It looks like it might be 1996 all over again.
Fourteen years after wearing the Mid-American Stock Car Series champion’s crown, Mark Pluer has returned to the circuit with a vengeance. The Brookfield veteran turned in a dominating run en route to victory in the Dells Duel MASCS feature Saturday night at Dells Raceway Park in Wisconsin Dells.
The feature win was the second of the year for Pluer, who also captured the season opener at Rockford, IL in April. Pluer’s good finale run started with a spot of luck; a friendly dice roll invert that lined him up on the outside pole.
Swinging to the outside of pole-sitter Brett Widdis, Pluer took the lead at the drop of the green and began a steady march away from the field. Three-time champ Bill Prietzel motored to the outside of Widdis on the third circuit, only to watch Pluer pull away.
With Pluer in command, the focus centered on Prietzel, the leader of a freight train of seasoned veterans trying to wrestle away the runner-up spot.
Scott Null, Lyle Nowak, Jeremy Spoonmore, Jake Finney and rookie Tyler Bauknecht ran in tight formation behind Prietzel, with fast qualifier Brain Back and Adam Bendzick eventually joining the pack.
As hard as Prietzel had to work to hold second, Pluer’s run to the checker seemed like it would be the exact opposite; an easy cruise to victory lane. But after 32 straight green flag laps, the script changed.
Locked in a tight battle for a top ten finish, rookie Austin Luedtke went for a slide with eight laps to go. The ensuing caution meant that Pluer’s monster lead was a memory, and worse yet, the most senior members of the MASCS fraternity would be right on his back bumper for the restart.
Despite having a fast car, Pluer took nothing for granted coming back to the line. “You never know on a restart,” he said. “All you need to do is make one little mistake, and they’re all over you. But the guys behind didn’t have much for me tonight and I was able to pull away.”
On this night, there would be no such mistakes. Pluer took the green, never lost his edge, and completed final green flag run by beating Prietzel to the finish by just less than half a second.
Null crossed the line in the same spot as he had raced all night long – tight on Prietzel’s back bumper. The run for the Lake Mills veteran was one of his strongest in the series in recent years.
Nowak and Spoonmore completed the top five.
After seven years away from the sport, as Pluer put it, he “got the band back together” and rejoined the tour fulltime this season. He may or may not have been considered a title contender in the spring, but there’s no question that he has established himself as just that with three events in the books. And he’s not satisfied yet.
“Even if you come and win, you still got to go back and do your homework,” he said. “We qualified terrible, so we got to work on that.”
The Mid-Americans will return to the Dells for the second Duel Saturday night July, 24th. The next event will mark the return of the MASCS to Road American in Elkhart Lake, WI as part of the Nationwide weekend on June 19.
For more information, visit the series website at www.midamericanracing.com.
Mid-American Stock Car Series Dells Duel 1 Results:
40 Lap Dells Duel Feature (1-10) Mark Pluer, Brookfield; Bill Prietzel, Richfield; Scott Null, Lake Mills: Lyle Nowak, Wausau; Jeremy Spoonmore, Somonauk, IL: Jake Finney, Sycamore, IL: Tyler Bauknecht, Reedsville; Adam Bendzick, Apple Valley, MN; Brian Back, Rudolph: Kevin Kulka, Deerfield
(11-20) Tom McClintock, Onalaska; Jeremy Bloomberg, Hampshire, IL; Bobby Gutknecht, Oak Creek; Mike Lichtfield, Pardeeville; Dave Verhagen, Green Bay; Crystal Wood, Maribel; Ryan Gutknecht, Oak Creek; Austin Luedtke, Adell; Paige Decker, Eagle River; Brett Widdis, Manistique, MI
(21-22) Chris Storey, Burlington; James Swan, Genoa City
20 Lap Last Chance Qualifier – Verhagen; B. Gutknecht; R. Gutknecht; Bloomberg; Wood; Nick Crawford, New Prague, MN; Decker; Storey; Cody Lipsteurer, Genoa City; Travis Rodewald, Manitowoc; Matt Pyburn, Wisconsin Rapids
Heat 1 – Pluer; Back; Prietzel; Spoonmore
Heat 2 – Widdis; Null; Swan; Nowak
Fast Qualifier – Back (14.576); Swan; Finney; Bendzick