Bickle Delivers on Earlier
Promise and Wins Round One of the Miller Lite Nationals!
22, 2003; Slinger, WI - In a pre-race
interview, Rich Bickle told the many fans that packed the Slinger Super Speedway Tuesday
night for the 24th annual Miller Lite Nationals that he was ready to stick it
to the competition and he lived up to his words with a popular win in the 225-lap
Driving the outside groove around the high-banked ¼ mile oval, Bickle fought
hard to maintain his lead as competitor after competitor mounted hard charges on the
inside line, but each time, the two-time Nationals champion was able to prevail en route
to his three car-length victory over Lowell Bennett.
Everybody tried the inside, but this car was real good on the top, Bickle
explained from victory lane. It was loose and I couldnt get in the corner very
hard, but it was real good from the middle off. The people tonight got their moneys
worth because Ive never had to drive a race that hard here in my life.
Bickle led a total of 192 of the 225 laps which netted him the CARQUEST Auto Parts $400
bonus for leading the most laps and he also claimed the Badgerland Motorsports Halfway
Challenge $500 bonus for leading at lap 113.
Bickles main challenges came from Al Schill and visiting NASCAR Winston Cup star
Kurt Busch, whose first ever race at Slinger produced a highly competitive run with him
leading the early laps but unfortunately ended with a spectacular crash in turn three on
lap 163. A few laps earlier, while in third placed, Busch began to lose positions when he
became caught on the outside and made slight contact with one of the cars going by,
causing him to ride the backstretch wall before crashing into the billboards in turn
Guys were going by me and I was fading gracefully when one guy who may not have had
that big of a hole, had to throw it in there. He caught me in the left rear and the rest
is history, Busch stated in an interview after being credited with a 19th place
finish. I dont think I was supposed to run like that my first time here,
Busch continued alluding to his strong race. This is a great track. Its the
place to grow up at if you want to be a race driver.
Schill kept Bickle honest during the middle stages of the race as he was the only driver
to pass him under green flag conditions, accomplishing the feat twice to lead 19 laps
before apparent handling problems caused him to slip back in the late-going before
rebounding to finish fourth.
Bennett had the best comeback story of the night, as a hard crash in practice that nearly
forced him to resort to a back-up car, made his second place finish astounding.
Ive really got to tip my hat to the crew who put this car back together,
Bennett stated. Weve got a frame thats bent in four inches and we
borrowed parts and shoved spacers into the suspension. Its just amazing as bent up
as this car was that we had enough at the end.
2001 Miller Lite Nationals winner David Prunty was consistent all night long and raced his
way to a third place finish while 1999 Nationals champ Conrad Morgan drove to a fifth
Nathan Haseleu took the checkered flag in sixth place followed by Chris Petersen who had a
career night, making the field on time and wrapping it up with an impressive seventh place
finish. ASA star Mike Garvey battled brake problems en route to eighth place while Brad
Mueller and Andrew Morrissey completed the top ten finishers.
Of the remaining visiting NASCAR drivers, Dick Trickle fared the best with a 16th place
finish after experiencing handling problems while current NASCAR Winston Cup points leader
Matt Kenseth looked strong early on but was credited with a 22nd place finish after a
power steering line failure dumped fluid on his rear tires and caused him to spin on lap
I wish we could have run the whole race, the 1994 and defending Nationals
champion stated. We were up to fifth and were just biding our time.
Engine related problems relegated both Scott and Chris Wimmer to 23rd and 24th place
finishes respectively as both were forced to retire from competition in the early laps.
The 225-lap feature comprised the first round of the Miller Lite Nationals and set the
stage for the second and championship round scheduled to take place at the Madison
International Speedway in Oregon, Wisconsin on August 19th.
A crowd of 9,200 spectators, the most to view the Miller Nationals at Slinger since Dale
Earnhardt made an appearance in 1987, watched a stellar field of 61 late models vie for
one of the 24 starting spots in the main event through time trials and a pair of
Ryan Mathews scored his first Slinger win by capturing the victory in the first qualifying
race over Bennett and Dave Feiler. Dennis Prunty and Chad Barker completed the top five.
Jeremy Lepak took the checkered flag first in the second qualifying race ahead of Haseleu
but was later disqualified after failing post-race technical inspection. Andrew Morrissey
finished third in that event followed by Austin Konetski and Scott Schoeni. Dennis Prunty
returned to win the 40-lap semi-feature by holding off John Mueller and Troy Nelson. Chad
Barker was fourth and Fred Winn finished fifth. Race McComb charged to the win in the
15-lap consolation race ahead of Kirby Kurth and Rick Corso. Eric Fransen was the fastest
qualifier on the night after turning in a lap of 11.342 seconds to claim the Ellison
Machinery $500 qualifying bonus.
Josh Bauer battled Bobby Gutknecht throughout the 40-lap Midwest Sportsman feature, taking
the checkered flag first to nail down the victory.
Mike Graczkowski and Shawn Utphall paced the early laps while Gutknecht battled Gary
Lamonte for third ahead of James Swan and Bauer. Utphalls race came to a halt on lap
nine when he pulled off the track and moments later, the caution flag flew as his drive
shaft was located on the frontstretch. Gutknecht took to the outside for the restart and
two laps later, drove around Graczkowski for the lead. Lamonte also got around Graczkowski
to take second place on lap 11 as Gutknecht maintained the lead. Bauer and fast qualifier
Jake Ryan entered the top five soon thereafter and began to track down the top three as
the second caution appeared on lap 16 for a Scott Ascher spin in turn two.
Bauer went to work on Lamonte for second on the restart as Gutknecht continued to lead.
Bauer made the pass for second on lap 20 and set after Gutknecht. Bauer gradually caught
the leader and began to challenge for the top spot, taking the position on lap 30 after a
side-by-side battle. While Bauer and Gutknecht fought for the lead, Ryan advanced forward
to grab third place, dropping Lamonte into a tussle for fourth with Nick Schumacher. Once
in front, Bauer was never headed and he drove to the victory over Gutknecht and Ryan.
Lamonte was able to hold off Schumacher for fourth. Earlier, Ryan paced qualifying by
lapping the speedway in 12.418 seconds.
For Complete results
from the RACESTAT computer CLICK
Lighthouse Entertainment Center
presents Racing Action at Slinger!
Slinger, WI (Spl.) This Sunday night, Lighthouse Entertainment
Center presents a full night of racing action at the Slinger Super Speedway. The night
will be highlighted by a 60-lap Late Model feature and FREE bowling pin sipper mugs to the
first adults through the door.
Lighthouse Entertainment Center, located in West Bend, is currently holding fall bowling
league sign up. For more information or to sign up for league play at Lighthouse Lanes,
visit www.lighthousebowling.com or call 262.334.3071.
Sunday night racing action at Slinger Super Speedway continues through September 21st. In
2003, Children 11 & under receive free admission to the track when accompanied by an
adult. Advance discount tickets to Slinger events are available at B & S Liquor in
Hartford, Pioneer Plaza in Richfield and at Lighthouse Entertainment Center in West Bend.