August 30, 2002; Plover, WI - From the fans in the stands to the drivers on the track it was hard to tell who received more awards during the 7th Annual Coca-Cola Championships at Golden Sands Speedway. In addition to the victory presentation in the feature events, Coca-Cola Season Championship Night winners were crowned and one of the track's season championships were decided. Fans also received their share of accolades winning many prizes from Coca-Cola. In addition JD Lewandowski was names the Junior Fan of the Night and Nate Betro was the WAL-MART gift certificate winner.
In the racing events, it was Jason Weinkauf of Merrill taking his second Super Late Model victory of the year after stealing the lead from Frank Nitzke in the closing laps of the contest. Weinkauf then held off a hard charging Todd Stapleman to earn the victory. By finishing second and setting fast time for the evening, Stapleman was crowned the Championship Night title winner. Meanwhile Mark Eswein, who finished fourth in the main event secured his third Golden Sands Speedway track championship.
In the Super Stocks, it was Jim Cormack capturing his first feature win of the 2002 season in a non-stop 35 lap feature contest. In the point chase, Jason Kirsling would take the point lead by a mere three points over Tim Hintz. However it Shawn Stelzer who would earn the most points on the evening and take the Championship Night title. In the 4 Cylinder, Keith Wirtz nearly swept the class, taking fast time, winning the dash and the feature to grab championship night honors. He also padded his point lead in the season long title chase.
Prior to the start of the evening, Stapleman who had set quick time opted to take the Hot N' Now Ultimate Challenge worth $1,900 if he could come from the tail of the field and win the 50 lap Late Model main event. Stapleman's efforts were among the closest this season to anyone grabbing the prize as he charged from 14th on the starting grid to second in the final laps of the event. He would finish second to Weinkauf after a last lap passing attempt came up a car length short. In the Super Stocks it was Merle Weinfurter who scored his first fast qualifying effort in several seasons. Weinfurter was stymied by tight traffic in the 35 lap main event for that division and would ultimately finish sixth.
The 50 lap Late Model contest rolled out with 17 cars taking the green flag. Frank Nitzke bolted to the initial lead ahead of fellow front row starter Monte Gress. Benjamin Brinkman who started outside the second row quickly found the groove in the high line and rolled past Gress for second on lap five. Jason Weinkauf also shot to the outside and in a similar move secured the third spot from Gress on the next round. Gress, slowed on the backstretch on lap seven and dropped to the tail of the field before dropping from the event.
Nitzke meanwhile was sailing out front with Brinkman and Weinkauf giving chase. Weinkauf got a good run on Brinkman at the 20 lap mark and maneuvered into the second position just before the caution would appear on lap 27, which flew to move a car back two spots for not heeding the flagman's indication to hold a line. As a result the top five when the green returned saw Nitzke, Weinkauf, Brinkman, Jeremy Lepak and Greg Back.
Underway again, Nitzke immediately came under pressure from Weinkauf whose car ran well in the lower groove. At the 30 lap mark Nitzke and Weinkauf would end up wheel to wheel for the top spot, neither willing to give up the shot at the lead. Fans in the stands were kept on their feet as this battle would run side by side for much of the balance of the contest. The two would battle inches apart lap after lap, while giving each other just enough room to race.
Meanwhile the action behind the leaders Stapleman was slicing through the field he had reached the top ten before the halfway point but it was his late race charge which proved most impressive. He reached fifth with ten laps to go, and would follow Lepak past Brinkman to reach fourth. Lepak would fall to Stapleman's charge with six laps to go surrendering third position.
The rapid pace of the contest was slowed when Greg Back spun on lap 45 of the 50 lap contest. When the green returned Nitzke and Weinkauf again squared off for the lead, with Nitzke tenaciously holding the position using the outside line and Stapleman waiting in the wings for something to happen. The battle was about to brew when the final caution appear as Back and Scott Beyer looped in turn four setting up a three lap sprint to the checkered.
When the race began the final time, Weinkauf again darted to the bottom of the track to challenge Nitzke for the lead. It was at this point that Nitzke had perhaps the most disappointing moment of his season. His car temporarily lost power allowing Weinkauf to dart to the lead and Stapleman to follow past on the inside with two laps to go. Nitzke was able to bring the car back up to speed but only after losing several positions. Weinkauf was then able to pace the final two laps with Stapleman on his rear bumper for the win. Stapleman's efforts netted a popular second place finish. Lepak would finish solidly in the third position ahead of Eswein. Eswein's effort however was more than enough to secure the track title. Greg Weinfurter would round out the top five. After leading much of the race Nitzke would finish seventh, just behind Troy Nelson.
