Hometown Hero Haseleu Hauls WCS Hardware at Madison by Dean Strom
Clock Problem? Not A Problem For Former NASCAR Racer
Nathan Haseleu takes the checkered flag at Madison International Speedway on Sunday afternoon. (Steve Benesh photos)
It’s not everyday that a clock malfunction in qualifying helps you score a feature win, but that is exactly what happened Sunday afternoon as Nathan Haseleu cruised to an easy win in the Wisconsin Challenge Series (WCS) Pepsi 100 at Madison International Speedway (MIS).
Haseleu was the first of 31 drivers scheduled to time in for the afternoon’s qualifying session. It was the speedway’s opener and a few bugs in the timing system needed to be worked out as the third, and final lap, of the first half-a-dozen drivers were not recorded.
Haseleu’s first two laps were not stellar, but when he was sent back trackside for the makeup of his third lap, he ripped off a time that was not only good enough to make the feature, but as luck would have it, good enough to make the invert and line him up on the inside of the second row for the start of the 100-lap main event.
“It’s funny how racing works,” said Haseleu. “You work your butt off all week and then something little like that can either make or break your day.”
After the invert, Andrew Morrissey started from the pole and led the first 11 circuits before he wiggled in turn one and gave Haseleu the opening he needed to blast through and take the lead.
Once out front Haseleu quickly opened up a 10-car length advantage and began the process of counting down laps.
“My plan was, if we were able to, to get by Andrew right away and get out front and sort of ride, and save the equipment,” said Haseleu. “The later you get in the race the harder it is to pass.”
Attention then turned to the race for second, and it was a good one between Morrissey; a hard-charging Kyle Calmes and sixth-starting Chad Wood.
Morrissey held down the spot for the majority of the event until a late race wiggle dropped him to sixth. Wood capitalized on Morrissey’s misfortune to grab the second spot, but had nothing for the leader.
“It was a pretty good run, but frustrating at the same time,” said Wood. “Coming back to my home track I always think we should win. But with Nathan as good as he is down here, it’s hard to beat someone like that.”
Calmes drove an impressive race in only his second visit to MIS and finished third.
CHad Wood (left) joined Nathan Haseleu (center) and Kyle Calmes (right) on the Madison podium.
Dave Feiler got turned around while running sixth and brought out the last of four caution flags. And the momentary slow downs proved to be the only thing that concerned Haseleu.
“All the restarts get nervous,” confessed Haseleu. “After a long run you never know how your car is going to react until they give you the green.”
Aside from the $2,200 pay day, Haseleu had a couple of other reasons to be smiling in victory lane.
“It’s great to win a WCS event here at Madison. This is kind of my home track and it’s nice to win here in front of family and friends,” said Haseleu.
And finally, Haseleu’s son, Coy, was celebrating his second birthday at the race track.
“It kind of stinks that I didn’t get to spend anytime with him today, but we’re going to go home and have a little party for him tonight…so that’ll be nice.”
Mark Eswein charged from his 11th starting spot to nail down fourth at the checkers with Brian Johnson, Jr rounding out the top five.
Chad Wood had to borrow a driving suit from Charlie Menard to race on Sunday at Madison.
From Crew Chief to Wheel Man
Over the winter former ASA Late Model driver Chad Wood moved to Eau Claire, Wisconsin to take over the job of crew chief and lead test driver for Charlie Menard and his potent Late Model team. Wood figured, aside from testing, his driving days were all but behind him.
That all changed Sunday when Menard handed over the keys of his fluorescent yellow racer to Wood.
“I’m just thankful for the opportunity,” said Wood. “I was planning on crew chiefing all year. I was going to run one of my dad’s cars at this event. We got to talking and Charlie said, ‘Well why don’t you run one of our cars?’”
Wood gave Menard’s car a great ride, coming home second in the WCS main. More driving appears to be in Woods future.
“I thought I was going to do this two or three more times, but Charlie keeps adding to my schedule,” said Wood. “I’m just so grateful for the opportunity to be both driver and crew chief for Charlie.”
From the Penthouse to the Outhouse
The fortunes of Steve Carlson, Jason Weinkauf and Eugene Gregorich, Jr turned 180 degrees in less than 24 hours, Sunday afternoon at MIS.
All three drivers scored wins on Saturday night at their respective home track—Carlson at LaCrosse (Wis) Fairgrounds Speedway, Weinkauf at Dells Raceway Park and Gregorich at Marshfield (Wis) Super Speedway.
On Sunday afternoon, all three were in the WCS last chance race.
Weinkauf faired the best early in the program, scoring the win in the last chance race while Carlson finished third and transferred to the 100-lap main. Gregorich failed to advance out of the last chance qualifier.
But come feature time, neither Weinkauf or Carlson had any luck.
Weinkauf’s day ended on lap 71 against the turn three wall while Carlson parked a terribly ill-handling mount late in the main event.
“Saturday night was probably the ultimate high, we led a lot of laps and got back in victory lane at the Dells for the first time in three years,” said Weinkauf. “And today, we didn’t qualify as good as we’d have liked, but won the last chance race…my first trip to victory lane at Madison. And in the feature we were just trying to bring the car home in one piece.”
From Fast to Better to Worse
Former MIS Late Model track champion Bobby Wilberg set fast time, and after the mandatory series invert, started the main event from the 13th spot. In the first half of the event Wilberg worked his way to the fifth spot and looked to be a contender for the win, only to see the handling on his brand new ride go south.
“This is a brand new car and we’ve got some new things I designed,” said Wilberg. “It’s real light on rear weight. It was lightening fast right off the bat and the longer you’d run it, it would just burn the tires off.”
Wilberg crossed the finish line seventh.
“We’ve got to get some more bite in it. It was good for a little while, but unfortunately it was a 100-lap race today. We’ll work it…fine tune it and go after them again.”
Twenty-one year old Kyle Calmes was making just his second appearance at MIS and the youngsters presence was certainly felt throughout Sundays’ 100-lap feature.
Kyle Calmes (#9) was impressive at Madison.
He started seventh and drove a steady, impressive race to finish third.
“What an awesome run,” said Calmes. “We sort of winged it coming in here and the car wasn’t good at all. My crew did a great job getting it dialed in during the practices.”
Calmes was the 2006 Limited Late Model Champion at Wisconsin International Raceway before graduating to the super late models.
“I got my feet wet in the super lates last year,” said Calmes. “I ran them twice last year, at the end of the year, and now we’re going for it this year.”
Madison International Speeedway
1 Nathan Haseleu
2 Chad Wood
3 Kyle Calmes
4 Mark Eswein
5 Brian Johnson Jr.
6 Andrew Morrissey
7 Bobby Wilberg
8 Andy Monday
9 Kenny Richards
10 Frank Kreyer
11 Trent Snyder
12 Tim Rothe
13 Brandon Hill
14 Jeremy Lepak
15 Don Turner
16 John Wood
17 Jacob Goede
18 Dave Feiler
19 Jason Weinkauf
20 John Zimmerman
21 Jacob Humphrey
22 Steve Carlson
23 Tommy Pecaro
24 Dillon Kralovetz