TUNDRA PRE RACE NOTES: ROUND ONE – WISCONSIN INT’L RACEWAY
About the Event
- Date: Saturday, May 11, 2019
- Official Event Name: Kroll’s West Round One Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes
- Times: 1 p.m. – Pits Open, 5 p.m. – Ticket Sales, 5:30 p.m. – Qualifying, 6:45 p.m. – Racing
- Other Divisions – Midwest Compact Series, Wisconsin Sport Trucks, Figure 8s
- TUNDRA Format – Qualifying, Fast Five Dash, Qualifying Heats, Last Chance, Feature
- Ticket Prices: Adults (13 and up) $13, Youth (12 and under) Free
About Wisconsin International Raceway:
- Layout: Banked D-shape, Half-mile (asphalt)
- Location: W1460 Cty Rd KK, Kaukauna, WI 54130
- Phone: (920) 766-5577
- Web site: www.wirmotorsports.com
Past TUNDRA WIR Winners:
- May 10, 2014 – Dalton Zehr
- May 9, 2015 – Ty Majeski
- May 8, 2016 – Ty Majeski
- May 14, 2017 – Steve Apel
- May 13, 2018 – Dennis Prunty
TUNDRA 2019 Schedule
- May 11 – Round One – Wisconsin International Raceway
- June 8 – Round Two – Marshfield Motor Speedway
- July 6 – Round Three – Dells Raceway Park
- July 20 – Round Four – Jefferson Speedway
- August 3 – Round Five – State Park Speedway
- September 2 – Round Five – Golden Sands Speedway
Expected Entries: www.tundrasuperlates.com/2019/05/power-packed-tundra-field-prepared-for-round-one/
Johnson Begins Title Defense
In 2019 Casey Johnson will have the opportunity to do something he didn’t in 2017 – defend his TUNDRA Championship. After winning the 2016 title Johnson assumed the role of Crew Chief for John Beale. Beale went on to have an impressive season by grabbing top rookie honors and finishing Third in the season standings.
Johnson left little doubt this off-season that he was planning to return and defend his crown. The only question mark will be which car he will utilize at a given event. For the opener Johnson is slated to use the Chase Motorsports 47 – the car in which he won the Fox River Racing Club Super Late Model Championship last season.
The team itself has some history in the TUNDRA event at WIR. Dalton Zehr was victorious in the first ever TUNDRA race at the half-mile driving for Chase Motorsports. Two seasons ago Travis Sauter put the car on the podium with a Third Place finish.
Despite winning the Championship, Johnson did not score a feature win last season in TUNDRA action (although he scored the overall bonus during the double features at the Dells). He will be looking to rectify that quickly on Saturday. Last season Johnson set fast time and finished Fourth in the opener.
So Many Contenders
If Casey Johnson used rear view mirrors, he would see plenty of competition trying to take his place on the TUNDRA throne. It will be many of the same faces who took him to the very last laps of the season in 2018.
The entire Top Ten from last year’s TUNDRA standings plan to return to full-time competition this season. Of those drivers success has been mixed in the season opener at WIR. Dennis Prunty recorded a win last season. Colin Reffner has recorded two Top Fives in two starts. Mike Lichtfeld cracked the podium last season. Brent Strelka won the final feature of the Thursday night season at WIR.
Should these or any other driver find a way to Victory Lane, it could set the tone for a battle down to the wire with Johnson.
What’s with These “Slinger” Guys?
It seems drivers with ties to Slinger Speedway have incredible success in the TUNDRA opener at WIR – most notably Steve Apel and Dennis Prunty.
The pair of Slinger Champs duked it out in the final laps of last year’s race. Prunty emerged on top and Apel had to settle for yet another podium finish. Apel, who is also a former Red, White and Blue Champion has finished no worse than Third in his four TUNDRA starts at WIR. He won the event in 2017.
As for Prunty, last year’s win propelled him and his teammate Neil Knoblock into the title race. They will team up again this season with Knoblock waiting to jump into action at Marshfield. He’ll hope to be in similar position as 2018 with Prunty grabbing a win to start the season.
It Could Be Time for the WIR Regulars
Although all five TUNDRA winners at WIR have some ties to the weekly racing program or Red, White and Blue, they still have their roots in other places. This year could be the year where a driver rooted in the Thursday night tradition sends home the invaders.
Both Bobby Kendall and Maxwell Schultz have set fast time for this event in the past. Although they’ve found their way to the front, neither have been able to collect the win. Both return this season with plenty of motivation to get to the front of the field.
Past WIR Champions Andy Monday and Lowell Bennett should be seen as threats, as well. Monday will tag in for teammate Joel Theisen and Bennett will sub in for Mike Egan. While point racing is on the table, it’s likely both will be willing to gamble to pick up the win. Unfortunately both have suffered rotten luck in their TUNDRA appearances at WIR, but chances are favorable for them to turn that around.
It would be wise to keep an eye on the likes of Alex Stumpf and Chad Butz, as well. Stumpf won the season opener in Thursday night action last year at WIR. Butz looked very strong when the bad luck stayed away last season. Either of those drivers could take home the prize, as well.
First Time Under the Lights
Although last year’s race was scheduled to go into the evening, the rains came and pushed the event to Sunday afternoon. With a favorable-looking forecast Saturday’s race looks to be TUNDRA’s first time under the lights at WIR.
It will be a new dynamic for many of the TUNDRA drivers who have yet to run a weekly show or other special event at WIR. Many in the field only have run during the daytime TUNDRA events.
The TUNDRA field will once again contain a strong rookie class. Cameron Clifford, Derek Doerr, Scott Dunning, and Kevin Knuese will be chasing Rookie of the Year honors.
Clifford comes to TUNDRA after several seasons at Norway Speedway. The 17 year old from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will be at WIR for the first time, but has plenty of tips from former WIR Late Model Champion Kris Kelly.
Doerr ran his first season in a Super Late Model last season, but will call TUNDRA home in 2019. Doerr finished Fifth in weekly point standings at State Park Speedway last year. It will be his first start in a Super Late Model at WIR, although he does have Midwest Truck experience at the half-mile.
Dunning makes his TUNDRA debut at WIR having past experience at the track with the Mid-American Stock Car Series. He does have some previous Super Late Model experience having raced at Grundy County Speedway in 2004.
Knuese is a veteran racer from the Madison area who has made the jump to Super Late Models this season. Prior experience for Knuese includes racing weekly Late Models on Friday nights at Madison International Speedway and touring with the Midwest Truck Series.
TUNDRA’s stop marks the debut of the Five Star New Late Model Body in the series and at WIR. Several drivers will be sporting the new look.
Both Apel and Prunty have outfitted their race machines with the Chevy Camaro. Dunning carries the colors for Ford Fans with a new Mustang body.
KDDP’s Fenhaus Added to Entries
Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist and 2018 State Park Speedway Champion Luke Fenhaus was a late addition to the TUNDRA entry list. It will be the 15-year-old Fenhaus’ first visit to WIR.
Midwest Compacts Debut at WIR
Another first is on the docket for Saturday as the Midwest Compact Series makes its debut at WIR. The Compacts are a suped-up version of the weekly 4 cylinders fans at WIR are accustomed to. Drivers from Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan are expected to be part of the field.
TUNDRA moves to another half-mile at Marshfield Motor Speedway on June 8. It is the Third Annual Bev Aschenbrenner Memorial. Colin Reffner set fast time and won the event last season.