MAJESKI HOLDS BACK APEL IN THRILLING TUNDRA OPENER
Kaukauna, Wis. (May 10, 2015) - If TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round One Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes proved one thing, it was this - the next generation of Super Late Model stars are here, and they are good.
Ty Majeski topped a tussle of four drivers under the age of 26 who won a Late Model Championship last season. The Midwest Tour titlist battled past last year's TUNDRA Champion Dalton Zehr. He chased down then outlasted two-time Big 8 Champion Casey Johnson for the lead on a restart. He then held off two-time Slinger Speedway Champion Steve Apel in a dazzling shootout in the Duke FM 50 on Saturday at Wisconsin International Raceway.
Ty Majeski in Victory Lane (TUNDRA PR photo)
The win was anything but easy for the Seymour, Wis., native who lives just 20 miles away from WIR. Majeski finally fought off Johnson after a three-lap, side-by-side battle following a restart on lap 29. He then was tailed by Steve Apel, who had several brief looks to in the inside line, over the final 15 laps.
"It was a really good race. I'd clear him by one or two down the straightaways and he'd get me going into the corner," said Majeski, who picked up his second career TUNDRA win. "I knew if I kept hitting my marks it would be tough for him to make the pass."
The 15-lap showdown between Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalists was a virtual tug of war. Any time Majeski built his lead to several car lengths, Apel pulled back to his bumper. When Apel closed, Majeski jumped away to gain a small amount of breathing room.
Although Apel had the chances, the Performance Diesel fast qualifier came up just short of doubling up his awards for the day.
"We had a really good battle with Ty. He's a really clean racer," Apel commented. "I wanted to race him like I think he would race me. We didn't get the win, but I think we had a car that definitely could have won the race."
Ty Majeski (91) holds Steve Apel (51) at bay. (Chuck Look photo)
Neither driver had an easy cruise to the front of the field. In fact, both sported battle scars of moving to the front of the field from their 12th and 14th starting spots.
The 14-car invert placed Jeremy Lepak and Frank Nitzke on the front row of the feature. As has been the case over the past several seasons, the outside line proved to be the better line when the green flag dropped. Frank Nitzke cleared Lepak coming to the line on lap one and brought Randy Schuler along to second.
Eventually Lepak found his way back inside Schuler for second. While Nitzke built the lead, the field behind him started to sort out. Just six laps in Majeski was up to seventh, with Apel riding ninth and Zehr jumping from 15th to tenth. Their charges were halted when a yellow flew for a spin involving Mike Lichtfeld and Alex Stumpf.
The lap seven restart brought the first of several field-altering restarts. For Majeski and others further back in the field, the task of choosing a lane became a gamble each time.
"You didn't know which lane to pick and what guys were going to do what," Majeski said. "We picked a good lane on some restarts and not-so-good of a lane on the others."
The first restart was short lived as another spin forced the field back under caution. A restart on lap ten gave Maxwell Schultz his first chance to race for the lead. He powered away from Nitzke on the outside after Lepak surrendered the high line to stay low for the restart. Jesse Oudenhoven followed to second and was tailed by Casey Johnson, who had started seventh.
Johnson, driving the winning Chase Motorsports entry from a season ago, immediately challenged Schuler for the runner up spot, proving the outside lane to be successful again. Behind him the outside line paid dividends for Zehr, who slid to fifth on lap 12. Majeski and Apel were stuck on the inside line and fell backward in the running order.
A caution for debris off Ryan Farrell's machine saved a melee in turn three that involved Zehr, Austin Nason, and Frank Nitzke. Nason's machine was damaged, stalling his run to the front. Nitzke had damage, but was able to return to his starting spot in the top ten.
The restart on lap 13 pitted Schultz outside Oudenhoven with Johnson outside Schuler and Majeski flanking Zehr in the third row. Apel was just outside the top ten.
Schultz overpowered Oudenhoven and regained the lead. One lap later Johnson slid to second. Riding that momentum, Johnson shot past Schultz to the lead on lap 15. As he started to jump away, Zehr and Majeski pressured Schultz.
Another caution fell on lap 19 when Schuler's machine experienced mechanical failure and he came to a stop in turn four. Schultz elected to stay behind Johnson up high, leaving the inside for Zehr to face off against the car he drove to victory in this race one season ago.
Johnson pushed his racer past Zehr after a short battle up front and began to stretch his lead. Once Majeski passed Schultz, a frantic race for second began. Majeski found a way to dip to the inside on lap 21. Just as he got to that spot, Apel made a pass and made his first appearance in the top four. Apel had the best seat just behind the five-lap scrap. Majeski finally cleared Zehr on lap 26. Two laps later Apel had his turn to work past Zehr.
A caution on lap 28 set up the battle between Majeski and Johnson. For the first time all day, choosing the inside line paid off, although Majeski had to work frantically to fight off Johnson. Apel passed Johnson just two laps later, then reeled in Majeski for the 15-lap showdown. Behind them Johnson held third, Zehr finished fourth and Oudenhoven (also 26) rounded out the top five.
The win for Majeski sends a statement that he is back on his game early this season. Majeski was a solid title threat for most of last year, but had to sacrifice two TUNDRA starts to chase the Midwest Tour title. This season there are no conflicts to keep him from doing both. He is already looking forward to Round Two.
"I really like Jefferson. That's another of my favorite race tracks," Majeski said. "I'm excited to go there. Hopefully we can keep qualifying up front and getting good consistent finishes. We should be [in the Championship chase] at the end."
It is possible Majeski could be facing the same three drivers for a TUNDRA title this season. Zehr has committed to the full schedule. Johnson will be at the next two races (Jefferson and La Crosse), then will face a decision. Apel said prior to the event they would "see how things went at WIR and may be at more races." It would seem things went pretty well.
"We really did our homework over the winter. Our goal this year was to go to a track and win a race other than at Slinger. That's our number one priority," Apel said. "Winning a race at Slinger is up there, but I want to be able to go run other tracks and be competitive everywhere I go. To be able to do that in our first race outside of Slinger is a huge confidence booster for the team and myself."
Round Two for the TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes is set for Saturday, June 20 at Jefferson Speedway in Jefferson, Wis. Qualifying is set for 5 P.M. with racing to begin at 7. TUNDRA will be joined by the Mid-American Stock Car Series.
Jefferson Speedway is located on Highway 18 just outside of Jefferson, Wis. For more information visit www.jeffersonspeedway.com
The Unified Northern Drivers Racing Association (TUNDRA) Super Late Model Series was formed in 2011 as the Alive For Five Super Late Model Series at Dells Raceway Park. TUNDRA's business plan is based on a sustainable program for promoters and race teams alike, while still providing high-quality Super Late Model entertainment to fans.
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