2013-14 Round 9
Raven 250 - Raven Raceway, Brookfield, WI
January 2, 2014
Round 9 of 16
Raven Raceway Turns Into Twilight Zone
Brookfield, WI – Some things just can't be explained. Bigfoot, UFOs, mermaids, and the popularity of Justin Bieber are all examples of the unexplainable. What happened Thursday night at Raven Raceway in the Raven Bowl 250 should now be added to the list.
The night started out innocently enough with IndySlotCar Series point leader Mike Lack blistering the track and setting the fastest time in qualifying on the technical and treacherous road course. JMM teammate Mike Fitzlaff grabbed the second spot on the grid with Dungeons & Dragon Racing's Mike Kristof qualifying third for the fourth time this season.
The first heat seemed to foreshadow the night of shockers with Kristof exciting the fans by holding off Lack for almost the entire race. But, one mistake sealed the fate of the #7 car, as Kristof waited to be placed back in his slot, Lack flew past and powered forward to capture the heat win. And all was right with the world again. Cha-Ching Motorsports driver Dan Margetta and Dean Strom in his Fuzzy's Vodka ride were victorious in their heat races to move forward to the finale. Track owner Larry Rotter grabbed the transfer spot after a strong and determined effort by Ev Kamikawa fell short in the final heat race.
Again, everything seemed ok in the opening half of the final with little evidence of what was to come. Lack and Margetta exchanged trash talk prior to the race and continued their battle on track racing side by side for the opening laps. A spin by Margetta allowed Lack to get away, but home town hero Rotter chased Lack down and the two battled on the same lap for the rest of the half. After the break, pitstop action was on tap and that is where the wheels fell off for some of the contenders. Lack was the first to pit and was able to complete a somewhat slow stop but a penalty forced him to drive the next ten laps with his left hand. Rotter was next to hit pit lane. But, that never happened. As he was calling out that he would pit on the next lap, Rotter's car disappeared from the track. All Larry could do was stare incredulously at where his car used to be. The off track excursion would drop Rotter to fourth on the night.
With Rotter unable to continue, Margetta was the next car to hit pit lane. The card that would have been drawn for Rotter was drawn for Margetta. The "Death Card". Margetta was done. Forgotten in all of this excitement was the fourth place driver, Dean Strom who pitted without incident.
Eight laps were left in the 250 lap event. Lack held a ten plus lap lead over Strom and was cruising towards his fifth win of the season. Forty-one thousand IndySlotCar dollars awaited him as the pole winner and potential race winner. Fame, fortune... sorry, I suppose you want to know what happened. As Lack's ride turned left onto the front straightaway, something happened. It can't be explained. Lack made that turn two hundred and forty-two times in the race, but this time he didn't make it. Lack's car spun and flew off the track into the controller box and he was done, with just eight laps to go. Strom, the last man standing, cruised to the finish and captured his second victory of the season. Amazingly, Strom's first win of the season was when he bested Lack at Badger Raceway just two races ago. The other two competitors in that finale also DNF'd.
Possibly a silver lining, with his second place finish Lack increased his point total in the series over teammate John Wiedemann and Margetta. If anyone is to knock Lack off the top of the standings in the next seven events they are going to need to win races. Maybe they need to find out Strom's secret because at this point in the season he seems to be Lack's kryptonite.
Race number ten is next on the schedule as the drivers head east to Rapids International in two weeks to compete in the Too Clean Laundry Grand Prix.
