Top Five Finishers Represent Five Different States
by Kari Shear-Carlson / Aug 5, 2015 - “This is unreal.” Those were the words from Rosemount, MN driver, Nick Murgic, on Tuesday night when he added his name to one of the most prestigious and historic racing events held at Wisconsin International Raceway. Murgic beat a stellar 30-car field of some of the best drivers in the country to win the traditional Dixieland 250 presented by Forest County Potawatomi.
The ARCA Midwest Tour presented by Scag Power Equipment 250-lap event returned in its original format that started in the 70’s, including controlled pit stops. Teams had to utilize a strategy based plan throughout the race and Murgic’s strategy paid off.
Jim Olson and Cory Kemkes led the field to the green flag. As Olson quickly slipped back, Kemkes got the lead. It didn’t take long for another WIR regular to challenge Kemkes for the lead. Kyle Calmes and Kemkes raced side-by-side for the lead for the first handful of laps until the first caution on lap six.
Fast qualifier, Johnny Sauter, and Lowell Bennett were hard in the inside retaining wall coming out of the dogleg of turn four and onto the front stretch as Olson slowed with mechanical problems. All three drivers were done for the night.
At the restart, local driver, Austin Luedtke, lined up on the inside of row one with Kemkes on the outside. Ty Majeski and Kyle Calmes made up the second row. Luedtke went straight to the lead but Kemkes challenged him right back for the top spot. Calmes passed Luedtke for the second spot followed by Dennis Prunty to third and Majeski up to the fourth spot.
On lap 52, Majeski took over the third position from Prunty and set his sights on Calmes and Kemkes. Ten laps later, the caution fell for former leader, Luedtke, who slowed on the front stretch.
Pit strategy came into play at this point. Both Kemkes and Calmes decided to pit, handing the lead over to Majeski, followed by Prunty, Austin Nason, Chris Weinkauf, and Nick Murgic.
Nason got the lead, but Majeski took it back on lap 73. Murgic was looking racy at this point looking to the high side and stealing the third spot from Prunty. Murgic shot passed Nason and settled into second behind Majeski.
The field finally settled in with the top seven spacing themselves out pretty evenly. The caution flag flew on lap 110 for Dalton Zehr. Once again pit strategy was going to be key being almost half way through the race. Majeski, Murgic, Casey Johnson, and Prunty were among the drivers who chose to pit.
Nason assumed the lead followed by Paul Shafer Jr, Calmes, Rich Bickle, and Ross Kenseth in fifth. Majeski returned in the ninth spot followed by Prunty and Johnson.
When the green flag waved, Nason maintained the lead, but was quickly taken over by Shafer Jr. Rich Bickle had moved into third. Kenseth started putting pressure on Calmes for fourth as Majeski had already charged his way into fifth. Majeski continued his charge clicking off the next few cars before moving into second behind Shafer Jr. With 95 laps to go, Majeski was right on the back of his bumper. With 86 laps to go, Majeski made the pass on the outside taking over the top spot yet again.
At this point, Nick Murgic was making his way back through the field after making a late pit stop on the last caution. On lap 166, Kemkes brushed the wall and brought out the caution. Shafer Jr, Nason, Kenseth, Nathan Haseleu, and Calmes all came down pit road. This left Majeski in the lead, followed by Prunty in second, and Murgic now up to third.
Dennis Prunty lined up on the inside of row one for the restart. Majeski was on the outside. Natalie Decker took the inside of row two with Murgic on the outside behind Majeski. Murgic was all over the rear bumper of Majeski’s car at the restart.
Majeski powered around Prunty for the lead and Murgic followed taking over second. A few laps later, coming out of the dogleg of turn four, the big one happened. Travis Sauter, Haseleu, Skylar Holzhausen, Cardell Potter, Jacob Goede, Jason Weinkauf, Chris Weinkauf, Kyle Calmes, and Natalie Decker were among those involved. The field was stopped under a red flag.
Haseleu, Holzhausen, Decker, Sauter, and Calmes were all able to return. When the race resumed, Majeski, Murgic, Prunty, Shafer Jr, and Kenseth were the top five. A few laps later, Kenseth had a tire go down, getting sideways on the backstretch and eventually bringing out another caution.
With 44 laps to go, Murgic dove to the lead on the restart as it appeared Majeski got stuck on the outside, only to eventually fall off the pace with mechanical problems, ending his chance for a Dixieland victory. Shafer Jr was now running in second followed by Casey Johnson.
As the laps started to wind down, Shafer Jr and Johnson were closing in on Murgic. Johnson looked to the outside of Shafer Jr for second and made it stick. He moved into second and started to challenge Murgic. It appeared Murgic was able to pull Casey off of turn two just enough to maintain his lead. Johnson tried making a move to the outside, but couldn’t make it stick.
With seven laps to go, Mike Lichtfeld spun coming out of turn two. This time it would be a single-file restart. Murgic was able to hold off Johnson and Shafer Jr for the final seven trips around, claiming the biggest victory of his career.
As Murgic came across the start-finish line to take the checkered flag, he lost his brakes and slammed into the turn one wall. He was okay, but the car had significant damage. He took a ride to victory lane in the tow truck, smile on his face, checkered flag in hand waving out the window, and car in tow.
“This is just unbelievable. I lost my brakes there,” said Murgic pointing to turn one. “But I guess it couldn’t have happened at a better time. That stuff happens,” Murgic added nonchalantly.
“I had to work pretty hard for it. I was using up the brakes pretty hard and gave it everything I had. He (Johnson) raced me clean at the end. He could’ve given me the bumper but he didn’t and I respect him for that. We’ll be racing like that for a long time.”
Edgerton Wisconsin’s, Casey Johnson, was happy with the team’s efforts. “That was a heck of a run. I was hoping to get a good run and be able to pinch him into three for the inside line, but he was just a little bit better than me.”
Paul Shafer Jr of Portage, IN finished third, Roscoe, IL native, Austin Nason, was fourth followed by current North Carolina resident, Ross Kenseth in fifth.
The next event for the ARCA Midwest Tour is Friday night, August 14th, at Norway Speedway in Norway, MI. For event details, log on to arcamidwesttour.com
Be sure to follow the ARCA Midwest Tour on Facebook (/midwesttour) and Twitter (@midwesttour).
To learn more about the Automobile Racing Club of America Midwest Tour, log on to arcamidwesttour.com. The Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) is among the leading auto racing sanctioning bodies in the country. Founded in 1953 by John and Mildred Marcum, the organization administers more than 100 events each year in multiple racing series, including the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards, the ARCA/CRA Super Series, the ARCA Truck Series and the ARCA Midwest Tour, plus weekly racing at Toledo and Flat Rock Speedways.