2017-18 Round 10
Dan Gurney Memorial 400 - Black Track - West Allis, WI
January 18, 2018
Round 10 of 16
(West Allis, WI) -- One year ago Dan Margetta was marching towards his first Husarsbilt Cup championship, the only driver to compete in all 24 seasons in IndySlotCar Series history had never claimed a title, but during a heat race at the Black Track, Dean Strom took a shot at Margetta that sent him hurling off the banking of turn three and out of the race, giving him a tenth place DNF, the 30 point difference between that finish and first place would more than have covered the deficit Margetta had to Mike Lack at the end of the season. So the return to the Black Track for the Dan Gurney Memorial 400 was more about score settling than any championship or even race considerations.
The field was full to bursting with 13 drivers trying to qualify for 12 grid positions, one driver was going to qualify and then be done for the night, it was the first time in almost three years that bumping would come into play. With MaD Motorsports adding a third car for second generation driver Alex Hayek and all 12 of the regulars on hand, the single-car four-lap qualifying was quite dramatic as each driver attempted to stay clean to avoid being last on the grid. Alex set the bar high early with a new track record, single lap time of 1.997 seconds and on the provisional pole, leaving veteran driver Amy Butler on the bubble, but Pete Dorn of Black-Atom Racing struggled on his teammate's home track and fell to the bottom, followed by Mike Fitzlaff who has struggled in qualifying of late, zoomed to the top of the list, but held the provisional pole for only a minute as the very next attempt from John Wiedemann bumped him back to second as "JW" set a new track qualifying record of 7.972 seconds, a time that would stand up to take the Chick-fil-A Brookfield P1 Award. While Wiedemann watched to see if anyone could beat his time, Ev Kamikawa made a hash of his run after reducing the single lap track record below Alex Hayek, to 1.966 seconds, a spin-out on the next laps dropped his total time to 10.468 seconds, a full half second more than Dorn and what seemed like a sure early trip to the hauler. But hometown hero, Bill Black, coming off his first career victory at the last race, would have to qualify last, since the order was reverse of the previous event, could not handle the pressure and had two devastating spins in the four laps and wound up on the outside looking in at his own track.
Heat racing was messy with many drivers having a hard time handling the difficult turn 4 in the red lane, grouped by qualifying order Margetta would hold off Matt Hayek, who just squeaked past John Wiedemann, who ran second for much of the first heat. Hayek would advance to the final in the "transfer" position. The second heat was dominated by Dean Strom who was never challenged, and Amy Butler also easily outdistanced the competition in the third heat, which was a mess of crashes throughout.
With Margetta and Strom both advancing to the final it was all eyes on what would happen next. While there was plenty of close racing and even some banging of wheels, the big moment never came and the two rivals would chase each other through all 400 laps. First Strom opening up a sizable lead that Margetta would eventually close after pit stops, the change in the pits clearly improving Margetta's Fuzzy's Vodka car. Amy Butler's car would expire during her pit stop, the top finishing member of Angry Squirrel Speedsport was still disappointed by the thought of what could have been, her retirement promoted Matt Hayek to third. Strom could not get a handle on the outside red lane in the second half and fought to stay close to the leader at the finish, but eventually Margetta would finish just under a lap ahead for his series-record extending 44th career win and the second of the season.
Margetta has been on a tear since the Turkey Trot at his home track, the infield road course at South Shore Superspeedway, where he made his first final four of the season, since then he has made every one of the five finals and scored two wins advancing from 11th in the Husarsbilt Cup standings to fifth and just nine points out of third. Stay tuned for the Too Clean Laundry Grand Prix next, at Rapids Raceway to see if Margetta stays hot.
Dan Gurney Memorial 400 Fast Facts
Race date: Thursday, Jan 18
Track: The Black Track, 1.5 mile oval, West Allis, WI
Race distance: 400 laps
IndySlotCar Website: indyslotcar.com
2017 race winner: Ev Kamikawa (No. 2 Penske HO Dallara-Chevrolet)
2017 Chick-fil-A Brookfield P1 Award winner: Mike Lack (No. 1 JAM Racing Dallara-Honda)
Lap record: Mike Lack, 2.055 seconds, 2017
Qualifying record: Matt Hayek, 8.647 seconds, 2017
Race record (400 laps): Ev Kamikawa, 15 minutes 56 seconds, 2017
YouTube Broadcast: IndySlotCar Channel
At-track schedule (all times local):
6:30 – Driver introductions
7:00 – IndySlotCar Series Practice
7:20 – Qualifying for the Chick-fil-A Brookfield P1 Award (single car qualifying/ fastest four lap total)
7:40 – Heat races
8:30 – TBA 400
· Ev Kamikawa won the inaugural race at the Black Track last season, a race that saw five DNFs, two of them directly attributed to other drivers punting competitors off the track.
· Hometown hero Bill Black is coming off his first career win at the Raven 250, looking to make it two in a row and moved into third place in Husarsbilt Cup points.
· Mike Lack’s heat win at the Raven 250 moves him into fourth on the series all-time Heat Wins list.
· Bill Black’s final appearance at Raven was his tenth, moving him into a tie for 22nd with Phil Marich.
· Alex Hayek’s career debut at Raven makes him the 50th driver to appear in race in series history.
· This is the third of five oval races on the 2017-18 schedule, with the Stardust 500 and HO Indy 500 still to come.
TBA 400 PRE-EVENT QUOTES:
Bill Black No. 7 Black Atom Racing: I still don’t know what to say about that in at Raven!
Dan Margetta No. 5 Team Castaway: I owe you one Strom!