July 23, 2002; Slinger, WI - Matt Kenseth came to race in the 23rd Miller Lite Nationals at the Slinger Super Speedway and he proved it Tuesday night by handily winning the 200-lap late model feature. Kenseth passed Al Schill for the lead on lap 136 and when Schill experienced a drive-line problem on lap 170, he simply drove away from the field en route to nearly a half lap victory over Lowell Bennett.
That was cool, stated Kenseth after nailing down his second Miller Lite Nationals crown. Its all about the equipment you run and I had a great car and a missile for a motor. I always wanted to come back here and having winning equipment.
While Kenseths luck on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit has gone sour lately, he caught a break early-on when the right front fender on his car peeled away after battling with Tony Strupp for fifth place. The caution flag flew six laps later on lap 20 after Dave Teske, Ken Schrader, and Dick Trickle tangled in turn three.
During the slow-down, track officials discussed sending Kenseth off the track to have the flailing fender removed as Kenseth scraped along the backstretch wall in an attempt to jar the piece loose. When Kenseth pulled alongside Donavan Morgans car, the fender mysteriously fell off.
Kenseth smiled when he explained the circumstances of the incident by saying, I tried to scrape it off along the wall and when I went by Donavans car, it must have caught on his window net and fell off. It was just a stroke of good luck.
The lap 20 scuffle ended Schraders night early and caused Trickle to develop tire problems during the races first half.
We got all clustered up and knocked the cap off which ran the water out of it, said a frustrated Schrader after finishing last and retiring from the event early with radiator problems. You get all pumped up and then youre out early, but thats the way our seasons gone lately.
We were 10-12 pounds down and the car was all over the place, explained Trickle after the incident knocked the valve stem off his tire causing a slow leak. We replaced the tire at the halfway break and ran respectable in the second half. Trickle was credited with a thirteenth place finish overall.
Conrad Morgan started from the pole position and led the first 22 laps before Schill charged by to take command. Schill stretched out his advantage and dominated the first half leading 77 of the first 100 laps as Kenseth and Morgan dueled for second. As the field raced to the scheduled halfway break, Schill led while Morgan held off Kenseth for second. Jamie Wallace took the crossed flags in fourth ahead of Eric Fransen and Chris Ratajczyk. Rich Loch, Bennett, Rich Bickle, David Prunty, and Scott Wimmer finished the list of lead lap cars at the halfway mark.
Schill began the second half just like he ended the first by pulling out to a respectable advantage while Kenseth once again went to work on Morgan for second. Kenseth tried both the high and low sides but could not find his way around as Loch spun in turn three and collected Wimmer to draw a caution flag on lap 111.
Both drivers were able to continue and when the race resumed, Kenseth immediately dove inside of Morgan and snared second place. As Kenseth quickly closed in on Schill, Wallace, Fransen, and Bennett disputed fourth place nearly a straightaway behind the front three cars. Kenseth made numerous attempts to pass Schill for the lead but each time he pulled alongside, lapped traffic would force him to fall back in line. Kenseth finally got an advantage on the outside of the speedway and completed the pass for the lead on lap 136.
With the laps clicking by, Schill remained entrenched in Kenseths tire tracks as Bickle fell out of the event after experiencing ignition woes. It would just shut off, come back on, shut off, come back on, said the two-time Nationals champion after being credited with a 19th place finish. It was just one of those deals.
Wallace, Fransen, and Bennett started to reel in Morgan for third and close racing between Morgan and Wallace sent Morgan spinning down the front stretch on lap 167 as the race remained under the green flag. Three laps later, Schills run at his first Nationals title in 36 years of competition literally went up in smoke when a white cloud billowed from his machine, bringing out the caution and relegating him to the pits.
I dont know what happened, it was just one bang, said a dejected Schill after having another strong Nationals run derailed by bad luck in the waning moments. I didnt have any warning, it could be the transmission or the rear end. Schill did however, win the Mac Tools Halfway Challenge Bonus compliments of Dan Casey and area Mac Tools dealers.
Back under green for the final 30 laps, Kenseth enjoyed almost a half-lap lead as Fransen and Bennett shuffled Wallace back to fourth. With Kenseth driving away, Bennett and Fransen staged a spirited side by side battle for second, leaving Wallace to fend off David Prunty for fourth. Kenseth took the checkered flag for his second Nationals crown much to the delight of the near capacity crowd of an estimated 7,000.
Bennett edged Fransen for second while Wallace and Prunty rounded out the top five. Scott Wimmer finished sixth despite having no front brakes while Loch, Tony Strupp, Scott Hansen, and Conrad Morgan completed the top ten finishers.
Kelly Bires, in only his second ever visit to Slinger, raced to his first late model victory by winning the 30-lap last chance race over John Mueller, Dave Teske, and Mike Pascavis as those four drivers transferred into the 200-lap main event.
Brad Hartman captured his first late model win in the 40-lap semi-feature by holding off Kirby Kurth. Rich Lofy finished third followed by Lyle Messinger and Rick Corso.
I could see him (Kurth) coming and the car started to get bad, stated a joyous Hartman afterwards. I was just hoping I could hold him back there long enough to win.
Trickle bested Wimmer and Kenseth to claim top honors in the special 10-lap NASCAR dash. Schrader finished fourth ahead of Bickle and Hansen. Kenseth blistered the speedway in qualifying to set fast time at 11.705 seconds.
Dan Jung continued his winning ways at Slinger by posting the victory in the 35-lap Midwest modified feature. Jung started on the outside of the front row and by lap four had broken away from the pack to secure the lead. Wes Biswell slotted into second while Andy Evraets and Jeff Holtz battled for third. Holtz won the battle for third on lap ten while Biswell remained glued to Jungs rear bumper.
Dale Prunty charged from back in the field to grab fourth as the top four drivers in the season point standings held the first four positions. Jung and Biswell appeared to be evenly matched which meant that while Biswell could stay with Jung, he was unable to pass and Jung took the win. Biswell settled for second and Holtz was third. Prunty finished fourth and Evraets was fifth. Prunty was also the fastest qualifier with a lap of 12.539 seconds.
For Complete results from the RACESTAT computer CLICK HERE