2015-16 Round 15
Larry Rotter Memorial Grand Prix - Turtle Creek Park Raceway - Menomonee Falls, WI
March 31, 2016
Round 15 of 16
Fitz Breaks Through
Menomonee Falls, WI – Mike Fitzlaff became the eighth different driver to ride into victory lane in the 2015-16 season with his victory at the Larry Rotter Memorial Grand Prix at Turtle Creek Park Raceway Thursday. What might have turned into an epic battle to the checkers evaporated when Fitzlaff's closest challenger, John Wiedemann, lost a pick-up shoe on his Dallara-Honda.
Wiedemann started out the event where he left off last season. In qualifying, the JAM Racing driver topped the charts with a 3.206 second lap to capture the pole for the third time in a row at what is now his home track. The pole win was the fourth at Turtle Creek for Wiedemann and the 12th of his career.
Wiedemann continued his night with a victory in the opening heat race. Ev Kamikawa scored the victory in the second heat with Mike Lack capturing the win in the third heat. The transfer spot went to Fitzlaff, who just beat out his Fitz Ganassi Racing teammate Mike Kristof for the chance to race in the feature.
Things continued to go Wiedemann's way in the opening half of the 20-minute final race. Wiedemann took the lead early and was able to open up a bit of a distance on his competitors when Kamikawa and Lack both struggled with the task of matching speed and handling. In true Penske HO fashion, Kamikawa found the handle and battled Fitzlaff for second as the first half wound down. Opening the second half, the tide started to turn for the hometown driver. A lengthy pitstop for race leader Wiedemann coupled with quick stops by his competitors narrowed the gap to just a lap lead over the surging Fitzlaff. Traffic issues slowed Wiedemann further and Fitzlaff pounced to take the lead. As the race wound down toward the finish, Wiedemann chased Fitzlaff and narrowed the gap slightly until a crash wrecked his night. As the car caught the wire fencing, a pick-up shoe was torn from his car. The repairs were lengthy and Wiedemann had to settle for fourth place in the feature as the field shot by. Fitzlaff cruised to a four lap lead over Kamikawa who scored his fourth runner up finish this season. Lack grabbed the final spot on the podium over his teammate.
Fitzlaff's win, the first of this season, was the twelfth of his IndySlotCar career and first since winning at his home track, the Deckertring, last season. With the victory, Fitzlaff moves into fifth place in the point standings.
With his third place finish tonight and Wiedemann's fourth place run, Lack can wrap up his third consecutive championship by just showing up and running the final race of the season. Lack clinched the Michael Andretti/Nigel Mansell Award for top finisher in Road Course events.
Third place in the standings has tightened dramatically with MaD Motorsports absence at Turtle Creek. With the MaD Motorsports team boycotting or secretly suspended from the LRMGP, Matt Hayek and Dean Strom are now in a pitched battle with Kamikawa and Fitzlaff, with all four drivers separated by six points heading into the season finale, a double points paying event.
WHAT: Larry Rotter Memorial Grand Prix
WHERE: Menomonee Falls, WI
WHEN: Thursday, March 31, 2016 7pm
U.S. TELEVISION SCHEDULE: IndySlotCar Channel on YouTube
2015 CHAMPION: John Wiedemann
2013 POLESITTER: John Wiedemann
TRACK LAYOUT: Natural Terrain Road Course
RACE LENGTH: 20 minutes
TRACK RECORDS: Qualifying – 2005 – Larry Rotter – 3.023
Race – 2005, ’06, ‘10 – Larry Rotter, Mark Walczak (x2) – 300 laps
Margin of Victory – Closest – 2008 – Mark Walczak – 2 laps; Largest – 2006 – Walczak – 29 laps
RACE ROUND: 15 of 16 in the 2015-2016 IndySlotCar Series
Menomonee Falls, WI – Last year, the race track known as Turtle Creek Park Raceway moved seven miles north to its new home in Menomonee Falls. Unfortunately, our friend, champion and IndySlotCar Series Hall of Fame member Larry Rotter, the master track builder of Turtle Creek, passed away. In honor and memory of Larry, the race is now named the Larry Rotter Memorial Grand Prix and the trophy includes two cars that Larry raced in the series.
While the location is new, the track is the same with super-fast straights and difficult twisting turns. The speed and technicality of the track that Larry built cannot be explained, it must be driven. To add just a little more drama to the event, it is an open class race, meaning the teams can push the normally stock chassis with more horsepower and grippier tires.
A victory in this race has always eluded the new proprietor of Turtle Creek. John Wiedemann has had speed in the past, but handling, bridges and DNF's have kept him out of victory lane. All of that is in the past now as Wiedemann scored max points in winning the pole, his heat race and the Larry Rotter Memorial Grand Prix.
