Fan appreciation night is usually where the track shows how much they appreciate the fans for their loyalty for coming out to witness the great racing action. Sunday night was another example of that great racing action. However, the ending is what will have the fans and competitors talking about for the near future.
Steve Apel bumped his way past leader Dennis Prunty on the backstretch after taking the white flag. Apel spun Prunty and amid the tire smoke and drivers wondering if the yellow would fly with some checking up and others driving hard to the checkers, Apel barely beat Scott Schoeni to the checkers. After a long conference among track officials, it was determined that the transponder scoring shows that Apel beat Schoeni by four one thousandths of a second. A photo of the finish was shown that it was a dead heat, but by track rule the transponders overrule any pics.
The controversy started with a restart on lap 62. Dennis Prunty, who had a full straightaway lead over Apel, suddenly found himself lining up for a double file restart with three laps to go. Prunty would get the jump on the drop of the green, and clear Apel coming off turn two. As they entered turn one with two laps to go, Prunty’s car washed up high allowing Apel to dive underneath. Prunty was able to hold a slight advantage on the outside as both cars took the white flag.
Prunty, who has made no secret about liking to be on the outside, actually cleared Apel coming off of turn two and appeared to be headed for his seventh win of the season. Apel had other ideas and wasn’t going to be denied. He bumped into Prunty down the backstretch, causing Prunty to spin in a cloud of tire smoke. This caused a bottleneck behind the leaders with some cars checking up and others driving hard to the checkers. Scott Schoeni worked through the melee and initially appeared to have beat Apel to the line.
This is where the confusion and the controversy comes into play. Fans, officials, and the drivers were confused as to what the ruling should be. Adding to the confusion was the track recently hired a new flag man, who did not throw the yellow flag despite the spinning cars on the track. Many track officials then held a conference on the track to go over what happened and to render a decision. After all was said and done, the ruling was that without the caution being thrown, and the transponder showing Apel getting to the line first, Apel was declared the winner.
Apel’s account of the last lap only adds to the controversy, and he wasn’t sure he in fact did win.
“Now that I have the trophy it’s kind of set in,” said Apel. “Up until that point I was kind of leery about what the track was going to do. I was hoping I would get the win. I didn’t really want to get into Dennis like I did and I feel bad about the guys that wrecked behind me, but it’s just really been a frustrating year finishing second all these times and always be runner up. It takes its toll. That restart before the last I had him. I knew I had him I was on the outside of him, then that caution came out. I got on the outside again and kind of slipped up. The white flag lap I knew I wasn’t going to get him on the outside and I knew his car was tight so I figured if I lifted early and turned down and I stay in it and get underneath him like I did, then we go into the backstretch and we touched and I don’t know if he ended up spinning out or not. It screwed up my car pretty good. Coming to three and four my crew kept saying ‘Stay in it’ cause we figured it would be a race to the finish and I stayed in it and beat Schoeni by about eight inches. It was crazy.”
Dennis Prunty abruptly left the track and was unavailable for comment.
Scott Schoeni was a bit more diplomatic in his approach to the situation.
“He crossed the line before we did, that I know,” said Schoeni. “It looked like he had us. When they checked the transponders he was ahead by four thousandths. On the restart the 42 and the 16 got into each other off of the last turn there and I guess Dennis ran into the infield. Apel got into us and we were sliding and we just stepped on it and go and hope for the best. From sitting in the car it was awful close but I think he got us.”
Jeremy Lepak worked his way through the spinning cars to wind up in third place, while Austin Luedtke scored his career best finish of fourth place. Terry Patnode rounded out the top five. Points leader Lowell Bennett dropped out on lap 12 and was credited with a seventeenth place finish.
According to the track’s public relations director Todd Thelen, the ruling was pretty simple.
“The checkered flag flew so the 16 wins,” said Thelen. “It’s just that simple, no yellow. If the yellow comes out, then they revert back. No yellow they race to the checkered, so it was a complete race, 65 laps. It’s not even a question of what happened.”
Jacob Vanoskey led flag to flag in winning his first Late Model race of the season. Vanoskey got the jump from his inside front row starting spot and held off Mike Graczkowksi over all 35 laps. Dave McCardle Jr. finished in third with Pat McIntee coming in fourth. Rob Braun rounded out the top five.
Jimmie Evans picked up his second Mid American Sportsman victory of the season. Evans got around Gregg Pawelske on lap 18 and held on for the win. Danny Church, Jack Stearn, and Ryan Farrell were the rest of the top five.
Eric Lingford got by Andy Welter just after the halfway mark and cruised to his third win in four weeks and fourth win of the season. Welter wound up finishing second while John Daley finished in third. Jake Larson was fourth and Adam Peschek came home in fifth.
Nick Wagner scored his fourth 4 cylinder Slinger Bees win of the season, narrowly holding off Braison Bennett. The duo methodically worked their way through traffic with Wagner getting through just slightly better. Leo Bujak making his first appearance at Slinger finished in third place with points leader Alex Prunty finishing in fourth. Mark Johler completed the top five.
Rick Bruskiewicz scored his first Figure 8 feature win of the season by holding off Scott Goetzke in an exciting battle among the two pickup truck drivers. Goetzke snuck inside Bruskiewicz coming off the last turn heading for the finish. Contact was made between the two trucks with both trucks spinning across the line. Bruskiewicz slid across first giving him the win. Shane “The Shark” Becker came across in third with Willy Van Camp in fourth. Justin Poenitsch finished in fifth.
Slinger track chaplain Jim Zierke won one of two Speedway Guest Car features, with Greg Kaczmarek winning the other.