WAUSAU, Wis. (July 27) – In what has become a breakthrough month in his young super late model racing career, Gabe Sommers captured his biggest prize yet Saturday night at State Park Speedway.
Sommers added his name to a long list of winners of the prestigious Larry Detjens Memorial, wheeling his car to victory in the 125-lap ARCA Midwest Tour race that highlighted the second and final day of the 38th annual Auto Select Detjens Memorial Weekend at the track. The 16-year old from Plover took the lead on lap 50 and led all but four laps the rest of the way on the way to his third feature win of the month on three different circuits and at three different tracks in Wisconsin.
Sommers won for the first time on the ARCA Midwest Tour, won his first super late model feature at State Park and became the 24th different super late model driver to win the Detjens Memorial.
“It feels pretty good, the car was really good all night, and I knew we had a good long run car,” said a very calm Sommers in Brickner Family Auto Group Victory Lane after leading 72 laps in all. “We were able to keep the tires under it and bring it to victory lane.”
Sommers bested a talented 21-car field that included the defending Detjens Memorial winner, a Wisconsin short track racing legend, ARCA Midwest Tour veterans plus a number of former Detjens Memorial winners and State Park Speedway track champions.
In fact, it was 2018 Detjens super late model winner Casey Johnson and four-time Slinger Nationals winner Rich Bickle Jr., both of Edgerton, who provided the stiffest challenges throughout the race, and specifically multiple times on restarts over the final 43 laps.
Sommers took the lead on lap 50 from Bickle, who slipped up high coming out of turn 2. He began pulling away and was running into heavy lapped traffic when John Beale spun on the frontstretch on lap 82 in front of Sommers, forcing the leader to take evasive action and just miss scraping the outside wall.
Bickle chose to line up on the inside behind the leader on the restart, allowing third-place running Johnson to take a shot on the outside of Sommers. Johnson actually led at the line on laps 83, 84 and 85, but Sommers remained on his inside and took first back on lap 86.
Sommers pulled away in the late stages, but Johnson had another chance on a restart with 14 laps to go. He moved up from third to start outside Sommers again and led lap 112 at the line, but Sommers quickly pulled in front again and led the rest of the way. That included through a final single-file restart with eight laps left, with Sommers winning by four car lengths.
“Yeah these guys are good, it feels really good to be able to run against Casey,” said Sommers. “He’s really good competition and it feels really good to be able to beat him.”
“He was lights out, he had huge forward drive,” said Johnson in a post-race interview with ARCA Midwest Tour announcer Eric Huenefeld afterwards. “We had a really good car, I’ve got to thank Jason Schuler for letting me take his hot rod out again. Every time I get in this thing it seems to be pretty good.”
The win for Sommers came with guidance from Chris Wimmer, nephew of the late Larry Detjens and a two-time Detjens Memorial winner. Wimmer won the event in 2000 and again in 2017 and serves as crew chief for Sommers, who thanked him in victory lane for the car setup for the night.
Roscoe, Ill., driver Austin Nason, the ARCA Midwest Tour winner at the Milwaukee Mile on Father’s Day, finished third in the feature and also set fast time earlier in the night. Dillon Hammond of Grand Marsh finished a solid fourth, staying clean all night and moving into the top five late after Bickle and Carson Kvapil got together while racing for third with eight laps left. Defending State Park Speedway champion Luke Fenhaus came home fifth, while Bickle wound up 11th and Kvapil 12th in the final rundown.
Former State Park Speedway track champion Jeremy Lepak finished sixth even with heavy right side sheet metal damage after getting caught up in a late-race incident. Three-time Detjens winner Chris Weinkauf finished eighth, while fellow three-time Detjens race champion Mark Mackesy finished 20th.
ARCA Midwest Tour Late Models
Fast Qualifier: Austin Nason, Roscoe, Ill., 13.614 sec.
Qualifier: 1. John Beale, Verona; 2. Jason Weinkauf, Merrill; 3. Wyatt Brooks, Amherst; 4. Paul Shafer Jr., Portage, Ind.; 5. Andrew Brocker, Jefferson
Odd Dash: 1. Casey Johnson, Edgerton; 2. Nason; 3. Ryan Farrell, Big Bend; 4. Rich Bickle Jr., Edgerton; 5. Carson Kvapil, Mooresville, N.C.; 6. John DeAngelis, Hubertus; 7. M.G. Gajewski, Wausau; 8. Jeremy Lepak, Ringle
Even Dash: 1. Chris Weinkauf, Merrill; 2. Luke Fenhaus, Wausau; 3. Justin Mondeik, Gleason; 4. Gabe Sommers, Plover; 5. Mark Mackesy, Wausau; 6. Brock Heinrich, Wausau; 7. Dillon Hammond, Grand Marsh; 8. Travis Volm, Mosinee
Feature: 1. Sommers; 2. Johnson; 3. Nason; 4. Hammond; 5. Fenhaus; 6. Lepak; 7. Shafer; 8. C. Weinkauf; 9. DeAngelis; 10. Mondeik; 11. Bickle; 12. Kvapil; 13. J. Weinkauf; 14. Brooks; 15. Beale; 16. T. Volm; 17. Farrell; 18. M.G. Gajewski; 19. Heinrich; 20. Mackesy; 21. Brocker