WAUSAU, Wis. (July 21) – Finally it was Grant Brown’s turn at State Park Speedway.
Brown was runner-up the last two years in the annual Big 8 Series visit for the Larry Detjens Memorial, but he did one better Friday, winning the 58-lap feature event highlighting the first night of the 43rd running of the Detjens Memorial.
The win was the first-ever on the late model series for the Minnesota native, and comes after eight previous top-5 finishes in Big 8 races. It also came after near-misses the previous two years at State Park, including a year ago when he led 30 laps but was passed by Casey Johnson with five laps left and had to settle for second.
“Finished second the last two years in a row definitely stung,” said Brown in a trackside post-race interview. “This is definitely the cherry on top of the ice cream.”
This time Brown was able to get to the front and stay there. He overtook Tyler Hromodka of Colgate for the lead on lap 25 and held the point the rest of the way, winning by more than a full straightaway over previous three-time SPS Big 8 winner Jon Reynolds Jr.
Brown had to come from the back of the pack after his race almost never got started. His car stalled on the backstretch in staging for the race, and had to be pushed back to the pits. Furious work and a number of caution laps allowed Brown’s crew and several others assisting to finally get his car started and onto the track in time for the start.
“The car just kind of sputtered and died, we couldn’t get it to go,” said Brown. “My dad and the Weinkauf crew (the pit crew for regular SPS competitors Oliver and Jason Weinkauf of Van Der Geest Racing), big thank you to them, they got me back out there. We would’ve been parked on the trailer by now if it wasn’t for them.”
Once on track, Brown steadily made up ground through a tough, competitive field. He was up to seventh by lap 4 and went inside Kody King of Clear Lake, Iowa for fifth on lap 9.
While Brown worked through the field, the leaders were staging several good side-by-side battles. Hromodka and Jerry Mueller of Richfield started on the front row and ran side-by-side for the first five laps before Hromodka took over the point. Reynolds then also got inside Mueller, and the two battled for second for the next 15 laps until Reynolds finally got free for second on lap 20.
Reynolds then reeled in Hromodka and had slipped inside him for the lead on lap 25 when the race’s lone caution came out when Greg Borchardt and Hanna Raley spun in tandem on the frontstretch. The caution put Hromodka back in the lead from the last completed lap, and he held the point alone for the restart, with Reynolds and third-place Randy Sargent of South Beloit,, Ill., also choosing to start on the inside.
The lane choice allowed fourth-place running Brown to move up to the outside of the first row behind the leader, and he took advantage quickly on the restart. Brown drove to the outside of Hromodka on lap 25, edged ahead to lead lap 26 and cleared for first a lap later. He drove away from there and built a nearly full straightaway lead by lap 40.
Hromodka continued to hold off Reynolds for second until lap 44, and Sargent would get by Hromodka for third with nine laps left. Jake Gille of Winnebago, Ill., also chased Sargent for most of the final 18 laps, finally getting inside him with three to go to finish second.
Sargent finished fourth with Mueller coming in fifth and Hromodka sixth. Mueller and Brown also posted heat wins on the evening and Sargent was the night’s quick qualifier with a lap of 14.434 seconds.
Big 8 Late Models
Fast Qualifier: Randy Sargent, South Beloit, Ill., 14.434 sec.
First Heat: 1. Jerry Mueller, Richfield; 2. Jon Reynolds Jr., Loves Park, Ill.; 3. Tyler Hromadka, Colgate; 4. McKayla Adams, Sun Prairie; 5. Paul Dygon, Wind Lake
Second Heat: 1. Grant Brown, Savage, Minn.; 2. Greg Borchardt, Prior Lake, Minn.; 3. Jake Gille, Winnebago, Ill.; 4. Kody King, Clear Lake, Iowa; 5. Sargent; 6. Hanna Raley, Fall River
Feature: 1. Brown; 2. Reynolds; 3. Gille; 4. Sargent; 5. Mueller; 6. Hromadka; 7. King; 8. Borchardt; 9. Dygon; 10. Adams; 11. Raley