2014-15 Round 8
Raven 250 at Rapids - Rapids Oval - Milwaukee, WI
January 8, 2015
Round 8 of 15
Lack Turns Up The Heat
(Milwaukee, WI) -- On a cold night in Rapids,Defending Husarsbilt Cup champion Mike Lack turned up the heat on his championship challengers Thursday night at the Raven 250 at the Rapids Oval. With the win at the new oval, Lack took his second win of the season and extended his points lead to 33 from ten before the event as hometown favorite Ev Kamikawa was caught out on the tricky trapezoid, crashing early and ending the night sixth. Meanwhile a resurgent Mike Fitzlaff continues to climb the steps of the podium to second, with Matt Hayek back in a final in third. Lack's teammate, hoping to get back in the Husarsbilt Cup hunt crashed out in fourth place.
The night was challenging for all the drivers as they faced a new oval they had driven before and only seen on video. The adapted track built over the top of more than a few annoyed businesses in the town of Rapids. Rapidians are used to having IndySlotCar take over the streets of their town for a classic street course that has been changing routes for as long as the race as existed. This year mayor and racing czar of the town, Ev Kamikawa, constructed a modified oval that used some of the streets and then built bridges over some of the building to come up withe trapezoid shaped oval.
Qualifying proved to be too much for more than a few drivers, including Mike Kristof who nearly parked it during his four lap effort, winding up eighth but joined at the back by his Target Fitz Ganassi Racing teammate Mike Fizlaff at the back. Dean Strom used a smooth and steady approach to run four clean quick laps and land his third pole position of the year, the most by any driver this season.
The heats were grouped fastest to slowest and this anticipated a battle of points leaders to make the final, however early on it became obvious the speed and shape of the track were going to challenge even the best pilots, as in quick succession veteran Dan Margetta, pole sitter Dean Strom and hometown hero Ev Kamikawa all crashed out allowing Mike Lack to advance to the final and wait. The second heat race turned out to be a much more courteous affair as the drivers knew three of the four of them knew they would be advancing to the Raven 250. Mike Fitzlaff quickly advanced forward from his seventh starting position with Lack's Lack-Wiedemann Motorsports teammate challenging for the lead early on. Matt Hayek struggled in the inside lane while Target Fitz Ganassi's second driver Mike Kristof stayed in the mix until the midway point, once he moved to the inside lane it became obvious he would not be moving on and a late crash-out guaranteed that the front three had nothing to worry about with Fitzlaff scoring the championship point for the heat win.
The Raven 250 at Rapids final sorted out into a bit of a parade as Mike Lack started to take control over his teammate, but Wiedemann pushed too hard to try and keep pace and found himself crashing out right at the midway point finishing fourth. A sloppy pitstop by Lack-Wiedemann Motorsports allowed Mike Fitzlaff and Matt Hayek to briefly believe they were going to have a shot at challenging the leader, but Lack stayed smooth and eventually opened an insurmountable lead and Fitzlaff eventually found himself well clear of Hayek. With Kristof lasing almost his entire heat, he would place fifth, Kamikawa disappointing the paying fans in the stands in sixth, with Hayek's Out Of The Box Racing teammate Strom winding up seventh and Bargetta Racing's Margetta, who was scolded by league officials following pre-race practice for attempting to tamper with the league supplied tires, bringing up the rear.
The haulers and drivers will stay in Rapids for an extended stay as round nine is contested on the streets of Rapids for the Too Clean Laundry Grand Prix in two weeks.
WHAT: Raven 250
WHERE: Milwaukee, WI
WHEN: Thursday, January 8, 2015 7pm
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: GT Channel, YouTube
2014 CHAMPION: Dean Strom
2014 POLESITTER: Mike Lack
TRACK LAYOUT: Tri-Oval
RACE LENGTH: 250 laps
TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying – new track
Race – 2013 – new track
Margin of Victory – Closest – new track; Largest – new track
RACE ROUND: 8 of 15 in the 2014-2015 IndySlotCar Series
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.
RAVEN 250 HISTORY (15 events, 2000 - Present)
Date Race Winner Event Name
2/17/2000 John Shea Milwaukee Bucks Challenge - Raven Raceway, Brookfield, WI
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
1/2/2014 Dean Strom Raven 250
Most Wins – 4-Mark Walczak; 3-Dan Margetta; 2-Phil Cianciola, Larry Rotter
*-Dave Austin bottle/nose incident
--The Raven 250 moves to a new track for the first time in its history
--An oval added to Rapids International will host this year’s event, a new location for Raven Raceway is TBD.
--John Wiedemann found victory lane for the first time after making the final in four of the first six races.
--Mike Kristof scored his first pole since the Slots A’ Fun 400 in October ’12 and made a final for the first time in the season.
--John Wiedemann’s win at the Christmas Classic moved him into third place in the Husarsbilt Cup points with 242, he also equaled Chad Sorce’s career nine victories, good for 12th place.
--Mike Kristof moved to 13th place in all-time pole positions with his eighth career pole at the Christmas Classic; Kristof moved ahead of Matt Hayek for final appearances with 22, 17th all-time; he also moved ahead of Jim Iverson in all-time laps turned with 26,409 making him 10th.
--Amy Butler made her 118th start at the Christmas Classic tying Dave Austin for 12th all-time; her DNF gave her 14 and equaled Andy Spehert for 18th.