Wheeler Dominates SPEED SPORT Challenge
SALISBURY, N.C. – Mike Wheeler made the long haul from Oregon worth it by capturing the inaugural SPEED SPORT Challenge for mini outlaw karts Wednesday night at Millbridge Speedway.
“It was a dream and I lived it,” Wheeler said. “It was awesome.”
Wheeler started on the pole for the 30-lap feature by virtue of earning the most points in his heat and qualifying. He shared the front row with Steve Surniak, who immediately gave chase when the green flag was waved by 20-time World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series champion Steve Kinser.
The action was quickly halted when Chaz Woodward came to a stop in turn two at the sixth-mile dirt oval, resulting in the first caution flag of the event. The field returned to racing and Wheeler immediately jumped back into the lead as Surniak gave chase.
A few laps later a crash in turn one that included NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor Tyler Reddick and World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series regular Paul McMahan stopped the action with Wheeler still in front.
Wheeler immediately jumped back into the lead when the green flag waved as Surniak began to feel pressure from third-place Max McLaughlin. While those two battled for second, Wheeler stretched his lead and had almost caught the rear of the field when the caution flag waved for the third time when Austin Reed came to a stop on the backstretch on lap 15.
Wheeler continued to lead the field when the green flag waved again, but the action was again halted a few laps later when McMahan and former USAC Triple Crown winner J.J. Yeley came together in turn one.
The crash by McMahan and Yeley forced officials to briefly halt the race so teams could refuel their race cars. Wheeler was the leader at the time of the brief red flag, followed by Surniak, McLaughlin, eighth-place starter Tommy Hubert and Logan Seavey.
The field returned to racing but they were only able to get a lap in before Karsyn Elledge went for a spin in turn one from the back of the pack. The green waved again and Wheeler quickly built a huge lead as Surniak found himself trying to hold off Seavey, who had found a line at the top of the track that worked for him.