It certainly seems odd that a race in Wisconsin is called the Dixieland 150. Not exactly the image you would think of when you hear of that title. Wisconsin isn't anywhere near the Mason/Dixon Line, yet the rich history and tradition of this mid-summer classic always features a stellar lineup from throughout the Midwest. Though if the race is going to be called the Dixieland 150, it was certainly appropriate that a transplanted Wisconsin driver, now living in North Carolina, came home to capture the win in the ASA Midwest Tour Dixieland 150 at the Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna. WI.
Johnny Sauter, who had been a spectator for many years watching his father Jim, race and win numerous times on the unique half mile, conquered a stellar field of ASA Midwest Stars in capturing the Dixieland 150. Sauter held off a late race challenge from Steve Carlson and Chris Wimmer, taking the checkers with just a car length between each car.
“This win is big, it's only my second time here or third time,” said Sauter in Victory Lane. “I don't really count the first time. It's cool, I got a lot of history here sitting in the stands as a kid watching my old man kick their butts here. It means a lot for me to be able to come back here and do it with my own car and kind of do my own deal. It's just a hobby for me, this is what I do in my garage at home during the week, so to be able to come up here and beat these guys it's a big deal.”
The big deal got underway with Sauter topping thirty four others in qualifying, then thanks to his roll of the dice, he started fourteenth in the main event. Andy Monday and Nick Murgic would lead the field to the green flag. However, before the cars could all get to the flag, Griffin McGrath spun bringing out the yellow.
The restart would see Nick Murgic get the jump, and WIR regular Terry Baldry would move into second. Baldry would briefly take the lead until the yellow would come out on lap 10. Kyle Calmes, Nick Panitzke, and Andy Monday would come together in turn three fighting for the same real estate. Neither car won that battle and all three spun blocking the track.
Murgic would get the lead back shortly after taking the green and begin to stretch his lead. Meanwhile, Johnny Sauter's climb to the top was progressing nicely. Sauter was able to crack the top five by lap 29.
Steve Holzhausen also made his presence known and took over the second spot on lap 41. Holzhausen began to catch Murgic and began to put the pressure on until the leaders approached lapped traffic. As they entered turn one, the car of Robb Vanderloop spun directly right in front of Murgic bringing out another caution.
Murgic and Holzhausen took off on the restart and opened up a twenty car length lead of Sauter, who had worked his way into third place. The lead duo quickly put down laps and once again came across lapped traffic on lap 70. As fate would have it, once again it was Vanderloop. However, this time one of the leaders wouldn't be as fortunate. Murgic easily got by entering turn one, and Holzhausen almost got by as well. Almost being the key word. Coming off turn two, Vanderloop washed up the track and clipped the left rear of Holzhausen's car and spun him hard into the inside wall. The impact buckled the Armco barrier and damaged Holzhausen's car severely enough to force him to call it a night.
During the clean up, ASA officials decided to start the midway break five laps early and allow the cars to begin their adjustments. Ten minutes to make any changes except tires. While most teams tried the typical wedge, shock, and spring adjustments, Steve Carlson took a huge gamble and replaced the fuel pump.
The cars lined up for the second half with Murgic, Sauter, Tim Schendel, Baldry, and Jacob Goede in the top five. Carlson and Chris Wimmer started in sixth and seventh place respectively.
Murgic would get the jump on the restart, but Sauter closed in quickly. Sauter would duck underneath Murgic in turn three and complete the pass coming off of turn four on lap 78. Sauter then began to show his muscle and pull away.
While Sauter set sail, Murgic began to fade. Carlson's car came back to life after the repairs at the break and started picking his way through the top five. By lap 83 he found himself in third place and he was steadily gaining on Sauter and Murgic. The trio finally caught lapped traffic on lap 110, and Sauter was able to make his way through the quickest. Carlson would use the traffic as a pick and got around Murgic in turn three on lap 115.
With the laps winding down, Sauter was able to maintain the lead he stretched out to ten car lengths. Carlson struggled with traffic, but once he was able to clear them, he slowly began to reel in Sauter. Chris Wimmer worked his way through traffic and suddenly found himself in contention for the win.
The yellow would fly again on lap 136 when Jeff Storm spun in turn four.
