Claims 250 Lap Miller Lite Nationals Feature, Earns Overall Tile of 19th Miller Lite
July 14, 1998; Slinger, WI - Twenty Five year Slinger Super Speedway veteran driver, Tony Strupp (West Bend) claimed the 250 lap Miller Lite Nationals Feature Tuesday night, July 14th. Strupp, who is the record holder with a lap of 11.095 seconds(81.118 mph) on the Worlds Fastest 1/4 Mile Oval, used the win to propell himself into the overall points lead and earned the Larry Detjens Trophy and the prestigious title of 19th Annual Miller Lite Nationals Champion.
Strupp benefitted from a late race caution involving race leader Brad Mueller (Random Lake) just 22 laps short of an apparent victory. Strupp, who ran strong early in the race, slowly drifted back and rode in third place after Mueller and Brian Hoppe (Madison) began to dominate after the 6th caution flag came out on lap 145. Mueller moved out to a 4 second lead on Hoppe and over a half a lap lead on Strupp until the complexion of the race turned. The leader Mueller would bring out the last of seven cautions when his car became engulfed in flames on lap 238, due to a broken power steering fluid hose. He would pull to safety personnel in the infield and remarkably continue and finish the race in third place.
The caution allowed Strupp to move up on Hoppe and set up a twelve lap dash to the finish. Strupp would make the most of it pulling up on the visiting NASCAR ReMax Challenge Series driver just four circuits later and completed the pass on lap 243. Hoppe was not done as he charged back as the pair accepted the white flag. Hoppe pulled to the outside lane entering corners 1 & 2 and shot down on the inside grove going thru 3 & 4. Hoppe would pull his front fender up to the rear wheel of Strupp but could not make it any farther when the checkered flag fell. Strupp, who has amassed 3 late model track championships, was mobbed by his crew members has he stopped on the front stretch to accept his accolades.
Following Strupp was Hoppe, Mueller, and Al Schill Jr. (Franklin) one lap down in fourth and visiting NASCAR Busch Series driver Matt Kenseth (Lake Norman, NC) fifth. Kenseth was one of the fastest cars on the track at the end, but experienced problems early in the race which put him 2 laps in arrears. He would make up one lap but was unable to make it back on the lap with the leaders.
In victory lane Strupp said the car was awesome, my crew is awesome... I think it was a great race for the crowd and after all the years that Wayne (Erickson) has provided us with the Nationals, I finally get to win one for my crew.
Hoppe, who was awarded an additional $400.00 dollars for the Mac Tools Half-Way Challenge, was the most consistent driver for the evening, never dropping out of the top five after starting in the fifth position. Hoppe was supposed to lead Lowell Bennett (Neenah), Scott Hansen (Concord, NC), Scott Wimmer (Whitefish Bay) and Rich Loch (Muskego) back to the green flag after the competition yellow with 126 laps complete. Due to confusion in the pits some drivers were not able to make it back to the track in the allotted time and would fall to the end of the line. At the restart Hoppe would lead Hansen, Mueller, Cindy Peterson (Butler) and John Zimmerman (Markesan).
Hansen, who his currently second in the points battle on the ASA circuit, quickly moved around Hoppe to take over the point on lap 128. His lead was short lived as Mueller took over the lead on lap 136 and would show the way until he encountered his misfortune. Mueller, who set fast time for the night with a lap of 11.637 seconds (77.340 mph), spun in the fourth turn as he was running in fifth on lap 105. He would go to the end of the pack and would motor his way back into the sixth spot before the half way point. Hoppe inherited the lead just 10 circuits from the break as leader, Strupp brought out the fourth caution as he scraped the backstretch wall as his right front tire was going down.
He would be able to pull off and make the change and get back without losing a lap. After the race, track announcer Todd Behling asked Strupp if he thought he had enough to come back and win the whole thing after having his tire changed in the first segment,? Strupp replied Oh not really, I seen Brad (Mueller), he had an awesome run, I feel bad for him. He probably would have won the overall. Its to bad he had to break because hes a good runner. Hell get his turn though, after 19 years I feel its my turn.
The first half of the contest seen three different drivers lead as Strupp took over on lap 102 from Wimmer , who made his way around pole sitter Schill Jr. working the 56th lap. Other visiting drivers included ASA regular Mike Garvey (Suwanee, GA), who placed 15th, Jackaroo Pro Cup Series Wimmer ended the night in 17th, Hansen in 18th, ASA regular Tim Sauter (Necedah) 23rd, Busch Series driver Jeff Purvis (Clarksville, TN) and Jason Schuler (Cambridge) last in the 26 car field, after having trouble on lap 24. Due to his injuries that he suffered in the NASCAR Winston Cup race this past Sunday, Rich Bickle (Concord, NC) was unable to compete in the Tuesday night affair. Bickle held the lead going into the Championship Round.
Al Schill (Franklin) scored the victory and the transfer spot in the 40 lap semi-feature. He would take the lead on lap 16 from pole sitter Mike Strupp (Theresa), who would eventually finish second and move into the field for the 250 lap main event. Rounding out the top five were Jamie Wallace (Pell Lake), Mike Egan (Slinger) and Todd Thelen (Oconomowoc). Schill Sr. would take home an additional $100.00 for the Mac Tools Half-Way Challenge of the semi feature.
Strupp scored a total of 4,034 points to win the overall championship and was followed in the top five of the Miller Lite Nationals points battle by Mueller (3630), Wimmer (3461), Schill Sr. (3084) and Schill Jr. (3080).
SEMI FEATURE - 40 laps
250 LAP FEATURE
FAST QUALIFIER -Brad Mueller (Random Lake) - 11.637 sec (77.340 mph)
OVERALL SLINGER NATIONALS POINTS