By John Wells
Nearly 200 drivers, crew members, sponsors, friends and families gathered at The Heights Convention Center in Verona, Wisconsin, for the annual MIS Awards Banquet.
Track champions in the four weekly divisions were crowned including Jeremy Miller in the Rockweiler Insulation Late Models, Robert Hansberry Jr. in the Ho Chunk Gaming Area Sportsman, Andy Jones in the Pellitteri Waste Systems Legends, and the team of Kyle Stark and Jim Lorang in the Roto Rooter Bandits. The top three drivers / teams in each division received trophies with rookie of the year and favorite drivers receiving plaques.
Terry Kunes, owner of Madison International Speedway, thanked everyone in attendance for their support of the speedway over the years. “We really appreciate each and every one of you here tonight. Without you we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.” Kunes also added that he will continue to own and operate the track now and in the future. “I just want to clear up any rumors that might still be out there,” he added.
MIS General Manager Dave Grueneberg gave a brief preview of the 2012 season including the return of the super late models to the schedule. “We are running two ASA Midwest Tour events and a Triple Crown Series for the super late models along with many special events.” It was also announced that the season championships in August will now be known as the Bob Schmelzer Memorial Season Championships.
Grueneberg also presented the first annual Bob Schmelzer Memorial Dedication to Madison International Speedway Award to the Wells Family (John, Diane, and Austin).
New business and marketing manager Jason Tyler was introduced to the audience and reiterated his “open door” policy. “If there is anything you guys need regarding the track and your racing experience do not hesitate to contact me.”
Several drivers picked up certificates from Five Star Stock Car Bodies and Carl Wegner with dozens of door prizes also presented.
TJ Harron of TJ Harron Photography was on hand taking more of his award-winning photos of each of the drivers. AW Lighting and Sound provided the sound system for the event.
It was another great season at Madison International Speedway in 2011. In fact, the excitement went beyond the outstanding weekly racing program and included a wide variety of special racing events highlighted by the return of the ARCA Racing Series. Tractor and truck pulls and a Christian concert were included to make this a truly memorable year.
Let’s take a look back at the highlights from 2011.
Jeremy Miller Wins Late Model Title
Jeremy Miller of Rockton, Illinois, won the Rockweiler Insulation Late Model track championship for the third straight season and fourth time overall.
“This was a total team effort, “ said Miller referring to his championship. “There guys are great. Each and every one of them.” Miller also shared that his plans for 2012 will take him in a different direction. He indicated he will be running select late model events in addition to a new venture in the super late models at Madison and other tracks.
Once again it was a very tight point race in the Late Model division with the championship in doubt until the final lap on the final night. Miller finished with a total of 960 points in his ten starts that included three feature wins, two heat wins, three fast times, nine top fives, and finished in the top ten each event.
Giving Miller everything he could handle was runner-up Zack Riddle who finished with 918 points. Riddle finished with three feature victories, six fast times including the final three weeks, eight top fives, and nine top tens.
Multi-time champion Bobby Wilberg finished his season in third place with 896 points in ten starts including two feature wins, three checkered flags in heat races, seven top fives, and ten top tens.
Closing out the top five were Dale Nottestad with 813 points including one feature win and Scott Broughton who earned 757 points and one feature win in his nine starts.
Completing the top ten in the Late Model division were Ryan Goldade (718), Ty Majeski (684), Kevin Knuese (641), Chad Stevens (601), and Ed Szelagowski Jr. (559).
Rounding out the top twenty in points were Nathan Oppliger, Andy Evraets, Scott McGettigan, Don Wickstrum, Brady Liddle, John Baumeister Jr., Chuck Garetson, Tyler Kelley, Ryan Miles, and Shane Morrissey.
Seventeen different drivers won heat races in 2011 led by Szelagowski Jr. with four wins.
Zack Riddle was recognized as Favorite Driver and his #14 car picked up Best Appearing Car. Garetson was Rookie of the Year for 2011.
Miller also picked up the Wayne’s Custom DIECAST Hard Charger Award which was presented by Grueneberg. “This is really an honor,” said Miller. Grueneberg asked the audience to keep Donna Forsythe in their prayers as she is battling health issues.
Robert Hansberry Jr. Best in Area Sportsman
Robert Hansberry Jr. of Beloit, Wisconsin, won his first-ever track championship at MIS in the Ho Chunk Gaming Area Sportsman.
“It’s been a goal of mine ever since I was a little kid watching my dad race, and it feels awesome to complete that goal. The people that helped out the most are my dad and uncle and I wouldn’t even make it to the track with them. It’s a family effort with all my family helping including the Leonard family and Pastor Don and his crew and my girlfriend,” said Hansberry Jr.
Going into the season the points race was seen as wide open for the Area Sportsman. But Hansberry Jr. put his mark on the championship chase by winning the season opener in May and taking the point lead from the start. Along the way to the title and 974 points he won his second feature in August, set fast time on five nights, and finished in the top five nine of ten times.
Stephen Scheel finished in second place with 906 points including a division high three feature wins, two heat wins, and nine top five finishes. Scheel only finished outside the top ten one night.
Shaun Scheel totaled 818 points which was good for third place in the division. He won one feature, two heats, and earned five top five finishes. Scheel never finished outside the top ten in 2011.
