregorich led a good portion of the race only to lose the lead to Ben Pettis with less than five laps remaining.
Gregorich is fairly certain he’ll be in his own machine this Saturday, but was putting out some feelers for a spare machine just in case. Should he be back in his ride he expects to be right on point.
“It’ll be nice to kind of relax. We have a setup and we’re not going to venture far from it,” he said. I always have confidence we’re going to win here; we’ve won a lot of races here.”
Another TUNDRA Traveler/Marshfield regular who will attract attention come Saturday will be Paige Decker. Decker is the most recent winner in TUNDRA action.
Her historic win in TUNDRA Round Four at Golden Sands has given Decker a boost of confidence she said – one that may keep her up front at Marshfield.
“We hadn’t won a race yet, so to go out there and win and make such an impact, it was really awesome,” she said. “I want to go into (Marshfield) and feel comfortable. We’re almost there. I’m hoping to go into the next race with some confidence.”
Tied with Gregorich for sixth in standings, Decker also has point racing on her mind. The Championship is a bit of an afterthought for Decker as she has zeroed in on clinching the Dean’s Satellite Rookie of the Year title. She holds a three-point lead over Matt Pyburn.
“I need a comfortable lead. It’s a little nerve wracking,” she said. “Our goal was to win Rookie of the Year so we’d like to accomplish that goal.”
There are several other TUNDRA travelers who wouldn’t mind playing the role of favorite on Saturday as well. Dalton Zehr saw his lead over Nick Panitzke go away at Marshfield. The Florida driver has had past success at Marshfield and will hope to keep things close or regain his title lead before heading to Slinger.
Matt Pyburn will be another TUNDRA Traveler to watch. The rookie has enjoyed a great deal of success in feature finishes this year. Although he hasn’t raced a great deal in his Super Late Model at Marshfield, he does hold a Super Stock track record. A strong run from Pyburn could sway the rookie battle back in his favor upon exit of Round Five.
Several outsiders could make life a little more difficult for the TUNDRA Travelers looking to settle point battles. Marshfield regulars and two standouts from Central Wisconsin became immediate threats upon filing their entries for Round Five.
Jeremy Lepak and Neil Knoblock will both be making their TUNDRA debuts. The former Slinger Champion Lepak will be piloting a team car to Chad Devine. Knoblock will bring his own racer and is fairly confident he will be up front.
Of the Marshfield contingent expected to enter it may be toughest to knock off Mark Eswein. Eswein has plenty of feature wins and fast times at Marshfield and is fully prepared to turn back any traveler who may stand in his way. Youngsters Collin Reffner and Ryan Hinner should also be on the radar. Both drivers have Super Stock championships at Marshfield to boast and have found the quick way around in Super Late Models as well. Long time Marshfield ace Dean LaPointe will also be hoping to make his mark.
Qualifying for Round Five is scheduled for 5 p.m. at Marshfield Motor Speedway this Saturday. Racing is scheduled to begin at 6:40. TUNDRA will host a 40-lap feature event plus a Waterfurnace Shootout for non-qualified cars. TUNDRA will be joined by the Marshfield Super Stocks, Xtreme 4 Cylinders and Bandits.
Marshfield Motor Speedway is located at 10853 County Road H just outside of Marshfield, Wis. For more information visit www.marshfieldspeedway.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).