By Jeanne & Larry Starr
May 9, 1998; JEFFERSON WI. – It took a long time to get this one in, rain forced it to be rescheduled from April 25 to May 2, and again to May 9. It was worth the wait, as droves of race fans and a huge field of race cars turned out for the 1998 season opener at Jefferson Speedway.
First up was the Spring Sizzler 50’ Late Model feature, held over from April 25 where Andy Wendt of Watertown notched the win. Starting in the front half of the field Wendt worked his way quickly to the front, claiming the third spot before the only caution of the race, slowed the field on lap 8. On the restart Wendt, made his move on Eric Gerlach of Palmyra for the second spot, as Tom Dorn of Ft. Atkinson held the point. The battle with Gerlach lasted only one lap, as Wendt moved to the inside and set his sights on Dorn. Dorn held on for two laps before Wendt made his winning pass, on lap 11. Once in the lead, Wendt cruised, unchallenged, to the checkered flag, leaving the battle for second well behind. The three way battle for second lasted most of the way to the checkered with Gerlach, Charlie Mierendorf of Lake Mills and Dan Chesmore of Janesville all vying for the spot. At the stripe it was Wendt by a straight-away, with Chesmore winning the battle for second, followed by Gerlach, Mierendorf, Denny Stair of Sullivan and Jason Erickson of Cambridge.
Next up was the 20 lap Hobby Stock feature, originally scheduled for April 25. Jay Kalbus of Oconomowoc jumped to the early lead and charged to the checkered. Coming up behind were defending track champion Jim Pfeifer of Ft. Atkinson and Jeff Kohlhoff of Watertown. Pfeifer was never seriously challenged and at the stripe it was Kalbus, followed by Pfeifer, Kohlhoff, former Track Champion Dennis Gaserude of Oregon, Gerald Chapman of Juneau and Ron Coppernoll of Madison. Kalbus subsequently failed the post race technical inspection, giving the official win to Pfeifer.
With the features from the opener in the record books the program moved directly into the first regular Saturday night racing program.
Scott Null of Lake Mills turned in the top performance in the 35 lap Late Model main event. Starting from the inside of row 3 Null jumped quickly to the third spot, where he was locked in battle for second, with Gary Krueger of Edgerton, just behind the early leader Denny Stair of Sullivan. Null still held the third spot when the only caution of the race came, on lap 5, for debris on the track. On the restart Null went back to work on Krueger, battling side-by-side for many laps, right on the back bumper of Stair. Krueger slipped to the third spot on lap 11 as Null, went to work on Stair. Null made many moves to the inside of Stair, as the two flew around the track, catching lapped traffic. On lap 16 Null pulled to the bottom, going into turn 1, powering under Stair as they rounded turn 2 and pulled ahead on the back straight-away. From there it was Null guiding the way to the checkered flag, with Stair never able to find an opening, to retake the lead. The battle for third, kept the crowd on the edge of their seat as Krueger, fought to stay ahead of Tom Dorn of Ft. Atkinson. As Null lead Stair past the checkered, Dorn moved to the inside of Krueger in a last ditch charge for the checkered, edging Krueger by 6 inches at the line. Ken Olson of Ft. Atkinson rounded out the top five.
Wendt turned in the fast qualifying effort with a 14.777 second circuit of the quarter mile.
Claiming victory in each of three 10 lap heat races were Butch Mierendorf of Waterloo, Krueger and Stair.
Transferring to the feature via the 20 lap Last Chance race were Duane Deppe of Waterloo, Rex Weston of Lake Mills, John Ovadal of Johnson Creek and Russ Goodwin of Beloit.
In the International Division former track champion Justin Nottestad of Edgerton claimed victory in the 20 lap feature. Starting from the outside of row 5 Nottestad moved smoothly through the field catching the early leader Jim Pankow of Janesville as the first caution came out on lap 12. On the restart Nottestad launched his bid for the lead, coming out ahead of the battle on lap 13. Matt Frey of Cambridge moved up behind Nottestad before the final caution closed the field, on lap 16, for one last restart. On the restart Frey launched a determined bid for the lead, but could never quite find the right opening. At the stripe it was Nottestad for the win, followed by Frey, Mike Cusick of Edgerton, rookie driver Brent Nottestad of Cambridge and Pankow.
Darnell Mepham of Ft. Atkinson set the fast pace in qualifying with a 15.996 second tour of Wisconsin’s Action Track.
Victors in the 10 lap heat races were Pankow and Cusick.
In the Sportsman Division Dave Oswald of Cottage Grove completed a perfect night of racing with a win in the 25 lap main event. Starting from the rear of the field Oswald shot quickly to the front, claiming the fifth spot before the first caution of the race on lap 4. On the restart Oswald took to the bottom of the track, holding a low line that few can master, and drove to the third spot before the second caution flew on lap 7. On the restart Oswald moved past Ryan Ley of Sullivan into the second spot and moved up on the early leader, Dave Pankow of Madison. Pankow held on for one more lap before succumbing to Oswald’s charge on lap 9. Bob Selsing of Ft. Atkinson moved up to the second spot, and appeared to be gaining, before the final caution on lap 16. On the restart Selsing was able to stick with Oswald, but never able to make a serious bid for the front. At the stripe it was Oswald, completing the “Clean Sweep” followed by Selsing, Pankow, Ley and Matt Jessie of Milton.
Oswald set the mark in qualifying with a 15.904 second cruise of the quarter mile.
Winning ten lap heat races were Mark Deporter of Ft. Atkinson, Pankow and Oswald.
Transferring to the feature via the 12 lap Last Chance race were Ron Reynolds of Janesville, Dylan Skyler of Dousman, Josh Courtney of Janesville and Chris Matz of Sullivan.
In Hobby Stock action defending track champion Jim Pfeifer of Ft. Atkinson notched his first of the year, in the 20 lap feature event. Starting from the inside of the last row Pfeifer began his drive to the front, moving up to seventh in only a couple of laps. Pfeifer’s progress was slowed a bit by the 5 way battle, just ahead, as Lincoln Keeser of Johnson Creek pulled away in the lead. Pfeifer picked his way through the second place tangle, claiming the second spot by lap 16. With only 4 laps to go Pfeifer worked to catch Keeser, with Jeff Kohlhoff right behind. As Keeser took the white flag, Pfeifer launched his bid for the lead, making the winning pass on the final lap. At the stripe it was Pfeifer for the win, followed by Kohlhoff, Keeser, former track champion Dennis Gaserude of Oregon and Pete Elgas of Janesville.
Jay Kalbus of Oconomowoc turned in the fast qualifying lap with a 16.963 second orbit of the quarter mile.
Claiming victory each of three 8 lap heat races were Jason Ayers of Edgerton, Keeser and Pfeifer.
Transferring to the feature, via the 12 lap Last Chance race were Ernie Witte of Johnson Creek, rookie driver Jason Ayers of Edgerton, Brian Pillar of Watertown and Ken Stillman of Madison.
Next week at Jefferson Speedway the points’ race continues with a full racing program in the Late Model, International, Sportsman and Hobby Stock divisions. Rounding out the nights’ entertainment with the one-on-one spectator drags, with competition between 4, 6 and 8 cylinder cars and trucks. All competing vehicles must be street legal, licensed and titled. Jefferson Speedway is located on Highway 18 between Jefferson and Cambridge.