KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips
CHICAGO — Racing, racing and more racing — that is how one could describe the 44th annual Oktoberfest event at the LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem, Wis., this past weekend.
If it is racing one wants, it is racing one gets at the LaCrosse speed plant where headmen Chuck Deery and Gregg McKarns and their staff do everything possible to keep the program moving. This year’s four days of racing was continuously challenged by Mother Nature with rain storms in the forecast almost every day. Somehow, most of the racing was completed as scheduled.
After the days of racing were done, champions were crowned for several racing series, including the ARCA Midwest Tour, the Big 8 Series, Midwest Truck Tour and the Mid-American Stock Car Series.
If you were a betting man, you would have probably bet that one of the Sauter clan, originally from the Necedah, Wis., area, was going to win Sunday afternoon’s 100-lap ARCA Midwest Tour finale. With the race winding down, leader Johnny Sauter, a regular in NASCAR Truck Series action, was being stalked for the lead by his nephew, Travis Sauter, a three-time Oktoberfest champion.
With a few laps to go and slower traffic jamming up the two leaders, Travis got into Johnny in turn two, sending Johnny spinning. A little retaliation by Johnny saw both cars get torn up during the caution period with both drivers done for the day, returning to their pit areas, which were ironically right next to each other.
Former series titlist Nathan Haseleu inherited the lead and went on to score his first ’Fest victory over 2013 series champion Dan Fredrickson. The victory was Haseleu’s first of the year in ARCA Midwest competition. Chris Wimmer, Griffin McGrath and Erik Darnell rounded out the top five.
“It feels pretty good, pretty awesome. I am just so excited, I don’t know what to say,” Haseleu said. “I thought I was going to finish third and then those two guys (Sauters) got together. We didn’t have the fastest car, obviously, but we won the race. You need some luck, and we had some luck today. I will take it any way I can get it.”
Darnell and Haseleu are both former competitors in NASCAR Truck Series action with Darnell having two career truck victories. Darnell, the third-generation driver, had a pretty successful weekend during the ’Fest as he captured the Dick Trickle 99 on Friday night.
Turning in the best performance in the three, 33-lap segments, Darnell defeated Haseleu and young Ty Majeski in the overall point battle. Johnny Sauter won the opening segment, with 18-year-old Majeski winning the other two. Darnell turned in two second-place finishes and a seventh in a fresh Impala SS race car. The event honors Dick Trickle, the Wisconsin racing legend, who passed away last May.
“It is a fun race that is not your normal 100 lapper,” Darnell said. “It is not just a 100 laps and go. You have to calculate what you need to do.”