Josh Nelms was down and out with 100 laps to go in the Budweiser 200, but with a few great adjustments and a lot of determination, the Chicagoland driver found himself wearing the wreath today at the 44th annual National Short Track Championships at the Rockford Speedway. Nelms etched his name in the history books with a late race pass, using the low line to push past the venerable Jeff Kendall with 21 laps remaining and hitting his marks the rest of the way to lay claim to the title of 2009 National Short Track Champion.
Kendall, a six-time Dells Raceway Park track champion, led the opening 179 laps of the event before Nelms' daring maneuver, and had to hold off a hard-charging 'Fast' Eddie Hoffman for the bridesmaid's position. Lowell Bennett had a solid run to take home fourth while Jon Reynolds Jr. battled through adversity to collect a top five, finishing fifth. In the Mid-American Stock Car Series, Jeremy Spoonmore made it
back-to-back at the National Short Track Championships, proving last year's victory was no fluke with a dominating title defense in the Mtn Dew 75. In the RoadRunners, veteran racer Sonny Schoffen went wire-to-wire to claim the O'Reilly Auto Parts 44, holding off Ricky Nielsen for the victory.
Jeff Kendall jumped out front in the early stages of the main event at the 44th annual National Short Track Championships, the Budweiser 200. Fast qualifier Bobby Wilberg made a quick move through the 26 car field, working from his 14th place starting spot up to ninth with relative ease.
Two-time National Short Track Champion Jeremy Lepak saw his day end early on lap 16 due to mechanical failure. On the track, Wilberg's march was far from over as he made his way up to sixth in short order, passing Steve Apel, Brett Sontag and Brian Johnson Jr. to continue his charge through the field, before moving to the inside of Collin Bamke to take fifth. Stevie Campbell felt the heat from Wilberg's red hot machine, as the seven-time track champion worked over Campbell for fourth. Campbell quickly dropped back to eighth before a Dave Feiler spin in turn one brought out the first caution.
On the ensuing restart Kendall managed to stay ahead of a hungry Bilderback, continuing to pace the field as the 26-car field hit lap 50. 'Fast' Eddie Hoffman made contact with defending National Short Track Champion Josh Vadnais as the two got tangled in turn three. A chain reaction pileup occured, collecting Steve Apel and Jon Reynolds Jr. in the mayhem. Vadnais' title defense came to a close before lap 55, ending a tough day for the Minnesota driver.
After the caution came out, Bobby Wilberg, who was rocketing through the field to the front, got together with David Prunty on the backstretch sending both cars careening into the wall. Wilberg's day came to an early end as Prunty dropped to the back after heading into the pits for repairs.
On the restart, Lowell Bennett blew past Stevie Campbell for sixth as 'Driver X', Jon Reynolds Jr, followed him into seventh. Bilderback made his move on lap 80, jumping to the inside of Kendall and battling for the lead as Johnson Jr. and Bamke battled for third behind them. Kendall slammed the door shut on Bilderback, holding on to the lead. Just three laps later, Brett Sontag knocked down the turn one wall while running fifth, as his day came to a close before the halfway mark.
The caution break came at lap 94, as each team received fifteen minutes to make changes and work on their machines. Jon Reynolds Jr. muscled his way by Lowell Bennett for sixth on the restart as Michael Bilderback continued to position himself for a run at Jeff Kendall and the lead.
With 91 laps remaining, Collin Bamke, running third, got tangled up with Reynolds Jr. in turn one, sending Bamke's machine flying into the wall and flipping before coming to a rest upside down on its roof. Bamke walked away unharmed as Reynolds Jr. had to go to the pits for repairs.
Johnson Jr. was off the pace on the restart, enabling Steve Rubeck to move swiftly from fifth to third in just one turn as Bennett moved up to fourth behind him. The caution flew on lap 121 after Stevie Campbell hit the wall in turn two. Riding around under caution, second place Michael Bilderback's right front spindle broke as his wheel came off, ending the young driver's great run with 70 laps remaining.
