by Tom Wagner
(Sturgeon Bay, WI – 8/7//2010) – Three features hit the record books before rain washed away the final two during the second annual Nathan Bouche Memorial at the Prestige Yacht Coatings Thunderhill Raceway in Sturgeon Bay Saturday night.
Troy Muench (IMCA Stock Cars), Brad Lautenbach (IMCA Northern Sport Mods) and Gene Sternard (NEW Super Stocks) won features in nearly identical fashion before a heavy thunderstorm moved through the area forcing cancellation of the remaining two main events.
The IMCA Stock Car headliner was flagged four laps short of the scheduled 25 lap duration, but the 21 circuits that were raced featured a classic side by side battle between veterans Muench and Charlie Kroll for the win.
Feature line-ups are normally set by a racer’s nightly point average. For the Bouche Memorial special running during the Door County Fair, feature qualifiers lined up through the luck of the draw, allowing the two contenders a rare opportunity to start on the front row.
Both took full advantage, pulling away from a tight pack at the drop of the green. Muench led, but Kroll refused to fade. Working the bottom groove, Kroll would pull even with the leader, only to have Muench carry the momentum from the outside to maintain a slight advantage at the scoring line.
The duo marched in step, at times in a near dead-heat at the line until they picked up the back end of the field with six laps to go. Kroll was forced to back off, and fall in line behind Muench as they passed below four cars.
But before Kroll could clear the traffic and resume the hunt, division point leader Greg Gretz’ Thunderbird crawled to a halt just shy of the backstretch resulting in a caution.
The cars realigned with Muench on point, but before the green could fly to finish out the final four laps, the rains moved in, Muench was declared the winner for leading the last completed lap, and the night was done.
The win was the second of the season for Muench. Two-time track champ Matt Junio finished third, after chasing, but not quite catching, the leaders for the entire event. Two-time feature winner Kyle Wanner was fourth. Back in action late in the season, former Raceway regular Todd Polster recorded his best finish of the year by placing fifth.
The IMCA Northern Sport Mod feature was highlighted by another memorable two-car duel; this one between Lautenbach and Ryan LeMieux.
Lautenbach didn’t waste an opportunity for a rare second row starting spot. The four-time winner raced past Tyler Hackett on the third lap, and appeared to be easily headed to win number five. He would get the win, but it was far from easy.
LeMieux drew the fifth row for his starting spot. Racing with a little extra motivation just one day after his grandmother’s (Bea LeMieux) funeral, the second place point driver was on a mission.
Picking his way through traffic, he captured third in the order on lap 12 and then passed Steve Georgenson one lap later for second.
He quickly reeled in Lautenbach, shifted to the low line and took over the lead on the 14th lap. Lautenbach kept pace and began looking for an opening to mount a counter-strike. That came with six laps to go, as he gained a stronghold under LeMieux.
After contending with some lapped traffic, LeMieux moved to the outside and resumed the charge, but Lautenbach was too strong, holding on for his second straight win since missing several weeks due to a back injury suffered in a crash at Luxemburg Speedway.
Hackett, Ryan’s brother Randy LeMieux, Jr and J.J. Anderson completed the top five.
What appeared to be a run-away turned into another close finish in the Super Stocks. Brian Weslow took off from his front row starting spot to establish what would have been an insurmountable lead. But with six laps to go, the Green Bay driver lost the handle coming out of the second turn, spinning himself out.
Second place running Tony Everard inherited the lead for the restart with Dave Bouche positioned on the inside and Sternard on the outside of the second row. Current IMCA Stocker Bouche, the 1995 champion in the Streets, was making a rare appearance back in the class, driving for Ed Anschutz.
As the green flew, Bouche and Sternard stormed past Everard, with Bouche taking the lead. He held the lower line with Sternard mounting his charge from the outside.
In yet another side by side conclusion on the night, Sternard was able to pull even and eventually control the final laps en route to his second win of the season.
Bouche placed a close second followed by Everard, Dave Gauger in his track debut and Todd Everard.
Both the IMCA Modified and IMCA Hobby Stock features were rained out.
Racing in all six classes resumes this Saturday, with Witt Ford hosting the show, set to include the annual Big Wheel races for the kids.
Prestige Yacht Coatings Thunderhill is located at the John Miles Fair Park on Sturgeon Bay’s east side, with racing in the six divisions beginning every Saturday night through the summer at 6:00 PM. For more information, visit the track’s website at www.racethunderhill.com.
Thunderhill Raceway Results 8/7/10
IMCA Stock Car 25 Lap Feature – Troy Muench, Namur: Charlie Kroll, Forestville: Matt Junio, Casco: Kyle Wanner, Suamico: Todd Polster, Sturgeon Bay: Dave DeGrave, Luxemburg
Semi-Feature – Justin Jacobson, Hortonville: Dave Bouche, Algoma: Casey Groessl, Algoma: Mike Pierrard, Green Bay
Heat 1 – Muench: Kroll
Heat 2 – Aaron Thornton, Maplewood: Wanner
Heat 3 – J.J. Heinz, Green Bay: Polster
Heat 4 – Shawn Havel, Algoma: Bret Koehler, Two Rivers
IMCA Northern Sport Mod 25 Lap Feature – Brad Lautenbach, New Franken: Ryan LeMieux, Sturgeon Bay: Tyler Hackett, Algoma: Randy LeMieux, Jr, Sturgeon Bay: J.J. Anderson, Pulaski: Steve Georgenson, Sturgeon Bay
Heat 1 – Ryan LeMieux: Randy LeMieux, Jr
Heat 2 – Tom Stark, Egg Harbor: Josh Long, Green Bay
Heat 3 – Lautenbach: Jesse Brey, Two Rivers
NEW Super Stock 20 Lap Feature – Gene Sternard, Luxemburg: Dave Bouche, Algoma: Tony Everard, Green Bay: Dave Gauger, Brillion: Todd Everard, Green Bay: Joe Hegnet, Sturgeon Bay
Heat 1 – James Bosman, Sturgeon Bay: Kipp Burlo, Sturgeon Bay
Heat 2 – Todd Everard: Bouche
IMCA Modified Feature (Rained Out)
Heat 1 – Todd Dart, Algoma: Shawn Kilgore, New Franken
Heat 2 – Mike Wedelstadt, Fremont: Kevin Sternard, Sturgeon Bay
IMCA Hobby Stock Feature (Rained Out)
Heat 1 – Luke Lemmens, Kewaunee: C.J. Weckler, Sturgeon Bay
Heat 2 – Roger LaViolette, Forestville: Marcus Moede, Luxemburg