Saint Francis, WI – Saint Francis, WI – Joe Heitz won both the HO Indy 500 and the Husarsbuilt Cup with an expert drive at the South Shore Speedway to close out the 30th season of the IndySlotCar Series.
It didn’t start out well for the leader of the points coming into the 17th and final round of the 2022-2023 season as Heitz had issues during practice that had him confused as to which Michael Shank-It chassis he would choose as his primary for qualifying. As it happened, he chose the wrong one.
Heitz’s closest challenger for the championship, John Wiedemann chose correctly and blistered the field with an 8.11 second four-lap run on the oval which topped the speed chart. Bill Black, third in the points entering the event, was bumped down to second in qualifying with a four-lap run at 8.266 seconds. Black led the way of the CBD Racing team (current and future), with next season’s rumored teammate Dan Margetta in third and Pete Dorn in fourth. Heitz was bumped out of the field with his primary chassis, but returned with a quicker secondary to place fifth overall. Longtime 500 competitor Ev Kamikawa used up three chassis and placed his Team Penske Chevrolet in sixth with Heitz’s MSR teammate in seventh. The final spot was filled by the current series and defending race Champ Dean Strom who outpaced his Squirrel Shagged Enterprises teammate Steve Rist by just .004 seconds in the four-lap run to make the field of eight. CBD’s Brad Core tried four different chassis and the last proved to be the quickest at 9.065 seconds but was tenth overall. Angry Squirrel’s Chris Spehert bookended the season with his second start but was unable to get speed out of his rides and rounded out the field.
The Consi race was won by Core.
Setting the first half of the HO Indy 500 field was the heat race contested by Black, Margetta, Kamikawa and Dorn. Running the inside lanes, Black and Margetta quickly took control of the race and didn’t look back. Battling side by side throughout the first half of the race, they quickly dispatched Dorn and Kamikawa. Even moving to the outside lanes for the second half, they continued their quick laps and only Margetta struggled in the red lane, giving Black the opportunity to cruise to the win.
The second heat featured the two title contenders, Heitz and Wiedemann, along with Heitz’s teammate Kristof and the Champ – Dean Strom. Desperate to make the final and both on the inside lanes, Wiedemann and Heitz stormed to the lead and like the first heat, the top two never looked back. With the only challenge in the second half being the avoidance of spinning traffic, Wiedemann cruised to the win and the final with Heitz joining him to battle for the championship in the final.
With lanes selected by the drivers, the 1000 lap took the green flag with Black in the inside green lane, Margetta in middle yellow, Wiedemann in middle blue and Heitz in outside red. Black on the inside took the early and expected lead, followed by Margetta, Heitz and a struggling Wiedemann.
Black hit the pit lane first at 200 laps in the books and quickly made a mistake. Running his first HO Indy 500, the CBD driver entered the wrong pit. Confusion and a slow stop ensued and Black made it back on track with a stop-and-go penalty upcoming. Heitz pitted quickly and returned to the track while Margetta and Wiedemann were a bit more deliberate in their stops. After Black served his penalty, he found himself in trouble from a momentum gaining Heitz. Running the presumed “difficult” lane, Heitz held his own and finished the segment in second place, just four laps behind Black and ready to move to the quick green lane for the second segment.
Now in the quick lane Heitz jumped to the point and looked to increase his lead. Only a stop-and-go penalty for speeding in pit lane during the second round of pit stops slowed him for a bit. By the time the halfway break came, Heitz had built up his lead to 13 over Black, 33 over Margetta and 38 over Wiedemann.
The tire change pitstop to start the second half had Heitz, Margetta and Wiedemann back on track at about the same time with Black following closely behind. Now in the speedy green lane, Wiedemann was pushing to make up the laps he had lost earlier in the race. Pushing patience to the side and hammering the trigger, Wiedemann pushed too much and lost control heading into the fourth turn. The newly installed fence was of little help as it let go and basically ole’d the Angry Squirrel Honda to the floor. And with that, Wiedemann’s race and season were done. Back to the race, Heitz held the lead with Black following five laps behind and Margetta another fifteen back.
Margetta moved to the inside green lane for the final 250 laps and took his shot to move up from third place. Running 20 laps behind leader Heitz and 15 behind second-place Black, Margetta had the throttle pegged. Having the same issues in turn four as Wiedemann encountered, Margetta seemed to be saved as the fencing was reset following the earlier incident. While Margetta deslotted and pounded the fence, it held up. But the problem was he would lose laps he had just made up while getting re-slotted. Margetta was finally able to determine the correct pace and moved into second place ahead of Black but ran out of time to chase the quick ride of Heitz. With a ten-lap lead, Heitz cruised to the checkers to take the victory, his first 500 win in only three tries at the prestigious event. With the victory, his sixth of the season, Heitz claimed the 2022-2023 IndySlotCar championship hoisting the Husarsbilt Cup.
Heitz’s season included a record tying four race win streak as well as a record tying fourteen final appearances in sixteen starts. The Michael Shank-It drivers also won three poles and scored eleven heat wins. This season was Heitz’s fifth running in the series but only his second full-time season.