WAUSAU, Wis. (June 15) – After more than a year of near-misses at State Park Speedway, the breaks finally went Jason Weinkauf’s way in the 2023 Flip Merwin Memorial.
What appeared set to be Jevin Guralski’s breakthrough moment instead became Weinkauf’s night at the end, as the Merrill veteran took the lead on lap 72 and won the 75-lap Auto Select Super Late Models pres. by C-Tech feature in the 20th running of the race in honor of Merwin, a former stock car and snowmobile racer who died in a snowmobile racing accident in 2003.
The win was the first this season and first since 2021 for Weinkauf, who famously finished runner-up in seven of 10 features last year and was in the running for the win the first two weeks this year at State Park. It also was his first win in the Merwin Memorial race and gave him wins in two of the track’s three biggest super late model races, as he also won the Wayne (Lodi) Lodholz Memorial in 2021.
“Definitely, this is right up there,” said Weinkauf. “We wanted to win the ‘big three’ here at State Park, we got the Lodi a couple years ago. We were shut out of wins last year, so we’re really excited to get the win. And really honored to win this race in Flip’s memory, Flip was a good friend of ours, hell of a guy, so we couldn’t be happier.”
The first two super late model features this season at State Park featured drama in the final laps, and this one followed suit after Guralski dominated most of the race. The 15-year old Wausau native in just his third race in a super late model took the lead from Tucker Miller on the fifth lap and held it for more than 65 laps, including pulling away from brother Kolton Guralski on a restart after a competition caution with 25 laps left.
Jevin Guralski held a comfortable lead with 10 laps remaining and appeared in shape for a big win, with Weinkauf trailing four car lengths back in second and Wausau’s Rayce Haase in third. Weinkauf started to close slightly as the laps wound down, but a spin by Mark Mackesy into the infield with five laps eventually provided the opening Weinkauf would need to make a final charge.
Mackesy returned to the track after spinning but was slow as Jevin Guralski approached him to pass on lap 71. Guralski drifted high in turns 1 and 2 as he approached Mackesy, slowing enough to allow Weinkauf to shoot the gap between the two on the backstretch. The two ran side-by-side for two laps, but Weinkauf led at the line on lap 72 and cleared Guralski a lap later. Guralski tried to make a final move back inside Weinkauf on lap 73, but Haase also was right there as well and the top three settled in single file and finished in that order with Guralski second and Haase finishing a close third.
“We had a pretty loose car, I was a little nervous about it,” said Weinkauf. “I told the guys, I said I don’t think I’ve got much for him.
“But I saw he was getting a little bit loose himself, when he was coming up on Mark he went to that high side coming into (turn) one, and his car just got loose there, and I said there’s an opportunity and I’m going to take it.”
Weinkauf ran in the top three for the final 40 laps after getting inside three-time defending Merwin race winner Justin Mondeik for third on lap 34. He appeared set to make a run at the top spot on lap 42 when he got inside Kole Guralski for second, but just as quickly as he cleared him Kole Guralski crossed over behind to get back inside Weinkauf to make it a battle for the next four laps.
Weinkauf eventually cleared Kole Guralski but saw Jevin Guralski starting to pull away as the cars approached the competition caution coming after 50 laps. Weinkauf ran second into the lap 51 caution and again into another with 18 laps left, but both times he chose to restart behind Jevin Guralski instead of beside the leader. He would get by second-place Kole Guralski on the first restart and also cleared Haase for second on the second late restart.
Brock Heinrich of Wausau finished fourth with Kole Guralski coming in fifth. Mondeik ran as high as third early but saw his car go away as the race went on and went to the pits briefly during the competition caution before coming back to finish sixth.
Auto Select Super Late Models pres. by C-Tech
Fast Qualifier: Justin Mondeik, Gleason, 13.504 sec.
First Heat: 1. Mark Mackesy, Wausau; 2. Tucker Miller, Wausau; 3. Noah Gajewski, Marathon; 4. Jevin Guralski, Wausau; 5. James Swanson, Pembine; 6. Rayce Haase, Wausau
Second Heat: 1. Jason Weinkauf, Merrill; 2. Kole Guralski, Wausau; 3. Brock Heinrich, Wausau; 4. Mondeik; 5. Jeremy Lepak, Wausau; 6. Travis Volm, Wausau
Feature: 1. J. Weinkauf; 2. J. Guralski; 3. Haase; 4. Heinrich; 5. K. Guralski; 6. Mondeik; 7. T. Volm; 8. Lepak; 9. Miller; 10. Gajewski; 11. Mackesy; 12. Swanson