Haseleu's Hot Steak Continues At Jefferson ASA Midwest Race by Dean Strom
"Big One" Helps Wisconsin Veteran Get Another 2007 Win
The “Big One” happened Saturday night, and as you might expect, it affected the events final outcome. But the “Big One” didn’t happen near the end of a Cup restrictor plate race, instead it happened at the drop of the green flag of the ASA Kwik Trip Midwest Late Model Tour race at Jefferson (Wis) Speedway.
Nathan Haseleu was the winner of the Lancaster Toyota 100 at the quarter-mile bull ring. It was Haseleu’s first ASA Midwest Tour win and fifth overall of the of the 2007 campaign.
But Haseleu wasn’t the story, nor was Russ Blakeley’s solid second-place run nor was Brian Johnson Jr’s run from 21st to third.
No, the story happened at the drop of the green flag when outside pole sitter Bryan Roach missed a shift and never got up to speed, triggering a massive pile up from the second row on back. When the dust settled, the front stretch looked like a junk yard with half of the 26 starters involved.
“It just popped out of fourth gear,” said Roach. “I thought the rear end broke, because the motor just revved. I looked down and it was in neutral. I feel terrible because it tore up a lot of good race cars.”
Some of the field came away unscathed.
“I have no idea how I made it through that,” said sixth-place finisher Rich Loch. “I stayed on the brakes, kept it straight and saw the 36 car (Josh Vadnais) get jacked up in the air. I was just about to slide right into it and at the last second he got spun around and the track just opened up in front of me.”
Others were not so lucky.
“We were just going to hang back and let things sort itself out,” said Jonathan Eilen, the winner of the ASA Midwest Tour’s opening event. “I couldn’t really see much of anything; I saw a couple cars going sideways, back and forth, and all of a sudden we’re in it.”
The field for the ASA Midwest Series race was strong, but it didn't last, as a first-lap wreck took out many of the big names. (Steve Benesh Photos)
When the race restarted, the field was minus Eilen; Doug Mahlik; fast qualifier Dan Lensing; Jamie Wallace; Mark Kraus; Rich Bickle and Collin Bamke. Brad Mueller; Rod Wheeler; Donny Ruevers; Robert Maynor and Michael Pickens all spent time in the pits to make repairs while Dave Feiler and Jim Duchow suffered body damage that didn’t require them to go pit side.
Once back underway for good, Roach got away clean to lead the first 15 laps with Blakeley and Haseleu in hot pursuit. Roach drifted high in turn four, allowing Blakeley and Haseleu to sneak by.
Once out front the pair separated themselves slightly from the rest of the front runners. It was then that Haseleu made his move and ducked under the leader on lap 23.
“I knew Nathan was faster,” admitted Blakeley. “I just wanted to make sure that when he went by me that I wasn’t going to get freight trained. I ran him pretty hard for a bit so I made sure we had enough room ahead of the third place car.”
“I think he knew we were faster,” said Haseleu. “He knew that racing each other hard wasn’t going to help either one of us and he gave me plenty of racing room to make a move.”
Once out front Haseleu, opened up a comfortable lead and the attention turned to the torrid battle for the runner-up spot between Blakeley and Johnson. Johnson got under Blakeley on numerous occasions, but could not pull of the pass.
Russ Blakeley (#22) tried to hold off Nathan Haseleu (#87), but couldn't keep the veteran at bay.
“Brian ran me so clean,” said Blakeley. “He was getting into the corner so good, but I was able to get off the corner really good.”
“I lost my brakes when I was coming through traffic and didn’t have much left when I got to him,” said Johnson. “So by the time I got to Russ I was just hanging on.”
Jamie Iverson finished fourth while Kenny Richards rounded out the top five. But even after the checkers, the only thing that anyone wanted to talk about was what happened when the green flag dropped.
“That wreck probably helped us,” admitted Haseleu. “After that I got to start on the outside row, which is preferred here, and a couple fast guys, Donny Reuvers and Dave Feiler, got caught up in it. You don’t like to see that happened, but it probably did help us.”
