Beaver Dam Raceway Report: May 3rd
By NICHOLAS DETTMANN BEAVER DAM, Wis. - Mike Mueller hopes to avoid the mid-season slump that may have cost him the legends division track championship last season at Beaver Dam Raceway. Mueller won the 20-lap "A" main legends feature Saturday, May 3, to start the 2014 season. Mueller won the 2013 opener as well. "Hopefully it can keep going," he said. Eric Barth, the 2011 track champion, finished second and Kim Clover, Mueller's stepdaughter was third, followed by Ethan Ross and Nathan Chitko. Chris Flick was sixth, followed by Joe Bongiorno, Jim Bucher, Johnny Kringas and Austin Wiese to round out the top 10. Roger Lee (grand national), Jeremy Christians (modified), Brandon Berth (sport modified) and Doug Engleking (street stock) won the "A" main features in their respective divisions. Ninety-three cars registered for the opener. The victory for Mueller was also a belated birthday present. He turned 50 years old April 27. He said afterward he felt like 50 years old with a smile. Mueller had a good start to the 2013 season with three straight top-three finishes. In the season's fourth week, Mueller finished 18th, while Joe Johnson, the eventual track champion, finished second that week. Then at the season's halfway point, Mueller finished outside the top-15 three in times in five weeks, including missing a feature start. Mueller, a track champion about 10 years ago in a four-cylinder car at Beaver Dam, thought that stretch might've cost him the championship. The track appeared to be quite racey early in the evening as each division had an intense and thrilling heat race. Mueller, Barth and Ross won the heat races in the legends division. In the street stock division, Engleking was in a spirited battle with Brandon Riedner for the checkered flag in the first heat race of the season. The drivers were door-to-door coming off Turn 4, racing to the finish line, with Engleking emerging as the victor. Jesse Krahn and Roger Frank won the other heat races. Frank was in a tough battle with defending track champion Scott Riedner for the victory. Lee and Jeff Steenbergen won the grand national heat races. Steenbergen competed in his first grand national race since 2011. He raced modifieds and sport modifieds in the seasons in between, including winning a track record 14 features in the sport mod division last season en route to the track championship, his second in four years in that division. Noah Schepp, Craig Priewe and Christians won the modified heat races. Priewe won his heat race over Andrew Araco by 0.031 seconds. With no "B" mains, the action went straight to the "A" mains and first out for the 2014 season were the legend cars, with Bucher and Marlena Boyd leading the field to the green flag. Bucher led the season's opening lap. Then Barth took the lead on the second lap and held onto the lead until the 17th lap. Mueller, who started the feature ninth, took the lead with three laps to go. At that point in the feature, the top-six cars were separated by less than one second. Barth retook the lead with two laps to go, and Mueller took the lead with one lap to go, where he held on for the victory. Mueller, Barth and Clover were separated by less than one second. "I didn't know if I was going to get (to the front) or not," Mueller said. "I knew Eric was starting on the second row and Kimmy was fourth row outside," he added. "I figured I would have to contend with those two at least." Engleking and Alex Crapser led the field to the green on the front row for the street stock "A" main. Engleking lead wire-to-wire. He had a couple challengers with Scott Riedner and Frank, but both wound up pulling off the track while running second because of a flat tire. The sport mods were up next, with rookie Adam Peschek and Brandon Schmitt leading the way to the start. Peschek, a late model driver at Slinger Superspeedway, got his first taste of the Beaver Dam clay and appeared comfortable leading the field to the green. However, it was a mess behind him. There were four attempts to get the first lap of the race in because of various crashes. On one start attempt, it looked as if Peschek was going to lead the first lap, but he hit a rough spot in the track, lost control of his car and slammed into the monster truck tire in the infield. With Peschek out, Berth moved up to the front row for what became the final restart attempt. Berth and Schmitt traded the lead for the first three laps, which were slowed by two additional cautions. Twenty-one sport mods started the feature. After five laps, only 14 were left. The sport mod feature completed just seven laps before it was called official because of the time limit. The grand nationals were next. Paul Tod and Kodiak Wirtz led the field to the green flag. Wirtz shot around the outside and surged into the lead for the first three laps of the feature. Steenbergen started the feature ninth, but finished 11th. He appeared to be on his way to at least a top-five finish, but he got loose in turns 3 and four in front of a group of cars, which ignited a six-car crash on lap 11. By this time, Lee was in control and easily won the feature, even dodging the challenge of a restart with two laps to go. The modifieds capped the evening with its "A" main. Christians and James Rhode led the way to the green flag and it was a tough battle for the first half of the race as the track surface was giving away. Matt Rechek found some comfort and speed around the high groove and charged through the field. Just past the halfway point, he was in the lead and was looking strong. Don Scheffler, who was running close to the front early in the race, got into a scary accident in Turn 1 where he slammed the outside wall, then flipped over onto his roof. He was OK. In the waning laps of the race, Rechek and Christians fought hard for the victory. On the last lap, Rechek trailed Christians going down the back straightaway. He said the only he was going to win the race was if he passed Christians along the bottom of the track. Going into Turn 3, Rechek drove his car into the inside of Christians' and tried to make the bottom stick. Unfortunately, he carried too much speed into the corner and when he hit a bump in the track, his car went airborne, allowing Christians to dip back underneath Rechek and win the race. Christians, however, barely made it across the line, coasting for the victory with a mechanical problem. "I was just trying to hang on," Christians said. "I got pretty lucky."
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