By Edward Anschutz
(Sturgeon Bay, WI) February 18 – With the opening night of May 4th fast approaching race teams are kicking it into high gear, working late nights in the shop with the thoughts and hopes of getting to victory lane. For some, its chasing that first checkered. For others its defending the track title, while others fight, do slide jobs or use the chrome horn try to take it away and crown themselves champions.
In order to look forward, sometimes you need to look back. The last few years the IMCA Stock Cars had the championship come down to the final lap of the season. Algoma’s Dave Bouche is a perfect example of that, winning the title by a mere one point over defending champion Troy Muench of Brussels. Bouche is set to return in his home built “FAST Chassis” and defend his championship.
Muench is finishing his new Petrie Chassis and will be tough to beat when he hits the track. Algoma’s Shawn Havel looks to be one of the top contenders in challenging Bouche for the title. Havel led the class in feature wins, along with winning the North Dakota IMCA Series. Havel and Bret Koehler of Two River’s were the only two drivers to have multiple feature wins in the highly competitive division. Add in former champion Charlie Kroll of Forestville, Green Bay’s Jeremy Wiitala, last years Rookie of the Year, Marcus Moede of Algoma and Jamie Suchocki of Forestville. Last years IMCA Hobby Stock Champion, Tom Brumlic of Denmark will compete for Rookie of the Year. On paper it looks like the title will once again come down to the final night.
Not to be out done the IMCA Sport Mod’s put on one heck of a show with the top three in points separated by only five points when the final checker flew! Hometown favorite, Bernie Reinhardt of Sturgeon Bay etched his name in the record books by becoming the first driver at Thunderhill to win three titles in three different divisions. Reinhardt bested the class in his Victory Chassis with 4 feature wins. Sturgeon Bay’s “Dirt Track Diva”, Kelsy Hayes was the only other driver with multiple feature wins. Hayes used a Side Biter chassis to score two trophies, which were her first ever in the division. Green Bay’s Jarred VanLaanen also had a break out season scoring his first Sport Mod feature win. VanLaanen’s Harris Chassis earned a division best seven heat race wins, led the points for most of the season and came up just four points short of his first track title. Josh Massart of Brussels and veteran racer Ricky LeMieux of Sturgeon Bay made their presence felt last season. All drivers will certainly step up their game and attempt to chase down Reinhardt for the crown.
Algoma’s James Lee Tebon, put his new Slick Chassis on the map in a dominating performance. Earning his first championship in the IMCA Modifieds with a division best six feature and five heat race wins. Last years Rookie of the Year, Tyler Hackett of Algoma showed he’s a force to be reckon with scoring two feature wins right out of the gate. Hackett is also racing a Slick Chassis this year. Billy LeMieux of Sturgeon Bay kept the pressure on Tebon all season long. LeMieux took his SSR Chassis to second in the final standings also scoring two heat race wins. Frog Station’s Dan Ratajczak brought home three feature wins in his Side Biter chassis, Ratajczak is still chasing for that illusive first championship. Algoma’s Felix Dart looks to be running on a part time basis and is a threat to win anytime he hits the track. Luxemburg’s Scott Derenne finished a career best third in the standing. Look for Derenne to challenge for his first career feature win. There is a solid crop of Rookie’s entering the division in 2013, some of which will be title contenders.
The IMCA Hobby Stocks will crown a new champion as Tom Brumlic heads to the IMCA Stock Cars. Off the roster from last season whoever tops the points, it’ll be their first career title which should add to the action. Casco’s Derek Moede looks to be the man to beat after coming up only three points short of the title to Brumlic. Moede will pilot a new machine that was built by Scott Derenne. Algoma’s Travis Hackett bested the class with five feature wins in his FAST Chassis. Hackett will no doubt be a title contender. Appleton’s Brittany King and East Maplewood’s Amber Weidner are just a couple of the ladies of the field who will give the boys a run for their money. A wild card in all of this is Luxemburg’s Scott Boulanger, who plans to race all season. He scored two feature wins last season running on a part time basis.
The Street Stocks have always been a mixed bag of racers for quite some time now and 2013 looks to be no different. Defending champion Dennis Weidner of East Maplewood isn’t sure what his plans are. In the off season Weidner put together an IMCA Stock Car with the help of Dave Bouche of Fast Chassis. He will be racing, just unsure what class. Jimmy Anderson of Forestville and Sturgeon Bay’s Kevin Luedtke seem to be the only drivers from the top five in points that are returning. The most dominant car that was wheeled by West Jacksonport’s Todd Polster was sold to Sturgeon Bay’s Brandon Peterson. Peterson is a former champion in the IMCA Hobby Stocks, so add him to the title hunt. Last years Feisty Fours champion, Joey Scoon of Sturgeon Bay is moving up and purchased Geno Sternard’s track champion car and will contend for Rookie of the Year.
Former champions, John Sternard of Sturgeon Bay and Maplewood’s Aaron Thornton are always a threat to win. Marvin Denny of Sturgeon Bay was in also in the title hunt for most of last season. Former champion also from Sturgeon Bay, Von Eytcheson won two features last season racing part time and will be tough to beat. Most of the Street Stock boys are from the Door County area, will a hometown hero take the title or will an “outsider” steal the top spot?
Five divisions do battle every Saturday night through the summer. IMCA Modified, IMCA Stock Car, IMCA Northern Sport Mod, IMCA Hobby Stock and Street Stocks will compete on the 1/3rd mile clay oval. For more information, please visit the track’s website at www.racethunderhill.com Thunderhill is located at the John Miles Fair Park on Sturgeon Bay’s east side. Pit gates open at 3:30 P.M. racing starts at 6:00 P.M. For your social media outlet like Thunderhill Raceway on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.