Points Race Taking Shape at MIS
By John Wells
With only four points events remaining on the 2012 weekly racing season at Madison International Speedway it is still too close to call in all three divisions and will likely go down to the final week. Weekly divisions will be in action on July 20th, July 27th, and August 10th before closing out the season on August 17th with the Bob Schmelzer Memorial Season Championships.
Let’s take a closer look at how each division has played out so far this season:
Can Dale Nottestad Repeat the Run of 2004?
Dale Nottestad has been on a roll in 2012 driving the #51 car for Clifcorn Motorsports. But can the 2004 MIS Super Late Model championship repeat his awesome run he accomplished down the stretch that season in 2012?
On his way to the title, Nottestad strung together five straight wins from July 31, 2004 to September 4, 2004. Quite an accomplishment considering the stars competing in the super late models that season.
So far this year in the Rockweiler Insulation Late Model division the magic number for Nottestad has been three. Three qualifying race wins, three checkered flags in the Morrison’s Auto Parts Dash Series, and three feature wins. The Cambridge, Wisconsin, driver has won the last two times out at MIS (June 22nd and July 13th) and might be on his way to a repeat of 2004.
But despite his success this season, he only holds a two point lead (571-569) over Zack Riddle in the standings.
Riddle of Brooklyn, Wisconsin, has owned qualifying this year setting fast time on all five nights. However, he is still searching for his first feature win of the weekly racing season and his first win in the Morrison’s Auto Parts Dash. Riddle does have two victories at Madison this year in the season opener in May and the Big 8 race in June but neither was a weekly racing event.
Riddle is seeking to become technically the first third generation track champion in the history of racing at Madison as grandfather Johnny Ziegler won three track championships (Two in Super Late Models / One in Limited Late Models) and Uncle Jared Ziegler won a Limited Late Model title.
Sitting in third place at this point of the season is Bobby Wilberg of Beloit, Wisconsin, the driver who has won the most track championships in MIS history. Wilberg currently has earned 513 points including one feature win and can never be counted out in any race or points chase.
Waukesha, Wisconsin, driver Kevin Knuese is probably having his best season of racing at Madison and is currently in fourth place with 478 points and is still in search of his first feature win at MIS. John Baumeister Jr. of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, who was noticeably absent on July 13th, remains in fifth place with 407 points followed by Chad Stevens of Orfordville, Wisconsin(400) and Nathan Oppliger from Oregon, Wisconsin (395).
A total of 127 points for a clean sweep is on the table each and every night the division does battle on Wisconsin’s Fastest Half-Mile. Nearly anything can happen as we wind up the season so don’t miss a single lap of the action.
Hansberry Jr. Seeks to Repeat in Madison Sportsman
Defending Ho Chunk Gaming Madison Sportsman champion Robert Hansberry Jr. of Beloit, Wisconsin, has done just about everything he can do this year to repeat as champion. But several drivers want to have a say in things before the end of the season.
Until last week, Hansberry Jr. had a lock on qualifying setting fast time the first six nights before having to settle for second fastest last week. So far this season he has accumulated a total of 807 points which is highest for all three weekly divisions. He came out of the starting gate fast in 2012 by winning the feature the first two weeks along with one qualifying race. Even though wins have been hard to come by lately, it’s been his consistency that has paid off and allowed him to take the point lead.
One driver who is on a mission lately is Matt Lundberg of Rockford, Illinois, who is in second place with 735 points. Last week not only did Lundberg win his first feature at MIS but also picked up a clean sweep by setting fast time and winning the qualifying race. Driving the “Family Truckster” he has quickly become a fan favorite at MIS.
A trio of Stoughton, Wisconsin drivers, Tommy Wutke (727 points), TJ Goldade (692 points), and Mike Taylor (661 points) round out the top five. Both Wutke and Goldade have picked up feature wins while Taylor is definitely due for a trip to Rick’s Lawn and Garden Victory Lane.
Another Stoughton driver, Will Rece, has won two features this season and might even be in the top three at this point were it not for missing two of the seven events. When one considers that Rece had never raced on Wisconsin’s Fastest Half-Mile before this season and then hit the inside wall his first time out it’s clear to see his potential.
The racing has been very competitive in the Ho Chunk Gaming Madison Sportsman this year as the response to the 7” Hoosier tires has been very positive. Four different drivers have won features and nine different drivers have taken home the checkered flag in qualifying races.
Consistency has been the norm for Hansberry Jr., but with such a competitive field, one bad night could tighten things up very quickly.
Jones Takes the Lead in Legends Chase
During the off season it wasn’t clear if Andy Jones of Gurnee, Illinois, would be racing each week at Madison. After some early success, there’s no longer any question about Jones’ plans for 2012. His goal…is defending his championship.
Jones leads the way in the Pellitteri Waste Systems Legends by fifteen points (715-700) over sixteen year old Cory Talaska of Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Jones has visited victory lane eight times this season with five qualifying race and three feature wins to his credit. Talaska has been consistently finishing in the top five and won his first feature of the year last week.
Running in third place is Chris Lishamer of Elgin, Illinois, who has quietly earned 614 points. He’s been running out front for several weeks and it is only a matter of time before he picks up his first-ever feature win at MIS. Not many people knew much about Lishamer coming into the year, but he has proven to be a force to reckon with this season.
Vince Bartolotta of West Allis, Wisconsin, and Kevin Griffin of Green Oaks, Illinois, are currently fourth and fifth in the point standings with 577 and 563 points respectively. Earlier this season, Griffin won his first feature at Madison and became one of the few drivers over twenty years old that have achieved that accomplishment. Bartolotta is still seeking his first win and before things close out this season he may reach his goal.
The Legends have been a perfect match for the “Ring of Fire” at Madison and who knows what’s going to happen during the final four races.