Balog tops Stewart again, Blackhurst earns first IRA crown
By Jeff Pederson-Pedal Down Promotions
(PEDAL DOWN PROMOTIONS, Plymouth, Wis.) September 29, 2018 – Night two of the Wisconsin Sprint Car Championships brought the 2018 Plymouth Dirt Track Racing season to a close in thrilling fashion before an enthusiastic crowd on a cold fall evening at the Sheboygan County Fairgrounds in Plymouth, Wis. on Saturday, Sept. 29.
Four of Wisconsin’s premier Sprint Car racing series gathered to conclude the 2018 season with champions determined following tight points battles over the better part of the past six months.
Justin Miller of Plymouth nipped 2010 PDTR 360 Sprint Car champion Kurt Davis of South Milwaukee by two points to secure his first career PDTR Richard’s of Dunbar 360 Sprint Car title. Jake Blackhurst of Hanna City, Ill. collected his initial Interstate Racing Association (IRA) 410 Sprint Car Series championship by a seven-point margin over Sheboygan’s Scotty Thiel. Tim Cox of Park City, Ill. picked up his first Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car Series champion and Ion Stear of Hebron, Ill. earned the 2018 Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint Series title.
Danny Schlafer of Sussex moved to the top of the PDTR 360 Sprint Car all-time victory list by notching his 22nd career A-main triumph in the 25-lap 360 Sprint Car A main. For the second time in a month, Bill Balog of Hartland pulled off a last-lap pass of three-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Tony Stewart of Columbus, Ind. to claim the season-ending 30-lap IRA A main contested in memory of Frank Filskov, Roy Fenske, Rick Schmidt, Dick Symoens and Dick Witt. Ryan Zielske of Oconomowoc pulled off a final-lap pass to claim the 20-lap Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car A main and Mark Heinert of Oak Creek was determined the winner of the rain-shortened 10-lap Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint A main.
Outside front row starter Doug Wondra of Lomira jumped out to the lead on the drop of the green flag of the 25-lap PDTR 360 Sprint Car A main. With Wondra leading polesitter Shane Wenninger of Kewaskum and fourth starter Tim Haddy of Waupun in the early going, the first of two caution flags appeared on lap 4 when Josh Walter of Plymouth spun in turn two.
On the restart, the low-riding Wenninger and the cushion-pounding Haddy moved in to pressure on lap 7. One lap later, Haddy powered around Wenninger and Wondra entering turn one to claim the top spot.
On lap 9, Haddy jumped the cushion and clipped the turn four wall to allow Wondra to regain the top spot just before the second caution came out for Kurt Davis, who entered the program with a 15-point lead over Justin Miller in the PDTR 360 Sprint Car point standings, following heavy contact with the wall between turns three and four after a mechanical failure on his machine.
The accident ended Davis’ night and relegated him to a 22nd-place finish.
After Haddy pitted following contact with the turn four wall while leading, Wondra held the top spot on the restart with Wenninger and 10th starter Adam Miller of Plymouth in tow.
On lap 9, Adam Miller powered past Wenninger into second place before moving past Wondra to grab the lead in turn two on lap 10. Meanwhile, seventh starter Danny Schlafer was making his move as he pulled off a perfect slide job to take second on lap 11.
Three laps later, Schlafer slid past Adam Miller take the lead on lap 14. Schlafer then worked the high groove to perfection to maintain a solid lead, while Will Gerrits of Waupun, who was making his first appearance since suffering a broken arm in an accident at the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam in early July, assumed second on lap 22.
Schlafer weaved his way through lapped traffic in the closing laps to secure his record 22nd PDTR 360 Sprint Car A-main victory and 51st Midwest Sprint Car Association (MSA) A-main triumph.
Gerrits registered his best career 360 Sprint Car finish with a second-place showing, 2017 PDTR 360 Sprint Car champ Brandon McMullen of Oshkosh, who started third, placed third, Adam Miller ended up fourth and Wenninger rounded out the top five.
After starting 12th, Justin Miller posted an eighth-place finish to secure his first career PDTR 360 Sprint Car championship by two points over Kurt Davis, who topped Miller to secure his third career MSA title.
In the 30-lap IRA A main, Mike Reinke of Howards Grove grabbed the early lead from his outside front row starting spot before the first of three caution flags appeared on lap 1 for a spin involving Russel Borland of Kewaskum and Scott Biertzer of West Bend.
On the restart Reinke led again, but fourth starter Tony Stewart was on the move as he split Reinke and polesitter Scotty Thiel with a slide job to take the lead on lap 2 in turn four.