WHAT: Raven 250
WHERE: Brookfield, WI
WHEN: Thursday, January 2, 2014 7pm
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: MBC Slotcar Network, YouTube
2013 CHAMPION: Mark Walczak
2013 POLESITTER: Mark Walczak
TRACK LAYOUT: Natural Terrain Road Course
RACE LENGTH: 250 laps
TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying – 2011 – Mark Walczak – 4.000
Race – 2013 – Mark Walczak – 21:14.362; 20 minute final format – 2001 – Chad Sorce – 234 laps
Margin of Victory – Closest – 2007 – Dan Margetta – ½ lap; Largest – 2009 – Walczak – 13 laps
RACE ROUND: 9 of 16 in the 2013-2014 IndySlotCar Series
Brookfield, WI -- Mark Walczak took command of the Raven 250 prior to the half-way mark and cruised to his fourth win of the 2012-13 IndySlotCar Series season, Thursday night at Raven Raceway. The win was Walczak’s 39th career triumph. In a bizarre twist of numerology, earlier in the evening, Walczak captured his 39th career fast qualifier award. In scoring the sweep, the four-time and defending series champion pocketed $39,000 in IndySlotCar Series “Pole to Win” cash.
“I used to really hate Raven,” said the jubilant winner. “A couple of years ago, I figured this place out and now I just love it.”
The technical Raven course did, however, get the best of Walczak’s teammate Dean Strom. Strom, who earlier won the third heat, was running third when he daydreamed his way up the ultra-fast hill, missed the turn and sailed off the table. Strom’s departure at the one-quarter distance mark left KV Racing Technology teammates Mike Fitzlaff and Mike Lack to battle Walczak. Lack, however, fought an ill handling machine all night and soldiered on for a third place finish. Fitzlaff faired only slightly better, claiming runner-up honors, but was scored 10 laps behind at the checkers.
John Wiedemann entered the Raven 250 second in the Husarsbilt Cup championship standings but could muster only a fifth place finish. After qualifying fourth, the worst-to-first heat selection chip relegated Wiedemann to the same heat as Walczak and Strom. The Target Mark Walczak Racing teammates steamrolled over him. His fifth place showing in the final run down cost Wiedemann 22 points in the championship standings as he attempts to capture his first series title.
Hometown favorite Larry Rotter made his first IndySlotCar Series start of the season, and 199th all-time. The Hall of Famer drove to a sixth place finish.
Matt Hayek placed seventh in the final rundown. Amy Butler, making just her second start of the campaign, finished eighth with Mike Kristof ninth. Dan Margetta, after qualifying third, DNFed 80 laps into his heat and ended the evening tenth.
Heat wins went to Fitzlaff, Lack and Strom with Walczak claiming the transfer spot.
RAVEN 250 HISTORY (14 events, 2000 - Present) all run at Raven Raceway, Brookfield, WI
Date Race Winner Event Name
2/17/2000 John Shea Milwaukee Bucks Challenge
3/1/2001 Chad Sorce Milwaukee Bucks Challenge
1/31/2002 Phil Cianciola Palermo’s Pizza Challenge*
1/2/2003 Larry Rotter Saz’s 250
10/2/2003 Larry Rotter Saz’s 250
1/6/2005 Phil Cianciola Saz’s 250
1/5/2006 Dan Margetta Saz’s 250
1/4/2007 Dan Margetta Quizno’s Grand Prix
1/3/2008 Mark Walczak Quizno’s 250
1/8/2009 Mark Walczak Raven 250
2/4/2010 Mike Fitzlaff Raven 250
1/6/2011 Dan Margetta Raven 250
1/5/2012 Mark Walczak Raven 250
1/3/2013 Mark Walczak Raven 250
Most Wins – 4-Mark Walczak; 3-Dan Margetta; 2-Phil Cianciola, Larry Rotter
*-Dave Austin bottle/nose incident
Mike Lack found his fourth win of the season under the Shrine Desert Road Course Christmas tree hairpin to extend his Husarsbilt Cup championship lead to 66 points over his JMM Racing teammate John Wiedemann, who now has Dan Margetta in his rear view mirror just 18 points back after making the past 5 straight finals.
--Dan Margetta has made the final in the last 5 straight finals.
--Mike Fitzlaff has made the finals in the last 3 races.
--Mike Lack has won 4 of the first 8 races.
--Mike Fitzlaff has moved into a 3-way tie for Eighth place all-time for poles, with 11 along with John Shea and Jim Iverson
--Dean Strom has moved ahead of John Baas for 17th in all-time laps with 15,718
--5 different drivers have won races in the first half of the seaon.