Sunday, August 2, 2009

Mars Claims USA Nationals Title

Saturday, August 1 marked my first trip ever to the Cedar Lake Speedway near New Richmond, Wisconsin. Saturday was the third and final day of the USA Nationals, an open late model event that pays the winner a cool $50,000. With that in mind, I decided to jump in the car and head north.

I arrived at the track around 4:30 and by that time parking was already filling up fast. Tshirt vendors were open and giving customers what they wanted while the drivers were having an autograph session. While walking down "vendor's row", I ran into a couple of friends that were not expecting to see me. I just simply said "you never know where I'm going to show up." We had a good laugh and then parted ways as the racing festivities were approaching.

Friday night's NASCAR late model feature was postponed due to the rain, so that was the first order of business. Nick Anvelink would start on the outside of the front row and bolt to the lead. Anvelink would increase his lead as the laps clicked off and held his margin while working his way through lapped traffic. Late in the race Brent Larson would make his way by Joel Cryderman for the runner up spot, but everybody was in the rear mirror of Nick Anvelink as he took home the first feature of the evening. Brent Larson was second, Joel Cryderman third, and Steve Laursen fourth.

Another complete show for the NASCAR late models along with bmains and a last chance qualifier for the open late models would be run to set up the final two features of the night. In the NASCAR late model race, Keith Foss used the pole to jump out to the early race lead as Joel Cryderman slipped in behind him in second. Nick Anvelink, the winner of the first feature, drew the twelfth starting spot but quickly moved his way up to fifth by lap eleven by using the bottom side of the track. Anvelink would continue to pass a car ever two laps from that point on and would take the lead away from Foss on lap eighteen of the thirty-lap event. Nick Anvelink would cruise to his second feature of the night while Keith Foss came home second. A #21 car finished third (didn't catch his name, sorry), Joel Cryderman fourth, and Pat Doar rounded out the top five.

It was now time for the 100-lap, $50,000 to win USA Nationals for the open late models. Pre-race ceremonies excited the crowd as the lights were turned off around the track, a smoke machine pumped out smoke in turn two where the cars enter the track, and spot lights were turned on as the cars were introduced one at a time starting with the cars at the back of the pack. It was a very unique way to introduce the drivers, one that I will not soon forget.

The stage would then be set as New York drivers Tim McCreadie and Tim Fuller sat on the front row and brought the field down to the green flag. Fuller would get the edge at the line to lead lap one while eighth place starter Brian Birkhofer quickly made his way to fifth by the completion of lap five. A double file restart resulted from a caution on lap eleven, which allowed Birkhofer to work his way to fourth. He would later lose that spot to car-builder teammate Jimmy Mars as the caution waved again on lap thirteen to slow the pace down.

Mars used that restart to swing to the outside of Justin Fegers. After winning the first two features of the night, Nick Anvelink continued his great streak of momentum as he climbed his way to sixth by lap sixteen. Two laps later Birkhofer got by Fegers on the inside to move into fourth place before another caution came out at lap eighteen. At that time the announcer informed the crowd that Matt Miller had worked his way up to ninth after starting nineteenth while Dennis Erb Jr moved up to eleventh after starting 22nd. After the restart Anvelink ducked low of Fegers to take over the fifth spot while Jimmy Mars passed Tim McCreadie to take over second. Lap twenty-one saw Anvelink get under Birkhofer to grab the fourth spot away and a short time later Miller passed Fegers to take over the sixth spot.

Another caution came out on lap twenty-eight, and at that point it was noted that Chris Madden had moved up to the ninth spot after starting dead last on the grid. Two laps later Birkhofer used the middle groove to get by Anvelink for fourth while Fegers passed Miller back to get back up to sixth. Jimmy Mars then got to the inside door panel of Tim Fuller as the two would race side by side for several laps before a caution appeared on lap forty-five. Birkhofer would get by Mars on the restart to take over the runner up spot as another caution came out a lap later. At that time Nick Anvelink exited the track for a fuel stop as he stated in the post-race interview of his previous win that he could not make it on fuel. So he gave up the fourth spot in hopes of making it the rest of the way on the lead lap.

Mars would use the restart to get back by Birkhofer for second while Chris Madden made his way to the fifth spot. Mars would take the lead away from Fuller on lap 57 and distance himself as he entered lapped traffic. Birkhofer slipped up with eight laps to go which allowed McCreadie to get by for the third spot. But the night belonged to Wisconsin driver Jimmy Mars as he took home his second USA Nationals title and the big paycheck. Tim Fuller finished second in his first appearance at the track, Tim McCreadie was third, Brian Birkhofer fourth, and Chris Madden finished fifth after starting 26th.

The races finished right at midnight. The show ran a little late, but the track officials stayed on top of the race track all night as they took time to mist the track between races so alleviate the dust for the fans. Most of the fans took the opportunity to visit the pits and get autographs from the drivers. There were still a few vendo trailers open as I was heading towards the car, so I took one last stroll to check out the merchandise. My first visit to the Cedar Lake Speedway was a fun one. I now know for next time to call ahead and reserve my seat as I was unable to sit up very high in the stands as I'm accustomed to.

- Racing may be a hobby, but it's DEFINITELY addictive!!

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