April 25, 2003; Plover, WI - Race fans ventured through the gates for the first time in 2003 at Golden Sands Speedway on a cool evening to watch the season opening show at the third mile high-banked asphalt oval. The fast paced program was slowed only by a few cautions in the semi-features and the Late Model main event..
In the Super Late Model division, Jeremy Lepak would score an exciting victory in the feature race after a daring three wide pass for the lead during the mid-portion of the event. Lepak won four main events last season to lead the divisions in victories, and is off to a flying start in 2003. In the Super Stocks, Scott Hamel who won his first feature last May after 13 years of trying, didn't wait nearly as long for his second feature checkered staking claim to the victory here on opening night.
Bert Soyka would capture the Pure Stock honors for the evening, having the highest finishing car in class. The Pure Stocks have been revived for the 2003 season, but for the opening night they were blended into the Super Stock field. Harvey Vera and Al Bartels finished second and third respectively in class.
A field of 16 cars rolled onto the track for the start of the 30 lap Super Stock headliner. Rookie Jason Blenker and Ken Soyka squared off at the start of the Super Stock feature. The pair were side by side for the first three laps, before Soyka slowly edged ahead using the outside line. Blanker held the runner-up spot for one more lap before Mike Brooks roared past in his sharp machine. Mike Brooks the wasted little time in reeling in Soyka to challenge for the lead. Meanwhile Hamel had pulled off a three wide pass in turn four to run third.
Mike Brooks opted for the outside line in his efforts to pass Soyka and it proved successful on lap nine as he bolted into the lead. Hamel pulled off a similar move for second just two laps later. Hamel continued to use the high side of the track to and swept past Mike Brooks for the lead at the halfway mark in the event. Chris Brooks, Mike's brother was also on the move. Having started deep in the field he sliced his way through the pack and had passed Soyka for third with ten laps remaining.
Hamel meanwhile had a secure ten car length lead as the Brooks brothers began to battle for second. The battle was brief however as Mike Brooks began to slow and he pulled into the infield with just six laps remaining ending a solid run. This left Hamel, Chris Brooks, Keith Bohmsach, Jim Cormack and Soyka atop the leaderboard.
A Cary Lyons spin with five laps to go created the first caution of the event and reshuffled the pack. Underway again, Hamel pulled back to the lead, with Bohmsach sneaking past Chris Brooks for second. Chris Brooks and Cormack would find themselves in a torrid battle for third as the laps wound down. The battle became intense and the pair made contact coming off turn four with two laps to go. Both cars slid sliding off the top of the track on the frontstretch, making contact with the wall, sustaining heavy damage. Both drivers were able to walk away however, thanks to the water filled protection barrels which line the frontstretch wall.
The accident created a two lap sprint to the finish, and while Hamel was able to comfortably reach the checkered with the lead, it was a wild scramble for second. Galen Manternatch would make his late race charge payoff by wedging past Bohmsach in the final laps and finishing in the runner-up spot. Out of the final turn fast qualifier Shawn Stelzer was also able to nose ahead of Bohmsach by mere inches at the line for third. Bohmsach settled for fourth and Tim Hintz claimed fifth.
The 40 lap Super Late Model contest would see front row starters Frank Nitzke and Burton Brown toss the lead back and forth. Brown, the 2001 track champion, scooted ahead during the opening laps on the outside, while Nitzke hugged the low line. The pair ran wheel to wheel before Brown surged ahead briefly. Meanwhile Allen Check established himself in third.
Nitzke began to reassert himself and moved back under Brown on lap eight before scooting past to take the top position on lap eight. Jason Weinkauf meanwhile had moved to the low line to follow Nitzke and he would slip by Brown for second on lap ten. Brown began to fall back into he field and soon surrendered third to Lepak.
Out front Weinkauf and Nitzke began to square off for the top position. For the next ten laps the duo would dice for the lead. Nitzke would surge ahead on the straights running the outside line, while Weinkauf would nose ahead in the turns. Weinkauf would even nose ahead by inches at the line on several trips around the third mile speedplant.
On lap twenty things changed drastically. Weinkauf suffered a flat tire heading into turn four forcing him up the track. Nitzke slowed to avoid contact and Lepak, who was running close behind in third dove to the bottom of the track. The move proved fruitful as he darted past both Weinkauf and Nitzke for the lead.
At about the same time semi-feature winner Troy Nelson spun down the backstretch as cars began to check up for the slowing Weinkauf machine which headed for the pits.
This left Lepak, Check and Nitzke at the front as the green flag returned, while Brown and Jeff Weinfurter followed. Weinfurter's strong run went sour on the restart has his car began to slow with mechanical problems. Lepak found himself running four car lengths ahead of Check and Nitzke who were engaged in a wheel to wheel battle for second. That battle was interrupted with ten laps remaining as Jim Sauter Jr., and Benjamin Brinkman spun in turn three.
Underway again Lepak paced the field, but much of the excitement was further back in the field as defending track champion Mark Eswein had been surging forward. Eswein had secured fourth before the caution and when the green flag flew he darted past Nitzke for third. The final caution of the race appeared with eight laps remaining as Brown and Judd Brandl got together resulting in a spin by Brandl.
In the dash to the checkered Lepak was able to gain some breathing room as Eswein surged forward to challenge Check for second. Lepak would reach the finish three car lengths ahead of Check who had managed to turn back a last lap passing attempt by Eswein. Eswein, Nitzke, and fast qualifier Brandon Selle completed the top five runners.
Next week at Golden Sands Speedway, fans will be eligible for a possibility at winning $1,000 as the track holds a qualifying race for the Big Gold events. Lucky fans will be paired up with a driver during the Super Late Model feature and if that driver wins the feature event, fans will have a shot at winning $1,000. In addition to the Super Late Models, the track will be presenting a full program for the ever popular Super Stocks. The new entry level 4 cylinder division will round out the evenings racing program. Time Trials begin every Friday Night at 6:30p.m. with racing beginning at 7:45p.m.
Golden Sands Speedway "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