Opening night for the 2023 season at State Park Speedway hinted at the possibility of one of the most competitive seasons in the Auto Select Super Late Models class in years. It certainly should be one of the fastest.

It also might be a big year for Wausau’s Brock Heinrich if the opener was any indication. Heinrich began the night with the fastest qualifying lap in track history, and he finished it with victory in the 60-lap feature race for his third career super late model feature win at the track, and first since the 2021 season opener.

Heinrich held off Merrill’s Jason Weinkauf in a paint-swapping final 7-lap shootout shortened to six laps after caution came out just after the leaders took the white flag. The finish capped a race where Heinrich powered to the front early and led 38 of the final 40 laps, but still faced a number of stiff challenges.

A repaving of the corners on both ends of the track combined with racers opening the season with four fresh tires brought lightning-quick speeds for the super late models. None was faster than Heinrich, who set a new track record with a lap of 13.327 seconds, breaking the previous mark of 13.336 seconds set by Chris Wimmer. The repaving and a competitive field of cars also brought a feature with four different leaders, six lead changes and several side-by-side battles for the lead.

Heinrich started 10th in a field of 14 cars in the feature but took the lead from Travis Volm, clearing him for the lead on lap 24 to finish a four-lap side-by-side race for the top spot. It appeared he would cruise away to the win after pulling away quickly after a mid-race restart following a competition caution, but more challenges loomed on the horizon soon.

The first came from Jeremy Lepak, who settled into second behind Heinrich after the midway restart and slowly closed from four car lengths back to Heinrich’s rear bumper by lap 45. Lepak appeared ready to make a run at the top spot, but as it turned out he would get no closer and slipped back soon after.

Heinrich appeared home free for the win until caution came out on lap 54 after Marathon’s Noah Gajewski spun between the first and second turns and Jerry Brickner of Wausau was later collected, setting up a double-file restart with seven laps left. Second-place running Lepak chose to start behind Heinrich, though, allowing Weinkauf in third the chance to take his shot on the outside of Heinrich.

The perennial runner-up last year who finished second in the final points standings with seven second-place finishes in 10 feature events, Weinkauf got a strong run on the backstretch shortly after the restart and led lap 54 by half a car length. Heinrich battled back on the inside, washing up slightly in Turn 2 and again in Turns 3 and 4, and he led lap 55 and cleared Weinkauf soon after.

Weinkauf appeared to be sizing up Heinrich for a run at him on the final lap, shortly after the leaders took the white flag, when Mark Mackesy spun on the backstretch entering the third turn. With the leaders having taken the white flag already, the race was deemed complete and Heinrich took the checkered flag under caution.

Weinkauf wound up with another second-place run while Lepak finished third. Three-time defending super late model champion Justin Mondeik came in fourth, overtaking super late model rookie Jevin Guralski on the final restart after chasing him the previous 10 laps. Guralski came in fifth in his SLM debut.

Super Late Models
Fast Qualifier: Brock Heinrich, Wausau, 13.326 sec.
First Heat: 1. Jerry Brickner, Wausau; 2. Rayce Haase, Wausau; 3. Noah Gajewski, Marathon; 4. Mark Mackesy, Wausau; 5. Carter Christenson, West Salem; 6. Mike Cox Jr., Hazelhurst; 7. James Swanson, Pembine
Second Heat: 1. Travis Volm, Wausau; 2. Justin Mondeik, Gleason; 3. Heinrich; 4. Jevin Guralski, Wausau; 5. Dillon Hammond, Grand Marsh; 6. Jason Weinkauf, Merrill; 7. Jeremy Lepak, Wausau
Feature: 1. Henirch; 2. Weinkauf; 3. Lepak; 4. Mondeik; 5. Guralski; 6. Haase; 7. Hammond; 8. Volm; 9. Christenson; 10. Mackesy; 11. Gajewski; 12. Brickner; 13. Cox; 14. Swanson