Hometown Disappointment... Tough Break For Darnell... Low Car Count

Local driver Tim Rothe has tried hard to win the Midwest Series 300-lap showdown at his home track of Wisconsin International Raceway the last couple of years.  And every year, bad luck seems to befall the Midwesterner.

This year, it was no different.
The accident with Tim Rothe late in the race put Erik Darnell and his team behind the eight-ball heading into a busy stretch of races.

“I am pretty disappointed,” said Darnell, who is racing in both the Midwest and Southeast Series this year.    “We didn't have a good car. We would have had a top-five, top-six finish probably.  I just hope the car isn't hurt too bad.  This is the car we were going to take to Myrtle Beach (SC) this weekend (for the Southeast Series).  If nothing else, I hope the engine is alright.”

Darnell and his team was trying out a new engine from a new engine builder this week at WIR.   The accident
Rothe's day started out on a high note, collecting his first Bud Pole Award.  Rothe than pulled a six in the invert, but wasted little time moving his way up into second behind leader Tim Schendel.    The two just cruised and put several good cars a lap down.

Unfortunately though, Rothe's car started to slid backwards and he was forced to pit under green.  After that, things just went down hill.

Rothe came out of the pits two laps down.  He was making up ground when a caution flag pinned him those two laps down.  Just a few laps after the restart, his night would be over.

“I don't know if something broke in Dave Finney's motor or what, but he slowed down way too much and I had Erik Darnell behind me and there was nothing I could do,” said Rothe, who ultimately finished 19th.  “I had a full head of steam up and by the time I got to the break pedal, there was nothing any of us could do.  Erik got into the back of me and that was the end of it.”
with Rothe was a direct frontal hit for Darnell's #7.  He hit the back of Rothe's car so hard, Rothe's rear bumper was on Darnell's windshield at one point.
“I knew Justin was chasing us out there.  I noticed Justin was catching us and something told me not to let him pass me because it would be hard to get back by him later.  Little did I know how important that would be.”

Rothe was trying to pass Finney to the inside off turn two when Finney slowed and abruptly ducked low.  Rothe was forced to take evasive action and came right back up the track in front of a full-speed Darnell, who slammed into the back of Rothe's car. 

“What can you do?  That is my luck in this race.  Every year it is something.  That is just racing.  You have to take the good and the bad.  Unfortunately in this sport, there are more bad times than good.”

Erik Darnell talks to an official and looks over his wrecked race car.
“I don't know what happened.  I don't know what happened for Dave Finney and Tim Rothe.  I don't know what it was but they came down the track and Nathan Haseleu and me both went to the outside.  Nathan got by then I don't know what happened.  Rothe just shot right up the track in front of me and I had no where to go.  It looked like he just turned right.”

It was a capper to a bad night at a track Darnell hates.

“I told you (our Jeremy Troiano) all day that I hate this place.  I don't know what it is about it.  I just hate this
Tim Rothe won the Bud Pole hat, but was pretty disappointed as the night finished out.  (51 Photos)
The torrid pace put on by Tim Schendel and Tim Rothe put most of the field a lap down early, but several of the drivers who were only the lead lap were caught one or more laps down when they gave up their lead lap status to pit under green and were then caught by the lap 176 caution.

Rothe was the first to pit on lap 145.  Eddie Hoffman followed on lap 172 and Eric Fransen came in on lap 173.  Erik Darnell came in on lap 175.  Schendel, Brian Hoppe, Steve Carlson and Justin Diercks had not yet pitted and caught the break they were looking for with a  caution on
Tim Schendel (#21) and Tim Rothe (#56) pass Ryan Hanson (#60) for the lead on lap four.
track.  I can qualify good here but I never run good.  Man... I just hate it.”

Darnell's 18th place finish was his first finish of the entire season, in late model or NASCAR Midwest or Southeast Series competition, out of the top-10.


With 300 laps on the card for Tuesday night's race, pit stop action was going to be fast and furious.  But no one had really expected the pit stops to have to come under green flag conditions.

The first 175 laps of the race were run green.  That forced several drivers to have to pit under green-flag conditions, something not many were probably planning.
lap 176, leaving them the only four cars on the lead lap.

“We were the only car one lap down and we might have been able to make it up, or we could have just known we were going to have a solid fifth place finish,” said Darnell before he dropped out of the race as the result of a crash.

“We were starting to get pretty close on having to pit,” said Schendel.  “When I got back to third, I think there were only four cars on the lead lap.  I knew we had to have a caution soon.  I was close to having to pit for tires.  I knew if I didn't, I was going to lose it and stuff the car in the wall.  I guess we just got luck with the caution.”

“I think the crew said we thought we had 15-20 laps to go before we would have had to pit,” said Hoppe.  “I think we had pretty good fuel milage compared to most of the guys.  This is about the only place we will run into fuel milage.   We keep track of it and we knew where we needed to be and it worked out for us.”
Hoffman though was not one of the fortunate few.  He was forced to pit after running out of gas.

