Holds Off Late Charge From Bennett To Secure Victory
Written By: Gregg Paul
Steve Apel has had a challenging season at the Slinger Super Speedway in 2012. The challenges of gambling on different setups. The challenges of dealing with adversity. The challenges of worrying about his father’s illness. As well as the challenge of proposing to his long time girlfriend.
Each and every time Apel has survived those challenges and thrived on it. Not only did he take each challenge head on, he took the checkered flag in the Pepsi Challenge 60.
When things are going well it looks easy and when they are not it’s been a struggle. Apel’s answer to that is just as straightforward as his driving.
“Just trying stuff,” said Apel. “You gotta try stuff to stay ahead and we tried a new set up at the beginning of this year and we did good. Then everyone started catching back up to us. We keep trying stuff to make sure because everybody is going to get faster.”
Gregg Pawelski and Mike Graczkowski led the field to the green flag with Graczkowski getting the early jump. The inside line took off before the outside as Mike Egan and Al Schill quickly got around Pawelski. A little further back Lowell Bennett and Steve Apel began to work their way towards the front.
Graczkowski quickly stretched his lead to a half a straightaway as behind him cars ran side by side. Lowell Bennett worked his way past Egan and Schill on the outside, and paved the way for Apel to follow.
By lap 14, Bennett and Apel worked into second and third place respectively and started to run down Graczkowski. Six laps later Bennett ducked to the inside of Graczkowski to take the lead with Apel glued to his rear bumper. The duo began to put some distance between them and Graczkowski, as he was now doing battle with Egan for the third spot.
Bennett and Apel were a half straightaway ahead of that third place battle, and Apel began to mount his charge. Apel would get to Bennett’s inside and run alongside for a lap before clearing him for the lead off of turn two on lap 27.
Once Apel took the lead he took off and left Bennett in his wake. Until lapped traffic played a role that is. Apel came up on the lapped cars of Curt Tillman and Jake Vanoskey as those two battled side by side in front of the leaders. Apel caught a break when the lapped cars got back single file, but Bennett wasn’t as fortunate. Bennett caught them in turn one, and lost a ton of momentum trying to get around.
That allowed Apel to open up his lead once again. While Apel pulled away, the best battle on the track was for the third spot between Mike Egan and Dennis Prunty. Egan and Prunty didn’t seem to fare any better with the lapped traffic, and continued to lose ground to the leaders.
Apel was seemingly on cruise control as the laps were winding down, yet Bennett was closing the gap considerably. The race was almost slowed for a caution when Jake Vanoskey spun off of turn two on lap 42. However, Vanoskey spun harmlessly into the infield and the race remained under green.
Apel was again hampered by lapped traffic and Bennett capitalized and got back to within striking distance. However it was clear that Apel had a stronger car coming off the corners and reclaimed the advantage he had lost as Bennett was closing.
The laps wound down quickly as the race stayed green the entire distance, as Apel took the twin checkers a mere 1.32 seconds ahead of Bennett. Mike Egan held off the challenge of Dennis Prunty to wind up in third, while Conrad Morgan rounded out the top five.
For Apel it was a rewarding win considering all the challenges he has faced this season.
“When you try stuff it can go either way,” said Apel. “It can go good like tonight or it can go really bad like a couple times before. It also depends on how good of a break you get with which way Lowell goes, who’s in front of you, who’s harder to pass than some guys, and when you burn up your tires and when you don’t.”
Lowell Bennett may have burned up his tires more than Apel, but always gave it everything he had.
“It was just the best we had,” said Bennett. “That 16 car is mighty good and we just didn’t have it for him. We’ll come back next week and try even harder. We just keep on trying. You know we’re having fun.”
Yet has it been a disappointing year at Slinger?
“We got wrecked really hard earlier and this crew has been working their tails off between this car and the Kaukauna car, we’re leading the points up there but I am confident we’ll get a win for this car yet.”
The preliminary action for the Super Late Models saw a pair of veterans take the checkers. 67 year old Hall of famer Al Schill took the win in the Broadway Auto Sales of Hartford trophy dash, while the 69 year old veteran Jerry Eckhardt captured the win in one of the heat races. Brad Keith took the honors in the other heat race.
Steven Schulz capitalized on a late race caution that erased the nearly half lap lead that John DeAngelis had on the field to get the win in the Limited Late Models.
DeAngelis had started the race from the pole and got the jump on Braison Bennett on the start. After running side by side for a few laps, DeAngelis finally would clear Bennett on lap 3, but was immediately pressured by Jerry Mueller. DeAngelis would start to pull away, as Mueller had to fend off Danny Church and then Steven Schulz. Schulz would win that battle, but it seemed that he was going to lose the war.
