Let the love affair begin. The fans at Norway Speedway gave a boisterous salute to Lyle Nowak as he exited his racer in victory lane for the second straight year in the Mid-American Stock Car Series Eh Main on Friday.
Nowak saluted right back. “I really love Norway Speedway,” said Nowak as his first comment to the large crowd.
Friday’s feature event was a story that was told one year ago. Nowak grabbed the lead and held off a late charging Bill Prietzel. This time, however, Prietzel got within a car length, but was unable to get to the outside lane in time to challenge during the waning moments of the 40-lap feature.
Although they didn’t race side by side, Nowak still sensed his Norway rival from last season was looking for vindication. “Any time you have Bill Prietzel in your rearview mirror you know you’re in for a fight because Bill is a hard racer,” Nowak said. “We’re the best of friends. We race hard, we help one another and it’s just a pleasure.”
The first 14 circuits of the feature event got off to a tumultuous start with the caution flag flying over the field a total of three times.
Racing side-by-side for the first three circuits, front-row starters Austin Luedtke and Ryan Gutknecht swapped the lead three times. Luedtke ultimately won the battle and secured the lead on the fourth lap. At the same time Nowak moved from his sixth-place starting position to third using the outside line.
Nowak spied the line of Travis Rodewald, who used the high groove to move around Gutknecht into second on the fifth lap. While Rodewald worked to clear Gutknecht, Luedtke jumped to a three-car-length lead.
Once Rodewald cleared Gutknecht, he began reeling in the MASCS rookie pacing the field. Three laps after moving to second Rodewald caught Luedtke, and passed him one lap later on the inside exiting turn four.
On the same lap the mayhem had begun with Jake Finney, James Swan and Mark Pluer racing three wide on the tight third-mile. Although they escaped unscathed on lap nine, Pluer applied the bumper to Finney one lap later, sending the 2006 MASCS rookie of the year into a spin cycle. Finney was unable to continue as oil poured from his machine. Pluer was sent to the tail of the field and recovered for a seventh place finish.
The field restarted behind Rodewald, who was tailed by Luedtke and Nowak. When the field was set back into motion, Nowak slid to the outside to take second from Luedtke. He brought Crystal Wood along on the outside into third. Another three-wide venture involving Swan, Adam Bendzick and Gutknecht set off a chain reaction resulting in a Bret Widdis spin in turn three on lap 11.
Nowak and Wood hounded Rodewald back to the restart. Nowak took one lap to dispose of Wood and began applying pressure to Rodewald. The caution flew for the final time on lap 14 when Luedtke and Bendzick spun after making contact while racing for fourth.
With his rear view mirror filled with yellow and bright green from Nowak and Wood again, Rodewald jumped away on the restart. Two laps after the restart, Prietzel worked to the inside of Wood for third and towed Swan into fourth. The following lap Nowak found an opening as Rodewald pushed high in turns one and two. Marching down the back chute, Nowak secured the lead.
“I was pretty worried. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pass Travis,” Nowak said. He could really come off the corner good, but he would push and drift up. I was thinking about sticking my nose underneath him and I was worried that if I went to the outside there wouldn’t be enough room. He got pretty loose coming off the turn, he opened the door up and it was time to go.”
Watching Nowak power past Rodewald, Prietzel saw the his opportunity start to slip away. Three laps after Nowak made his move Prietzel and Rodewald were locked in a battle for second. Prietzel took the spot on lap 21 and began the enormous task of trying to catch Nowak.
As Prietzel started to chop into the one-second lead of Nowak, Swan and Rodewald engaged in a battle for third. Swan had numerous looks to the inside of Rodewald, but the four-time MASCS champion couldn’t find the grip to make his run. On lap 33 Swan finally got close enough to Rodewald to make his move. Rodewald tried to shut the door on Swan entering turn one, but the nose of Swan’s Chevy Impala was unrelenting. Rodewald washed up the track and Swan swiped the spot exiting turn two.
By that point Nowak and Prietzel were too far away to be challenged by Swan. However, Prietzel had erased Nowak’s large lead and was within striking distance by lap 35. With Prietzel sizing him up, Nowak made sure to stay mistake free. He guarded the inside line and gave Prietzel no opportunity to grab his third consecutive MASCS feature.
Swan stayed put in third, Rodewald was fourth and Crystal Wood held on for a fifth place finish.
Now victorious in his only two visits to Norway Speedway, the question remains: Why is Lyle Nowak so good at Mid-American’s only Michigan stop? Having a lot of track experience helps. A friend who has turned a lot of laps at the third-mile doesn’t hurt either.
Nowak likened Norway to Tomahawk Speedway, where he won several late model track championships. If that wasn’t enough, two-time and defending late model champion Troy Nelson had some advice.
“My friend Troy Nelson told me to set it up just like Tomahawk,” said Nowak of the Antigo, Wis., driver who was victorious in the late model feature earlier in the evening. “He knows what he’s talking about. It’s good to have team players and a lot of help in the pits.”
With an honorary home track now in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Nowak will have little time to savor the win before Mid-American invades his real home territory Saturday at Marshfield (Wis.) Motor Speedway. Nowak will, however, go home with the confidence of being second in points, unofficially 12 markers behind Prietzel.
Mid-American is slated to run a 40-lap feature at Marshfield Saturday. After the trip to Marshfield, Mid-American returns to Dells Raceway Park next Saturday, July 24 for Dells Duel Part Two.
Marshfield Motor Speedway is located on County Road H, just west of Highway 13 in Marshfield, Wis. For more information visit www.marshfieldspeedway.com
For more information about the Mid-American Stock Car Series, including the full 2010 schedule, results, standings and driver information visit www.midamericanracing.com.
Eh Main 40-lap Feature
1. Lyle Nowak, Wausau, Wis.; 2. Bill Prietzel, Richfield, Wis.; 3. James Swan, Lake Geneva, Wis.; 4. Travis Rodewald, Manitowoc, Wis.; 5. Crystal Wood, Denmark, Wis.; 6. Tyler Bauknecht, Reedsville, Wis.; 7. Mark Pluer, Brookfield, Wis.; 8. Jeremy Spoonmore, Somonauk, Ill.; 9. Brian Back, Rudolph, Wis.; 10. Gregg Haese, Two Rivers, Wis.