BICKLE ENDS SLINGER CAREER WITH A BIG PAYDAY IN SUPERSEAL MILLER LITE NATIONALS

By Dan Margetta
Slinger, Wis., July 2—Long after the races ended with the crowd filed out of the gates and the parking lots emptied, the quietness around the Slinger Super Speedway would normally be a time for Rich Bickle to reflect on a tremendous career at the world’s fastest ¼ mile oval after earlier crossing the finish line second behind Steve Apel in his final Slinger laps during the SuperSeal Nationals presented by Miller Lite.

However, the stillness quickly turned to surprised astonishment when word came down that after Apel’s car failed post race technical inspection due to an illegal carburetor spacer, Bickle was declared the winner, his fourth triumph in the prestigious super late model event. The fact the victory came in Bickle’s last ever event at the Slinger speed plant in this, his final year of competition, made it even more emotional.

“He’s (Apel) a good kid, I don’t know what the hell happened or what’s going on. I’ve been on that side of it too, he’s tore up and that makes me feel bad, “ Bickle stated from the pit area after learning the $9,999 top prize would be going to him. “I don’t want to win a race that way but that’s the way it is.”

“This is my last year of racing, “ Bickle continued, “I spend $150,000 building cars and doing that so I guess the ten grand will go toward paying for the car I just bought. There’s two ways of looking at this tonight, one guy is really upset, one guy doesn’t feel like he deserved it, but if you (speedway officials) wouldn’t have done that (disqualification) then 34 people, whoever else was here would be on their case about why you didn’t disqualify him and you let him go and that would hurt them. But to see him (Apel) tore up, it sucks but he’s man enough to walk over and hand it (the trophy) to me…it’s tough.”

Apel had the dominant car throughout much of the second half of the race, leading the final 65 laps and holding Bickle at bay over four restarts in an apparent win but his emotions plummeted from sky high in victory lane to rock bottom as the Nationals trophy was solemnly handed over to Bickle. The emotions flowed following the exchange and Apel left the speedway with the dejected look of a driver who drove his heart out to a perceived huge victory unaware of the mechanical intricacies inside the race car.

Minus the NASCAR star power of top Sprint Cup drivers that traditionally noted the event, the 2013 version of the SuperSeal Nationals featured a huge purse and a strong field of hard working short trackers as Conrad Morgan, Brad Keith, James Swan, and Dennis Prunty, all joined Apel as leaders of the 199 lap event, with Prunty holding the top spot at the scheduled halfway break.

Of the leaders, Dennis Prunty fared the best, finishing in second place after the results were adjusted following the disqualification.

“We’re definitely getting closer, “Prunty said afterwards, “We made some adjustments at halfway that just seemed to completely backfire on us. We’ll keep working on it and maybe next year we’ll get this one. I’m hoping if we can stop bouncing off of (Rich) Bickle we can win some races.”

Ross Kenseth equaled his best Nationals finish for the third time with a third place result while Casey Johnson completed his first Nationals run with an impressive fourth place finish. Florida driver, Steve Dorer turned in his best Slinger performance by finishing fifth. Early leader Brad Keith took the checkered flag in sixth place ahead of super late model rookie Ty Majeski in seventh. Brad Mueller crossed the finish line in eighth before spinning in turn one after taking the checkered flag and Dale Prunty and Jeff Holtz completed the top ten finishers.

Early leader James Swan finished eleventh with a damaged car after being involved in a tangle with Becca Kasten in turn three while racing for position on lap 149. Kasten, who spent a majority of the race among the top five in an impressive return to super late model racing took the checkered flag in fourteenth.

The event was slowed under the caution flag for a total of eight times with the most serious incident occurring early on lap 48 when Conrad Morgan’s car nosed into the front stretch wall hard following contact to the right rear tire from Garrett Evans. Morgan was not seriously injured in the mishap but his car was done for the night, leaving the veteran with a nineteenth place finish. Evans’ race was also ended in the same incident and the Washington driver finished twentieth.

Casey Johnson was the winner of the 30-lap super late model qualifying race and he transferred into the main event along with Ross Kenseth, Dale Prunty, and Chris Blawat who finished second through fourth respectively. Michael Bilderback finished fifth. Becca Kasten drove to victory in the 30-lap super late model semi-feature to claim a transfer spot to the Nationals along with Bilderback who finished second. Al Schill, Steve Dorer, and Dan Church rounded out the top five in the super late model semi-feature.

Kyle Chwala won the 25-lap Area Sportsman feature over Brad Hetzel and Lyle Messinger. Tyler Schley finished fourth and Joe Shelby took the checkered flag in fifth.