By Jeffrey Sachse
August 24, 2012; Oshkosh, WI – A little luck goes a long way to determine one’s success, this can be especially true in motorsports where sometimes a little twist of fate is the different between victory or sitting on the sidelines when the checkered flag falls.
Heading into the Friday evening event at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway, defending and four time Bumper to Bumper IRA Sprint Series champion Bill Balog was seeking his 13th win of the 2012 season. The number 13, considered a bane too many, would prove lucky to Balog. While misfortune fell upon an unusual number of competitors through mechanical gremlins Balog was unhindered by fate as he ran down race leader Mike Reinke in the closing stages of the main event, taking the lead with five laps to go and then dominating the final five circuits for the victory. 13 it seems, is not as unlucky as many believe.
While good fortune smiled upon Balog many of his fellow competitors’ were not so fortunate. The high speed third-mile clay oval seemed to test the durability of the machines during the evening. Though 26 cars had checked into the pit area, more than enough for a B-main, a rash of mechanical misfortunes in hot laps, qualifying and heat races decimated those numbers resulting instead in an extended 24 car field for the feature event of the evening and a scrapping of the B-main contest.
By the end of the heat races Brian Portschy and Brandon Thone had suffered unrepairable engine failures and others had a rash of mechanical ills which kept their crews busy throughout the night including Russel Borland, Scott Uttech, and Jeremy Schroeder.
A treat to the fans, an extended 24 car main event would roll trackside for the 30 lap A-main with Mike Reinke sitting on the pole next to Scott Neitzel. Reinke, whose birthday would be celebrated that day after this race event had opportunity to give himself a birthday present if he could put together a trip to victory lane and for much of the race it seems he was prepared to do so.
At the drop of the green flag Reinke charged into the lead on the tacky racing surface, while Neitzel slipped into the second spot. Balog would find himself in third during the opening rounds with pressure from the night’s fastest qualifier Mike Kertscher. On lap five Kertscher would slip past Balog into the third spot and set out after Neitzel. Reinke effortlessly began to maneuver through lapped traffic with a comfortable lead on Neitzel when a wild incident took place on the front stretch on lap nine.
Phillip Mock had been working on clearing the lapped car of Johnny Fahl when the two touched briefly. The contact resulted in Mock taking a wild tumble down the track bouncing off the fencing heading into turn one resulting in a red flag. The crowd held its breath as safety crews converged on the scene to assist Mock from his battered ride. Mock would climb from his car shaken but otherwise unhurt. Both Mock and Fahl would be unable to continue leaving 18 of the 24 starters still on the track for the final 21 laps.
The damage to the fencing resulted in a brief delay during which crews were allowed to attend to their cars. When racing resumed Reinke was back to setting the pace again pulling away from Neitzel. Balog meanwhile seemed to show more speed than prior to the red flag incident and the battle for second soon became a three car tussle as he, Neitzel and Kertscher all tested each other’s skill for the runner-up slot. Kertscher was first to make his move sliding under Neitzel to try and grab second but the maneuver fell short and Balog took the opportunity to scramble past both Kertscher and Neitzel coming off turn two on lap 17.
Kertscher’s chances at victory suffered a major setback coming out of turn four on lap 19 when he spun, the field behind him scattered and John Haeni, who was running a solid fifth making his first start in a year and a half spun to avoid Kertscher’s errant ride. Both Kertscher and Haeni would restart at the tail of the field for the restart.
Reinke would lead the field back to the green flag with Balog and Neitzel in tow. Jeremy Schultz, who currently tops the 360 Sprint point standings at the Sheboygan County Fairpark was having a great deal of success with his 410 machine running in the fourth spot and Steve Meyer making just his second start of the year found himself holding down the final spot in the top five.
As the race began to wind down attention focused on the battle between Reinke and Balog as Balog closed within a couple car lengths. It appeared Reinke would have the speed to keep Balog behind when on lap 24 Reinke suddenly tagged the backstretch wall coming off turn two. Though he was quick to get pack up to speed it was all Balog needed to sweep past and into the top spot.
