FEILER WINS STRANGE WCS "THRILLER" AT MADISON by Dean Strom
Big Crashes, Big Drama As SLM Series Returns To Action
Popcorn anyone? Popcorn? Sit back and enjoy as I tell the story of Sunday afternoons Miller Classic 100, Wisconsin Challenge Series (WCS) modern day action/thriller/who-done-it at Madison (Wis.) International Speedway.
But be forewarned, just when you think you know who the winner is was…think again.
of the contenders, a classic Wisconsin short track battle was shaping up. That’s when our story takes the first of many twists.
While racing underneath Cornelius for the third spot, on lap 36, the drive shaft on Haseleu’s potent mount broke.
“It’s always something,” said a disappointed Haseleu. “That’s the first time that’s ever happened to me.”
Wisconsin Challenge Series rules call for a 10 minute half-way break. And just prior to the mid-point, Cornelius and Rubeck put on a great show, running side-by-side for the lead for several laps. After some bumping and grinding, and plenty of Rubeck hand gestures, Cornelius got by. Morrissey shot through the hole Cornelius created and at the break it was Cornelius, Morrissey, Rubeck, Kendall, Richards, Eswein and 19th starting Dave Feiler.
Nathan Haseleu looked like he had a shot for the win, but mechanical problems put him out and he had to watch the rest. (Doug Hornickel Photos)
Teams are allowed to do anything to their car that they want during the half-way break…short of changing tires.
Like any good theatrical production the pace picked up after the intermission, and no Hollywood production worth its weight is any good without a good car chase and crash, right? Well, our leaders didn’t disappoint.
Just two laps into the second stanza, Cornelius, Rubeck, Kendall and Morrissey all tangled coming out of turn four. Rubeck got the short end of the stick, landing on his roof and sliding down the front stretch, coming to rest just past the start/finish line.
Rubeck and Morrissey were done for the day while Kendall and Cornelius were able to make repairs to their battered mounts and soldier on.
“Dean went into turn three a little bit hot and pushed up in the center, leaving a hole for Andrew to get in, coming out of four,” recounted Rubeck. “Andrew got in underneath him, I know he didn’t move him, and I was going to follow him through that hole. I was about a foot off his bumper and I think Kendall was about the same off of mine. Dean then drifted high and looked like he scrapped the wall and came off of it and stopped. Andrew hit him, I hit Andrew and the chain reaction was on.”
Jeremy Miller (#5) and Dave Feiler (#96) race.
Kenny Richards took the lead at the drop of the green from his outside pole starting spot. Jason Weinkauf, Steve Rubeck, Mark Eswein, Dean Cornelius and 23 other starters gave chase.
Rubeck, the winner of the season opening WCS race four weeks ago, was fast early. He quickly worked past Weinkauf and Richards to take the point on lap six.
Cornelius was also fast and followed Rubeck to the front before settling in the runner-up slot.
Just past lap 25, the top five also featured sixth-starting Nathan Haseleu, fast qualifier Andrew Morrissey and Jeff Kendall. As the top five pulled away slowly from the rest
A stunned Feiler had a different view of the bizarre incident.
“The second half of the race had just started, we’re just riding and I was right in the middle of eating my popcorn. I saw someone get into someone’s left rear, they turned right. I reached down, put some more butter on the popcorn, put my hand out the window and hung on.”
After the melee, Richards led with Eswein, Feiler, Josh Vadnais and Frank Kreyer rounding out the top five.
Three additional caution flags waved in the second half of the race, all for relatively minor incidents.
Steve Ruebeck (#61) goes for a wild ride just after the half-way point.
Feiler had gotten past Eswein but had nothing for the 25-year-old Richards.
The final restart occurred with just 11 laps remaining. And just as the crowd prepared for a feel good ending, where our baby-faced leader, with just two full seasons of Super Late Model experience to his credit, would take the biggest win of his young career…the unthinkable happened…again.
Richards didn’t get a good jump at the green and drifted high in turn one, giving Feiler the opening he needed. The veteran pounced on it and took the lead. Richards was able to recover, get back in line and shadow Feiler the remainder of the race, forced to settle for second at the stripe.
“He just didn’t get his tires cleaned off there at the beginning of the restart and that’s really critical when you have that many laps on them,” said Feiler.
“The car came off of four good, but when it got to the flagman it fell on its face and wouldn’t go,” recalls Richards. “By the time we got to turn one it went again, but Dave was by me.”
So our saga ends with Feiler, a three-time Madison International Speedway late model track champion riding in, stealing the glory, the trophy and the $2,200 first-place cash. Eswein, Vadnais and Andy Monday followed Richards and completed the top five. And while
Richards could have been beating himself up pretty bad in the post race tech line, he held his chin up high and maintained a positive attitude.
“I’m disappointed, but at the same time, this is only the second half-mile track I’ve run at where I made the show and we finished second to Dave Feiler.”