DeAngelis opened up a full straightaway lead as the laps were winding down. It seemed like nothing was going to stop him. At least not until that always untimely yellow flag would fly to bunch up the field.
With just seven laps to go, Brittiny Helmers spun in turn three to bring out that caution and erased the huge lead that DeAngelis had.
DeAngelis would choose the inside lane on the restart, and battled side by side with Schulz for the first four laps back under green. Schulz kept up the pressure on the outside and finally was able to clear DeAngelis with just three laps to go.
Schulz was able to close out his first victory in a Limited Late Model in three years, as he held off DeAngelis by .818 seconds at the checkers. Jerry Mueller wound up in third place while Alex Prunty came home in fourth. Danny Church rounded out the top five.
That yellow flag was all that Schulz needed he felt to steal the win.
“For sure we needed it. We were happy we got it done on the outside,” said Schulz. “Which is really good because a lot of guys have trouble running on the outside. It was good that the car was really hooked up on the outside. If we wouldn’t have had that yellow we would have ended up in second, and we would’ve been happy with that, but after that we were able to hold him down and move forward on the outside so that was worth it.”
Alex Prunty captured the fast dash.
The Mid-American Sportsman division saw a bit of controversy in their feature event. All season long it has been a two way battle between James Swan and Ryan Farrell and tonight was shaping up to be no exception. Swan and Farrell started mid pack and by lap 12 were running first and second which has seemingly been the norm. However, this time it was Farrell in front of Swan.
The pair were seemingly just toying with each other as Swan would make a move that Farrell would soon block. The race would be slowed by a caution on lap 14 when the car of Chris Ratajczyk spun off turn two and stalled in the backstretch.
Farrell would get the jump on the restart and quickly cleared Swan. A lap later as the entered turn one, Swan got into the back of Farrell and loosened him up considerably. Swan backed off and allowed Farrell to catch the car as they raced on. Swan looked to the outside of Farrell as Brian Holtz made it a three way battle for the lead.
Farrell washed up in turn one on lap 19 allowing Swan to take the lead, however at the same time the car of Dennis Eichorst spun off of turn four bringing out the caution reverting the running order to the prior completed lap. This gave the lead back to Farrell for the restart.
Farrell would once again gain the advantage on the restart and quickly cleared Swan for the lead. Lap 24 was where the controversy would strike as Swan would make contact with Farrell in turn one causing Farrell to spin out. Ordinarily this would see both drivers being sent to the rear of the field for their involvement in the yellow. However, the flag man ruled to disqualify Swan for rough driving and black flagged Swan off the track. Farrell was allowed to continue but was sent to the rear.
Brian Holtz was the beneficiary of that decision as he inherited the lead with just six laps remaining. Holtz was able to get a great restart and easily cleared the car of Denny Norton Jr. and cruised to the victory. Farrell was able to claw his way back to finish in the third spot, while Jack Stern and Aaron Cain rounded out the top five.
Chris Ratajczyk won the dash while Dennis Eichorst captured the heat race.
The Thunderstock division saw Brad Hetzel hold off Ken Schraufnagel for the victory. The pair quickly pulled away from the rest of the contenders and made it a two man battle for the entire distance. Schraufnagel was glued to Hetzel’s bumper the whole race, but could just never find a way to make the pass. Tyler Schley finished in third place, while John Daley and Tim Kreuser rounded out the top five. Joe Shelby finished in sixth.
Tyler Schley won the dash.
Kyle Stark captured the win in the four cylinder Slinger Bees by holding off new track record holder Brandon Tackes for the win. Tackes became the first driver ever in the division to break in the 14 second bracket in qualifying with a run of 14.988. Despite that record breaking run, Tackes didn’t have enough to get around Stark before the checkered flag fell. Steve Dickson would finish in the third spot, just ahead of both Nick Schmidt and ten year old Grant Greisbach, who rounded out the top five.
Kyle Stark also captured a win in his heat race, as Paul Reagles took top honors in the other heat.
Willy Van Camp held off Shane “The Shark” Becker in the Figure 8 feature. Ron Schmitt finished in third with Paul Williams in fourth and Rick Bruskiewicz completing the top five.
Next Sunday August 5th is the 2012 Celebrity Race. Local TV, Radio, and Print personalities will be on hand for a special match race. A 50 lap super late model race will highlight the events with a full racing program on tap with gates opening at 4 pm, qualifying at 4:45, opening ceremonies at 6:30 and racing to follow. For more info go to www.slingersuperspeedway.com.
This article was posted to the website on July 30th, 2012