|New Winners Emerge as Rice Lake Speedway Celebrates Sixty Years of Racing
By Ed Reichert
RICE LAKE, WI (August 11) The Rice Lake Speedway, the oldest continually operating speedway in northern Wisconsin, celebrated its sixtieth year of operation Saturday and also added its second group of Hall of Fame members. Added to the Hall were Don Drew, Dave Palmquist, Dave Adams, Louie Foss, Jack Shimon and Ben Ryba.
Despite it being the seventeenth night of racing in 2012, two new winners emerged in racing action as Nick Wojcik and Jay Folz both won their first feature wins of the year at the track. Other winners of prized sixtieth anniversary trophies were Matt Leer, Wayne Harris Jr. and Tito Viltz.
Rookie driver Mike Chaplin took the early lead in the Pure Stock feature and led the opening two laps until he got crossed up in turn four and triggered the first of what would be several yellow flags during the Pure Stock main. Folz inherited the lead for the restart but he had Joel Hinrichs, Jason Havel, Chad Eastman and C.J. Wagner all putting the pressure on him. Another spin triggered a yellow and Havel was forced to pit to change a flat tire.
Folz continued to lead with Hinrichs his main challenger while Eastman and Wagner continued to battle for position. Two more quick yellows for minor spins kept the field bunched and when things were finally sorted out, it was left to Folz to fight off Hinrichs for the win. Joel made several strong attempts and got beside Folz once, but Jay fought him off and as they raced to the checkered, he held on by a car length for his first win of the year. The incredible balance of the Pure Stock field was maintained as Folz became the eleventh different winner in the class this year, a track leading statistic. Havel made a great charge back up through the field and got by Eastman on the last lap for third with Wagner completing the top five.
Wojcik, a college student at the University of Northwestern Ohio, snuck home for the weekend to get some racing in, and things turned out well for him as he recorded his first win of what has been a very brief racing season for him. Hall of Famer Butch Madsen made a start Saturday in Richard Froemel’s car and led the opening lap. On lap two, under heavy pressure, Madsen and several other contenders got together in turn one, necessitating a yellow flag. All were able to restart but before another lap could be competed, Chanda Fjorden-Nord spun and triggered another yellow. Back under green, as Madsen was dueling with Jay Kesan and Eric Olson for the lead, Wojcik found an opening on the low side of the track and shot under Butch to take over the lead. Nick was able to expand it slightly as the battle for second continued with Kesan eventually moving into that spot.
Madsen was involved in another tangle at the midpoint of the race and damage to his car forced him to call it a night. Meanwhile, Wojcik continued to lead but Kesan was putting heavy pressure on him as Olson and Cody Kummer also battled back and forth behind the leaders.
On a night when the Street Stocks had an unusually tough night of staying under the green, one more late spin set up a four lap sprint to the finish. Wojcik continued to have Kesan all over him as Jay tried to squeeze by on the low side without success and then tried to drive around Nick while the battle for third continued. At the finish, Wojcik hung on by a car length for the win over Kesan, with Olson sneaking under Kummer at the white flag for third. Josh Amans kept his nose clean and moved up from fourteenth to fifth at the finish. Nick’s win made him the eighth different driver to visit the Street Stock victory lane in 2012.
The Midwest Modified feature got off to a shaky start when front row starters Grant Southworth and Joe Chaplin Jr got together in turn one with Southworth spinning and triggering what turned out to be the only yellow flag of the event.
On the restart, Tito Viltz shot into the lead and the rest of the field would spend the race trying to chase him down. Shane Halopka moved into second and would set out after Tito, while brother Ryan Viltz was working his way up through the field after starting eighth. He got by Chaplin Jr and then Mike Truscott and tried to track down the leaders.
With no yellow flags to slow his pace, Tito kept his foot to the floorboards and maintained a nice advantage as he drove to his third Rice Lake win of the year. Halopka finished a solid second with Ryan Viltz, Truscott and Chaplin Jr. completing the top five.
Wayne Harris Jr. is on a hot streak right now with his Super Stock and Saturday he won his second straight main event. Counting a Sunday night win, it was his third straight night to visit victory lane. Brad Edington took the early lead in the main event but Harris Jr. quickly moved in and drove past Edington to take over the top spot.
With the rest of the pack battling furiously for position, Wayne took advantage of the situation to pull away from the field. Edington continued to run a solid third while Eric Olson and Aaron Wilson raced side by side for third.
With the race staying under the green, Harris Jr. continued to build his lead as he set a blistering pace that no one could keep up with. Olson and Wilson raced for many laps side by side for third before Wilson claimed the spot. As the laps ran down, Edington started to fade while Wilson and Ben Hillman both picked up the pace.
Harris Jr. continued in a different time zone, and he won by a straightaway for his third Rice Lake win of the season. Wilson made a late charge and drove around Edington for second as Brad settled for his best finish of the year with Olson holding off a late rush from Hilllman.
Matt Leer made some adjustments to his car after a bad run last Saturday and the results were immediately noticeable and the result was his second Modified feature win of the year. Robby Bunkelman and Aric Lindberg battled for the lead early, with Bunkelman securing the top spot. However, Leer quickly moved in to challenge him and Matt got a strong run off turn four and took over the top spot. Bunkelman then got locked in a heavy battle for second with Paul Brust and Mark Hessler as Leer moved away from the pack slightly. Tim McMann then picked up the pace as he raced past Brust and then Hessler and took over the second spot.
Leer continued to run strong up front and there was no catching him on this night as he continued on for the win. McMann completed his strong run by holding off a charging Hessler at the end for second while Bunkelman and Brust completed the top five.
Next week will be a busy one at the track. On Thursday, August 16th, the United States Modified Touring Series will make their second appearance of the year at the speedway. Their year end closing series, “The Hunt for the Casey’s Cup” will bring forty or more of the best Modified drivers in the country to the Rice Lake Speedway to battle for the top prize of $3,000 where the traveling stars will take on the best of the local and area open wheel drivers. Race time Thursday is 7 p.m. WISSOTA sanctioned Super Stocks and the Rice Lake Pure Stocks will also compete in a draw/redraw program. On Saturday, the final point race of the 2012 racing season will take place. A full program in all five classes will be held with the first green flag to fly at 6:30 p.m. The regular season will conclude on August 25th when Season Championships will be held in all five classes and the Upper Midwest Sprint Car Series (UMSS) will make their initial appearance at the track after being rained out earlier this year. Wrapping up the season will be the Labor Day weekend doubleheader with all five classes racing a full program on both Saturday, September 1st and Sunday, September 2nd.