Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (July 13, 2002)--Brian Hoppe captured the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring Welcome Back 200, Saturday night at Dells (Wis) Motor Speedway. The win was Hoppe's second of the season, both coming at Dells Motor ...
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin (July 13, 2002)--Brian Hoppe captured the RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring Welcome Back 200, Saturday night at Dells (Wis) Motor Speedway. The win was Hoppe's second of the season, both coming at Dells Motor Speedway.
"That was probably the best car we've had in a long time," said Hoppe. "We made one change from the time we rolled it off the trailer."
Hoppe beat Steve Carlson to the checkered flag by 2.258 seconds. Jeff Kendall passed Jeremy Lepak on the final lap to capture third place. With Lepak settling for fourth, Eddie Hoffman drove home fifth.
Although he was challenged on numerous occasions, Hoppe, in his Gildan Activewear Chevrolet, led all 200 laps en route to the win. With the win, Hoppe closed to within 47 points of Steve Carlson in the season-long championship chase.
Hoppe started on the outside pole with rookie Erik Darnell starting from the pole position. On the initial start, Darnell's clutch failed, scattering the field behind him. While Darnell limped his A.M.I. Trailer Leasing Chevrolet to the pits, Hoppe was able to stretch his lead.
"I didn't see what happened there," said Hoppe of the initial start. "I feel bad that the fans didn't get to see a nice clean start, but all I know is that when the green flies, I'm going."
Minnesota's Jon Lemke, Ryan Hanson and Hoffman all took turns challenging Hoppe for the point, however none was able to wrestle the top spot away from the 1999 series champion.
Carlson started from the 11th position and quickly worked his way to the front.
"I used up the tires getting to the front," said Carlson. "By the time I got up to Brian, I didn't have anything left for him."
Jeff Kendall, racing at his home track, drove to his second top five finish in just his third start of the year.
"Those last few laps were rough," said Kendall. "When I was working on Steve, he (Lepak) used me a couple of times. The last lap, there was a lapped car that we ran across, Lepak slid up and I was able to get under him. I bumped him, I didn't mean to, but we bumped and I don't think he liked that too much."
Lepak, in the E-Z Lube/NAVY entry, making just his second career RE/MAX Challenge Series start, did, however, record his second top five finish.
Hoppe survived a potentially race ending mishap on lap 83 when he came across a pack of eight lapped cars. As the cluster raced down the front straight, Tim Bell's machine suddenly lost all power. That sent the group, including Hoppe, Lemke, Hoffman and Hanson, scrambling for a way around Bell's disabled mount.
"That was wild," said Hoppe. "That would have been real disappointing to lose a race on that, but I had a heads up spotter and thankfully everything worked out good."
While circulating under the ensuing caution flag, third running Hanson had his Magic Construction Ford quit on the front straight, the victim of low oil pressure. The mechanical woe cost Hanson a shot at his best career RE/MAX Challenge Series finish.
The event was slowed under caution 3 times for just 31 laps.
Jon Lemke, in the K.C. Colors Chevrolet, captured his second Bud Pole fast qualifier award, while Hoppe laid claim to the Gatorade Front Runner award. And for the fourth time this season, Josh Vadnais claimed rookie of the race honors.
The RE/MAX Challenge Series next travels to Gateway International Raceway, in Madison, Illinois, July 19-20, for the running of the RE/MAX Challenge 125. The event will be run as a companion event to the Busch Series, Grand National Division and will be broadcast on the Speed Channel, July 29 at 7:00 p.m. (CT).