Once out front Balog would pull away enroute to a convincing victory. For Reinke the final laps proved to be a challenge as it appeared his ride lost some if it’s speed. Neitzel would take advantage of the situation and as the white flag fell he wheeled inside of Reinke as the pair made their final orbit around the raceway. The pair were dead even coming off turn for four the checkered flag with Neitzel reaching the stripe less than a foot ahead of Reinke for second. Reinke crossed the line third only .02 seconds behind according to transponder timing. Schultz would cap off his evening holding onto fourth while Meyer held tenaciously to a top five position.
Kertscher would rebound from his spin to reach sixth at the checkered flag followed by Kris Spitz, Haeni, Andy Hunt and Bill Wirth who made up the top ten finishers. 17 cars were still on the track at the completion of the event.
In earlier heat race action. Hunt was able to hold off Reinke for victory in the first heat, while Balog slipped by Wirth for the win in the closing laps of heat two. 2011 Wilmot Raceway champion Tommy Sexton topped the third heat fending off Neitzel.
In qualifying for tonight’s contest Kertscher turned in the quickest lap with a 12.562 second trip around the large third-mile clay oval. Balog was second quick with 12.810 second and Neitzel’s 12.867 effort was good for third fast. Reinke was the last of four cars to crack the 13 second barrier with a 12.997 second lap.
The series now heads into a pair of double header weekends. First up will be a trip to the Sheboygan County Fairpark in Plymouth, Wisconsin for a contest on Friday evening August 31st. The event will be held during the running of the Sheboygan County Fair giving families a great opportunity to enjoy all the attractions of the fair and then attend the 410 Sprint program in the evening.
The weekend will wrap up on Sunday September 2nd with the third and final trip of the year to the 141 Speedway located near Francis Creek, Wisconsin. The raceway has provided some thrilling action on its tight third-mile oval.
The following week the series wraps up its final double-header weekend of the year in northern Wisconsin. On Friday Night September 7th the Bumper to Bumper IRA Sprints will make an appearance at Amsoil Speedway in Superior, Wisconsin and on the following evening the weekend wraps up with a stop at Cedar Lake Speedway for the Reichert Memorial on Saturday September 8th.
For more information on the IRA Outlaw Sprints check out the tour website at www.irasprints.com The Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints can also be found on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/irasprints and the series is also on Twitter at http://twitter.com/ira_sprints
The IRA Outlaw Sprint Series is proudly supported by Bumper to Bumper Auto Parts & Service Centers, Osborn & Son Trucking, Goodyear, TW Metals, Cummins Onan, DNA Energy Drink& Snacks, MPT Industries, UltraLube, Big Game Treestands, Carriage Auto Body, Otis Gun, Mother's Polishes and Waxes and Polaris DEFENSE. The office of the IRA Sprints can be reached at 815-759-9269 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprints:
A-Main: 30 Laps: 1.) Bill Balog; 2.) Scott Neitzel; 3.) Mike Reinke; 4.) Jeremy Schultz; 5.) Steve Meyer; 6.) Mike Kertscher; 7.) Kris Spitz; 8.) John Haeni; 9.) Andy Hunt; 10.) Bill Wirth; 11.) Tommy Sexton; 12.) Dave Uttech; 13.) Todd King; 14.) Scott Uttech; 15.) Robbie Pribnow; 16.) Michael Decker; 17.) Allen Hafford; 18.) Bill Warren; 19.) Phillip Mock; 20.) Johnny Fahl; 21.) Dennis Spitz; 22.) Wayne Modjeski; 23.) Russel Borland; 24.) Jereme Schroeder
First Heat: 1.) Hunt; 2.) Reinke; 3.) Kertscher
Second Heat: 1.) Balog; 2.) Wirth; 3.) Phillip Mock
Third Heat: 1.) Sexton; 2.) Neitzel; 3.) Schultz
Qualifying (Top 10): 1.) Kertscher, 12.665 Seconds; 2.) Balog, 12.810 secs; 3.) Neitzel, 12.867 secs; 4.) Reinke, 12.977; 5.) Warren, 13.068; 6.) Meyer, 13.072; 7.) Haeni, 13.106; 8.) Mock, 13.154; 9.) Sexton, 13.178; 10.) Fahl, 13.193.