August 31, 2001; Plover, WI - Fans came out in large numbers to witness the 6th Annual Coca-Cola Season Championship races at Golden Sands Speedway. Those attending would witness the conclusion of the season long point battle in the Late Model division between defending champion Mark Eswein and challenger Burton Brown. While the season points champions in the Super Stocks and 4 Cylinders were also crowned, neither were as dramatic as the final night shootout between Eswein and Brown.
Heading into the program Brown maintained a 15 point advantage on Eswein, but Eswein began his pursuit of the title early as he set fast time for the evening in the Late Model division. In doing so he was able to nearly cut that lead in half. Adding additional drama, Eswein opted to take the Hot N' Now Ultimate Challenge, which was worth $2,000 should he be able to win the main event from the back of the starting field in the feature contest.
Monte Gress and Aaron Roehl sat on the front row for the start of the 50 lap main event for the Late Models. Gress immediately jumped to the lead, while Roehl began to slip back on the outside. Judd Brandl moved to the runner-up spot before the end of the first lap, with Gary Back moving to third on lap three. Roehl still seeking the preferred inside line lost fourth to Jeremy Lepak and fell out of the top five when Jeff Weinfurter took the position on lap five.
Back has proven exceptionally strong over the last half of the season, switched to the outside line to annex the second spot from Brandl on lap seven, and then setting sail for Gress. Back quickly closed the gap on the leader Gress, and in a bold outside move swept past him for the lead in turn four on lap eight. Lepak meanwhile had been following Back's progress through the pack. Lepak would assume the runner-up role on lap 10. Weinfurter was also making progress through the pack climbing into third as Gress began to drift backwards in the pack. Back continued to stretch his advantage during the mid portions of the race.
Meanwhile in the championship chase, it appeared at this point in the race at Brown had things going his way as he was running seventh with Eswein mired in traffic. Eswein however began his march towards the front at the 20 lap mark maneuvering past cars using both the inside and outside lines.
Out front Back saw his comfortable lead on Lepak evaporate on lap 31, when Roehl skimed off the car of Todd Stapleman and shot over the berm on the backstretch. Roehl was unhurt in the incident but his car was heavily damaged. It would mark the only slowdown of the contest.
When the green returned, Back, Lepak, Weinfurter, Brandl and Bryan Roach occupied the top five positions. Back was unable to distance himself from Lepak on this occasion and Lepak managed to nose under Back in turn three on lap 34 to claim the upper hand. Back in the pack Eswein was continuing his trek to the front passing Brown for seventh spot, while Brown began to fade.
With 10 laps to go the lead trio of Lepak, Back and Weinfurter nose to tail out front, while Brandl dropped from the event with mechanical problems giving the position to Jason Weinkauf. Back wasn't content to settle for runner-up honors this evening and began to search for a way by Lepak for the lead. On lap 42, Back was able to nose under Lepak and reclaim the lead position. Over the closing laps Back would pull away from Lepak, going on to win his fourth feature victory of the season. Lepak would claim second just ahead of Weinfurter. Eswein would continue his late race charge end end up in fourth position, with Weinkauf rounding out the top five.
Brown meanwhile had crossed the strip in eighth position, allowing Eswein to further cut into his point lead. The scoring crew tabulated the math and before Brown had left the track it was announced he had won the 2001 title by a mere five points over Eswein. He then took a victory lap after receiving the honor.
In the Super Stock division Shawn Stelzer earned quick time honors and took the Mobile Link Challenge worth $1,000. Heading into the evening, Keith Bohmsach had wrapped up his second straight season title giving him the opportunity to race for the win without the championship pressure.
The 35 lap Super Stock main event began with the pack running side by side in tight formation over the opening laps as everyone sought to advance. Larry Schultz and Cary Lyons paced the field side by side, with Lyons pacing lap one. Schultz however would power ahead on lap one. Lyons got wobbly on lap two and slipped back giving the runner-up spot to Jim Cormack, who was running the outside line around the high banked oval.
Cormack pressured Schultz using the outside line but he was unable to gain an advantage and the first 10 circuits quickly clicked off. Meanwhile Andy Simonis and Jeremy Szymkowiak were locked in a similar battle for third. The heated action got a brief break on lap 14 when Mike Brooks spun down the backstretch forcing a caution.
With the race restarting Schultz was again in command with Cormack, Simonis, Jason Kirsling and Keith Bohmsach in tow. One lap 16 the lead pair of Cormack and Schultz made contact and Schultz spun to the infield in turn two slowing the pace once again. With both Cormack and Schultz at the tail of the field, Simonis became the new leader of the contest, with Kirsling and Bohmsach following.
Simonis took off with the lead when the green flag returned while Kirsling and Bohmsach engaged in a wheel to wheel battle that would last several laps. Bohmsach gained the runner-up position on lap 21 using the outside line and he continued to use the high line to run down Simonis. On lap 24 Bohmsach put his ride out front of Simonis to claim the top position. Kirsling followed Bohmsach's example dropping Simonis to third on the next circuit.
The lead duo of Bohmsach and Kirsling checked out on the field while Simonis found himself having to fight a large pack of cars for the third spot. With three laps to got Randy Storlie would grab the third position, but it was too late to run down the leaders. At the checkered Bohmsach was first to cross the stripe followed by Kirsling, Storlie, Simonis and Mike Doughty holding down the top five positions.
The 4 Cylinders also have their point championship decided heading into the evening with Johnny Bell becoming the first track champion in the division.
Doug Adams led the first two circuits of the contest before Roger Stanczek took over the top position on lap two. Stanczek would hold the lead until being passed by Keith Wirtz who became the third and final leader of the contest on lap seven. Holding the lead however would be a challenging task as fast runners Bob Gereau and Bell were right on his rear bumper by lap 10. Bell would move into the runner-up spot on lap 11 and for the final nine laps he would haunt Wirtz while seeking a way to the lead. The pair encountered heavy lapped traffic with two laps to go wile dicing for the win. Wirtz darted through lapped cars finding the smallest of gaps and would reach the checkered a car length ahead of Bell for the win. Gereau would finish third ahead of Stanczek and Brian Schmutzer who made of the top five finishers.
Two different special events remain on the 2001 season schedule at Golden Sands. Racing will then resume on Sunday Afternoon, September 9th, with the running of the "Legends of Yesterday 101", the final event in the Wisconsin Challenge Series. Time trials are set to start at 3:30 p.m., with racing to commence at 5:00 p.m.
Over 40 Late Models are expected to vie for the series title. The main event will be a 101 lap feature contest. Twin 30 lap qualifying races will set the balance of the 22 car feature starting field. Super Stocks will participate in the Wisconsin Challenge Series events for the first time, with the running of the Conqueror's Cup 40. The 40 lap feature event is open to all area Super Stock type cars. They will race for $600 to win. Complete information on this event is available at www.wisconsinchallenge.com The show will conclude with the 2-Man Cruisers.
The season will conclude with the awe inspiring "Eve of Devastation" on Friday evening, September 15th, featuring the 2-Man Cruiser point champions, assorted novelty races, amazing stunts and all kinds of automotive mayhem.
Golden Sands Speedway is located between Wisconsin Rapids, and Plover, Wisconsin on Highway 54. For more information check out www.goldensandsspeedway.com or call (715) 423-4660.