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Dan Is The Man
(Jackson, WI) -- Dan Margetta owns the longest streak in open wheel racing of at least one win in a season, with 20, but that streak was broken in the 2018-19 season, the last win coming at the Black Track in January 2018, another streak began Thursday night, again at the Black Track as Margetta took the win at the Jackson 500.
The night started with Margetta showing his speed in practice, narrowing down to his primary car quickly and then setting the fast time in qualifying, his four lap total 5.398 seconds was a full tenth of a second faster than anyone, but late in the single car qualifying session Dean Strom put his #30 Mi-Jack Dallara-Honda on the pole with four smooth quick laps for a total of 5.226, the two would share the front row and Strom would have his first pole of the season.
The opening heat featured Mike Lack, who entered the race in second place in the Husarsbilt Cup championship, along with Mike Kristof and Alex Hayek making his second start in a row. Lack had an atrocious qualifying run and started last on the grid, early on in the run Kristof had the speed to pull away but in attempting to lap Lack's #1 SealMaster Dallara-Honda the Michael Shank-It Racing driver got caught up in several spin-outs by the defending champion and soon Hayek found himself out front while Kristof continued to struggle to keep Lack out of his way. In the second half the hole that Kristof was in was too deep to race his way out of, Alex would take the win and for the first time in his nine race career the #66 Salesforce Alter Ego Racing driver would advance to a final. Kristof would settle for seventh and Lack would finish where he began the night, a rare last place.
The second heat saw plenty of action with all four lanes filled with pole sitter Strom, home town hero Bill Black, points leader Matt Hayek and Steve Rist making his season debut. The traffic made for a tough race, but Rist managed to keep himself out of the messes and open up a lead, while the others could not stay out of each other's way. Hayek managed to pull clear of Black and Strom and wound up running second and grabbing the Transfer Spot for the time being while Rist would make the second final of his career.
Hayek would not hold the transfer for long as the third heat was by far the fastest of the three and saw all the drivers in the mix to win or advance through the transfer position, given to the driver who finishes second in a heat with the most laps. Margetta, along with Joe Heitz coming off his first career win and John Wiedemann, who is battling his Angry Squirrel Speedsport teammate for second in the championship all lined up together. A blistering pace was set early and the gaps were never wide between all three, eventually though, Margetta's #88 Hardly Steinbrenner-Margetta entry would start to build a lead while Heitz held off JW right to the end. Wiedemann would have to settle for fifth, but the five positions ahead of Lack would allow him to jump to second place in the championship.
With Magetta's heat win, the most experienced driver in series history would face off against three drivers that between them don't have two season's worth of start combined. At the start Heitz jumped out to the lead but a couple of early spins would allow Rist to move to the point while the others just tried to manage traffic. Young Hayek ran a solid second to both but through the middle of the race Rist would solidify his lead while Margetta started moving up. With 50 laps to go it looked like there might be back to back first time winners but Margetta was closing in and with 10 laps left the veteran made his move and took the lead and then the checkers for the first time in exactly two years. Rist still finished with his best career result, as did Alex Hayek in third and Heitz struggled toward the end but a final four follow up to his win solidifies fourth place in the championship 26 points up on Dean Strom.
Meanwhile at the top of the standings, Hayek managed to maintain his 56 point lead over his closest rival, the difference is who that closest rival is, Lack came into the race in second, but his tenth place finish drops him back to third, 62 points out while Wiedemann's fifth place, one spot ahead of Hayek moves him into second, 56 points behind.
Next up is the Raven 250, delayed for track repairs, we look forward to the upgraded Raven Raceway...