2011-12 Round 16
HO Indy 500 - Southshore Superspeedway - St. Francis, WI
April 14, 2012
Round 16 of 16
Weather: 69 - Mostly cloudy
Kamikawa Wins 4th HO Indy 500; Walczak Clinches 4th Husarsbilt Cup Championship
(St Francis, WI) -- Ev Kamikawa outlasted a fast field to capture his fourth HO Indy 500. Mike Lack crashed out with 60 laps remaining to leave Kamikawa the last man standing. This after Mark Walczak hit the floor to crash out and finish fourth, and Mike Fitzlaff drew the "death card" in his pit stop to knock him out while leading.
The HO Indy 500 is the premier event on the Indy Slot Car Series schedule and also culminates the season. While everyone wants to win the race and drink the milk, there is also the point standings to worry about and season goals that drivers are trying to obtain. This year, the championship was on the line with Mark Walczak trying to hold off Mike Lack and capture his fourth championship. Lack would need to win the event with Walczak finishing last to knock the champ off the top of the standings.
With nine drivers competing to end the day in victory lane, it was decided that there would be three heat races with the winners moving on to the final and the fastest non-winner joining them in the HO Indy 500. The day was started with qualifying and Walczak wasted no time putting his primary chassis in the pole position. When the rest of the field had tried and failed to knock Walczak off the pole they brought out their backup chassis to position themselves on the grid for lane choice in the heat races.
Heat race were won by Mike Fitzlaff, Lack and Everet Kamikawa. The winner of the last two HO Indy 500 events , Matt Hayak, held the transfer position after the first heat race. Dean Strom took over the transfer spot following the second heat race prior to being bumped out of the main event by teammate Walczak in the final heat race. The field was set with former 500 winner Mark Walczak taking the pole position followed by Lotus teammates Fitzlaff and Lack, and three-time 500 winner Kamikawa. With Walczak making the final, he guaranteed himself the season championship and the Husarsbilt Cup was his for the fourth year in a row.
After traditional ceremonies, drivers were instructed to fire their engines and the green flag flew with the race underway. Fitzlaff quickly took the lead as the rest of the field struggled to find their footing and settle into their lanes. Early pitstops were relatively uneventful and the drivers paced the track heading to the halfway point of five hundred laps. The next segment of the race changed the entire complexion of the event. After the halfway point pit for tire changes, drivers moved into their new lanes. The combination of the ultrafast inside lane and new sticker rear tires became Walczak’s downfall. Losing traction in the third and fourth turns, Walczak flew off the track and was eliminated from the event. $91,000 in prize money to the driver who could win the pole and race would not be given away today. With six-hundred laps in the books drivers made their way to toward another round of pit stops. More drama would ensue as Fitzlaff, looking for his first HO Indy 500 win, had a huge lead and pulled into pit lane for what was to be a routine stop. Routine was not in the cards as Fitzlaff’s ride caught fire and his race was over. What looked to be a cruise to the finish was eliminated and once again Fitzlaff was left wondering if his luck would ever change in the big race.
And then there were two. Riding the high grooze, Kamikawa inherited the lead and had a thirty lap lead over Lack with the final round of pit stops completed and three hundred laps left in the race. Running a faster pace than Kamikawa, Lack needed to pass the leader and get a lap back every ten laps in order to catch him by the end of the race. At the pace each driver was running, a photo finish at the line looked to be possible. While the racers pushed their chassis to limits and a few times beyond, the laps counted down and with sixty laps remaining the caution flag flew. A problem with the scoring system necessitated a brief stop in the race. Lack was just eight laps behind Kamikawa with sixty laps to go.
No one could have predicted what happened next. Lack, known for his car control and knicknamed “the machine” for his car control, amazingly lost control of his racer and flew off the track. Whether it was the race stoppage affecting his concentration or the cooling of the tires during the caution, we will never know. Lack’s race was done and Kamikawa celebrated as the four-time HO Indy 500 champion.
Who Will Drink the Milk? Who Will Take Home the Husarsbilt Cup?
(St Francis, WI) -- The 2011-2012 IndySlotCar Series season comes to a close this Saturday with the finale contested at South Shore Superspeedway. The running of the HO Indy 500 will not only produce a winner but also wrap up the season championship. There are other yet to be decided items that will add to the drama of this prestigious event. There is the Championship still to be decided. Mark Walczak is searching for his fourth Husarsbilt Cup Championship in a row, something that looked to be a certainty with twelve events in the books. Then, at HO Road America, Mike Lack scored his first win of the year after Walczak received the death card while leading the race. Walczak looked vulnerable after Lack scored a victory at the newly located Deckertring and Walczak finished eighth. Lack has been the only driver that has gotten close to Walczak in the points during the Championship run and now is 28 points behind. Lack would almost need to win coupled with a huge choke by Walczak, but it is the 500 and stranger things have happened.
There are other battles in the season point standings. Everet Kamikawa and John Wiedemann are tied for third place with Mike Fitzlaff just eighteen points back. Tom Spehert holds down the seveth place spot with Dan Margetta only a half-point behind. Teammates Matt Hayek and Mike Kristof battling for ninth with Hayek holding a ten point lead.
Five drivers that scored wins in the series during the two previous seasons are still looking to find victory lane this year. Hayek has won the last two HO Indy 500 events and is looking for a triple. Wiedemann found victory lane twice in the 2010-11 season but could finish this season with a blank in the win column since he hasn’t had much success in the 500. Larry Rotter and Chris Spehert have both won the 500, Spehert twice, and could use a win this season. Mike Fizlaff has been quick in the 500 and would love a win to avoid two winless seasons. Everyone would love a 500 win, even those who have won in the past. Kamikawa has three wins with the last one coming in 2006. Dan Margetta, who owns the track that the 500 is contested on, won in 2005 and with a hometown win would paint the town red with a huge celebration.
Lastly, Walczak could drink the milk while enjoying the championship. He is probably tired of seeing and hearing about Hayek in victory lane the past two HO Indy 500s. On the other hand, what if Lack took the win and Walczak finishes tenth? Lack would be the one drinking and hoisting the trophy in victory lane with the most amazing comeback in series history. Yes, there is drama and history on tap for Saturday’s event.
Carb Night Danger
(St Francis, WI) -- South Shore Superspeedway can be a challenge, the seemingly similar 4 corners which hosts the HO Indy 500 can jump out and grab a car, much as it did to John Weidemann on Thursday's Carburation Night practice. Unfortunately technical issues prevented practice times to be posted.