ALL STAR CHALLENGE: LEFTOVERS   By Dean Strom
Cup Champions, Brian Hoppe, Eddie Hoffman & More
The Best Man
and drove to and from work with each other every day.  When you’re riding in a car with someone, every day, for two hours, you can get to be pretty close friends with them.”

The Old Switcherony

Eddie Hoffman’s crew was on the ball and changed the number on the side of his ride Tuesday night, while the car sat in the tech line.

For many shows in Wisconsin, the qualifying order is determined by the number on the side of your car.  A track official will randomly draw a number…in Tuesday’s case number 31…and qualifying started with car #31.  It’ll then run up through the assembled car numbers with car #30 being the last to time in.

Hoffman was guest driving Terry Kunes’ #39 on Tuesday.  It’s a well know fact that no driver likes to go out early in qualifying.  So when word spread through the pit area that #31 had been drawn, Hoffman’s team pulled out some duck tape and made the #39 into #30…moving Hoffman from the fifth qualifier to the last.
Chad Wood (#2) and Matt Kenseth (#17) hung together before the race as well.  (Doug Hornickel Photos)
Wilberg is Superman

Defending Madison Int’l Speedway track champion Bobby Wilberg bested Tuesday night’s stellar field in qualifying.

“It was just two really good laps with new tires on it,” said Wilberg.  “These tires are so good.  It’s a 600 horsepower tire on a 400 horsepower racecar.  It makes you feel like Superman for a while.”

Wilberg was leading the 100-lap main event before the power plant on his ride went sour, relegating him to a third place run.

Bobby Wilberg
Pathfinder Chassis co-owner, and Midwestern stalwart short track lead wrench, Joe Wood, wed long time girlfriend Megan Fell on Monday.  No real shock considering the pair had been together for eight years.  But why on Monday?  Well, that’s when the best man could make it.

Matt Kenseth, back in the Madison, Wisconsin area to compete in the First Supply All-Star Challenge served as Wood’s best man for the small, private ceremony.

“Right out of high school I went to work for Lefthander Chassis,” recalls Wood.  “Matt and I worked together at Lefthander for about a year and we shared an apartment
Look Mom, No Fire

“I guess we had a pretty good run,” said fifth place finisher Robbie Pyle.  “Chas Howe put together a brand new car.  We actually ran it once before and it caught on fire, so I’m just glad to finish.  Three times in the last year I’ve caught on fire.”

Quotes from Kenseth and Stewart in Pre-Race Media Gathering…

The First Supply All-Star Challenge 100 had a “big-time” feel to it with a packed grandstand, an overflowing hospitality area, star drivers being escorted by security at every move and by the fact that the race was being broadcast live on local radio.  Matt Kenseth and Tony Stewart spent about 15 minutes with assembled media.  The following are excerpts from that Q&A session…

“This is neat for Matt and I to come here.  Before my career took off in Indy Cars and stock cars, I used to run at Sun Prairie and Beaver Dam so we’ve got a pretty good fan base in this area,” said Stewart.  “It’s kind of neat for us.  It’s kind of a relaxing day…we still want to go out and win the race…but we’re not worried about points, there’s not all the pressure that there is on a Cup weekend and it’s a whole new set of fans that don’t get to see us in person very often.”

For a couple years in the early 1990’s the Madison Int’l Speedway was a dirt track.  When asked if Tony could wave a magic wand and turn the track back to dirt for the night and run dirt late models, Stewart replied…”Yeah, but if I could do that, Matt would change Eldora to pavement.  And I don’t think I could get away with that.”

On the topic of the former ARTGO Challenge Series (which morphed into the NASCAR Midwest Series in 1998), Kenseth said, “That’s where I started out and got all my experience and that obviously means a lot to me.  These (cars tonight) are the kind of cars that I grew up racing with around the Midwest so it means a lot to be back and run them.”
Matt Kenseth (left) and Tony Stewart (right) talk to some media members before the start of the race on Tuesday.
On the topic of the Midwest Series going away after the 2006 season, Kenseth commented, “I hope they can come up with an alternative to it…I know the WCS series has sort of taken off.  The ARTGO deal was always tough, but it got tougher when NASCAR came along.  They changed a lot of the rules and it was hard to get a lot of cars to do that.  I’m hoping that someday they (promoters) can get all the rules the same so you can run a car here (Madison) on a Friday, the Dells on Saturday, Slinger on Sunday and if there’s a special somewhere, they can run the same car, with the same rules.  That’d be the way to do it…you’d get a lot more cars…and that’s how it used to be.”

