By Luxemburg Speedway
Two division special events and the 2017 Hall of Fame induction ceremony combined for a memorable evening Friday at the Luxemburg Speedway in Luxemburg.
Shawn Havel in the IMCA Stock Cars and Todd Wiese in the IMCA Northern Sport Mods took home the trophies in the night’s two division headlining specials, both postponed from earlier in the season. Other winners on the night included Greg Gretz in the IMCA Modifieds, Paul Deifenthaler in the Street Stocks and Mitch Meier in the Sport Compacts.
The Stock Car main was dubbed the “Gambling Man’s Special”, as qualifiers were given the opportunity to start from the back of the field with a shot at the $400 prize offered for the event’s hard charger as an incentive. One thing that’s usually not a gamble at all, is that a feature in the class is rarely decided in the early laps. Such was the case Friday.
John Anschutz and his brother Jeremy shared the front row as the green flag flew, with John taking command from the outside spot.
In quest of his first career Luxemburg feature win, Anschutz never had a moment to relax as he was under constant pressure from the first lap on from three racers in particular; Havel, Billy LeMieux and Trent Nolan.
The first real threat came from Nolan on a lap 11 restart as he edged ahead from his inside starting position. Anschutz was able to forge back out front, and the chase continued. Pass attempts came from the inside and outside with Anschutz up to the challenge.
With six laps to go, Havel was finally able to clear the other two front runners and establish second for himself. With just two laps to go, he found what might have been the only opening that Anschutz offered his pursuers.
An open door through corners one and two left enough room for Havel to pull even, and then away from Anschutz to record his second win of the season.
LeMieux place third behind Anschutz, with Nolan fourth. Point leader Devin Snellenberger was fifth, allowing LeMieux to pick up two points in the title chase. Snellenberger will take an 8 point margin over LeMieux into championship night.
The hard charger gamble paid off for Barry VanStraten. Opting to start 18th, he improved 9 positions to claim the award.
The Sport Mod feature was the annual John Soukup Memorial, and aside from actually getting the win, the fact that Soukup’s last team car was in the hunt down to the wire made for an added layer of drama.
Randy LeMieux, Jr now pilots the TC Motorsports machine, and is the division point leader. By virtue of the draw/redraw procedure used to the set the starting grid for the special, LeMieux had the advantage of a rare start from the front row.
Pole sitter Troy DeGrave proved to be a formidable foe early, holding LeMieux back for the first several laps.
As that was playing out, Wiese began to make his way forward from the fifth row. He made it to third in time for a caution that bunched the field, erasing the advantage built by the two leaders.
On the restart, Wiese lined up outside in the second row. He crafted a perfect move, gaining the edge on DeGrave, then shooting to the inside of LeMieux for the lead. But the pass was waved off as Craig Dorner smacked hard off the concrete on the front stretch wiping out the lap.
The next restart was a different story as DeGrave held the second position forcing Wiese to take a couple laps to get it back.
With three laps to go Wiese, gained the outside edge in the second turn, blocking LeMieux’s move to the top. With the added momentum from the outside, he was able to power past LeMieux and on to his first win of the season.
Despite not getting the win, LeMieux was able to extend his point lead over Chris Budzban to 30 entering the final night, as Budzban finished fifth. Sawyer Haese passed DeGrave in the closing stages to take third.
Gretz turned in the night’s only runaway performance as he used a front row starting spot and 20 straight green flag laps to cast no doubt on who would win the Modified feature.
Point leader Todd Dart had taken second on the 11th lap, but needed more time to have any hope of catching Gretz as the winner was on the verge of catching heavy traffic at the back of the field. Without that, or any incident to halt the proceedings, Gretz was able to advance to victory lane uncontested.
The silver lining for Dart was that his second place finish allowed him to jump his championship margin from 9 to 25 points, as his closest competitors all finished back in the pack.
Benji LaCrosse finished well back of Dart in third, followed by Brad Lautenbach and Mark Joski. Russ Reinwald qualified for the feature through the last chance race, working his way up from the 8th row to 6th.
Also edging closer to a championship was Deifenthaler, who claimed victory for the 6th time in the Street Stocks.
He split the seams between leader Jarrette Parma and Billy Hayes on the 4th lap to take the top spot. Despite leading the rest of the way, a late restart lined up his closest title challenger, Dave DeGrave, and fourth place Mike Carter, in the second row behind him
Deifenthaler took off as Eddie Anschutz went to work on the next two. He was able to get by into second with five to go, but wasn’t able to reel in the winner.
DeGrave bested Carter for third, with Jason Kostichka charging hard from the 8th row to place 5th.
The Sport Compact finale proved to be a two-car duel between Mitch Meier and Matt Brehmer. Brehmer shot from the second row starting position to take control on the first lap.
Meier moved in, but it took nearly the entire event for him to take over lead on the way to his 4th feature win of the season.
In the process, he chopped a couple points from Nick Everard’s advantage as the division leader placed third. Kyle Jorgenson and Matt Meier rounded out the top five.
The 2017 Luxemburg Speedway Hall of Fame class was inducted by promoter Eric Mahlik at intermission.
The inductees were Kelly and Debbie Hafeman and Ralph Aschenbrenner, the Tri-Star Promotions group that ran the track from 1989 to 2001. And also racing legend Jerry Muenster, the 56 year veteran who was a Luxemburg Speedway champion in 1968. Muenster is currently 7th in the track’s IMCA Modified point standings with his son, Eddie, now 10th.
Jerovetz Motorsports Shock Service will present Championship Night this Friday. All five regular divisions will be in action with the first green flag at 7 p.m.