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Wiedemann Marches Through Madness
(Wauwatosa, WI) -- Much has been written in every corner of the internet and on every form of media about the current unpleasantness, so no more needs to be said here, this evening was a positive collection of friends and racers who took to the track to duel it out at what seemed like the most appropriate location, Wauwatosa, hometown of IndySlotCar from its founding.
The bracket-buster format for March Madness was scheduled to coincide with the opening day of the NCAA men's basketball tournament, what we got was John Wiedemann putting on a Duke-like domination as he set a track record in qualifying at Bermuda Raceway, lowering the mark more than a tenth of a second below the 2.293 second lap Dan Margetta had established back in December at the Christmas Classic and placed as the number one seed in the tournament. While Wiedemann at the top was not a huge surprise, Bill Black's #77 and Pete Dorn's #5 both out of the Black-Atom Racing stable taking the second and third seed certainly surprised many. The other shockers were that Husarsbilt Cup points leader Matt Hayek was forced to wife-quarantine at the last minute and missed the event, while Mike Lack qualified dead last.
The field of ten was placed in the bracket with ninth and tenth facing off in the first round to see who would advance to take on Wiedemann in the quarter finals. Steve Rist (9th seed) as the higher seed had first lane choice and went with an unusual strategy against tenth seeded Mike Lack and chose the outside red lane to start, while Lack went with the fastest lane, yellow. It didn't quite work out for Rist who would wind up a lap down at the finish and Lack moved on to face his Angry Squirrel Speedsport teammate, while Rist's #41 RJ Foyt Racing Chevy-Dallara would be scored ninth for the night.
The other opening round match set seventh seed Dan Margetta against eighth seeded Dean Strom, both drivers had missed the previous two races and looked a little rusty, but so equally matched that it came down to inches on the track at the finish, but Margetta's #88 would prevail and move on to the quarters to take on Bill Black, while Strom would finish tenth in the final rundown.
In the round of eight, the PenskeHO Racing teammates faced off and like two weeks earlier when they battled for a heat win, this was another close fight that again went to Joe Heitz as Ev Kamikawa's #12 Verizon car spun out late to allow Heitz to move on to the final four. Hometown hero Mike Kristof thought he would be clever and challenge third seed Pete Dorn by choosing the tight inside lane while Dorn started in yellow, while Kristof wasn't too far behind at halfway, he could not control his car in the faster yellow lane in the second half and Dorn easily cruised to the semi-finals. Bill Black opened an early lead on Dan Margetta and was never really challenged through the second half as he moved on to face his teammate in the final four. The last of the quarter-finals pitted the two Angry Squirrel Speedsport drivers against each other, but with Wiedemann's #19 Cly-Del Manufacturing Dallara-Honda on record pace, Lack's #1 Sealmaster machine unfortunately never really stood a chance, but Lack would wind up fifth for the night, still scoring enough points to move past Hayek in the championship. Margetta, Kamikawa and Kristof would finish sixth, seventh and eighth respectively.
The semi-finals would open with the Black-Atom Racing teammates facing off and Bill Black looked to have the advantage as he held a lead into the second half over Pete Dorn, but with just over a minute remaining Black's #77 Lucas Oil/Motorgator car flew off turn one and landed nearly in the timing and scoring directors lap, Dorn only had to pass Black's lap total at that point and the #5 car was into the final. The dramatic turn of events stunned Black as much as the crowd as he settle for fourth place for the second race in a row.
The other semi started out highly competitive as John Wiedemann started out in the tight green lane against Joe Heitz in the fast yellow lane, but Heitz was not able to take a lead into the second half and then JW really pored on the coals and Heitz would also lose the car in turn one and again endanger the timing and scoring officials as the car came to rest in their tent. Wiedemann was into the finals.
Pete Dorn is still looking for his first career victory, but unfortunately, the opportunity was not going to happen at Bermuda Raceway as Wiedemann's #19 was just too much for Dorn's Arrow Electronics liveried #5, but it was the Black-Atom Racing driver's best finish of the season and the points haul moved him into fifth place in the championship. Meanwhile, Wiedemann's third victory of the season was enough to leap frog all the way from third place to first place in the Husarsbilt Cup championship, taking a 14 point lead over Mike Lack and 23 point advantage over Matt Hayek going into the final two events of the season. It was Wiedemann's 26th career victory, for a driver who appreciates the history of the sport, equaling Larry Rotter on the all-time victories list, both at sixth, will mean a lot.
As for the 2019-20 season championship's future, the schedule says in two weeks the drivers are to return to Wauwatosa and the Jack Daniel's Shrine Cup at the Shrine Desert Road Course and then the HO Indy 500 on April 11, but events beyond IndySlotCar will determine if that schedule needs to be amended. Regardless of when...series officials promise that those events with full fields will determine the championship. Stay tuned!