When asked how Stewart’s car owner and sponsors feel about their star driver having fun racing in a non-Nextel Cup race, the defending Cup champion replied…”I don’t care how they feel about it.  Unless they’re going to support me the rest of my life after I’m done driving, I’ve got the right to go run whatever I want to run…to a certain degree.  Obviously they know we’re getting in cars that are safe, they don’t mind too bad.  But if it were up to them, we’d live in rubber rooms and the only time we’d come out of them is when it was time to get in the racecar.  We live in a world where we could get hurt worse than driving the racecar, just driving down the interstate.” 

When asked if he had a video game of Madison Int’l Speedway…a track Stewart had never been to, he replied.  “I don’t think so.  I’m not real sold on that yet.  The guys that are saying the video games are helping them…they’re just saying that so they’ve got an excuse to play video games for another five hours.”

North Carolina North

For obvious geographical reasons, North Carolina, and more specifically Charlotte, has become the hotbed of NASCAR activity.  Teams are located there and the majority of their drivers have relocated there.  But Tuesday, southern Wisconsin could have been mistaken for North Carolina North.

While Kenseth and Stewart were at Madison Int’l Speedway participating in the First Supply All-Star Challenge, fellow Nextel Cup drivers Jeff Gordon, Jimmie Johnson, Brian Vickers, Kurt and Kyle Busch, David Stremme, Reed Sorenson, Casey Mears and Jeremy Mayfield were down the road 90 miles testing at the Milwaukee Mile.

Combined, over 25% of a normal Cup lineup was in the Badger state at the same time.
Quick Learner

Twenty-one year old Jacob Goede made his first trip to Madison Int’l Speedway a memorable one.  The Minnesota driver qualified seventh, and led a few laps before finishing sixth in the main event.

“This is our first time here and only the second time on the car, so we were thrilled with how it went,” said Goede.  “The track really came right to me.  The car was a little tight, so we loosened it up a bit and by the second practice we were the fastest car out there.  We were a little taller on gear than we wanted to be, but the high line actually helped me keep my momentum up and kind of saved me.”
Jacob Goede
Race The Truck Mark

Mark Kraus, a UPS driver by day, got a call from his employer as he and his team were leaving their shop on Tuesday morning.  Kraus was supposed to have the day off, but got called into work.

The team went on without Kraus and summoned Madison Int’l Speedway veteran Dale Nottestad to practice and qualify the car.  Nottestad did well in the substitute role, qualifying the car eighth.

Kraus worked a full day and made it to the track in time to take over the wheel of his #9 in the 100-lap race.  Unfortunately mechanical gremlins relegated Kraus to a disappointing 29th place finish.

Fast Finishes…Former ASA national champion Joey Clanton was calling the shots for John Wes Townley.  Townley, however, broke in practice and went home early…Tom Kmak, owner of Eddie Hoffman’s TK Racing ride, announced that crew chief Bruce Carlson was resigning his position, effective at the end of the month.  Carlson will be returning the Fox Valley area of Wisconsin to spend more time with his family…Frank Kreyer’s hopes for a good run were dashed in practice when the rear end of his #99 broke…A plane carrying a banner promoting Saturday nights Wisconsin Challenge Series race at Dells Motor Speedway circled above the huge crowd assembled.  Unofficially it turned more laps over the track than cars did on the track…Kenseth guest drove the Pathfinder Chassis house car while Stewart was in a car normally campaigned by Tim Petrie…Former Midwest Series champion Brian Hoppe returned to his home track behind the wheel of Allen Petrie, Jr’s car, bringing it home 15th.