At just 14 years of age, Erik Jones became the youngest major feature winner in the forty one year history of the Oktoberfest Race Weekend at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway. Jones got the lead by the very first turn of the first lap and was never headed. He led all 100 laps and at times was nearly a full straightaway ahead in dominating the field of twenty two cars.
“The car was amazing,” exclaimed Jones in Victory Lane. “It was flawless the whole race. That first long run it was a little tight in the center, but we cooled the tires on the caution and it was just perfect the rest of the way.”
Jones and Trevor Dassow shared the front row for the 100 lap feature event for the ASA North Series (Editor's Note - Which was renamed the Northern Late Model Series partially though Oktoberfest weekend). When the green flag flew, Jones made short work of Dassow, by getting the jump and quickly opening up a huge lead. Thor Anderson would also get by Dassow as the field began to string out.
Jesse Saunders made his presence know early as he also moved towards the front. Rebecca Kasten and Dalton Zehr worked their way around points leader Eddie Hoffman and found their way into the top five.
The first yellow of the race didn’t come out until lap 60, when the car of Tim Plummer spun in turn three. During this caution period, Eddie Hoffman came into the pits to work on his car.
Jones would get a great jump on the restart and pull away to another huge lead. Jesse Saunders would get around Dassow for third and start to reel in Anderson.
Debris would litter the track and bring out the yellow again on lap 62.
The subsequent restart was a carbon copy of the first one, as Erik Jones once again got a huge jump. Saunders would quickly get around Anderson and climb into second place. Dalton Zehr worked his way around Kasten and into fifth place on lap 67.
While Jones stretched his lead to a full straightaway, Zehr got by the car of Trent Snyder and into fourth place. A few laps later Zehr would get past Thor Anderson to take over third place.
Meanwhile, Jones checked into another zip code and spread his lead a bit further. Zehr closed in on Saunders for second place on lap 84.
Just one lap later the yellow would erase Jones advantage when the car of Mike Meyer spun in turn three.
Jones got yet another huge restart and pulled away from the pack. Eddie Hoffman was in the midst of another late race comeback as he began picking off cars one by one. Hoffman, who had fallen back to the last car on the lead lap after the yellow on lap 60, had clawed his way back into the top five.
By lap 89 Hoffman worked his way past both Thor Anderson and Jesse Saunders and into third place. Anderson would also get past Saunders for fourth place.
However, on this night it was a case of total domination by the 14 year old phenom, as he was able to seal the deal and take the checkers by half a straightaway over the hard charging Zehr and Hoffman.
Not a bad effort considering his age and the fact this was his first trip to the famed 5/8 mile oval.
“This is the first time I have been here and I got a lot of help,” said Jones. “I had to learn the car and I was never here before. We were tearing up a lot of cars and stuff. We had to learn how to finish races and finish up front. We started finishing better and better each time, and we started winning races.”
Yet at a mere 14 years of age, can Jones really put into perspective where he ranks with some of the other stars of winning races at Oktoberfest?
“It’s amazing. I know what this really is and how important it is to everyone and it’s just really cool to have done it,” said Jones.
Dalton Zehr was equally impressed with his performance in finishing second.
“We definitely came from quite a few positions back,” said Zehr. “It was really a great run for the 119 car. It was a great weekend all in all. We ran the Camaro last night and this car today and we’re really happy. That 4 car was just in a time zone all his own. Hopefully we can come back and race him again.”
Eddie Hoffman made yet another of his patented late race charges to wind up in third.
“We got a little loose in the beginning,” said Hoffmann. “It never really tightened up here at night. We didn’t have much to lose there so we went ahead and pitted and the guys did what we did all year. We had some mid pack finishes, we would come in and adjust on it, and right back up. It’s still a good car and a great job by the guys. We didn’t finish out of the top twelve all year and didn’t want to do that today.”
With efforts like that it is no wonder why Hoffman earned the points championship in the ASA North for 2010.
Northern Late Models Feature (22 Cars) — 1, Erik Jones; 2, Dalton Zehr; 3, Eddie Hoffman; 4, Thor Anderson; 5, Jesse Saunders; 6, Rebecca Kasten; 7, Steve Carlson; 8, Seth Moody; 9, Trent Snyder; 10, Blake Brown; 11, Wes Griffith Jr.; 12, Jordan Sims; 13, Trevor Dassow; 14, Tanner Bohlen; 15, Joey Gase; 16, Cody Coughlin; 17, Dan Leek; 18, Anthony Danta; 19, Mike Beyer; 20, Tom Lindquist; 21, Tim Plummer; 22, Tim Schendel.
Qualifying — 1, Trevor Dassow, 19.812 secs, 99.107 MPH; 2, Erik Jones, 19.753 secs, 99.403 MPH; 3, Jesse Saunders, 19.684 secs, 99.751 MPH; 4, Thor Anderson, 19.683 secs, 99.756 MPH; 5, Rebecca Kasten, 19.674 secs, 99.802 MPH; 6, Eddie Hoffman; 7, Trent Snyder; 8, Tanner Bohlen; 9, Blake Brown; 10, Dalton Zehr; 11, Tim Plummer; 12, Tim Schendel; 13, Joey Gase; 14, Steve Carlson; 15, Dan Leek; 16, Jordan Sims; 17, Wes Griffith Jr.; 18, Anthony Danta; 19, Seth Moody; 20, Mike Beyer; 21, Cody Coughlin; 22, Tom Lindquist.