TUNDRA ROUND FOUR WRAP UP NOTES
Frank Nitzke battled Brandon Selle at Norway (Eamon Bauman photo)
NORWAY, Mich. (July 10, 2014) – When Casey Johnson set fast time and picked up a feature win in TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round Three at Jefferson he accomplished a feat that was nearly three years in the making.
To see that feat repeated again only took two weeks as Dalton Zehr turned the quickest lap and grabbed a win in Round Four Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes. The win allowed Zehr to take a 16-point lead in the standings at the midway point of the 2014 season.
Speaking of Points…
Although Zehr was able to build up a lead the TUNDRA point battle is far from over. Eugene Gregorich sits second, just 16 points back. Last season Gregorich recorded finishes of second (LaCrosse) and first (Marshfield) – the next two stops for TUNDRA. Nick Panitzke still sits third, and within striking distance of the top two. With Mackesy able to hold serve at Norway, Ty Majeski will jump back into the TUNDRA battle to complete the season. He has been tough to beat elsewhere, but is still looking for his first TUNDRA win. Bobby Kendall will be happy to start heading back into more familiar territory as he now sits fifth in standings only 31 points back.
One Out of Three Ain’t Bad
If Meatloaf knew how hard it was to go up against Zehr and the TUNDRA gang, he may have revised the song. Zehr has now won seven of his 19 TUNDRA starts (he missed the first Alive For Five Race in 2011). Norway marked the 20th race in series history, meaning Zehr visits victory lane roughly once in every three events.
Fast Qualifier Hot Streak
Setting fast time has been a good omen for the four different drivers who have turned the quickest trips in qualifying this season. Bobby Kendall (WIR) and Eugene Gregorich Jr (Golden Sands) both finished second in addition to Johnson (Jefferson) and Zehr (Norway) who picked up wins. Last season fast qualifiers in TUNDRA events recorded finishes of third (twice), fourth (three times) and recorded one DNF.
Swapping the Lead
Five different drivers showed the way at Norway, the highest number of different leaders the series has seen in the past three years. Travis Dassow, Michael Bilderback, Nick Panitzke, Dan Lindsley and Zehr all paced the pack in the 60-lap main.
Top Five Troubles
The finishing order could have had a very different complexion if not for the bad luck of several drivers. Michael Bilderback was running second until water started spewing from his machine and he retired to the pit area. Claire Decker was running third until her machine lost power under caution. Billy Mohn was on his way to a solid top five finish until he was forced to the pit area to change a flat tire. Even though Nick Panitzke held in the top five, he experienced troubles with the brakes on his machine, costing him the chance to contend for the win.
Lindsley Bests Locals
A dozen locals jumped into action against the TUNDRA Travelers at Norway. The top performer of the Friday night regulars was Dan Lindlsey who qualified and finished second. Defending Stateline Challenge winner Dillon Kralovetz just missed the cut in qualifying, but made his way into the main through the Gong Show. Tom Lindquist punched his ticket to the main by winning a wild second last-chance qualifying race. Scott Stanchina also made the start based on a provisional from Norway Speedway standings.
Good Central Wisconsin Showing
A trio of drivers from Central Wisconsin made strong late runs at Norway. Mark Mackesy made his first trip to Norway since 1995 worthwhile by working his way to third from the 14th starting spot. Frank Nitzke picked his way through the field and climbed to a top five finish from the 16th starting spot. Jeremy Lepak also made a nice charge through the field to sixth. He started 19th after winning the Gong Show.
Rough One for the Rookies
Reagan May and Tommy Gee may have had the most experience at Norway, but it was Mike Lichtfeld who had the best run of the Dean’s Satellite rookies at Norway. In his first trip to the facility Lichtfeld survived to finish ninth. Gee made the most of his day, moving to 12th after winning a last chance and starting 21st on the grid. Reagan May appeared to be the quickest of the rookies, but a tangle with Travis Dassow ended her bid for a top ten. Wyatt Blashe may have had the worst luck of the pack. He was involved in a tangle in the last chance race which ended his day.
Passing points were a saving grace for Gee. He retook the rookie point lead by 10 markers over May. Lichtfeld sits 17 back of Gee. Blashe is 64 back.
Ives Survives, Moves Up Again
At his home track Jordan Ives was viewed as a favorite. Although he may not have had the day he had hoped for, the young up-and-comer had another solid day. After an early incident with Nitzke, Ives was able to storm back to the top ten and record an eighth-place finish. His run put him up to ninth in TUNDRA standings – it is the first time he has appeared in the top ten.
Country Plumber Shootout to Bauknecht
Drivers making their TUNDRA debuts are three for three in the Country Plumber Shootout this year. Not one of them is over the age of 23 either. Tyler Bauknecht secured a win in his TUNDRA debut by dominated the CP Shootout. His fellow winners of the event this season include 18-year-old Austin Nason (WIR) and 16-year-old Natalie Decker (Golden Sands).
15 Year Old on the Podium
Also making his debut worthwhile in the CP Shootout was Kingsford Mich. driver Cory Cootware. The 15-year-old Norway Speedway rookie placed third in the event, making him the youngest driver in TUNDRA history to grab a podium finish in either the A feature or the CP Shootout.
TUNDRA will take a three-week break before springing into action for two consecutive weeks. It will be the first time in TUNDRA history that races have been run on consecutive weekends.
Round Five is scheduled for Saturday, July 26 at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis. The following week, Saturday, August 2, TUNDRA will travel to Marshfield Motor Speedway for Round Six.
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.
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