WAUSAU, Wis. (Aug. 8) – While grizzled veterans dominated the longest races of the night, Thursday night also featured a pair of first-time winners at State Park Speedway, as well as another vet picking up a win in making a move in the point standings.
The Rockstar Energy Drink Mini Stocks division has been marked by close, clean racing all season with a variety of feature winners. The class checked all those boxes again Thursday as Ringle’s Evan Pingel won his first-ever feature at the track by a whisker, nipping points leader Kole Ferge by inches at the finish line.
The final margin of victory was 27 thousandths of a second, with Pingel holding on after a furious charge by Ferge in the final laps. He became the seventh different feature winner in the mini stocks this season and the 11th driver to win a feature in the class over the last two seasons.
Pingel took the lead on lap three by passing Tom Lecher on the outside, and he set sail building a big margin while fast timer Kole Ferge and most recent feature winner Chad Ferge were mired in traffic. Kole Ferge passed Kyle Check for third on lap 7 and Lecher for second two laps later, but with the laps winding down in the 15-lap race had considerable work to do the rest of the way to get to Pingel.
Ferge needed four laps to get to Pingel’s bumper, and even briefly got inside the leader on the frontstretch with two laps to go. Pingel was able to surge back ahead in turn two and kept his line as Ferge challenged again on the inside over the last 1 1/2 laps. The cars were side-by-side coming to the checkers with Pingel on the outside the narrow winner.
Also winning his first feature at the speedway was Jason Stark, who went wire-to-wire to take the 25-lap Advance Auto Parts Pure Stocks main.
A versatile veteran racer from Tomah who also took part in the Midwest Truck Series Thursday, Stark got the holeshot on the outside after the drop of the green, drove away from the pack early and then held off Alex Volm the second half of the race. Stark kept a 2-3 car length lead over Volm over the final 15 laps, pulling away out of the fourth turn almost every lap after Volm would get a good run going into turns three and four.
Stark also won the heat race Thursday and notably broke a string of feature wins at Golden Sands Speedway earlier this year by Mark Kalata. He also snapped a string of eight straight races where either Volm or Brian Schramm had won the feature, with Volm setting for second this time and points leader Schramm third.
Greg Blount had been knocking on the door plenty of late in the Snap-on Mini Mods, with three second-place finishes in the last four regular weekly shows, plus a second in the Midwest Compact Touring Series feature five days earlier at SPS. Thursday was a breakthrough with his second feature win of the season, and the Marathon driver also took over first in the point standings, moving ahead of three-time defending champion George Seliger by a point with three weeks left.
Blount’s car was hooked up all night, right from time trials when his best lap was over half a second quicker than any other mini mod. He went from third to first in just over a lap in the feature, winning a tough battle with Seliger for second and then passing Garret Strachota on the outside for the lead on lap 12.
Up next at State Park Speedway is Corn Night next week, with all-you-can-eat corn and tap beer for $12. It also will be Kids Backpack Night, and SPS’s weekly super late models will return for the first time since July 3. Pure stocks, mini mods, mini stocks and Bandoleros also will be on the agenda, with Fred Mueller Qualifying starting at 6 p.m. and racing to follow at 7 p.m.
Advance Auto Parts Pure Stocks
Fast Qualifier: Todd Handrick, Wausau, 15.487 sec.
Heat: 1. Jason Stark, Tomah; 2. Brian Schramm, Wausau; 3. Alex Volm, Mosinee; 4. Handrick; 5. Brian Plisch, Athens
Feature: 1. Stark; 2. A. Volm; 3. Schramm; 4. Handrick; 5. Plisch
Snap-on Mini Mods
Fast Qualifier: Greg Blount, Marathon, 15.516 sec.
First Heat: 1. Dale Louze, Mosinee; 2. Evan Call, Elderon; 3. Jim Lietz, Mosinee; 4. Noah Gajewski, Marathon; 5. Kevin Tessmer, Wausau
Second Heat: 1. George Seliger, Wausau; 2. Blount; 3. Gary Garand, Weston; 4. Garret Strachota, Wausau; 5. Dylan Delaney, North Freedom
Feature: 1. Blount; 2. Strachota; 3. Seliger; 4. D. Delaney; 5. Louze; 6. Garand; 7. Call; 8. Tesser; 9. N. Gajewski
Rockstar Mini Stocks
Fast Qualifier: Kole Ferge, Schofield, 16.516 sec.
First Heat: 1. Amanda Rowe, Mosinee; 2. Kyle Check, Shantytown; 3. Tom Lecher, Wausau; 4. Randy Zieglmeier, Wausau; 5. Kendra Baumann, Wausau
Second Heat: 1. Evan Pingel, Ringle; 2. K. Ferge; 3. Tyler Custer, Stratford; 4. Chris Tolliver, Watertown; 5. Chad Ferge, Wausau; 6. Logan Delaney, North Freedom
Feature: 1. Pingel; 2. K. Ferge; 3. Lecher; 4. C. Ferge; 5. Check; 6. Tolliver; 7. L. Delaney; 8. Zieglmeier; 9. Rowe; 10. Baumann; 11. Custer