John Beale certainly could’ve done without a little extra drama, but in the end a final two-lap shootout was just a speed bump on the way to his first-ever feature win at State Park Speedway.
Beale pulled away from Luke Fenhaus on a restart with two laps to go and went on to win Thursday night’s Wisconsin Challenge Series 75-lap feature race for the Auto Select Super Late Models presented by C-Tech. The race was the first of four WCS races this year at Central Wisconsin racetracks.
Traveling north from Verona in the Madison area, Beale also won his second straight race this week in Central Wisconsin. He came in off a win at Marshfield Motor Speedway on Sunday, and this time led the final 29 laps, overcoming an especially stubborn State Park veteran to get to the front and then the current track defending super late model champion to stay there at the end.
Beale passed Travis Volm for first on lap 47 and appeared well on his way to victory when Tyler Radavich spun on the frontstretch on lap 74, bringing out the race’s first caution and setting up a frantic final two-lap sprint.
With drivers choosing their lane for the restart, Volm opted to start on the inside behind Beale, allowing third-place running Fenhaus to take a shot from the outside. Beale cleared Fenhaus quickly, though, and Volm also passed Fenhaus on the inside to finish second, with 2018 State Park WCS winner Fenhaus finishing third.
“Yeah I thought it was going to get really ugly there to be honest,” said Beale of the end, after the race in an interview in Brickner Family Auto Group Victory Lane.
“The 76 (Volm) was really hard to pass…I got around him, and then didn’t want to think it (a caution) because I knew it would happen, and it happened anyways, and I was a nervous wreck.”
A traveling racer who is competing in multiple series in the state this year, Beale made a power move in the race’s middle stages to get by early leader Volm, who proved difficult to pass all night. Driving a limited late model car with 10-inch super late model tires bolted on, the State Park Speedway regular frontrunner won the 10-lap dash race earlier in the evening, and then started on the inside pole for the feature and held the lead for the first 46 laps.
Running the inside groove, Volm fended off an early challenge from Fenhaus and then a first battle with Beale. The visiting racer made a strong move on the outside to pass Fenhaus for second on lap 26 and then made a run outside of Volm for the lead, getting within half a car length and running side-by-side for three laps before falling back in line.
Staying pinned to the inside, Volm continued to set the pace until Beale made another run on the outside on lap 45. Beale hung tough through three side-by-side laps, getting to Volm’s door, eventually leading lap 47 and clearing for first a lap later. Beale slowly pulled away, and both were well ahead of the field until the caution with two laps left.
“It feels awesome,” said Beale. “My goal my whole life is to be a race car driver, before I die my goal is I want to run a (NASCAR) Cup race. I’m a trophy chaser, I live 24-7-365 to go racing, eat, sleep, breathe it. I’m either racing or getting ready to race, I absolutely love it.”
State Park Speedway regular Justin Mondeik finished fourth while Gabe Sommers of Stevens Point rounded out the top five. In the end, the late caution made little difference in the final finish for the leaders, as all five finished just where they were before the yellow.
Wisconsin Challenge Series Auto Select Super Late Models pres. by C-Tech
Fast Qualifier: M.G. Gajewski Wausau, 13.798 sec.
Qualifier: Neil Knoblock, Wausau; Jordan Thiel, Appleton; Tyler Radavich, Eldorado; Nathan Steif, Wausau
Dash: Travis Volm, Mosinee; Mondeik; Luke Fenhaus, Wausau; John Beale, Verona; Wyatt Brooks, Amherst; Gabe Sommers, Stevens Point
75-Lap Feature: Beale; T. Volm; Fenhaus; Justin Mondeik, Gleason; Sommers; Knoblock; M.G. Gajewski; Jay Van Der Geest, Merrill; Travis Sauter, Prairie du Sac; Mike Olson, Dorchester; Thiel; Radavich; Steif; Brooks