A Most Dramatic Finale

2017 HO Indy 500


Read the complete box here and the final season standings


St. Francis, WI -- In what is undoubtedly the most unlikely series of events to lead to a championship, Mike Lack won his first HO Indy 500 and took his fourth straight Husarsbilt Cup season championship at South Shore Superspeedway Saturday. The day started out looking like the leader coming into the race, John Wiedemann, Lack's JAM Racing teammate, was going to have a pretty easy time taking the championship, qualifying sixth, ahead of his closest rival, Dan Margetta and two ahead of Lack, who wound up eighth on the grid, just making the field of eight that advance to the heat races.


The qualifying session itself was a full 50 minutes of drama as Mike Kristof ran an unlikely time of 9.480 seconds for his four lap total and then had to wait for Matt Hayek, who showed promise in two waved-off attempts and Ev Kamikawa clearly was on pace, but a spin in turn four on his last lap wiped out what could have been a third HO Indy 500 pole in a row. Hayek's final attempt on his primary car was a solid second at 10.072 but not enough to challenge Kristof, who had his first pole at the "500" since 2004. That left the question of who was going to stay in the field, including points leader John Wiedemann, whose primary car found itself in the eighth spot, on the bubble. Kamikawa's first back-up car bumped Wiedemann out, "JW" then attempted to bump back into the field with two more cars that came up short, meanwhile Spehert Autosport team owner Chris Spehert began searching for enough speed to get into the show with other back-ups.  Wiedemann finally found a machine to get him solidly on the grid with a 10.424, sitting fifth as the session time ran down. Kamikawa took two more cars out onto the track, each coming up well outside the bubble-time of Bill Black, who sat nervously waiting with 10.511. After Kamikawa's final back-up car also came up short, the only car available was John Wiedemann's back-up car, since he had put Mike Lack's car in the field. Discussions between Black and Wiedemann had given Black the right of first refusal on the car, since he sat on the bubble qualifying could have ended there, but in sportsman move that guarantees him that prize at the banquet, he allowed his teammate and team owner Chris Spehert to give it a shot, he did not waste it, running a solid 10.236 seconds in his four lap run to fourth place and knocking Black out of the race.


Heat races and lanes are chosen in qualifying order and with John Wiedemann out-qualifying Margetta, and only two spots for the 24-year veteran to chose, either in the same heat with the man he trailed by five points or wait to the second heat. "Dangerous" Dan lived up to his name as the two top contenders would face off in the first heat, along with fourth in points, Matt Hayek and Chris Spehert. Pole-winner Mike Kristof and the odd man out at this point, Mike Lack lining up in the second. 


Neither Wiedemann nor Margetta had the pace in the heat race and the two would finish third and fourth, respectively, and leaving Margetta the odd man out no matter what happened, but JW would have to wait and watch, while Hayek took advantage of his speed to advance to the final, keeping his title hopes alive and bringing fellow two-time 500 winner Chris Spehert along, who was making the most of the opportunity he had been given in qualifying. 


In the second heat, Kristof kept up his qualifying pace and easily won, but Mike Lack had to do some hustling in order to save any chance he had to still take another championship, as he just clipped Mike Fitzlaff at the end to move into second place and advance to the 1000 lap final.


There were three scenarios for the championship as the HO Indy 500 got under way: either Kristof or Spehert win and Wiedemann takes the Husarsbilt Cup, second place qualifier Hayek wins and he is champion or eighth place qualifier Lack wins and takes his fourth championship. Kristof sprinted out to an early lead that he held through the first two sets of fuel stops, even his team's slow pit work on the tire change stop at half-way didn't cut into his lead too deeply, while Lack was passing Hayek for second, the #9 car came into the next to last pit stops, the "pit cards", Kristof's car came into the pit box, but it never left, as the "death card" stole his first win since the 2015 HO Indy 500 and took most of the possibility that Wiedemann would be champion, as Spehert sat a distant third to new race leader Mike Lack and Hayek. Mike Lack scored his first HO Indy 500 victory and his fourth and without a doubt, most unlikely championship. Hayek finishing second and Spehert was closing in the waning laps of the race but a victory in itself, considering where the day started, in his first 500 start in 7 years.


The final tally showed Mike Lack with 646 points, just eight ahead of his teammate John Wiedemann, with Dan Margetta 17 behind and Matt Hayek just 19 back. Easily the closest championship among so many drivers in the series' 24 year history and the most dramatic climax to a season ever!


The season awards banquet will be held in a couple of weeks, video highlights will be available on the IndySlotCar Channel after that. 


The next season of IndySlotCar racing will begin around Labor Day, as we celebrate our 25th season of racing!


###




Wear what the drivers wear! Buy your IndySlotCar t-shirt here. Many colors and sizes to choose from, $15 including shipping!

Matt Hayek




IndySlotCar Schedule