Jefferson, Wis., April 20, 2002 -- Over 70 race teams participated in the final practice and inspection day Saturday prior to opening race of the season at the Jefferson Speedway April 27. Between the two inspection days, over 100 cars have been inspected and have been getting fine tuned in preparation for next Saturday night's Spring Sizzler 50 sponsored by Towel City tires. The Spring Sizzler 50 has been won by the eventual track champion three of the past four years and provides the race fan an early barometer of who the top contenders for the championship will be.
Perhaps the toughest field of competitors in the 52 year history of the Jefferson
Speedway will begin the grueling 21 week season culminating in a points championship for
the driver and team which combines the greatest total of talent, skill, determination, and
luck. The following drivers are considered among the top contenders to take the Spring
Sizzler 50 and
Dan Chesmore, Janesville, coming off back to back championships, Chesmore will be campaigning a new car for the 2002 season. While the new car should be faster than his previous car, getting it properly set-up could cause Chesmore to get off to a slower than typical start this year. Once Chesmore gets the new car dialed in he may again be the one to beat. His chances to become only the second driver in modem history to three-peat will be determined by how quickly he can get the new car in proper form.
Ron Bishofberger, Fort Atkinson, Champion in 1999 and runner-up to Chesmore each of the last two seasons, will also be campaigning a new car for 2002. Bishofrerger will also be campaigning with a new engine which the team hopes will help unseat Chesmore. Bishofberger and his crew has been working on the new car most of the winter and expects to have all be bugs worked out prior to the opener.
Jason Erickson, Cambridge, finished third in the point standings in 2001, and is also piloting a new car for the 2002 season. Erickson will also be working with a new Crew this season and has perhaps the greatest challenge of all the top contenders to overcome. However, based on his performance in last weekend's practice, he may be closer to race ready than either Chesmore or Bishofrerger.
Scott Nottestad, Stoughton, finished fifth in the point standings and was the Rookie of
the year in 2001. Nottestad will be running the same car as last year and looked very
strong in last week's practice session. If Nottestad can pick up where he left off in
2001, the rest of the field will have to catch him to take the championship. Roger Behlke,
Jefferson finished sixth in the point standings and plans to campaign the same car as
2001. Behlke struggled in the beginning of 2001 getting his new car to perform, by the end
of last season he was clearly a contender in any feature event. If Behlke can get off to a
quick start by
Other top Late Model contenders expected to compete in the opener include: Ken Olson, Fort Atkinson, Mike Taylor, Stoughton, Eric Gerlach, Palmyra, Luke Westenberg, Palmyra, Wayne Whitford, Janesville, John Ovadal Jr, Johnson Creek, Tim Noble, Janesville, Tom Dorn, Fort Atkinson, Beau Sanden, Bdgerton, Jasper Gronert, Jefferson, Jim Jarlsberg, Cambridge, and Andy Wendt, Watertown.
Competition in the International Class, Sportsman Class, Hobby Stock, and Bandit divisions are expected to be intense as well. Brent Nottestad, Cambridge, the International Class champion will defend his title from top contenders, Mark English, Edgerton, Aaron Rude, Cambridge, Chris Quam, Stoughton, Mike Bingham, Jefferson and Mike Drays, Milton.
Sportsman Champion Josh Courtney will not be defending his 2001 crown. Favorites in the scramble for the top spot include Jay Kalbus, Oconomowoc, Trent Erdman, Fort Atkinson, Dylan Schuyler, Dousman, Mark Deporter, Fort Atkinson, Scott Reidner, Waunakee, Todd Goldade, Stoughton, and Dave Oswald, Cottage Grove.
Hobby Stock champion Jim Pfeifer has retired and the championship could end up a shootout between Dennis Gaserude, Oregon, Chuck Egli, Waterloo, Roger Stephenson, Cambridge and Lincoln Keeser, Jefferson The Bandit Division is expanding rapidly but defending champion Tade Swerig, Stoughton, and top challenger Tim Seitz, Edgerton are expected to battle for the top spot.
Nearly 125 cars are expected to compete when the Jefferson Speedway holds its opener. Gates open at 3:00pm, time trials, 5:00pm, and the first race is 7:00pm. The Jefferson Speedway is located halfway between Jefferson and Cambridge on Highway 18.