With Stewart running strong on the cushion, eight-time IRA champ Bill Balog, who started third, worked the low groove to challenge Reinke for second on lap 4. However, Reinke held strong and closed the gap on Stewart when the leaders caught the back of the field on lap 5.
On lap 9, Reinke was within striking distance when a caution flew for the slowing machine of Todd King of Sheboygan Falls.
On the restart, Balog executed a slide job to seize second from Reinke in turn four on lap 10. With Stewart holding a half-straightaway lead on 13, Balog turned it on to close the gap quickly over the next 12 laps in heavy lapped traffic to move into position to challenge Stewart.
Balog ducked low to pressure Stewart on a pair of occasions on lap 25 and 28, but he was unable to wrestle the lead away from Stewart. On the final lap, Stewart moved to the middle of the track in turn three, which opened the door for Balog to slip underneath and steal the lead away in turn four.
Balog outpowered Stewart to the finish line to earn his fourth IRA A-main victory of the 2018 season worth a hefty $6,000 by a half-car-length margin.
Stewart had to settle for second for the third consecutive time in IRA A-main action at The Plymouth Dirt Track this year. Reinke placed third, Thiel wound up fourth and Jake Blackhurst secured his first career IRA title by a seven-point margin over Thiel with a fifth-place finish after starting sixth.
One night after making his first appearance at The Plymouth Dirt Track of his stellar 46-year career, three-time World of Outlaws champion and Sprint Car veteran Sammy Swindell of Germantown, Tenn. advanced from the 12th starting spot to finish sixth behind the wheel of the Sheboygan-based Thone Motorsports No. 1 machine.
“Tony was real good early and then I noticed he started to try some different lines and we just kept after it,” Balog said in victory lane. “I just tried to keep him in my sights and it turned out well at the end. It is always a lot of fun racing with Tony. He is just an awesome racer and I think we all appreciate when he comes out and races with us.”
Stewart credited Balog for capitalizing on his mistake on the final lap.
“I just gave it away on the last lap,” Stewart said. “I knew Bill was coming and I was trying to block a slide job on the last lap and I ended up sliding up to the middle, which was enough for him to get by. Bill is an awesome driver. He is the type of driver who you can race wheel to wheel with for the entire race and never touch. That is what makes racing fun.”
Reinke was pleased with his podium performance.
“We stayed with them pretty well for most of the race and to finish third to those guys, I can’t complain,” Reinke said. “They were both better than us tonight, but all in all it was a pretty decent night for us.”
Scotty Thiel was named the winner of the 2018 Hopf Farms Bullring Showdown and Tony Stewart captured the Rocky Rococo Pizza Challenge.
Nick Petska of Spring Grove, Ill. grabbed the lead of the 20-lap Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car A main from his outside front row starting spot with polesitter Ryan Zielski following in second.
On lap 5, seventh starter Jordan Mattson of Milwaukee ventured up to the high groove to seize fourth. Three laps later Mattson moved in to pressure third starter Chris Dodd of Trevor for third.
As Petska, Zielski, Dodd and Mattson dueled in close quarters at the front of the field, heavy rain began to fall on the racing surface, which forced the race to be stopped on lap 15 with five laps remaining.
After a delay, the race resumed with Petska had to contend with Zielski, who applied heavy pressure beginning on lap 16. On the final lap, Zielski moved high in turn three to power around Petska with Mattson and Dodd in tow.
With the top four competitors spread out four wide in a mad scramble to the finish line Zielski secured his first Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car A-main victory of the 2018 season. Mattson placed second, Dodd was third, Petska finished fourth and fourth starter Allen Hafford of Beach Park, Il. wound up fifth.
Tim Cox placed sixth to wrap up his first Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Car championship.
Mark Heinert of Oak Creek grabbed the lead on the opening lap of the scheduled 20-lap Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint A main as fourth starter Mike Neau of Kenosha moved into second on lap 2.
On lap 4, C.J. Malueg of Johnsburg, Ill., who started fifth, assumed second as Heinert had built up a full-straightaway lead.
Heavy rain returned and forced the race to be halted on lap 10 with Heinert declared the winner.
Malueg placed second, Neau was third, Tim Brannam wound up fourth and Ron Brannam rounded out the top five.
Ion Stear secured the 2018 Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprint Series championship.
Round two of the Wisconsin Sprint Car Championships event drew 98 Sprint Cars in four divisions, including 27 IRA 410 Sprint Cars, 27 PDTR 360 Sprint Cars, 29 Wisconsin Wingless Sprint Cars and 15 Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprints.
The 2019 Plymouth Dirt Track Racing season will again feature weekly racing on most Saturday nights, including several special events. The 2019 PDTR season will begin on Saturday, April 27. Visit www.plymouthdtr.com for off-season information.