Bennett Achieves Legendary Status With
Fourth Miller Lite Nationals Title!
By Dan Margetta
WI); July 17, 2007 -
Lowell Bennett survived a wild Miller Lite Nationals Tuesday night
at the Slinger Super Speedway capturing his fourth victory in the
250-lap late model special to join legendary racers Dick Trickle and
Joe Shear as the only three drivers to accomplish the feat.
“It’s an honor to included in that crowd (with Trickle and Shear),”
an extremely happy Bennett stated from Victory Lane after leading
171 laps en route to a 4.8 second victory over Jeremy Lepak and Brad
Mueller. “It doesn’t get much better and it was an awesome night.”
The toughest challenge Bennett faced all night was just making the
feature field as he was forced to race his way into the line-up by
winning the qualifying race after just missing the cut in time
“We were real disappointed at missing the show early, “ Bennett
continued, “But boy…what a race car. That thing was just fun.”
J.R. Norris and Kelly Bires paced the 24-car field to the green flag
and Norris quickly jumped to the lead from the outside lane while
Bires battled with Brad Mueller, Matt Kocourek, and Jeremy Lepak.
NASCAR Nextel Cup star Kyle Busch used the outside lane to rocket
his way from his twelfth starting position to fifth by lap four just
before the caution flag waved when the hood on Conrad Morgan’s car
flew up and Steve Carlson spun to avoid his slowing machine. Norris
chose the outside lane for the restart and the move proved costly as
Mueller timed the restart perfectly and took over the point using
the inside lane, bringing Kocourek along with him into second. A lap
later, the yellow was displayed again for an incident involving Todd
Stapleman in turn one as Mueller led followed by Kocourek, Norris,
Busch, and Lepak.
As racing resumed, Busch was on the move again, swiping by Norris
for third as Kocourek challenged Mueller for the lead. Mueller and
Kocourek battled alongside each other for the top spot while farther
back, NASCAR Nextel Cup star Matt Kenseth moved into the top ten.
Kocourek managed to edge Mueller to lead lap 16 while Tony Strupp
slid wide through turn three and in the ensuing gridlock Josh Bauer,
Al Schill, and Rich Bickle spun around to draw the caution flag.
Once again Mueller timed the restart and shot ahead of Kocourek for
the lead while Lepak and Busch fought over third before Busch
claimed the spot on lap 19. With Mueller out front, Busch ducked
inside of Kocourek a lap later to claim second place leaving Lepak
to race with Kocourek and Dennis Prunty for third. Once into second,
Busch quickly tracked down Mueller and worked his way by to take the
lead on lap 24 while Kenseth continued to move forward and into
seventh. A multi-car spin in turn one produced yet another caution
flag on lap 33 and during the slowdown, Kenseth’s bid to defend his
2006 Nationals title was derailed as he exited the event with an oil
“It lost all its oil, and so the engine needs to be checked out
anyway,” Kenseth said. “We could have got it fixed and got out there
maybe 20 minutes later, but to be 80 laps down and take a chance is
kind of dumb. These motors are too expensive to do that.”
Mueller was once again quick on the button on the restart and he
retook the lead from Busch and Lepak moved into second a few laps
later as Busch’s car became loose in the corners. The handling
continued to go away on Busch’s machine and he exited the speedway
with tire issues.
“We had a flat left rear, left front and right front,” Busch said.
“Just running over stuff, I guess. Nobody else is having a problem
“This thing was just bad fast, but you’ve got to finish,” Busch
continued. “I got the lead and I was running 70%.”
Mueller continued to pace the event over Lepak while Eric Fransen
and Tony Strupp advanced forward into third and fourth respectively
as Bennett worked his way into the top five. The yellow flag was
unfurled again on lap 46 when Norris slowed suddenly after having
rear suspension problems. Mueller and Lepak raced hard for the lead
as racing resumed and Lepak took the lead on lap 49 just before
another slowdown occurred on lap 50 when Dick Trickle looped around
in turn three after contact with Busch.
Lepak maintained his lead on the restart as Fransen moved into
second ahead of Bennett and Strupp as Mueller became caught on the
outside and fell back in line in fifth. With Lepak out front,
Bennett was able to slip by Fransen for second on lap 69 and
gradually began to track his way toward the lead. By lap 75, Bennett
was within striking distance of the lead and four laps later, he
moved alongside Lepak, taking command of the race on lap 80.
