Balog, Schenck, Neau notch victories in all-Sprint Car finale
By Jeff Pederson – Pedal Down Promotions
(PEDAL DOWN PROMOTIONS) September 30, 2017 – Brandon McMullen of Oshkosh closed out his first career Plymouth Dirt Track Racing 360 Sprint Car championship in grand style by claiming his fourth A-main triumph of the season in the 2017 PDTR finale before a capacity crowd at The Plymouth Dirt Track on the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds in Plymouth Saturday, Sept. 30.
In the Interstate Racing Association 410 Sprint Car Series headliner Bill Balog of Hartland collected his 13th A-main victory of the season en route to his eighth career IRA championship. Doug Schenck of Cottage Grove notched his eighth Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car Series A-main triumph of the 2017 season and Mike Neau of Kenosha captured the Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint Association A-main win.
The PDTR 360 Sprint Car A-main featured some of the best wheel-to-wheel action of the night up in the front of the pack and throughout the field. 2010 PDTR 360 Sprint Car champ Kurt Davis of South Milwaukee got the initial jump to lead the opening lap of the 25-lap event from the pole position.
As Davis worked the low groove at the head of the pack, two-time PDTR 360 Sprint Car champion Danny Schlafer, who started second, ran the high groove in an attempt to track down the leader.
Meanwhile, the fourthfourt-starting McMullen worked around third starter Paul Pokorski of West Bend to seize third on lap 3. After a caution flag slowed the pace one lap later, McMullen got a big jump along the outside groove on the ensuing restart to challenge Davis and Schlafer for the top two spots.
However, Davis and Schlafer collided entering turn one, which resulted in the two winningest drivers in Midwest Sprint Car Association history sliding into the turn two wall where they collected eighth starter Jim Melis of Glenbeulah, who had been running fifth in the early stages of the race.
With three of the top-five cars eliminated from contention for the victory, McMullen inherited the lead on the ensuing restart, followed by Pokorski and 2011 PDTR 360 Sprint Car champion Ben Schmidt of Howards Grove, who started 12th.
Schmidt got a huge run on the restart to bolt underneath McMullen in turn one on lap 5 to gain the top spot. Schmidt maintained a slight edge over McMullen over the next five laps until the leaders began to encounter lapped traffic.
On lap 11, McMullen used the slower traffic to his benefit as he dove low to sneak past Schmidt in turn two on lap 13. Schmidt battled back to regain the top spot in turn two on lap 14, but McMullen used an aggressive line around the high groove to wrestle the lead away from Schmidt again on lap 17.
Schmidt remained within striking distance, while fifth starter Kevin Karnitz of West Bend powered in to slip past Schmidt on lap 22 and gain the runner-up spot. Out in front of the field it all McMullen, as he rolled to his 12th career PDTR 360 Sprint Car A-main victory and 17th career triumph of his Midwest Sprint Car Association career.
Along with the PDTR championship, the eighth-year 360 Sprint Car driver nailed down his third consecutive MSA title. Karnitz finished a strong second, Schmidt was third, Pokorski wound up fourth and 11th starter Justin Miller of Plymouth came home fifth.
“I’m so proud of my family-operated team, including everyone on the crew that helps to get the car ready to run well every week and all of our sponsors that make it possible to do this for an entire season,” McMullen said. “It’s been a great year. I couldn’t be happier.”
In addition to his stellar effort in the PDTR 360 Sprint Car A main, McMullen was also a key player in the 30-lap IRA 410 Sprint Car Series A main, as he started on the pole and lead the opening two circuits behind the wheel of the Bob Hood-owned 10W machine.
After McMullen outpowered outside front row starter Billy Hafemann of Cedar Grove to take the initial lead, the first of three caution flags appeared on lap 2 when Steve Meyer of Sheboygan Falls spun exiting turn two. On the restart, fourth starter Justin Henderson of Tea, South Dakota charged hard into turn three to slide past McMullen and into the lead exiting turn four on lap 3.
Two laps later, Bill Balog, who started 10th, used the high groove to move into second place on lap 6. As Henderson began to encounter lapped traffic, the hard-charging Balog swiftly reeled in the leader. On lap 11, Balog ducked low to pull even with Henderson entering turn one.
One lap later, Balog powered around Henderson along the extreme outside groove to take the top spot on lap 12. Balog wasted no time in building up a big full straightaway cushion over Henderson by lap 14.
Fifth starter Scotty Thiel of Sheboygan reeled in Henderson on lap 20 and began to apply pressure for the runner-up spot. The third caution flag of the race appeared on lap 23 when Hafemann spun to a stop in turn two.
After the restarter, Balog bolted away to a half straightaway edge over Henderson, while two-time IRA champion Scotty Neitzel of Beaver Dam and 2016 IRA champ Jeremy Schultz of Beaver Dam each worked their way into the top five.
Balog cruised over the final five laps to notch his 101st career IRA A-main victory and successfully seal his eighth IRA 410 Sprint Car Series title.
“The car felt really good tonight and we were fortunate to do the right things to it for the main event to get it to victory lane,” Balog said. “Things haven’t been too great for us over the past couple of weeks, so it is very nice to get this win here tonight. It feels great to win this title with the IRA. I have to thank everyone that helps to make this team successfully, including family, crew members and sponsors. This championship was one of the harder ones because Thiel was there the whole time.”
Henderson was pleased with the quality of his car, but expressed disappointment that he was unable to carry his early momentum throughout the entire race.
“We got to running really good on the top at the start of the race, but we just seemed to slow down when we got up to the lapped cars,” Henderson said. “The crew had the car really nice for me tonight. I just didn’t get the job done.”
Thiel was satisfied with a podium finish and with his strong runner-up finish to Balog in the final IRA point standings.
“All in all, it was a good year, although I really wanted to get a win tonight,” Thiel said. “It’s certainly not too bad when you are able to end the night up on the podium with the 17B [Balog] and 83 [Henderson].”
Jimmy Sivia of Winthrop Harbor, Ill., who started on the outside of the front row, got the jump on polesitter Allen Hafford of Beach Park, Ill. to lead the first lap of the 20-lap Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car A main.
On lap 6, Hafford used a nifty low move in turn one to seize the top spot from Sivia, while fourth starter Derek Crane of Waukegan, Ill. worked past third starter Doug Schenck and Sivia to move into second place.
The lone caution of the race appeared on lap 14 for a spin in turn two. On the restart, Schenck began to flex his muscle as he ventured the high groove to power around both Crane and Hafford with a huge run in turns three and fourth on lap 17 to gain the lead entering turn one on lap 18.
Schenck then pulled away to secure his eighth Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car A-main victory of the 2017 season. Hafford had to settle for second, Crane was third, Tim Cox of Park City, Ill. was fourth after starting sixth and Ryan Zielski of Oconomowoc placed fifth after starting fourth.
Jordan Mattson of Milwaukee finished the season as the 2017 Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car champion.
Polesitter Mike Neau led from the drop of the green flag of the 20-lap Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint Association A-main over outside front row starter Nick Daywalt of Slinger.
Daywalt kept Neau in sight throughout the 20-lap event, but was unable to pull off a pass. Neau held on to pot a three-car-length victory over Daywalt, who secured the 2017 Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint Association title. Derek Fortier finished third after starting fourth, Ron Brannam placed fourth after starting fifth and Kyle Daywalt of Germantown wound up fifth after starting sixth.
JDL Auto and Detailing of Plymouth was the evening’s trophy sponsor.
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