One quote summed up the past month for Brian Back and his hunger to visit victory lane. “This one’s for you Grandpa Jim.”
Carrying the number 61 to honor his late grandfather, the third-generation Back bested Mid-American Stock Car Series action Saturday at Marshfield Motor Speedway.
“By the time I pulled into victory lane thoughts of my grandfather came to my mind,” Back said. “He meant a lot to me and my family. It was definitely a tribute to him tonight.”
The win was Back’s second straight at his home venue where he has claimed several track championships in the super stock division. Just as it was in July of 2008, the checkered flag was accompanied by fast time. Back has now set fast time in all six MASCS events that have awarded points for qualifying.
“I really don’t have a good explanation other than we’ve had a lot of success with qualifying through my whole career,” Back explained. “It’s just carrying on in the Mid-American Stock Car Series fortunately.”
While qualifying has been his strong suit in 2010, quick times have also acted as an Achilles Heel for Back. Inverts have placed Back in the middle of strong feature fields all season long. An invert of the top 11 qualifiers again put Back behind some strong machines in the 40-lap main event.
Two of Back’s strongest competitors tore through the 25-car starting field in the early portions of the feature event. With plenty of side-by-side racing through the pack, Lyle Nowak and Bill Prietzel picked through the top ten utilizing the inside line through the first five laps. Nowak found his way into the third spot, with Prietzel right behind in fifth.
By lap seven Nowak and Prietzel were racing side by side behind the leaders. Gregg Haese and Max Schultz, who had been locked in battle since carrying the field to green, immediately felt pressure from the veteran duo. Only two laps later Prietzel and Nowak began to search for ways past the frantic battle for the lead.
Prietzel found his break exiting turn four on the ninth lap. Haese pushed up exiting the final turn and made contact with Schultz. As the two scrambled to save their racers from certain disaster Prietzel seized the inside line and motored to the lead at the start/finish line.
Nowak slipped into second after the mishap by Haese and Schultz. The duo then resumed their battle for the third spot. As they raced side-by-side Back and James Swan were picking off spots in the top ten, but had little space to maneuver due to heavy traffic. That rush hour-style traffic jam allowed Prietzel to break out to almost half of a straightaway over Nowak, who had another half of a straight away between himself and the battle for third.
As the race reached its midway point, Prietzel kept his machine on cruise control. Back and Swan were desperate for track position. Back attempted several three-wide passes exiting turn four, but could not find enough motor to slide past the battle between Haese, Schultz and Tyler Bauknecht.
The break Back and Swan had been looking for came entering the first turn on lap 22. Schultz pushed up the track with an apparent flat tire, opening up some space for the two to negotiate a line around Haese as well.
What seemed like a major turning point in the race was dwarfed in comparison by what happened next as the leader crossed the start/finish line on lap 23. With a huge lead Prietzel entered turn one and had the engine expire in his racer, dumping fluid, spewing smoke and ending his bid for a third MASCS win in 2010.
Back recognized after the race just how stellar Prietzel was. “Once (Prietzel) got by the leaders and we were stuck in traffic I didn’t think anyone was going to catch him,” Back said. “Even if I was better than him, he definitely went through traffic faster. I don’t know if anyone would have passed him with that kind of lead.”
Prietzel’s misfortune came exactly one year to the date of last year’s Split 50 at Madison International Speedway. Prietzel had a large lead in the first of two 25-lap segments when the engine expired in that race. It was ultimately a turning point that helped Paul Neisius reel him in and eventually capture the 2009 MASCS championship.
With Prietzel out of contention, Nowak restarted in the lead. Bauknecht and Haese restarted in the second row with Back and Swan poised to start in the third row. However, just before the green was displayed Swan ducked into the pit area. A flat right front tire put Swan out of contention for his second win at Marshfield. He was able to race his way back to a tenth place finish.
After the restart Bauknecht muscled past Haese to take second and brought Tom McClintock to third. Back was forced to reset in fourth, but quickly found lines around McClintock on lap 28 and Bauknecht on lap 30.
Utilizing a wide-open outside line Back crept past Lyle Nowak at the stripe on lap 32. However a caution for a Kevin Damrow spin on the back stretch reverted the field to lap 31, which was led by Nowak.
Nowak hoped for new life after the restart, but knew he would have his hands full with Back. The central Wisconsin natives raced side by side much to the delight of the biased crowd for several laps. However, Back’s machine proved to be the strongest as he secured the lead on lap 33.
“I knew it was probably going to be just a matter of time,” Nowak said of his thoughts before the final restart, “It felt good to run side by side with him for two or three laps and not concede that he was clear yet, but he was clear and he was fast. He deserved to win.”
Dells Duel Two winner Tyler Bauknecht finished third, McClintock fourth and another central Wisconsin favorite, Matt Pyburn, rounded out the top five.
Along with the emotional overtones, Back’s win came with some history. Back is the first to pilot an AR Bodies Next Generation Body to victory lane in MASCS action. One year ago to the date Kyle Shear put his NGB in victory lane in one of the Split 50 segments, but Jeremy Spoonmore was awarded the overall feature win.
The Heart of Wisconsin 40 also caused a major shakeup at the top of Mid-American standings. Nowak took the point lead from Prietzel with Back moving to second, six points back. Prietzel fell to third, but is only 21 points out of the top spot.
Mid-American returns to the dirt this Friday Sept. 3 for the Big Clay Labor Day Challenge at Dodge County Fairgrounds Speedway in Beaver Dam, Wis. The event will be run in conjunction with the IRA Sprint Cars Stan Fox Memorial. Racing begins at 7 p.m.
Dirt grand national drivers interested in running the Labor Day weekend race at Dodge County are encouraged to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive rule updates and entry information. Rules will be similar to the July 2 running and will closely mirror the rules grand nationals around the state of Wisconsin follow.
Teams will be able to use the same tire if they return, and for new teams the same grooved F-75 tires will be available for purchase before the event at $25 each.
Dodge County Fairgrounds Speedway is located on High Point Road, just south of highway 33 in Beaver Dam, Wis. For more information visit www.dodgecountyfairgrounds.com/SpeedwayHome.htm .
Heart of Wisconsin 40-lap Feature
1. Brian Back, Rudolph, Wis.; 2. Lyle Nowak, Wausau, Wis.; 3. Tyler Bauknecht, Reedsville, Wis.; 4. Tom McClintock, Onalaska, Wis.; 5. Matt Pyburn, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.; 6. Jeremy Spoonmore, Somonauk, Ill.; 7. Dan Church, Big Bend, Wis.; 8. Bret Widdis, Manistique, Mich.; 9. Bobby Gutknecht, Oak Creek, Wis.; 10. James Swan, Lake Geneva, Wis.
Heat Race Winners: Scott Null, Lake Mills, Wis.; Kevin Damrow, Maniotowoc, Wis.; Nowak