Sauter would slowly bring the field to the green, but the cars in the back of the pack didn't feel it was fast enough. Several cars had to hit the binders and Griffin McGrath spun to avoid contact, thus aborting the restart.
The second attempt at a restart was a clean one, and Sauter got off to a few car length lead. Carlson crept back up to Sauter's rear bumper, with Wimmer glued to the back of Carlson. Lap by lap, Sauter would pull away off of turn two, only to see Carlson gain it all back in turn four.
Carlson, who was seeking an unprecedented eight Dixieland 150 win, would not get any closer, and Sauter was able to hold on to claim his first win in this prestigious event. Wimmer was a car length back in third.
Sauter downplayed the role that traffic played.
“I didn't even know what was going on behind me,” said Sauter. “I was on cruise control there and I knew Carlson was going to make a run. I knew when he worked on his car at the halfway break that it would pick up. I just tried to ride and be smart. We made the right adjustments at the halfway break. If we beat him in traffic that's cool, but I was worried cause he's good.”
Carlson wasn't sure if the race had more laps that he could have passed Sauter.
“Unfortunately my fuel pump was going out in the first half of the race,” said Carlson. “I had a really good spot there but had to give up so many spots with the fuel pump going out. The motor was misfiring really bad and at the break the crew put a new one on. We had to start so far back I think everything was burned up by the time I got to Johnny. The last thirty laps or so I was following Johnny and his car looked like it was just about perfect. He wasn't wagging the tail or pushing up too bad in the middle of the corner. He was running a really good race.”
Wimmer thought he was fortunate to have made it up to third.
“It just seemed like it took 7-10 laps for the car to get going,” said Wimmer. “I think we were better than both of them, but it's just so hard to pass here. You gotta be quite a bit faster to pass anybody. I'm really happy we wound up third. We qualified second and started thirteenth, so to come that far is a big accomplishment. Once these tires get old they seem like you're just hanging on and you get on the lapped cars and you just have to tip toe around them. They do what they are supposed to do, they stay down, but it's slippery and you just have to hold on. Johnny caught the lapped cars in all the right places and was able to clear them before getting to the corner. I don't know if Carlson's car was as good as Johnny's, but that is where Johnny got away.”
Dixieland 150 Feature Results
# Driver Name Hometown
1 - 43S - Johnny Sauter - Necedah, WI
2 - 66 - Steve Carlson (TS) - West Salem, WI
3 - 52 - Chris Wimmer (TS) - Wausau, WI
4 - 12 - Nick Murgic (TS) - Rosemount, MN
5 - 72 - Jacob Goede (TS) - Shakopee, MN
6 - 71B - Blake Brown (TS) - Franskville, WI
7 - 36 - Dan Fredrickson (TS) - Lakeville, MN
8 - 87 - Nathan Haseleu (TS) - Pardeeville, WI
9 - 5 - Travis Sauter - Necedah, WI
10 - 25K - Ross Kenseth (R) - Spring Valley, IL
11 - 14 - Eugene Gregorich Jr. - Kewaunee, WI
12 - 9C - Kyle Calmes - Freedom, WI
13 - 97I - Jamie Iverson (TS) - Escanaba, MI
14 - 40 - Jeremy Lepak - Wausau, WI
15 - 2 - Michael Bilderback (R) - Rockton, IL
16 - 64 - Griffin McGrath (R) - Cedar Rapids, IA
17 - 25S - Jeff Storm (TS) - East Troy, WI
18 - 39 - Andrew Morrissey (TS) - De Forest, WI
19 - 22 - Nick Panitzke (TS) - Sauk Centre, MN
20 - 5H - Josh Hamner - Chelsea, AL
21 - 8B - Terry Baldry - Omro, WI
22 - 19 - Brian Johnson Jr - Machensney Park, IL
23 - 21S - Tim Schendel (TS) - Sparta, WI
24 - 97H - Steve Holzhausen - Nekoosa, WI
25 - 18V - Robb Vanderloop - Kaukauna, WI
26 - 45 - Jeff VanOudenhouven - Kimberly, WI
27 - 10 - Andy Monday - Appleton, WI
28 - 25W - Scott Wimmer - Wausau, WI