Saturday Thrills in Milwaukee’s ARCA Fest

Mid-American Stock Car winner Jeff Holtz

June 7, 2014

Story and Photos by Fay Hendrick

Saturday was a very long day for many of us who returned to The Milwaukee Mile for the second day. Early morning activities were followed by rotating practice sessions by divisions, while we were at a race reunion and car show for a quick visit. Arriving in time for qualifying, Camden Murphy took the fastest lap early on in the Midwest Trucks and Jeff Holtz claimed quick time in the Mid-American Stock Cars. We had learned that earlier a couple entries had expired engines, and one was disqualified on Saturday before qualifying began. Friday’s practice sessions were under full sun, while light clouds rolled in for Saturday’s events. Despite impending weather elsewhere, nothing came to Milwaukee.

The Vintage cars led off the features with a 20-lap contest. The restored race cars of yesteryear were among the entries, including the former Bob Jusola race car driven by one of the central Wisconsin veterans Royce Rossier. Dick Trickle’s longtime crew chief Victor Getzloff was excited to see Jusola’s old car again, enjoying reunions while here to help Johnny Sauter. The feature had only one slowdown when Butch Mierendorf’s engine trailed a huge smoke trail. Royce Rossier got the jump on the restart for one lap, but before halfway Gary Mitidiero made his winning pass.

Vintage race winner Gary Mitidiero

Miditiero found victory lane and climbed out as quickly as he could, waving to the crowd with glee. A very brave gal had been talked into a colorful outfit with mesh hose to serve as trophy girl for this event, and Miditiero happily received his trophy. With all the noise it was difficult to hear the winner talk, but there was no mistake he was a happy man.

The Midwest Trucks followed with a 30-lap contest. Earlier we found former ASA standout Dennis Lampman here with racing son Tim, who just days ago decided to borrow a truck for this event. It had always been Tim’s dream to race at Milwaukee like his father did, and Saturday the inversion placed him on the pole with Kevin Kneuse outside. Another ASA veteran, Tom Jones, was also on hand while his son Andy started in the third row. Lampman took the lead at the green flag, but two laps later a caution regrouped the field. The race resumed and Chester Ace moved up from the second row to the lead.

Midwest Truck winner Camden Murphy

Brown came from the fourth it to the lead on the tenth lap, and Jones charged into the lead six circuits later. Brown challenged inside Jones for several laps until he edged ahead at the stripe. With six laps remaining there was one more caution flag to close up the field again. This was followed by a concerted effort by Murphy, who worked his way up from the fifth row to lead the final five circuits. Brown was a close second, with Jones, Ace and Mike Corvo III completing the top five. Murphy erupted from his mount, excitedly pounding on his hood in celebration. Talking about working on his setup earlier, Murphy added, “It’s great to win here,” and was asked about getting past Brown. “I think he had a right front go down or something,” Murphy said, continuing, “I didn’t think I could pass him, but I thought why not.” Murphy took the chance and completed the sweep in this division.

The Mid-American feature followed with a 35-lap race with former champions in the field. The inversion placed Adam Bendzick and Jeremy Bloomberg in the front row, followed by Dan Gilster, Kevin Gentile, Ryan Gutknecht and Jeff Holtz. Bloomberg led the pack at the start and the race quickly sped along. Behind Bloomberg others were fading while Holtz moved up, finally getting past before the midway point. Soon Holtz was lapping the backmarkers until the sole caution regrouped the field with seven laps remaining. Holtz was up to the challenges of Bloomberg to the finish line, followed by Gilster, Brad Keith and Lyle Nowak, the latter pair up from the fifth row.

Spinning donuts on the frontstretch, Holtz marked his momentous win on The Mile. With his brother Brian in the field and family on hand to watch, Holtz could not stop smiling. Asked how he managed the win, Holtz replied, “One lap at a time. I hooked up off the bottom. I could see the 18 car (Bloomberg) and kept getting closer and closer. This is one of the biggest wins I’ve ever had.”

With hours of daylight left, the monster trucks and motorcycle daredevils took over the front of the track with jumps and stunts. The audience not only witnessed everything on the inside of the walls, but a huge car show outside the track. Tomorrow two more divisions close the show as the late models take center stage for the 3rd Annual Howie Lettow Memorial. We can hardly wait.