“The car wasn't real fast to begin with, so we just ran where we were comfortable,” said Hoffman.  “Before we ran out of gas, the car was running just as fast as the leaders on worn tires so we knew we were in good shape.  We didn't think we would run out of gas, but on lap 169, we ran out. 

“We lost two laps.  From then on, we were just kind of cruising.  What can you do then?  We had a pretty good car. Maybe not he best car.  But we were forced into our spot at that time.”

Hoffman finished sixth.


A small car count at WIR for the Tuesday night show, many believe because of the tough turnaround from the Pike Peak (CO) race on Saturday, allowed two teams to pull out their backups and put crew members in the seats for a little “start and park” action.
The torrid pace put on by Tim Schendel and Tim Rothe put most of the field a lap down early, but several of the drivers who were only the lead lap were caught one or more laps down when they gave up their lead lap status to pit under green and were then caught by the lap 176 caution.

Rothe was the first to pit on lap 145.  Eddie Hoffman followed on lap 172 and Eric Fransen came in on lap 173.  Erik Darnell came in on lap 175.  Schendel, Brian Hoppe, Steve Carlson and Justin Diercks had not yet pitted and caught the break they were looking for with a  caution on
Only 20 full-time teams showed up to the race, a race which is one of the highest paying of the year, with a guaranteed $7,000 to win and $1,2500 to start.  With a couple of spots open, two teams, Ryan Hanson's and Russ Blakely's, both pulled out backup cars, slapped a different number on the side and started the race with drivers Jon Reynolds (Hanson's #80) and Jesse Wilcox (Blakely's #2).

Reynolds finished last (22nd) after running just three laps and Wilcox finished 21st after running four.


Back in June, when the Midwest Series raced at Wisconsin International Raceway the first time, Justin Diercks chased Steve Carlson to the line.  Tim Schendel was right there, coming home third.

It looked nearly the same Tuesday night as Justin Diercks chased Steve Carlson to the line. Tim Schendel was right there, coming home fourth this time around. 
Coming off a win Saturday, Eddie Hoffman's day went bad when he ran out of gas under green.
Justin Diercks has chased down Steve Carlson both times at WIR this year.
Carlson's win (his third of 04) moved him within 25 points of Diercks and the point lead.

“I’m still within striking distance in the points, so that is good.  We are just taking it one race at a time,” said Carlson.  “This hasn't been my best year and they (Diercks) are having a great year, so to still be within distance of him is pretty good I guess.”

Carlson is chasing his 10th Midwest Series title.

“This is getting a little old,” joked Schendel at the finish.  “We've been kind of third or fourth all year.  Just trying to step it up here and there and catch up to Justin and Steve.  They are the guys to beat and we are getting closer.  But they are still on top of the mountain.”

Not surprisingly, Schendel sits third behind both Diercks and Carlson in the points as well.

For a while, it looked like Tim Schendel was about to run away from the pack and easily win the race Tuesday night.  He took the lead on lap four and never looked back until his car started to fade and he was passed by Steve Carlson on lap 159.
Carlson owns WIR in MWS.
“At the start of the race, I knew these guys would charge up to the front and they were setting just a little too fast of a pace for me considering the longer race it was,” said Diercks.  “I had my crew chief in touch telling me where they were the whole time.  I saved my car and I was able to get up to him and had an opportunity to get Steve, but I wasn’t going to do anything to get by him. 

“This is just another race to finish second to him.  It is still a good finish.”
“We had a really good car.  I thought we had a car to win with and we did really.  Around lap 160 or so, the car started going backwards.  We thought the right rear was either blistering or had a hole in it.  Every lap I was going into the corner and the car wanted to step out on me.  I would swear I was going to wreck every lap.  I couldn't hold off anyone then.

“We were using the same setup we had when we were fast here before.  We finished third that night.  It was looking like tonight was going to be our night, but the rains came.  Had they not though, after the stops, I think we would have had something to get up there.”
Tim Schendel (#21) races with Brian Hoppe (#51)
The fans were pretty excited to see two familiar NASCAR Nextel Cup stars in attendance on Tuesday night as well.  Sterling Marlin and Bill Elliott showed up and raced each other in a pair of local late models just prior to the start of Tuesday night's race.

Marlin drove a car normally piloted by Rod Wheeler while Elliott drove the car normally run by the night's pole sitter, Tim Rothe. 

Marlin just edged Elliott in the best-of-three match race.

“I was all over Bill, he was all over me and it was a pretty close finish,” said Marlin.  “That’s part of it.  It was fun though.  We do it for the fans.  We don’t drive these cars much and they drive weird for us. They have different tires, they dart around a lot and we’re not used to them, but it doesn’t take long to get used to them.”

“I love driving these things,” said Elliott.  “I’d love to race here.”

Bill Elliott talks to a local reporter after racing at WIR on Tuesday night.