By Dan Margetta
Slinger, Wis., July 11—Lowell Bennett wound up in victory lane following the 31st Annual Miller Lite Nationals Sunday night at the Slinger Super Speedway after on track fireworks following a late race restart dashed the efforts of Kyle Busch and Dennis Prunty, enabling Bennett to capture his fifth Nationals crown, tying Matt Kenseth for the most victories in the prestigious super late model event.
“This was just one awesome night, “ Bennett told the crowd, “Father Dale Grubba was here tonight and he’s got the holy water and I told him to make sure you put that on both valve covers because I need all I can get and I think we were really blessed tonight.”
Busch seemed to have the race in hand, enjoying a comfortable lead over Prunty and Bennett after leading a total of 140 laps, when an incident between Brad Dahmer and Conrad Morgan on lap 191 produced a late caution flag, setting up a nine lap dash to the checkered flag. Busch, as the leader, chose the inside lane for the restart, leaving the high side for Prunty and the two began a cat and mouse game as racing was about to resume, knowing a good start would be the key to victory. As the leaders came up to speed, Prunty appeared to leave early which in effect caused Busch to slow down, aborting the start as the field bunched behind them. As things sorted out entering turn one, Busch’s right front made contact with the car of Dave Feiler, cutting down the front tire and causing suspension damage that sent Busch off the speedway in a shower of sparks. With Busch out of the running, the inside row moved up for the second attempt at a restart, placing Bennett on the inside with Prunty once again on the outside. This time, Prunty spun the tires off turn four, sliding sideways as the green flag flew, enabling Bennett to streak ahead out front. Prunty tried his best to run Bennett down in the final laps, sliding his car wildly off the corners, but Bennett proved to be too strong as he drove to the victory.
“He (Prunty) was pretty much better all night long and I didn’t think I would have anything for him,” Bennett continued, “He always takes the high side and I thought, ‘Well we’ll see what we got here’, and boy, after that yellow, the car was just superb and with the tires cooled off it was ready to go for another 50 laps.”
“I don’t know what to say about those last laps, “Prunty said afterward referring to the decision to move the inside line up following Busch’s demise, “The outside was full of rubber and that’s why I wanted the inside. I thought I was the leader at the time.” “The caution was so long the tires got soft, “Prunty continued, “I was good before the caution and I’m not sure what happened to Kyle Busch, I guess he had a flat tire. I told him I was coming and I know he was a little worried about it.”
Ross Kenseth finished in third place, wrapping up an impressive super late model Nationals debut after starting 21st.
“I thought we had a really good car tonight, “ Kenseth stated, “I thought we had the winning car for the first hundred laps but we made it too tight for the second hundred and Lowell (Bennett) and Dennis (Prunty) ran a great race and it was a shame to see Kyle (Busch) get a bad break. We’ll get them next year.”
Dave Feiler made a late race charge in the second half, advancing his way to fourth at the checkered flag while Brad Mueller prevailed in an intense last lap battle with Jeremy Lepak for fifth, leaving Lepak to settle for sixth. Brian Johnson Jr. crossed the stripe in seventh place while Jon Reynolds Jr., Al Schill, and Conrad Morgan rounded out the top ten finishers.
Despite dominating most of the event, Busch’s misfortunes left him with a disappointing nineteenth place finish and he left the speedway without commenting on the evening’s events while fellow NASCAR Sprint Cup star Matt Kenseth led early for 28 laps before power steering issues developed a fire in the left front of his car while leading. Kenseth returned to the speedway after repairs and completed a few more laps before retiring from the event with a 23rd place finish.
“Madhouse” television show personality and Bowman-Grey Stadium modified driver Jonathan “Jon Boy” Brown drove to the win in the 35-lap super late model semi-feature over Scott Schoeni and Travis Dassow. Brandon Hill and Randy Schuler finished in fourth and fifth place respectively. Dan Fredrickson won the 25-lap super late model qualifying race to transfer to the main event along with Brad Dahmer, Nathan Haseleu, and Matt Kocourek in the second through fourth positions. Nick Panitzke was fifth. Kyle Busch blistered the speedway in qualifying turning in a near-record breaking lap of 11.185 seconds as all 16 cars that qualified for the feature event went faster than the top qualifying time from a year ago.
Chris Fleming, another personality from the “Madhouse” television show and Bowman-Grey competitor, paced the beginning laps over Freimund, Rob Braun, and John DeAngelis. Fleming was able to turn back the challenges from Freimund for the first six laps before Freimund dove to the inside in turn three to take command of the race on lap seven. Fleming nicked the backstretch wall on lap 11 as Rob Braun and Chris Blawat advanced ahead of him. As Freimund maintained the lead, Braun and Blawat battled side by side intensely for second as the caution flag waved on lap 15 when Ryan DeStefano spun in turn four. Freimund continued to lead on the restart as Braun used the inside to gain second from Blawat as Brad Dahmer, Jake Vanoskey, and Tanner Whitten raced to decide the fourth spot. Braun tried to track down Freimund for the lead as the caution waved again on lap 37 when Whitten looped around while racing with Vanoskey. As racing resumed, the field was quickly back under the yellow flag as the field gridlocked momentarily resulting in James Swan’s car spinning off turn two. The second attempt at the restart worked well and Freimund again continued to show the way as Braun worked the outside in second just ahead of Blawat. As Freimund began to ease away in the lead, Blawat and Braun battled fiercely for second as the laps wound down. On the final lap, Freimund charged to the win while upon exiting turn four, Braun’s machine spun around, sweeping up the cars behind him as the checkered flag waved. Most of the cars involved were able to pull away from the incident as Freimund celebrated the win with Blawat finishing second. Pat McIntee was credited with a third place finish while Ryan DeStefano and John DeAngelis completed the top five. McIntee was also the fastest qualifier in the late model division with a lap of 12.571 seconds.
This article was posted to the website on July 12th, 2010