No nosepiece, no front quarter panels, no hood. No problem. Mark Pluer’s racer wasn’t the most aerodynamically or aesthetically sound machine competing in the Mid-American Stock Car Series 50-lap feature at Rockford Speedway for the 33rd Annual Spring Classic Sunday – but it was the fastest.
After losing the front body panels of his car in a heat-race incident, Pluer powered past Jeremy Spoonmore at the drop of the green flag and held his ground to deny Spoonmore a third straight MASCS feature win at the venue.
Not bad for a car that only one week ago was nowhere near race ready. “A week ago today it was just a frame. My guys just busted butt all week, every night getting it done,” Pluer said.
Pluer’s fate to begin Mid-American’s 18th season was in doubt after the third ten-lap heat race. A tangle and slowing traffic in front of Pluer left him with no room for evasive action. He piled into the back of James Swan’s slowing machine and ended his heat race stint with a severely adjusted nose.
The damage was minimal, Pluer said. “Unfortunately it got wrecked it the heat. Just a little cosmetic work and the car worked great.”
Although Pluer and Spoonmore ran one-two for the duration of the feature event, the result was hardly guaranteed. Spoonmore closed the four-car-length lead of Pluer over the final ten laps. The late race charge left Pluer gasping for air in victory lane.
“I think he was a little too tight to try something on the bottom, but he was right there,” said Pluer, the 1996 MASCS champion. “The last eight laps I was starting to get nervous.”
According to Spoonmore, Pluer’s diagnosis was right on. “We were a little too loose to start the race,” Spoonmore said. “I saved my tires until about ten to go so I ran real hard at the end, but he had a really good car. He deserved to win.”
While Pluer, Spoonmore and MASCS rookie Tyler Bauknecht attempted to log laps in the top three, caution flags continued to bunch the field.
The first caution on lap nine claimed fast qualifier Brian Back a victim. Eight laps later Lyle Nowak tangled with Bobby Gutknecht entering turn one while battling for fourth. The rest of the field was set into a frenzy attempting to dodge the carnage. All cars were able to continue.
That was not the case, however, on lap 18 when Austin Luedtke and Gutknecht connected to bring out a caution. Luedtke sustained heavy damage to his racer and made a brief return after repairs. One lap later Adam Bendzick and Travis Rodewald ended their day with heavy contact in turn four.
Up front Pluer said he tried to keep any anxiety in check. “I got a good lead and I was just taking it easy on the car, the tires and the brakes,” he said. I didn’t like to see (the cautions) because you never know when someone will take a chance on you or the floor dry in the turns will get you loose.”
After one final caution for a Nowak spin on lap 26, the field completed the last 24 circuits without incident. Pluer held off Spoonmore by a car-length and Bauknecht, celebrating his 19th birthday, collected third.
The victory was Pluer’s second since returning to full-time MASCS action last season. At Dells Raceway Park last July, Pluer visited victory lane in a car that had replacement body panels and duct-taped numbers, as he had to make last-minute repairs before heading to the facility.
Perhaps a disheveled appearance has become a good luck charm for Pluer. “We work on getting it fast first,” Pluer exclaimed. “We’ll work on making it look good next time.”
That next time for Pluer and the Mid-American Stock Car Series is Morris May-hem scheduled for Friday, May 21 at Grundy County Speedway in Morris, Ill. Mid-American last raced at the tough third-mile on May 29, 2006.