Historic 54th Season Opener At Cedar Lake Speedway
New Richmond, WI (4-6-12)
By: Greg Parent
It was a night of firsts on Friday April 6 at the Cedar Lake Speedway, as the famed 3/8 mile western Wisconsin dirt oval kicked off its 54th season of racing on a clear and somewhat cool early spring evening. Records were set for the earliest start to a racing season ever in the history of the track, a new weekly division debuted and ran the first non-stop feature of the season, and a first-time winner emerged in the NASCAR Pro Stock division. When the final checkers waved in the NASCAR Late Model feature, it had indeed been a memorable and historic opening night on what turned out to be an entertaining evening of dirt track racing action.
Grabbing top honors on the first night of the scheduled double-header weekend were Chad Mahder in the NASCAR Late Models, Joey Jensen in the NASCAR Modifieds, Adam Ayotte with his inaugural victory in the NASCAR Pro Stocks, Ryan Olson in the NASCAR Midwest Modifieds and Jack Purcell with a record setting victory in the newest weekly division, the hornets.
For the first time ever at Cedar Lake Speedway, the hornets were racing on the weekly program. Twice before the hornets had been part of the Legendary 100, but they had never raced as a weekly division. Thirteen hornets were on hand with a couple of cars making some rather long tows of nearly four hours. The "new kids on the block" were the first feature on the track for the 2012 racing season, and they quickly became the first division to run nonstop in their 12 lap main event. The race featured three different leaders, as a group of four cars battled up front for a good share of the laps. Chris Tyke led the first two laps before giving way to Brent Voeltz. Voeltz narrowly hung on to the lead for the next five laps until Jack Purcell took over for the final five circuits. Following Purcell across the finish line were Voeltz, Kyle Stark, Todd Tacheny, and Tyke in the top five.
With the 32 car NASCAR Midwest Modified field pared down to 24 starters for their 20 lap main event, Ryan Olson found himself on the pole alongside of Josh Bazey. Olson immediately bolted into the lead at the drop of the green flag with Bazey and Mike Kyllonen in tow. The first of three cautions blinked on four laps into the race when Jeff Lien stopped in turn three. Lien had been struck by a mod clod in the helmet and was dazed. He later was taken to the hospital for a checkup. One lap after the race restarted, the pace was slowed once again under yellow when Alan Bohlman broke entering turn one and caused a few cars to stack up behind him. The top three remained the same, but 11th starter Jason Vandekamp had already worked his way up to fourth. Vandekamp quickly gained two more spots during the next two green flag laps.
The third and final caution waved with eight laps in when Rob Weber got into Mike Kyollen. It would be 12 straight laps of entertaining racing up front after that, as Vandekamp put the pressure on Olson. Olson was able to hold off Vandekamp for the victory. After slipping back to fourth behind Tony Schill on lap 11, Josh Bazey regained the third spot on lap 18 and held it to the finish. Schill and 19th starter Scott Splittstoesser completed the top five. Rounding out the top ten finishers were Jeffrey Lien Jr, Jason Haugerud, Mitch Weiss, Zach Stewart and Kyllonen.
The NASCAR Pro Stock field of 17 cars would see 16 of them able to take the green flag in their 20 lap feature race after Mike Weber grenaded an engine in his heat race. The Pro Stocks had trouble making laps in the early going, as the caution light was blinking on four separate occasions in the first four laps. Pole sitter Marcus Simonson led the opening two laps before defending track champion Cory Davis took over. Davis led a couple of laps through three cautions. Once the carnage had eliminated five cars from the race, the final 16 laps ran nonstop to the finish. Young Adam Ayotte grabbed the lead from Davis on the lap five restart and was soon under pressure from Dan Gullikson. Ayotte drove a near flawless race and was able to keep Gullikson behind him at the checkers even though it was close racing during the final couple of laps. Davis finished third while Dave Mass and Mike Loomis rounded out the top five. Completing the top ten finishers were Larry Fitzsimmons, Simonson, Shawn Kammerud, Ben Hanke and Ryan Wiome.
A strong field of 18 NASCAR Modifeds rolled trackside for their 20 lap feature race paced by front row starters Cory Williams and Brandon Jensen. Jensen drove into the lead and began to pull away from the field during the first several green flag laps. Brandon's brother, Joey, quickly worked his way into the runner-up spot and began the task of reeling in his brother. As the leaders began working lapped traffic and the halfway mark, Brandon still had a bit of a lead on Joey. With the laps continuing to click off under green and lapped traffic coming into play, Joey began to close the gap on his brother. By lap 17, the Jensen brothers were running close together on the track. Joey took a look inside of Brandon as they completed lap 18 with Brandon holding the top spot by a matter of inches. Coming off turn four to take the white flag, Joey was able to get by his brother for the lead. Joey Jensen went on to capture the opening night feature win in a race that also went nonstop and saw all 18 starters still running at the finish. Brandon Jensen finished a close second followed by defending track champion Craig Thatcher, Clayton Wagamon and Scott Splittstoesser. Darrell Nelson, Brent Larson, Matt Gilbertson, Jason Gross and Austin Arneson completed the top ten. For Gilbertson and Arneson, it was their first-ever appearances at CLS.
The final feature of the night saw the ground-pounding NASCAR Late Models take to the track for 30 laps of high-powered excitement. Outside front row starter Chad Mahder looked like he was going to drive away from the field in the opening laps, but soon Darrell Nelson closed in the gap and the race for the lead was on. Nelson worked to get underneath Mahder for several laps. The two crossed the line side-by-side to complete lap 11 before Nelson worked his way to the lead on lap 12. Mahder came right back and regained the top spot on lap 13. Nelson stayed close for a few laps before Mahder began to pull away some in lapped traffic past the halfway mark. On lap 18, 7th starter Jimmy Mars moved by Steve Laursen for third. The laps quickly flew by under green with Mahder up front. Chad Mahder went on to earn the opening night triumph. Nelson, Mars, Laursen and 2011 track champion Rick Hanestad completed the top five. Rounding out the top ten positions were Kerry Hanson, Jake Redetzke, Brent Larson, Gregg Hill and Rick Egersdorf. Mahder lapped up through 8th place in the third caution-free feature of the evening.
The second night of the season opening weekend takes place on Saturday April 7 with a full program of NASCAR Late Models, Modifieds, Pro Stocks, Midwest Modifieds and Hornets. Check out the Cedar Lake Speedway website at www.cedarlakespeedway.com or call 1-866-CLS-4FUN for more information regarding the upcoming 2012 racing season.