Bennett began to pull away from the field while Strupp charged into
second place as Trickle left the speedway with mechanical problems
on lap 106. With the halfway point in sight, Fransen began to lose
ground as both Mueller and Matt Kocourek passed by and into fourth
and fifth place respectively.
As the field paused for a mandatory ten-minute break at the halfway
mark, Bennett led Strupp, and Lepak while Mueller and Kocourek were
fourth and fifth.
The second half belonged to Bennett as he extended his lead as
racing resumed while Strupp and Lepak tried to close the gap between
themselves and the leader. Behind the top three, Mueller held down
fourth as Kocourek and Schill raced for the fifth slot.
The make up of the race changed drastically on lap 176 as Dennis
Prunty spun in turn four and nosed his car into the fronstretch
wall, sending up a plume of smoke. In the midst of the thick smoke,
Strupp looped his car around in an attempt to avoid Prunty and was
immediately met nose-to-nose by Lepak’s car. The damage to Strupp’s
machine was enough to retire him from the race, but Lepak was able
to rejoin the event despite heavy damage to the front of this car.
Bennett maintained the lead over Mueller and Schill as racing
resumed while Kocourek was
forced to deal with Lepak, who wheeled his damaged car into a battle
over fourth. By lap 190, Lepak worked is way around Kocourek and
four laps later, he edged past Schill for third as Bennett extended
his lead over Mueller. On lap 202, Lepak raced is way around Mueller
for second and began to close the distance to Bennett for the lead.
Bennett’s lead proved to be too much however, and he drove to a 4.8
second victory over Lepak and Mueller. Kocourek finished with a
strong fourth place result and Conrad Morgan ran solid all night to
cross the stripe in fifth place, the final car on the lead lap.
Schill fell back in the late stages and finished in sixth place
ahead of NASCAR Craftsmen Truck Series driver Erik Darnell who
turned in his best Nationals performance in seventh place. Defending
track champion David Prunty took the checkered flag in eighth place
while Kelly Bires was ninth, the final car running at the finish.
Fred Winn finished in the tenth position.
Tommy Pecaro was the winner of the 35-lap late model semi-feature
over Race McComb and James Swan. Chris Wimmer and Randy Schuler
rounded out the top five. Bennett took the win in the 30-lap late
model qualifying race over David Prunty, Josh Bauer, and Todd
Stapleman as all four transferred their way into the main event.
Kyle Busch blistered the speedway in 11.400 seconds and was the
fastest qualifier among the 45 late model entries.
Derek Thorn took top honors in a caution-filled 25-lap limited late
model feature, holding off Scott Ascher and Chris Blawat at the
Ascher paced most of the event that was shortened to 25 laps after
numerous spins and one multi-car incident slowed the race a total of
six times under caution. While Ascher led, Thorn sliced his way
forward from the fourth starting spot into second place by lap 12
while Blawat and Rob Braun raced with Josh Wallace and Ryan Carlson
behind the leaders. Thorn took the top spot with a strong inside
move on lap 18 and drove on to the victory over Ascher and Blawat.
Braun and Carlson rounded out the top five. Jeff Steenbergen was the
fastest limited late model qualifier after timing in at 12.450
Jake Vanoskey raced to his first career feature win in front of the
large crowd on hand in the 35-lap Midwest Sportsman main event.
John Janssen led the opening laps while Vanoskey settled into second
place ahead of brothers Jay and Scott Shambeau. Janssen continued to
pace the event through two caution periods for minor spins while
Vanoskey remained stout in second place. In the final laps, Vanoskey
took to the outside groove and made a bid for the lead, executing
the pass for the top spot on lap 25. Scott Shambeau also got around
Janssen for second place and began to edge in on Vanoskey while Jay
Shambeau and Mike Graczkowski raced close behind. Vanoskey was able
to turn back all challenges and he charged to the win over Scott
Shambeau and Janssen. Jay Shambeau and Graczkowski rounded out the
top five. Kenny Joosten was the fastest qualifier at 12.683 seconds.
results from the RACESTAT computer