RACE NOTES: ASA MIDWEST AT JEFFERSON
Brad’s Bad Day(s)
Brad Mueller, one of the ASA Midwest Tours “Touring Stars” took advantage of Jefferson Speedway’s open practice night on Thursday. Mueller quickly learned he didn’t like the place after backing his potent ride into the turn one wall.
Haseleu and his team have been on fire recently.
“We knocked the rear clip off the car and smashed the fuel cell,” said Mueller.
Mueller and his crew took Friday off of work, made repairs to the car and got it to the track on Saturday, as good as new. Mueller earned a spot in the 100-lap feature, but was one of the drivers involved in the first lap melee.
“I didn’t think we’d get back out,” said Mueller.
But back out he did, finishing on the lead lap in the 12th spot.
“The crew did a great job to get me back out there. They put in a new radiator, tore all the front body work off the thing, put a left rear trailing arm in it and fixed the quick change. It was just an unbelievable effort.”
Jonathan Eilen, the winner of the inaugural ASA Midwest Tour race had a night he’d rather forget.
“Someone oiled up the track in that last local division practice, just before we went out to qualify,” said Eilen. “We slowed up a half a second from where we were practicing.”
Eilen’s bad luck continued when he couldn’t advance from his qualifying race or last chance race and was forced to take a provisional starting spot for the 100-lap feature. And to finish off his bad night, Eilen was an unwilling participant in the big lap one crash.
“I just had no where to go on that start.”
You Can Go Home
At Jefferson Speedway on Saturday night, winner Nathan Haseleu and runner-up Russ Blakeley proved that you can come home.
Both drivers spent time at the quarter-mile track, early on in their respective racing careers. At age 16, Haseleu raced Hobby Stocks at the track.
“It was a cheap way to go racing,” recalls Haseleu. “We didn’t have any money and I could race and learn. If I crashed we could afford to fix it. It was a lot of fun.”
Blakeley started racing late models at the speedway in 1995.
“I never have liked the place,” laughed Blakeley. “I still don’t, to tell you the truth. I live about 20 miles down the road and it was nice to come down here and have a good run.”
From Midgets to Late Models
Australian Michael Pickens continues in his transition to asphalt late models from midget cars on dirt. He made the Jefferson race on time…qualifying 11th quick of the 40 drivers that timed in.
Pickens was, however, another driver who got tangled up in the lap one melee.
“I was right behind the 99 car when he didn’t go,” recalled Pickens. “It was one of those deals where you’ve got nowhere to move and people pushing you from the back.”
The shunt sent Pickens to the pits for repairs. He was able to rejoin the chase and soldier on to a 16th place showing. The turn of events continued an up and down experience for the first-year asphalt driver.
“At Elko we were fifth quick in practice and then in qualifying went straight to the back. Here we qualified good and got tangled up on the first lap of the feature.”
Pickens competed in the Roush Racing Gong Show in both 2004 and 2005 and faired extremely well considering he had never turned a wheel on asphalt. And now as he makes the transition to pavement, full-time, the biggest issue Pickens is facing is getting the car comfortable to him.
“At this stage we’re just trying to get the car to where like it,” said Pickens. “Everyone I’ve spoken to about setups are just running the car so much tighter than I want to drive it.”
ASA Kwik Trip Midwest Tour
Lancaster Toyota 100
Jefferson (Wis) Speedway
1) Nathan Haseleu
2) Russ Blakeley
3) Brian Johnson, Jr
4) Jamie Iverson
5) Kenny Richards
6) Rich Loch
7) Bryan Roach
8) Dave Feiler
9) Travis Sauter
10) Josh Vadnais
11) Steve Dobbratz
12) Brad Mueller
13) Jim Duchow
14) Rod Wheeler
15) Donny Reuvers
16) Michael Pickens
17) Robert Maynor
18) Dylan Schuyler
19) Tony Strupp
20) Doug Mahlik
21) Dan Lensing
22) Jamie Wallace
23) Mark Kraus
24) Rich Bickle
25) Collin Bamke
26) Jonathan Eilen