Finishing in fourth and fifth place respectively were the team of TJ Goldade / Bobby Wilberg with 780 points and two feature and four heat wins and Greg Baxter with 757 points fueled by two heat wins and five top fives.
Rounding out the top ten were Austin Nason (755) and one feature win, Tommy Wutke (543), Matt Lundberg (485), Cory Skolaski / Pat Richgels (478), and Mike Taylor (474). Todd Ambrose also earned a feature win in 2011.
Brandon Skolaski was recognized as Rookie of the Year while TJ Goldade repeated as Favorite Driver.
Andy Jones Rules the Legends
Seventeen year old Andy Jones of Gurnee, Illinois, made his trip to MIS each week worthwhile as he won the Pellitterri Waste Systems Legends championship.
“This is a big honor and it means a lot to win a championship at MIS. It’s a great place to race and the competition is really good,” commented Jones.
Jones totaled 1003 points on his way to the title powered by five feature wins, nine top five finishes, and ten top tens. He set fast time on four nights and won four heat races.
Rookie driver Cory Talaska finished in the runner-up position with 868 points. He earned one feature win and one heat win for the year along with seven top five finishes and ten top tens.
Vince Bartolotta took home third place with 805 points despite not reaching victory lane. However, six top five finishes and nine in the top ten proved that consistency pays off.
Kyle Jusits (743) and Kevin Griffin (633) completed the top five while Aaron Moyer (624), Rachael Pinkerman (593), Kyle Vergata (526), Jeff Lechnir (511) and Steve Narr (488) rounding out the top ten.
Aaron Moyer won three feature races while Virginia’s Josh Morris won the season opener. Thirteen different drivers won heat races.
Talaska was honored as Rookie of the Year while fifteen year old Jordan Wendt won Favorite Driver.
Kyle Stark and Jim Lorang Team Up for Bandit Title
The team of Kyle Stark and Jim Lorang took home top honors for 2011 in the Roto Rooter Bandits.
“Things worked out well for us this year,” said Lorang. “I have to give most of the credit to Kyle who was very strong each time he raced.”
Stark piloted the #20 car on seven nights while Lorang took the wheel for three races enroute to their title. The team finished the season with 1004 points including five feature wins all from Stark and nine top five finishes. The pair never finished outside of the top ten. Stark set fast time on five occasions as he also drove his other car on two nights that Lorang drove the team car.
Three-time champion Chester Ace finished in second place with 923 points despite only starting nine features. Ace picked up three feature wins, eight top five finishes and five fast times on the Ring of Fire. Ace now has a total of twenty-four feature wins on the quarter-mile.
Lee Haag finished in third place with a total of 828 points. Haag earned one heat win, six top fives, and finished in the top ten each night out.
Rounding out the top five were Jason Coker (788 points), and Jon Coker (674 points). Jason Coker finished in the top five on five nights while his brother Jon garnered top five honors on six of his nine starts.
Completing the top ten were Dan Snyder (665), Turn Em Loose Racing (631), Jim Younger (574), Jasmine Runaas (451), and Team Dixon.
Kyle Stark and Gary Stark Jr. also picked up feature wins in 2011. Fourteen different drivers took home checkered flags in the heat races.
Fourteen year old Dan Snyder was Rookie of the Year while Ace won Favorite Driver honors.
Special Events at MIS
Alex Bowman of Tucson, Arizona, won the ARCA Racing Series event which was held in August. Like most of his fellow competitors, Bowman was making his first-ever appearance at MIS. It was the first ARCA event at Madison since 1973.
The ASA Midwest Tour Joe Shear Classic ushered in the 2011 racing season at MIS with Ross Kenseth cruising to victory lane. The Colony Brands 85 for Super Late Models was held in July with Kenseth also coming out on top.
The Big 8 Late Models made two appearances with Steve Rubeck winning the June event and Zack Riddle taking the win during the Fall Classic in September.
The ASA Midwest Trucks made three appearances with three different winners. Bobby Wilberg won the season opener in May, Austin Luedtke captured the checkered flag in July, and Dan Lensing was the winner at the Fall Classic. Chris Marek won the ASA Sportsman event held in May.
Two Mid American Stock Car Series (MASCS) events were also held at Madison with James Swan (July) and Jeremy Spoonmore (Fall Classic) the winners.
The fifth annual MIS Fall Classic featured multiple divisions in addition to the touring divisions with Bobby Wilberg (Late Models), Rodger Stephenson and Mark DePorter (Area Sportsman), Andy Jones (Legends), Steve McBride (Bandits), Kyle Stark (International Four Cylinders), Sean Murphy (Illini Legends), Alan Bekielewski (Short Trackers), and Tony Velez (Super Cups) crowned champions. Lee Haag won the One on One Street Drags.
Nearly fifty cars took to the track as part of the Red Neck Round Up and the ISS Enduro Series with Dave Beyer claiming victory. Todd Christopherson and Steve Cook won the annual Faster Pastor Race.
A tractor and truck pull featuring several divisions from Pullers Inc. and South Central Wisconsin Pullers was held on the brand new infield pulling surface in September.
MIS also hosted the first annual Rising Harvest Christian Festival that featured four bands and speakers including Don Wickstrum and Todd Christopherson.
The 2012 racing season is slated to begin on May 6th when the ASA Midwest Tour comes to MIS for the Joe Shear Classic. The first weekly racing event will be Sunday, May 27th with Friday night racing commencing on June 1st.