May 3, 2002; Plover, WI - Though it took two weeks longer than anticipated, the 2002 season got underway at Golden Sands Speedway. After two consecutive snow outs, for two Sunday Afternoon specials, the high-banked third mile was finally able to open the season on a cool but dry evening.
Jeff Weinfurter of Wisconsin Rapids, would score his first Late Model feature win at the facility since June of last year. The feature contest, went 30 laps non-stop. A testament to the driving skill of those participating in the event. In Super Stock action, Cale Laessig of Marshfield, a semi-regular competitor here at Golden Sands proved too tough for the competition in an event slowed by just a single caution period. The final class of the evening, the 4 Cylinder division was dominated by Johnny Bell as he nearly swept the class. Bell won the main event and set fast time, but missed the sweep when he finished second in his heat.
In qualifying for the evening's events, 2-time track champion Mark Eswein captured top honors with a lap of 12.072 seconds. Eswein opted to take the Hot N' Now Ultimate Challenge where he would win bonus money if he were to win the feature from the back of the pack. In the Super Stock division, Shawn Stelzer captured quick time honors and took a similar challenge presented by Point Shell/Turbo Wash.
The 30 lap Late Model feature was to take the green flag 16 cars strong however, Mark Mackesy who moments earlier won the semi-feature event earning a spot in the main, was unable to take the green when his car developed mechanical problems.
The balance of the field took the start with polesitter Jeff Weinfurter blasting into the lead at the drop of the green flag, while fellow front row starter Dwayne Vetrone gave chase in second. Vetrone lost the runner-up spot on lap four as Troy Nelson used the bottom of the track to advance into second.
While Weinfurter stayed comfortable ahead of Nelson, things were heating up in the pack as several cars began to work from the rear of the field. Jeremy Lepak was quickly cutting through traffic and he moved up to challenge Allen Check for the third spot by lap ten. Lepak secured the spot on lap 16 and quickly moved in on Nelson. The pair made brief contact in turn two on lap 19. Both quickly scrambled to regain control of their cars, with Lepak gaining the advantage and second position.
Defending track champion Burton Brown was also able to get around Nelson and moved into the third position. For the remaining 10 laps Weinfurter drove a smooth race streaking to the checkered flag six car lengths ahead of Lepak. Brown remained in third followed by Kirby Kurth in fourth. Nelson managed to fend off a last lap pass by Mark Eswein to nail down fifth. Eswein who took the Hot N' Now Ultimate Challenge after setting quick and opted to start in the rear of the field charged to a sixth place finish.
The Super Stocks would again put on a solid show, with only a single caution flag during the event. Front row starters Larry Schultz and Jim Cormack thrilled the fans during the opening circuits as the did battle for the lead. Schultz, sticking to the low line would pull out an advantage moving away with the initial lead.
The racing mid-pack was extremely tight as cars jockeyed for position behind Schultz. The only caution period of the contest flew just before the midway point of the race when Jason Kirsling who had been doing battle just outside the top five cut down a tire and slid to a stop off turn four.
The race would resume with Schultz in the lead, Cormack holding second and Laessig, who opted for the outside line on the restart advancing up to third. When the green flag returned it was Laessig who was quick to make his move. He motored past Cormack for the runner-up spot and within the next lap managed to slip past Schultz for the lead.
As the race would towards it's conclusion Merle Weinfurter and Tim Hintz also began making a charge through the field. Both drivers hugged the inner groove and they slipped past Cormack and Schultz respectively. Once on the outside line both Schultz and Cormack slipped back in the field.
In the closing laps Weinfurter managed to slightly reduce Laessig's lead but Laessig remained six car lengths out front at the checkered flag. Weinfurter, Hintz followed. Fast qualifier Shawn Stelzer managed to work traffic well in the closing laps to claim fourth. Defending track champion Keith Bohmsach claimed fifth followed by Schultz in sixth.
In 4 Cylinder action, fast qualifier Johnny Bell had started seventh in the 15 car main event, but advanced to third by lap three. He secured second one lap later and set out after Jason Bell who had paced the first four circuits.
Johnny Bell motored by Jason Bell with ease on lap four and from there it was smooth sailing to the checkered flag for Johnny Bell who would win the contest by a quarter-lap.
The battle for second however was hotly contested right down to the wire. After passing Jason Bell, drivers Dennis Goetsch and Doug Adams swapped the position until the checkered flag fell. When crossing the strip it was Goetsch in second, with Adams third, Jason Bell fourth and Keith Wirtz fifth.
In other preliminary action, Mark Mackesy captured the semi-feature contest after motoring past rookie Alan Sankey for the top spot in the waning laps of the contest. Jason Weinkauf also passed Sankey in the closing laps and Weinkauf was able to make a last lap passing attempt on Mackesy. Mackesy would edge out Weinkauf by inches at the line as both drivers advanced to the main.
With a huge field of Super Stocks on hand some 35 cars strong, a consolation race was needed in addition to a semi-feature. In the consolation, Denny Schott, in his first appearance at the track scored the win edging Richard Hetzel. In the semi-feature contest it was David Pagles taking the win after a gritty performance in the outside line to ward off Jared Back for the win.
Racing continues next Friday evening, May 11th at Golden Sands Speedway as Super Late Models and Super Stocks appear on the card along with 2-Man Cruisers which will appear for the first time this season.. The event will also host the first ever Lawn Mower Races at the track. Two divisions are expected to compete during the evening.
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