Wiedemann scored the top qualifying position with a besting his Lack Wiedemann Motorsports teammate Mike Lack. The pole was the first for Wiedemann this season but his third over all and second in a row at this track.
Heat races were setup randomly, pitting drivers against each other based on picking cars out of a hat. Heat One had Amy Butler driving an LWM chassis and almost knocking her chassis builder, Lack, out of the finals. Lack prevailed in the final laps to secure a spot in the finals for the 11th time in 13 events. Heat Two was an ultimate battle between Ev Kamikawa, Mat Hayek and Mike Fitzlaff with each driver taking a turn at the front. At the end it was Fitzlaff with a surprising second half comeback that left Kamikawa and Hayek battling for a transfer spot in the final. Heat Three featured two first time racers that didn't care that their competition was the pole sitter (Wiedemann) and the all time series leader in starts (Dan Margetta with 292). Bill Black held the lead throughout the first half of the race while Pete Dorn out raced Margetta for third. The second half brought out Black's rookie stripe as he struggled in the outside lane. Wiedemann stormed to the victory while Black just missed grabbing the transfer spot and Dorn finished third.
In the final, Wiedemann wasted no time driving to the front. Just a few laps back, Kamikawa came into form and passed Lack to set his sights on the lead. Fitzlaff paced the opening segment, again waiting for the second half to make his move. Starting the second half, both leaders had problems in the pits. Wiedemann stopped for twenty seconds and then Kamikawa was in for thirty seconds, allowing Lack and Fitzlaff to close the gap. With the pitstops behind them, Wiedemann retained the lead of about five laps over Lack and Kamikawa with Fitzlaff not far behind. The dreaded handling issues struck Lack's ride as he struggled to drive his car over the bridge. Kamikawa took over second place but now had the hard charging Fitzlaff in his mirrors as Lack dropped down to fourth. Wiedemann cruised to the checkers, maintaining his five lap gap and finally scored an IndySlotCar victory at Turtle Creek. Kamikawa held off Fitzlaff for his third runner-up finish in four races.
With his second place finish, Kamikawa was able to knock seven points off of Lack's point lead and is now thirty points back with one race to go. But that race pays double points as well as qualifying points. Wiedemann's win has him a distant 45 points behind Lack and 15 behind Kamikawa. Strom maintains the fourth spot in the standings but now has Fitzlaff and Hayek closing in.
LARRY ROTTER MEMORIAL GRAND PRIX HISTORY (11 events, 2003 - Present)
Date Race Winner Event Name
3/16/2003 Larry Rotter March Madness
3/25/2004 Larry Rotter March Madness
3/3/2005 Larry Rotter Milwaukee Bucks March Madness
3/30/2006 Mark Walczak Milwaukee Bucks March Madness
3/29/2007 Amy Butler M&J March Madness
3/27/2008 Mike Fitzlaff M&J March Madness
3/31/2010 Dan Margetta March Madness
3/29/2011 Mark Walczak March Madness
3/28/2013 Larry Rotter March Madness
3/27/2014 Ev Kamikawa March Madness
4/2/2015 John Wiedemann Larry Rotter Memorial Grand Prix
Most Wins – 4-Larry Rotter, 3-Mark Walczak
§ Mike Lack takes a commanding 99 point Husarsbilt Cup championship lead into the LRMGP after his win at The Shrine, although mathematically still in the hunt for the title. second place, John Wiedemann, will need to win and hope that Lack makes a huge mess of the next two races to have a realist shot at the Cup.
§ While the top two continue to battle for the title, the race for third place in the championship takes a strange pause, both third and fourth place driver’s, MaD Motorsports teammates Dean Strom and Matt Hayek will miss the Rotter Memorial, holding station with Hayek holding a three point edge, while fifth and sixth place, Ev Kamikawa and Mike Fitzlaff, with a finishes in the top four, could move them to within points of Hayek and Strom.
§ Mike Lack’s win at the Shrine moves him into a tie for sixth place on the all-time wins list, pulling even with Hall of Famer Jim Kaehny with 23.
§ Lack also breaks a three-way tie for seventh in Heat Wins, with his 60th and moves alone into sixth and has 80 Finals appearances, tied with Mike Fitzlaff for seventh.
§ Tom Spehert is now 13th in all-time Heat Wins with his 28th victory at the Shrine. Spehert also moves ahead of Chad Sorce for 14th in Finals appearances with 38.
§ Dean Strom edges ahead to 12th all-time in Finals with his 47th at the Shrine.