In the Super Stocks, it was Cormack who would lead the event wire to wire as he shot to the initial lead ahead of fellow front row starter Steve Borski. Borski however would haunt Cormack for the entire distance of the race. The pack behind would prove to be where the main action was as the point battle between Tim Hintz and Jason Kirsling kept the fans attention while they worked traffic. Hintz had lead the standings heading into the program but Kirlsing and he were nearly dead even at the drop of the green for the feature.
With Cormack extending his lead to a couple car lengths on Borski by lap ten. Dave Neitzke had rumbled to third, with Shawn Stelzer and Keith Bohmsach following. Both Stelzer and Bohmsach would clear Neitzke and move into the third and fourth positions by lap 15 and engage in a battle for third. As Stelzer and Bohmsach squared off to contest the third position, Cormack and Borski pulled further away from the pack. After a dozen laps of running side by side Bohmsach was able to nose ahead of Stelzer running the outer groove for third position, but Stelzer remained on Bohmsach's rear bumper ready to remount a challenge at any time.
The feature clicked off quickly without interruption and as Cormack set a quick pace and no yellows appeared to slow the event. In the closing laps Borski closed slightly on the race leader, but when the checkered flag flew it was Cormack reaching the line five car lengths ahead of Broski for the win. Borski held fast to second. On the final lap Stelzer and Bohmsach again engaged in battle for third, with Stelzer hugging the low line to reach the finish inches ahead of Bohmsach for the position. Kirsling would finish fifth and earn all important points to edge ahead of Hintz in the division title chase as Hintz would finish seventh behind fast qualifier Merle Weinfurter.
Brandon Abbott would pace the opening laps of the 4 Cylinder feature which was stopped for an extended caution on lap three when Roger Stanczyk had mechanical problems and dropped fluid in large amounts on the racing surface.
When racing began again Abbott would pace the race until lap seven when Kyle Davis would pace a lap. Davis however went high in turn one the following lap and this allowed Doug Adams to charge into the lead. Adams began to extend his lead over Keith Kemnetz who had stole second from Davis on lap ten.
Adams lead had grown to a dozen car lengths before Keith Wirtz charged into the runner-up spot past Kemnetz on lap 12. From that point on Wirtz methodically cut into Adams lead closing several car lengths a lap. Wirtz had reached Adams rear bumper with five laps to go. Adams went wide around a lapped car with three laps to go and was unable to get back into the bottom groove before Wirtz was able to sneak to his inside. Wirtz then won the drag race back to the next turn and secured the top spot with a pair of laps remaining in the race. At the finish it was Wirtz with the win, Adams second, Kemnetz third, Jason Bell fourth and Davis fifth. The victory allowed Wirtz to secure a fairly comfortable point lead on Bell heading into the final point night next week.
The final point show will be on September 6th as the track will present the rain delayed Copp's Food Stores Mid-Season program that was to have been contested back in July. That event will conclude the Friday Night racing season with Super Late Models, Super Stocks and 4 Cylinders.
A special invitational for Super Stocks and Mini-Stocks will take place on Sunday Afternoon, September 8th. Pit gates will open at 1:00 p.m., with Time Trials at 3:30 p.m. and racing at 5:00 p.m.. The event which will see a 40 lap feature contest for the Super Stocks, will pay $800 to win and $160 to start. Cars must bring their hometrack rulebook. Cars from CWSSA, Dells, Kaukauna, 141 Speedway, Jefferson, Columbus and other tracks featuring a Super Stock / Street Stock car may compete. Cars will run on the D2563, D2562 type Goodyear tire.
Mini-Stocks will compete in a 30 lap feature paying $500 to win and $75 to start. Cars must run on the Sumitomo 200 tire. Tires are available by calling (800) 428-8355.
Golden Sands Speedway known as Central Wisconsin's Power Playground is located between Wisconsin Rapids and Plover, Wisconsin on Highway 54. For additional information please call (715) 423-4660 or consult the track website at www.goldensandsspeedway.com