Steve Rubeck took advantage of Bilderback's misfortune to jump up to second as began to set up a move on Kendall for the lead. Josh Nelms moved past Tom Gille for fourth as Eddie Hoffman continued to work his way from the back, jumping to fifth.
Nelms soon pushed past Lowell Bennett for third, continuing his late race charge to the front as he looked for his second career super late model victory. With smoke spewing from his back end, Rubeck worked the inside line on Kendall using every ounce of horsepower to try and take away the lead as Nelms closed up on their back bumpers.
Rubeck got loose with 35 laps remaining, making a great save on the frontstretch and holding off Nelms for second. Kendall's newfound cushion quickly dried up as Rubeck chased him back down. Rubeck's run on Kendall ended with 26 laps to go after his transmission broke, forcing the Rockford veteran to the infield and crushing his chance at becoming a two-time National Short Track Champion.
Nelms' jump to second allowed him to focus on the leader, and he took advantage quickly, pouncing on Kendall with 21 laps remaining and using the bottom line to take over the lead. Eddie Hoffman moved past Bennett for third, as he tried to hunt down the front runners.
Nelms slowly pulled away from Kendall, padding his lead with under 20 laps to go as Hoffman tried to close. Reynolds Jr. continued his move from the back, working his way past Dave Feiler and Lowell Bennett for fourth.
Kendall didn't have enough time at the end as Josh Nelms hit his marks and held on to claim the biggest win of his career, finding victory lane in the Budweiser 200 and etching himself into history as the 2009 National Short Track Champion.
Kendall finished second as Eddie Hoffman worked his way back to a solid third place finish. Lowell Bennett held on for fourth after battling a late tire rub as Jon Reynolds Jr. fought back to take home fifth, rounding out the top five.
"The car was really good," stated an exhilirated Nelms in victory lane. "It wasn't that good in the first half of the race but we worked on it and made the right adjustments. Once it started rolling through the center, we were on our way, and this will go down as the biggest win of my career ever. Nothing will top this. We had to work so hard for this win and it took so much work, but boy does it feel good."
Kendall was pleased with his second place finish but had wanted the victory. "We lead a lot of laps but I'd rather lead the last lap than the first lap," said a tired Kendall. "This thing is a rocket and you know this is the first time we have ever ran this good here. To start up front and feel the heat from all those drivers, so many great drivers, that is a lot of stuff to deal with. Then battling with Steve so hard, on a slippery track, just burned the tires up."
'Fast' Eddie Hoffman climbed from the back of the pack after an early-race incident all the way up to third, collecting another top three at NSTC's. "It was a good run but we just got ran over a little bit out there in the first 50 laps," the veteran driver stated after the race. "I just hate it because the car was good, and it put us to the back, where we were in a position where we had to use up all our stuff. We were closing on second too but Josh was really strong. We'll take a third though."
It’s safe to say Jeremy Spoonmore has been enjoying his 2009 Mid-American Stock Car Series campaign so far. The Somonauk, Ill. veteran won his second consecutive National Short Track Championships feature event today, capturing the Mtn Dew 75. Spoonmore has yet to finish outside of the top five and has notched two wins in a handful of appearances this season.
“I would have never guessed. After the first one, I thought that would be great. But this one was even better,” Spoonmore said.
In the 2008 event, Spoonmore swiped the lead in the 75-lap feature by utilizing the inside lane on lap nine. One year later, the lead belonged to Spoonmore by lap ten after three laps of side-by-side action with pole-sitter Mike Beyer.
Lyle Nowak moved from his 19th starting spot to finish second, Bill Prietzel finished third, while Mark Pluer was fourth and Justin Neisius rounded out the top five.
“The car stuck on the bottom and it just got better and better,” Spoonmore said. “I knew I was going to have to go [there] quick like last year.”
To get to that point, however, Spoonmore took advantage of the Mid-American double-file restart. He swiped two positions on a lap-five restart and two more on a lap-six restart on the outside line to secure the third spot.
Under the final caution on lap 54, Spoonmore faced his biggest challenge. Spoonmore said his brake pedal went to the floor, indicating a major failure. “I flipped the fans on and the brakes came back. That was my only worry of the day.”
