MWS: Kaukauna: Race notes

Kaukauna, Wisconsin (August 5, 2003)--Steve Carlson won the NASCAR Elite Division, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series Oneida Bingo and Casino 300, Tuesday night at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna. The triumph was...

Kaukauna, Wisconsin (August 5, 2003)--Steve Carlson won the NASCAR Elite Division, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series Oneida Bingo and Casino 300, Tuesday night at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna. The triumph was Carlson's second consecutive win on the tour and propelled him into the series point lead with just two races remaining.

Carlson took the lead with 22 laps to go from Eddie Hoffman when he ran out of fuel. Caution flew on the speedway for debris with just a handful of laps left and necessitated a two-lap shootout. Carlson was able to hold off Nathan Haseleu by .152-seconds. Tim Schendel notched his best 2003 Midwest Series effort with a third place run. Brian Hoppe and Ron Breese, Jr rounded out the top five.

"We had a real good car, but Hoffman and Hoppe were pretty darn quick," said Carlson. "When we pitted the first time on lap 88, Hoffman pitted as well. We knew we had to pit again, so we did. Afterwards, my spotter and crew chief were doing the math and they both said there's no way he (Hoffman) can make it on fuel."

The 300-loap grind saw Kirby Kurth and Hoffman go from row one. Kurth was wheeling a brand new Ed Holmes prepared mount.

Hoffman took off at the drop of the green while Kurth, Hoppe, Tim Rothe and Justin Diercks gave chase.

Hoffman had the dominate car early, leading the first 89 circuits. Carlson notched his first Bud Pole fast qualifier award earlier in the evening and drew an eight afterwards, meaning he would begin his drive from the eighth slot.

Carlson made his way into the top five within the first 10-laps and quickly joined forces with Hoppe and Rothe as the trio tried to track down Hoffman.

Several early race cautions kept the field tight and gave everyone ample opportunity to pit.

Most of the leaders elected to pit under caution on lap 89. Carlson's crew got him out ahead of Hoffman. Tim Sauter was scored the new leader as he and a handful of other lead lap cars elected not to pit.

Sauter gave up the lead when he pitted under caution on lap 114. That handed the lead over to Hoppe who had rookie Jeremy Lepak in hot pursuit.

Just nine laps after seeing the green reappear, Lepak, who had yet to pit, shot to the outside of Hoppe to convincingly take the lead.

Lepak fell victim a short time later however to the hard charging Hoffman and Carlson, both of which had fresh right side rubber. Hoffman worked past Lepak on lap 137 with Carlson close behind.

Hoffman proceeded to dominate the next 150 laps.

But Behind Hoffman, the race was fast and furious and took on elements of an endurance race.

Jason Hogan, the 2002 Kodak Southeast Series Rookie of the Year was making his first Midwest Series start coming behind the wheel of a Richie Wauters prepared Ford. Hogan had trouble getting a handle on the tricky D-shaped Wisconsin International Raceway oval, spinning out twice in the first 23 laps.

Hogan quickly adapted to the track and spent half of the race trying to get back on the lead lap. He finally prevailed, and once back on the lead lap, Hogan made a charge to the front. A flat right front tire derailed his progress however and relegated him to a tenth place run, two laps behind the leaders.

Tim Sauter, in a Jeff Victor owned Ford, also had a great run quickly go bad after contact with Rothe. Sauter got turned around and was collected by Lepak. While both drivers were able to pull away from the incident, damage was too severe on both mounts for the pilots to continue.

Josh Vadnais, a front runner almost the entire night, had his efforts go sour during a routine pit stop laps after the Sauter/Lepak scuffle. Vadnais came in for fresh tires and a fuel fill up. When the crew let the jack down, Vadnais' Chevrolet wouldn't move, the victim of a broken transmission.

Jon Lemke entered the Oneida Bingo and Casino 300 as perhaps the series hottest driver after posting seven consecutive top-five finishes. Lemke appeared on his way to another top finish when, on lap 211, his car suddenly lost power for a few seconds and then quickly got right back to speed. The car mysteriously lost power again 15 laps later. After a brief stay in the pits, Lemke was back under way with full power, but lost four laps in the process. After the event, a dejected Lemke described his mounts woes as having a fuel pick-up problem.

A blown tire ended Rothe's night in the front stretch concrete while running in the lead pack.

Clint Bowyer had his best career Midwest Series run cut short after contact with the lapped car of Mark Voigt sent him to the pits for repairs.

All the while, Hoffman was on cruise control up front surviving restart after restart and maintaining a three to five car length lead over his nearest rival.

But with the checkers in sight, Hoffman's machine sputtered once down the front stretch and again on the back straight, forcing a green flag, splash-and-go stop for fuel and handing the lead to Carlson.

"We pitted early at lap 89, which gave us just over a 100 miles to go," said the dejected Hoffman. "We usually get 100 miles on a tank, and we had 40 or 50 caution laps so we figured it wasn't even going to be close. We had it full. Obviously something is awry or we figured wrong because we ran out of gas."

Debris of off the Kurth mount put the field under one last caution and set up a green-white-checkered shootout.

"That situation is tough because either you protect what you have or you go for the lead," said Haseleu of the two-lap sprint. "On the first corner I had to protect what I had and I got away from Tim, but Steve was out too far."

Schendel endured to finish third and welcomed his first podium finish of the 2003 campaign.

"Third place is good because we've just had extremely bad luck all year," said Schendel. "We should be running better than we have been. I hope tonight shows it and I hope we can finish out the season with podium finishes and hopefully a win before it's over."

On the pace lap, Jeff Way lost a belt under the hood of his Chevrolet. He and teammate Russ Blakeley came down pit lane before the field was sent under green. Way was able to hop in Blakeley's machine, buckle up and join the tail end of the field before the start of the race. Way made the most of the car switch, driving himself to a sixth place finish, matching his career best showing.

Ryan Hanson and Eric Fransen avoided trouble and finished the 300-lap affair seventh and eighth respectfully while Hoffman's fuel woes netted him a ninth place finish.

The International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series next travels to Wisconsin Dells Motor Speedway in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, Sunday, September 14.


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Drivers Tim Sauter , Clint Bowyer , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Steve Carlson