Photos by Dan Lewis Photography (www.danlewisphoto.net)
by Tom Wagner
(Sturgeon Bay, WI – 6/23/2012) – Charlie Kroll etched his name into the record books Saturday night, winning his 50th career track feature at the Prestige Yacht Coatings Thunderhill Raceway in Sturgeon Bay.
Sharing the winner’s circle with Kroll, who captured the checker in the IMCA Stock Cars, were Dan Ratajczak in the IMCA Modifieds, Bernie Reinhardt in the IMCA Northern Sport Mods, C.J. Weckler in the IMCA Hobby Stocks, Street Stocker Todd Polster, and first time winner Alex Wendt in the Feisty Fours.
Entering the night, Kroll already stood as the track’s all-time winning driver, collecting 49 since it reopened in 1993 as Thunderhill. The total included wins in the Stock Cars, Sport Mods, Street Stocks and even one in the now defunct Bomber class. To hit the 50 mark, he had to fend of a challenge from another of the Raceway’s most successful drivers, Jeremy Wiitala.
It took time to set the stage for the late race drama, as the event was plagued with a series of early cautions. Four caution flags flew in the first five laps, including one that wiped away a Kroll pass of Bret Koehler for the lead.
Koehler’s stay at the top was short-lived regardless, as Kroll used an inside pass on the fourth lap to grab the top spot; and that one stood.
With the early issues behind them, Kroll broke from the field with Wiitala, Troy Muench and Dave Bouche in tow. Wiitala ran the distance within a couple car lengths of the leader, but could never quite pull even to attempt a pass, as the top four crossed the stripe in order.
After an early incident sent him to the back of the pack, Devin Snellenberger raced his way through the field to place fifth followed by Rob Waechter.
In the Modifieds, Ratajczak cruised to his first Thunderhill win of the season, breaking James Tebon’s streak of two straight wins. He took the lead at the initial drop of the green, and despite a mid-race caution that bunched the field, stayed clear of any serious challengers.
Billy LeMieux withstood race-long pressure from Jay Matthias to score the runner-up finish, with Tebon fourth. Jared Siefert used the high line to advance as high as third before drifting back to a fifth place run.
Names synonymous with Thunderhill racing history sorted out as the contenders in the Northern Sport Mod headliner.
Reinhardt used an inside move through turns one and two to secure the top spot from Josh Massart on the fifth lap. He established a solid lead as Steve Georgenson, Randy LeMieux, Jr, Andy Kletczka and Jarred VanLaanen battled for second.
Caution with six to go erased the lead, but Reinhardt was able to hold off Georgenson for his first win of the year.
In the IMCA Hobby Stocks, Derek Moede literally had victory in his sights. But just as he was exiting turn four for the stretch run, contact with Rob Waechter, Jr sent him skidding to the infield. Running third, Weckler was able to dodge the sliding Moede, as Waechter gathered himself back up, actually crossing the line first.
Officials ruled that Waechter was part of the incident, meaning the win would go to Weckler.
Tom Brumlic’s second place finish lifted him to the division’s point lead, as pre-race leader Travis Hackett snapped a drive shaft late in the event.
Polster passed Dennis Weidner on the third lap, then built a safe cushion over Gene Sternard to score his first win of the season in the Street Stocks.
A first lap back-stretch wreck ended the night for four cars, including second place point driver Marvin Denny.
In the Feisty Fours, Wendt raced off to a commanding lead early. Joey Scoon advanced from the last row to second, but without any cautions in the event, had no chance to catch the eventual winner.
The night was run in memory of two long-time friends of the Raceway who both passed away earlier this year; Terry Simon and Bob Brown.
Contributions from the families, as well as proceeds from the sale of commemorative decals, increased the night’s purse by over $3,000 cash, as well as several product certificates.
Racing returns to the Raceway Saturday night, highlighted by the annual King of the Hill competition, this year featuring the IMCA Stock Cars.
Young Automotive and Poh’s Corner Pub will host the night’s events, with all six of the Raceway’s divisions in action.
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 6/23/12
IMCA Modified 20 Lap Feature – Dan Ratajczak, Frog Station: Billy LeMieux, Sturgeon Bay: Jay Matthias, DePere: James Tebon, Algoma: Jared Siefert, Luxemburg: Eric Arneson, Oconto Falls
Heat 1 – Ratajczak: LeMieux
IMCA Stock Car 18 Lap Feature – Charlie Kroll, Forestville: Jeremy Wiitala, Green Bay: Troy Muench, Namur: Dave Bouche, Algoma: Devin Snellenberger, Pulaski: Rob Waechter, Ellisville
Heat 1 – Muench: Tony Bouche, Algoma
Heat 2 – Dave Bouche: Shawn Havel, Algoma
Heat 3 – Kroll: Wiitala
IMCA Northern Sport Mod 20 Lap Feature – Bernie Reinhardt, Sturgeon Bay: Steve Georgenson, Sturgeon Bay: Randy LeMieux, Jr, Sturgeon Bay: Jarred VanLaanen, Green Bay: Kelsy Hayes, Sturgeon Bay: Andy Kleczka, Suamico
Heat 1 – Hayes: Kleczka
Heat 2 – VanLaanen: Georgenson
Street Stock 15 Lap Feature – Todd Polster, West Jacksonport: Gene Sternard, Sturgeon Bay: Dennis Weidner, East Maplewood: Jeremy Schultz, Sturgeon Bay: Ed Franklin, Sturgeon Bay: John Williams, Oconto Falls
Heat 1 – Polster: Franklin
Heat 2 – Jimmy Anderson, Forestville: Kevin Luedke, Sturgeon Bay
IMCA Hobby Stock 18 Lap Feature – C.J. Weckler, Sturgeon Bay: Tom Brumlic, Denmark: Joe Hegnet, Sturgeon Bay: Amber Weidner, East Maplewood: Phil Faustini, Carlsville: Kim Denil, Sturgeon Bay
Heat 1 – Scott Boulanger, Luxemburg: Brumlic
Heat 2 – Travis Hackett, Algoma: Ryan Rohr, Kewaunee
4 Cylinder 15 Lap Feature – Alex Wendt, Suamico: Joey Scoon, Sturgeon Bay: Matt Sargent, Sturgeon Bay: Kipp Burlo, Sturgeon Bay; Bo Bennesh, Gleason: Jeff Brehmer, Pulaski
Heat 1 – Wendt: Bennesh