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Count 'Em On Two Hands
(Saint Francis, WI) -- The HO Indy 500 is almost an entire season in itself, the qualifying brings more drama than many whole race nights and then, if you make it through the heats to the final, one thousand laps and five pit stops makes for a test like no other seen the rest of the schedule, but the rewards match the achievement as the race pays double points and now features of the one most distinctive trophies in IndySlotCar, not to mention drinking the milk.
It is all of these rewards that the field was vying for as the day at South Shore Superspeedway began, five-time defending series champion Mike Lack set the pace early as the random draw for qualifying order put him on track first and he broke the track record for a single lap and the full four lap run, if his time stood it would also mean a bonus point for the pole position, which would help him climb past Ev Kamikawa, who came into the event with a seven point lead. But, as he has done so often in his rookie campaign, Joe Heitz would lay down a time that no one could touch and scored his fourth pole in his eight race career, a record for a rookie and matches Lack for the most P1s for the season.
At the other end of the grid Bill Black was on the outside looking to get into the field of eight after his primary car didn't make the cut, but his back-up car was too slow as well. With his Black-Atom Racing teammate sitting on the bubble, Black would take out Pete Dorn's #5t car to chuckle's from Dorn who was sure it had no chance to make the field, he was right. John Wiedemann offered up his back-up, which Black also failed to bump his way in. In fact, Black would go on to try eight different back-up cars all without success, a new HO Indy 500 record.
Once the side show of Bill Black's qualifying efforts were complete and the pomp and ceremony of pre-race activities out of the way, it was down to racing. Two heat races are straight forward affairs, four cars per heat, top two in each move on to the final. In the opener it was Mike Lack and John Wiedemann easily moving on as pole sitter Joe Heitz Fuzzy's Vodka car may have been fast for one lap, but it could not compete during the full run of a heat race, while Pete Dorn would settle for a solid fifth place on the night and solidify fourth in the championship. In the second heat Dan Margetta and Ev Kamikawa cruised past Matt Hayek and Mike Kristof.
The HO Indy 500 started with Mike Lack, now the fastest qualifier still in the race, running the inside lane pulling out to a comfortable lead over his Angry Squirrel Speedsport teammate John Wiedemann, with Ev Kamikawa and Dan Margetta in tow. At the first pit stop, Lack's crew spilled fuel and the #1 SealMaster car was called in for a stop-and-go penalty, but never sacrificed the lead. Throughout the middle section of the race the lead only increased as the teams executed the several pit stops, but in the final stint Margetta's #13 GoDaddy car started cutting into the gap, passing Kamikawa and then Wiedemann and eventually starting to pressure Lack, who would guarantee a sixth straight Husarsbilt Cup championship with a win. As the last 50 laps started to dwindle, Margetta closed to within 5 laps and gaining one lap back on Lack about every 10, however, with 20 laps left, the Team FYA driver started to push too hard and lost the handling on the car allowing Lack to solidify the lead and cruised to a second HO Indy 500 victory and an unprecedented sixth championship.
Despite Wiedemann's #17 Air Force car finishing on the third step of the podium, Ev Kamikawa's fourth place was enough to edge out "JW" for second place in the championship by one point.
Lack becomes the first recipient of the Cianciola-Kristof Trophy for winning the HO Indy 500, the first travelling trophy for the race and adds another tradition to winning, taking a shot from the replica 1975 Indy car Jim Beam decanter that sits on the trophy. Lack broke the seal and took his swig, declaring the whiskey to be "smooth".
As the IndySlotCar Series heads to the off-season, the question remains, can anyone dethrone Mike Lack? What will this season's rookie of the year, Joe Heitz do with a full season? The promise shown in just eight events begs the question if this is a driver who could challenge for championships. Also, a few teams may be on the way to realigning and new partnerships. Stay tuned for silly season updates.
See you in the fall!