While Spoonmore enjoyed a Sunday afternoon drive, the action from second on back remained frantic. Involved in the scrum were point leaders Paul Neisius and Bill Prietzel.
Neisius, who earlier in the afternoon captured the last chance race, muscled his way to fifth by lap 13. After he was surpassed by Neisius, Prietzel made several attempts to get back around the points leader. The two made incidental contact several times without consequence as Neisius held the position and closed in on the top four.
Entering turn three on lap 21, Neisuis’ day took an unfortunate turn. He made contact with Beyer, sending him into a spin cycle. The two were sent to the tail end of the field after causing the fourth caution of the event.
Knowing that every position was critical in maintaining his hold on the MASCS point lead, Neisius methodically began to work his way toward the top ten. His charge was abruptly interrupted on lap 54 when he and fast-qualifier Troy Shear Jr. made contact exiting turn two. Neisius spun into the infield and made hard contact with the inside retaining wall.
Neisius finished 19th. With Prietzel’s third place finish and third place qualifying effort, he unofficially took the standings lead back by 21 markers.
Sonny Schoffen piloted a field of 31 cars to the green flag in the RoadRunners O'Reilly Auto Parts 44. Schoffen maintained a slim lead over the first 33 laps as Dana 'Zippity' Czach Jr. battled him for the lead. The caution flew with 11 laps to go for a wreck in turn one, setting up a race to the finish between Schoffen and Czach.
On the restart, Schoffen gave himself a cushion as Czach got loose exiting turn two. Czach lost second to a hard-charging Ricky Nielsen with six laps remaining, as Schoffen continued to pace the field. Czach made a last ditch effort for second but it wasn't enough as Nielsen held him off for the bridesmaid's position.
Nobody could catch Sonny Schoffen though, as he went wire-to-wire to claim the O'Reilly Auto Parts 44.
"These RoadRunners are something else," Schoffen said in victory lane. "This is a great win for us and I can't say enough about the drivers in this division. It was a lot of fun and it feels good to win this race."
2009 season champion Bobby Frisch and Brett McCoy completed the top five.
Super Late Models
Budweiser 200 -- 1. Josh Nelms, Lockport; 2. Jeff Kendall, Montello, Wis; 3. Eddie Hoffman, Wheaton; 4. Lowell Bennett, Neenah, Wis; 5. Jon Reynolds, Jr., Machesney Park; 6. Dave Feiler, Sun Prairie, Wis; 7. Tom Gille, Winnebago; 8. Steve Apel, Colgate, Wis; 9. Al Schill, Franklin, Wis; 10. Brad "JJ" Mueller, Random Lake, Wis; 11. Robert Maynor, Colgate, Wis; 12. Travis Dassow, West Bend, Wis; 13. Steve Rubeck, Monroe Center; 14. Eddie May, Crystal Lake; 15. Stevie Campbell, Lisle; 16. Brian Johnson, Jr., Machesney Park; 17. Collin Bamke, Slinger, Wis; 18. Rich Bickle, Janesville, Wis; 19. Larry Schuler, Minooka; 20. Brett Sontag, Joliet; 21. Jeff Storm, East Troy, Wis; 22. David Prunty, Brownsville, Wis; 23. Bob Wilberg, Town of Beloit, Wis; 24. Josh Vadnais, White Bear Lake, Minn.; 25. Steve Dobbratz, Rio, Wis; 26. Jeremy Lepak, Ringle, Wis.
Last Chance "A" 01 -- 1. Tom Gille, Winnebago; 2. Steve Rubeck, Monroe Center; 3. Al Schill, Franklin, Wis; 4. Dave Feiler, Sun Prairie, Wis; 5. Frank Kreyer, Wisconsin Dells, Wis; 6. Larry Schuler, Minooka; 7. Rick Corso, McHenry; 8. Tommy Pecaro, Darien, Wis; 9. Robert Maynor, Colgate, Wis; 10. Keith Tolf, Union Grove, Wis; 11. Eddie May, Crystal Lake; 12. Chris Grimes, Pulaski, Wis; 13. Mike Beyer, Machesney Park; 14. Scott Koerner, Plainfield; 15. Russ Blakeley, Whitewater, Wis; 16. Jesse Saunders, Sun Prairie, Wis; 17. Jeremy Spoonmore, Somonauk; 18. Erik Pierce, Lake in the Hills; 19. Matt Kocourek, Franklin, Wis; 20. Rich Loch, Muskego, Wis; 21. Mike Meyerhofer, Burlington, Wis; 22. Brandon Hill, Genoa City, Wis.
