A QUICK HISTORY OF TUNDRA AT DELLS RACEWAY PARK
PORTAGE, Wis. (September 18, 2018) – The TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes heads back to its birthplace this Sunday, Sept. 23 for the 15th visit in series history. TUNDRA began as the Alive For Five Series at Dells Raceway Park in 2011 and raced exclusively at the track in its first two seasons.
The inception of TUNDRA began after the 2010 season when Tom Lichtfeld worked with then-track owner Joe Graziano and his staff to bring Super Late Model racing back to the track. An experimental business plan was put into place for the 2011 season and proved to be a success.
The very first Alive For Five race on May 28, 2011 saw a total of 17 entries. That night also saw the debut of the concrete inside line in turns three and four. Frank Kreyer became accustomed to the new line the quickest of all and wrestled the lead away from Troy Nelson with just two laps remaining in the 55-lap feature.
As car counts continued to grow, more notable drivers would enter the Alive For Five/TUNDRA record books. That’s exactly what Dalton Zehr did on July 1, 2011. After missing the first event Zehr made a huge splash by winning in his AFF debut. He worked his way past Nelson early, and did not look back.
Zehr became the first repeat winner just three weeks later in Round Three. He had to repel a few challengers on restarts, but ultimately Zehr proved to be too strong holding off the likes of Kreyer and former DRP Champion Kenny Reiser.
Threatened by an ominous forecast, Round Four of the 2011 season appropriately was won by Jeff Storm. Storm built an early lead, but saw it shrink once Kreyer got to Second. Kreyer chased down Storm from a straightaway back and provided several late challenges. This race also was a crowning moment for the series as 29 entries joined for the event.
On September 10, 2011 the series wrapped up with former Late Model Track Champion Corey Jankowski flexing his muscle. Jankowski set fast time and ran through the feature field. Kreyer finished Second for the fourth consecutive race and locked up the title.
In 2012 it was apparent the series was more than alive, so the group switched its name to The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) and set up for a heart-stopping five-race series once again.
Rich Bickle set the tone in the first race of 2012 on May 27. By winning the opener he picked up his 14th straight win at Dells Raceway Park dating back to 1989. Bickle had to move past Zehr, then hold off Dennis Prunty on yet another rainy Saturday evening.
Prunty emerged with his first TUNDRA win in the following event on June 17. After seizing an early lead, a late caution almost dashed Prunty’s chances. With six laps remaining a restart brought both Kreyer and Tanner Whitten to challenge.
In Round Three on July 22, Zehr got back to his winning ways. Although he built up a large lead, Zehr saw it shrink in lapped traffic. That allowed Bickle to chase him down and challenge with less than ten laps remaining in the race. However, Zehr (just 21 at the time) proved he could hang with the veterans and stay calm under pressure. This event saw a total of 30 entrants, the highest to that point for a TUNDRA event.
Just like the year before, Zehr grabbed TUNDRA wins in a pair as he claimed Round Four of 2012 on August 25. This race was marred with cautions. Zehr and fellow front-row starter John Zimmerman were the only two not involved in an incident. One of the major incidents claimed top point drivers Bickle, Prunty, and Jankowski…setting up for wild final points night in 2012.
On that final night Dennis Prunty did exactly what he needed to do in Round Five to claim the 2012 TUNDRA title. He secured the lead early and held off Steve Rubeck late in the going. Fate helped Prunty a bit as both Bickle and Zehr experienced troubles in the feature event.
After a year traveling in 2013, the series returned for a stop on August 23, 2014. A driver who quickly was surging in the Super Late Model ranks – Ty Majeski – picked up his first TUNDRA win. At the time Majeski became the youngest series winner at 20 years and 5 days old.
One season later, in the midst of a tight point battle, Majeski went back-to-back with another win at DRP. Unlike his dominant win in the season before, Majeski had to sweat out some tough challengers on a hot night in July of 2015. Zehr and Cole Anderson had scrapped for the lead for a good portion of the race before Majeski closed in. Once Majeski had cleared Anderson he chased down Zehr and moved past him with six laps remaining.
In 2016 TUNDRA paid DRP a visit in early June. Once again weather played a factor as rains paused the race early in the going. After the track was dried Prunty started to pick his way through the field. Unfortunately for Mike Lichtfeld, his machine experienced electrical issues, handing the lead to Prunty. Later in the race eventual 2016 Champion Casey Johnson closed in, but could not seal the deal.
Last season the TUNDRA date moved to the month of September, but it felt like mid-July with temperatures over 90 degrees. The heat didn’t bother Jordan Thiel as he claimed his first TUNDRA win by outdueling Cole Anderson. Once again, there was a tough break for Lichtfeld who broke a shock mount while dominating the feature. The September event also brought the Championship crowning back to DRP where Zehr, his team, and car owner Wayne Brevik were able to celebrate.
This season TUNDRA will have a new format in order to make up for the lost Golden Sands event. As a throwback to the Alive for Five days, the series will run two 55-lap features and award points and purse for both. There will be bonus money for the best overall finishers. TUNDRA will be joined by the Midwest Truck Series and Wisconsin Sport Trucks. Fan gates open at noon, qualifying at 12:30 p.m., racing begins at 2.
Dells Raceway Park is located at N1070 Smith Road just north of downtown Wisconsin Dells. For more information visit www.dellsracewaypark.com