Six Former Winners in Tuesday’s WIR Field, Each With a Story to Tell
Kaukauna, WI- Of the six former Gandrud Auto Group 250 winners entered for the Tuesday Night (Aug 4) ARCA Midwest Tour event at Wisconsin International Raceway, only NASCAR Truck Champion Johnny Sauter has more than one win in the traditional Tuesday night event which pays $10,000 to the winner. All six however, like a good fisherman, can talk about the one (or more) that got away from them.
Thirty-one years ago, Rich Bickle, Jr was still making a name for himself on the short tracks of America before embarking on a successful career in the Big Three of NASCAR. His first of six ARTGO Challenge Series wins came on August 1, 1989 in the traditional Tuesday night special at WIR, winning what was at the time the biggest race in Series history by besting Dick Trickle to the finishline. The five-time Snowball Derby and two-time National Short Track Championships winner prides himself on saving his car until the end of these long-distance battles. An expired power plant beneath his hood cost him a potential win in the 2016 edition. He finished second to Butch Miller when the race was expanded from 200 laps to its current 250 in 1988. Second place finishes to Steve Holzhausen in 1992 and again to Steve Carlson in 1998 mark three what could have been moments for Bickle at WIR.
Wisconsin International Raceway is a special place for Kyle Busch and his Kyle Busch Motorsports team. WIR is the first track that the powerhouse race team ever visited victory lane, that was in 2007. Busch drove his KBM ride to the front of the field, besting two eventual Tour Champions in second place Nathan Haseleu and third place finisher and former foe on the ASA National Tour for Busch, Dan Fredrickson in the process. He returned to WIR ten years later in 2017 and all seemed to be in his favor, setting the fastest lap of 38 entries with a 19.189 sec/93.804 MPH. Busch then took the lead late in the going from Casey Johnson only to have the win disallowed due to being too light at the scales. The now two-time and defending NASCAR Cup Series Champion is climbing back behind the wheel of his KBM prepared Rowdy Energy/Hy-Vee Toyota this Tuesday night.
Johnny Sauter is the only driver out of the former Gandrud Auto Group 250 past winners entered for Tuesday night that has multiple wins in the event, his two could easily have been more. After setting fast time in 2015, the 2010 and 2014 winner saw his night end early with mechanical issues, finishing second to last. With a third win in his sights, just seven laps from the checkered flag and an ever-growing lead that had some fans headed to the exits early, a broken suspension component relegated Sauter to a 17th place finish. Big races like this are not supposed to be easy to win, Sauter, whose Father Jim won two out of the first three features ever contested in this event, is proof.
Sauter’s misfortune was fortune for Dennis Prunty during the 2016 running. Prunty, who had won the Slinger Nationals a season earlier at Slinger (WI) Super Speedway where he was the 2012 Super Late Model Track Champion. While fast, he was not on a whole lot of radars when his #42 hauler rolled into the pit area at WIR in 2016. He was on the radar in 2017, battling amongst the leaders for the win but wound up fourth in the final rundown. The past two seasons have seen Prunty involved in others’ mishaps, while still fast, but not having the finishes to show for it, including a late race spin in the closing laps of last year’s 250 lap feature.
Casey Johnson has won in just about everything he has driven. Some were surprised it took the multi-time Jefferson, Madison, WIR, Big 8 and Tundra Champion as long as it did to win on the Tour. He got his first ever Midwest Tour win in the 2017 Gandrud Auto Group 250, after Kyle Busch was underweight in post-race inspection. That surprised many, as two years earlier it appeared that either he, Paul Shafer, Jr or Nick Murgic were going to record their first Tour win. Most money was on Johnson who had already established himself as a contender anytime he hit the track. Johnson pressed the second generation Minnesota driver Murgic, so much that Murgic sped across the line to victory near inches ahead of Johnson, only to spin his winning car into the turn 1 wall following the checkered flag.
He set fast time in 2016 and again in 2018. After 250 laps in 2016, Ty Majeski was second come race’s end. The same could be said in 2017, two runner-up finishes in a row for Majeski, the then two-time ARCA Midwest Tour Champion, in the tour’s biggest paying race. 2018 looked to be his year, only to have a transmission issue while leading and pulling away from the pack. Observers could tell that this was a big race that he wanted to win. After being close three consecutive years, Majeski was finally able to add his name to the winner’s list in last year’s edition.
Advance discount tickets for the Gandrud Auto Group 250 are $20 and can be purchased online at www.midwesttour.racing through August 3. Tickets will also be available on race day at the gate for $25. Spectator gates open at 4pm, qualifying will begin at 5pm with the first race at 7pm during the Tuesday Night August 4 Special Event at Wisconsin International Raceway. As a reminder, masks are recommended but not required for outdoor events in the state of Wisconsin.
A 28 car field is scheduled to start ‘Wisconsin’s Richest One Day Race’ which pays $10,000 to the winner of the 250 lap event and $1,200 to start. Drivers from ten states and Canada are expected to attempt to make the starting grid. The Midwest Truck Series will join the ARCA Midwest Tour with the trucks contesting a 35 lap feature event.