RUBECK BEATS COMPETITION AND MOTHER NATURE AT ROCKFORD by Dean Strom
Wisconsin Challenge Series Goes on Road Trip to Illinois
Mother Nature took its best shot at Steve Rubeck and the rest of the Wisconsin Challenge Series (WCS) field, Sunday afternoon at the Rockford (Ill.) Speedway. But it was Rubeck who delivered the knock out blow as he bested the weather and 43 other drivers to win the Chicago International Trucks 150.
“Take that weather,” said Rubeck as he exited his car and slammed his fist on its roof.
Once back under green, Rubeck again applied heavy pressure to Lepak’s rear bumper.
“I figured early on that it was time to go,” said Rubeck.
And go he did with a pass of Lepak, off of turn two, on lap 37.
“I didn’t want to race Jeremy too hard, but I figured that was my best opportunity.”
Once out front, Rubeck quickly opened up a three car length advantage.
"Take that Mother Nature!" (Doug Hornickel Photos)
“I really let him go,” said Lepak. “You’ve just got to have patience with this place. We were real early in the race and I just didn’t want to have someone spin me out and ruin what was gonna be a good day for us. We’re in the points deal and if Steve had a faster car, then that’s who needs to win the race anyway.”
The field was given a 10-minute break just past the half-way point. Thirteen cars remained on the lead lap at the break. Rubeck led Lepak, Kendall, Haseleu, Johnson, Jr and nine-time Rockford Speedway late model titlist Ricky Bilderback.
After hounding Lepak for the runner-up position, Kendall’s mount began to slip and he drifted back through the field.
Haseleu moved past Kendall for third on lap 103 and chased down Lepak 15 laps later. The pair made slight contact exiting turn two as Haseleu slipped by.
“No big deal,” said Lepak. “I was holding him up and I got off the gas to give Nathan room at the same time he was getting on the gas and we just bumped.”
By the time Haseleu worked his way to second Rubeck had opened up nearly a full straightaway lead. Haseleu closed to within two car lengths as Rubeck worked lap traffic only to come up a bit short at the checkers.
Rupeck enjoys the spoils of victory lane.
Drivers and fans endured a long rain delay as well as muddy and damp conditions all day. Rubeck’s sentiments summed up what many were feeling as the checkers fell on the WCS main event.
Rubeck, from nearby Cherry Valley, Illinois, shared row one with pole sitter Jeremy Lepak. At the drop of the green, Lepak forged ahead with Rubeck glued to his rear bumper, while Jeff Kendall, Dexter Bean, Brian Johnson, Jr, Rory Melbinger and 10th starting Haseleu lined up in hot pursuit.
On lap 15, Bean pulled into the pit area, the victim of a loose oil line. That moved Haseleu up a spot, and after dispatching of Melbinger, moved the former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitor quickly to the top five.
The day’s first caution flew on lap 27 when Melbinger spun exiting turn two. The spin caused a chain reaction check-up on the quick .25-mile oval with fast qualifier Steve Holzhausen the major casualty. Holzhausen’s front end suffered major damage and he was done for the day while Melbinger soldiered on.
“I was driving pretty hard and he was probably being pretty cautious…he was the leader,” said Haseleu. “When I got around Jeremy it seemed like he could take off whenever he wanted…he was probably playing with everybody. Steve was pretty tough today.”
Brian Johnson, Jr, finished fourth while 20th starting Dave Feiler charged to a fifth place finish.
The second half of the race was run caution free on the tricky, old oval.
“With the weather the way it was, I thought the track staff did just a great job getting the track back to racing condition. The top was great, but the bottom was a little loose.”
Jeremy Lepak (#40) and Nathan Hasseleu (#87) took their best shots at Rubeck.
For his efforts, Rubeck took home $2,400 and carries the point lead to the next scheduled Wisconsin Challenge Series race, April 22, at Wisconsin Dells Motor Speedway.
Wisconsin Challenge Series-Chicago International Trucks 150