Heat 01 -- 1. Josh Vadnais, White Bear Lake, Minn.; 2. Jeff Storm, East Troy, Wis; 3. Steve Rubeck, Monroe Center; 4. Al Schill, Franklin, Wis; 5. Frank Kreyer, Wisconsin Dells, Wis; 6. Larry Schuler, Minooka; 7. Rick Corso, McHenry; 8. Robert Maynor, Colgate, Wis; 9. Keith Tolf, Union Grove, Wis; 10. Chris Grimes, Pulaski, Wis; 11. Jeremy Spoonmore, Somonauk; 12. Erik Pierce, Lake in the Hills; 13. Mike Meyerhofer, Burlington, Wis.
Heat 02 -- 1. Jeremy Lepak, Ringle, Wis; 2. Rich Bickle, Janesville, Wis; 3. Tom Gille, Winnebago; 4. Dave Feiler, Sun Prairie, Wis; 5. Tommy Pecaro, Darien, Wis; 6. Mike Beyer, Machesney Park; 7. Scott Koerner, Plainfield; 8. Russ Blakeley, Whitewater, Wis; 9. Eddie May, Crystal Lake; 10. Jesse Saunders, Sun Prairie, Wis; 11. Matt Kocourek, Franklin, Wis; 12. Rich Loch, Muskego, Wis; 13. Brandon Hill, Genoa City, Wis.
Time Trial -- 1. Bob Wilberg, Town of Beloit, Wis; 2. Jon Reynolds, Jr., Machesney Park; 3. Brett Sontag, Joliet; 4. Travis Dassow, West Bend, Wis; 5. Brian Johnson, Jr., Machesney Park; 6. Eddie Hoffman, Wheaton; 7. Steve Apel, Colgate, Wis; 8. Lowell Bennett, Neenah, Wis; 9. Stevie Campbell, Lisle; 10. Collin Bamke, Slinger, Wis; 11. David Prunty, Brownsville, Wis; 12. Steve Dobbratz, Rio, Wis; 13. Jeff Kendall, Montello, Wis; 14. Michael Bilderback, South Beloit; 15. Josh Nelms, Lockport; 16. Brad "JJ" Mueller, Random Lake, Wis; 17. Eddie May, Crystal Lake; 18. Steve Rubeck, Monroe Center; 19. Russ Blakeley, Whitewater, Wis; 20. Josh Vadnais, White Bear Lake, Minn.; 21. Jeremy Lepak, Ringle, Wis; 22. Al Schill, Franklin, Wis; 23. Jeff Storm, East Troy, Wis; 24. Rich Bickle, Janesville, Wis; 25. Larry Schuler, Minooka; 26. Jesse Saunders, Sun Prairie, Wis; 27. Frank Kreyer, Wisconsin Dells, Wis; 28. Tommy Pecaro, Darien, Wis; 29. Rick Corso, McHenry; 30. Dave Feiler, Sun Prairie, Wis; 31. Robert Maynor, Colgate, Wis; 32. Rich Loch, Muskego, Wis; 33. Mike Meyerhofer, Burlington, Wis; 34. Matt Kocourek, Franklin, Wis; 35. Jeremy Spoonmore, Somonauk; 36. Brandon Hill, Genoa City, Wis; 37. Erik Pierce, Lake in the Hills; 38. Tom Gille, Winnebago; 39. Keith Tolf, Union Grove, Wis; 40. Scott Koerner, Plainfield; 41. Chris Grimes, Pulaski, Wis; 42. Mike Beyer, Machesney Park.