Sommers Star Shines in State Park Speedway Larry Detjens Memorial 125
By Martin J. Gallagher
Wausau, WI- Rookie of the Year candidate Gabe Sommers captured his first ARCA Midwest Tour victory Saturday night July 27 at State Park Speedway, becoming the 24th different winner of the Larry Detjens Memorial during the 38th annual event. The 16 year old Sommers worked his way up from an eighth starting position to pass early race leader Rich Bickle 51 laps into the 125 lap contest. It was anything but clear sailing for Sommers as he twice surrendered the lead momentarily to Tour point leader Casey Johnson. With a dozen laps remaining Sommers shot back past Johnson and pulled away to victory. Johnson, the 2018 Detjens winner settled for second while fast qualifier Austin Nason recovered from an early race incident to complete the top three. Dillon Hammond and Luke Fenhaus both recorded their best career Midwest Tour finishes, placing fourth and fifth.
A pair of State Park Speedway Champions in Mark Mackesy and Jeremy Lepak led the field of ARCA Midwest Tour “Stars and Cars” to the green flag for the running of the Larry Detjens Memorial race on a beautiful night at the side of Rib Mountain. Lepak would lead the opening laps before Rich Bickle charged into the lead on lap 11 with an outside pass. The battle for the top spot would continue between Bickle and Lepak while behind them two-time 2019 Tour winner Casey Johnson and Rookie of Year contender Carson Kvapil would race side by side for third. Lap 20 would see Johnson start to chase down second running Lepak and make the move around him five laps later.
With 100 laps to go the top five was Bickle , Johnson , Lepak and early hard chargers in Austin Nason the nights fast qualifier and second fastest qualifier Gabe Sommers. Six laps later Nason whom came into night 2nd in the point standings made contact with Lepak bringing out the nights first caution. Both drivers would continue but would have to restart from the rear. Bickle had Johnson to his outside at the restart, and would eventually clear #5 machine to continue his time out front.
Now in second, Johnson had his hands full with Sommers and not for long as Sommers went past Johnson on the inside and into the runner-up spot on lap 35. The race would heat up for the top spot with Sommers making a brilliant cross-over move to take the top spot on lap 51. Bickle would settle into second with Johnson, Luke Fenhaus and John DeAngelis Jr the top five.
Following a lap 82 caution, second place Bickle chose to reline on the inside lane behind Sommers allowing Johnson to restart to Sommers passenger door. Johnson got his ride wound up on the outside and would his first two laps of the night while in a door to door battle with Sommers. With 39 laps remaining Sommers in the preferred inside line would take back over the top spot followed by Bickle, Fenhaus and Kvapil. Meanwhile, Nason had worked his way back into the seventh position.
Sommers held off Bickle on another restart but the next restart would have Johnson taking another shot at the top spot leading lap 113 while side by side with Sommers once again. Like he did all night Sommers would prevail with the top spot and Johnson would settle in behind the race leader. The caution flag would again fly when Bickle and Kvapil who were racing for third made contact, sending Bickle into a spin in turn three.
Sommers was ready for the final restart of the night. Like he had all night, the youngster showed Veteran cool and smooth driving ability. Sommers, from nearby Plover, crossed beneath the checkered flag .75 seconds ahead of Johnson who was followed by a hard charging Nason. Dillion Hammond recorded a career best with the “Stars and Cars” of the ARCA Midwest Tour with a 4th place finish as did 2018 State Park Speedway Champion Luke Fenhaus who rounded out top five. Preliminary event wins went to John Beale, Chris Weinkauf and Johnson.
The Midwest Tour returns to action on Tuesday night August 6 at Wisconsin International Raceway for ‘Wisconsin’s Richest One Day Race’, the Dixieland 250. The $10,000 to win, $1,200 to start race will see drivers from seven states attempt to make the 30 car starting field. Spectator gates open at 4pm, qualifying gets underway at 5pm with the first race at 7pm. The Midwest Tour Super Late Models will be joined by the Big 8 Late Model Series who will contest the Dixieland Delight 38 lap feature. A fan autograph session will take place at 6pm on the main concourse. Admission is $20 per person with ages 11 & under admitted free.