MWS: LaCrosse: Season finale preview

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 22, 2003 -- Steve Carlson (Wilson Oil Company Chevrolet) and Eddie Hoffman (Lisa Thomas Salon Chevrolet) are locked in a torrid battle for the NASCAR Elite Division, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest...

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 22, 2003 -- Steve Carlson (Wilson Oil Company Chevrolet) and Eddie Hoffman (Lisa Thomas Salon Chevrolet) are locked in a torrid battle for the NASCAR Elite Division, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series Championship lead. The contest will be settled, Sunday, October 5 when the Midwest Series travels to the LaCrosse (Wis) Fairgrounds Speedway for the season finale, the Oktoberfest 250. Carlson, an eight-time Midwest Series titlist, holds a 34 point advantage over Hoffman.

"I have a lot of confidence going into LaCrosse, because I've had some good runs there in the past," said Hoffman. "When you're playing catch up, you like to do it in little chunks. We can still catch Steve, but now we have to hope for him to have a sub par day."

Hoffman has three career Oktoberfest wins, with all coming since 1998.

While most of the Oktoberfest crowd will focus much of their attention on the championship chase, three other significant point battles within the field will be settled at the annual series curtain closer.

Eric Fransen (Sonya's Rose Chevrolet) simply needs to start the Oktoberfest 250 to secure the Victory Circle Chassis Rookie of the Year crown. Fransen holds a seven point margin over nearest competitor, Jeremy Lepak (Metro Milwaukee Auto Auction Chevrolet).

"The rookie title was our main goal all season," said Fransen. "To be this close to the prize and the $5,000 that goes with it is exciting."

In April NASCAR brass announced the much anticipated, year-end, Toyota All-Star Showdown. The top-10 in the season-long points battle will be invited to the inaugural all star event. Currently 78 points separate 10th running Lepak from 11th place Nathan Haseleu (G&M Auto and Transmission Ford).

"Now I'm wishing we would have attended the season opener at Rockford," said Haseleu.

Haseleu's team didn't plan on running the entire Midwest Series schedule, but when the Toyota All-Star Showdown was announced, their plans changed. It was the series opener at Rockford, in April, where drivers learned of the special race and Haseleu wasn't in attendance.

"We've been playing catch up ever since."

And not to be overlooked is the battle for 20th place in the final standings between two budget minded teams; Dan Bedard (Bedard Racing Chevrolet) and Josh Vadnais (Discount Taxi Chevrolet).

Year-end point fund money is awarded to only the top-20 in the final championship point standings. Just 31 points separate Vadnais, the 2002 series Rookie of the Year, from 20th place Bedard, a Victory Circle Chassis Rookie of the year contender.

"This is the first time I've tried to run the entire schedule for a traveling series, and it's really tough," said Bedard. "We don't have the resources as some of the other teams. But now with only one race to settle the points, you can bet we'll be prepared and pumped up."

A crash at Gateway International Raceway cost Bedard a race and set his program back. A wicked crash by Vadnais in May cost him some banged up ribs, a demolished race car and three races.

"It's ironic that Josh, and his dad Joe, and I are in this position," said Bedard. "Last year I lent them my car for a race and they had a good run. It turned out to be instrumental in their Rookie of the Year chase. This year they've helped me at every track we've been at, giving me pointers on set ups and how to drive the track. They've practically adopted me as a member of their team. Now we're battling for one spot in the points and the $2500 that goes along with it."

The green flag is scheduled to wave over the Oktoberfest 250 at 1:00 p.m. (CT). Twenty-eight drivers are scheduled to fill the field for the 250-lap affair, Sunday, October 5. The fastest 16 competitors in time trials earn an automatic starting berth in the main event with six additional starters transferring from the 25-lap last chance qualifying race. Up to six additional provisional starting spots are available based on current points. Qualifying is set for Saturday, October 4 at 3:30 p.m. with the last chance qualifier scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Saturday.

The International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series will highlight the 34th annual Oktoberfest race weekend. The four-day racing party will feature a total of 15 divisions and over 600 participants. LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway is located east of LaCrosse, just north of I-90 at exit 12, in West Salem. You can contact the track by phone at (608) 786-1525 or reach them online at www.lacrossespeedway.com <http://www.dellsmotorspeedway.com/>

NEWS OF NOTE

* The International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series has visited LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway on 31 previous occasions; the last seven of which have been sanctioned by NASCAR. Tom Reffner won the series' first visit to the speedway on July 4, 1979.

* This year marks the first under the series' new name: International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series. For the past five seasons, the series was known as the RE/MAX Challenge Series. Prior to that it was known throughout the Midwest as the ARTGO Challenge Series.

* Steve Carlson is the International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series defending champion.

* The Midwest Series has highlighted the Oktoberfest race weekend since 1987. Previous race winners include Joe Shear (4), Eddie Hoffman (3), Tom Carlson (2), Ted Musgrave, Dick Trickle, Scott Hansen, Terry Baldry, Matt Kenseth, Steve Carlson and Brian Hoppe.

* The Midwest Series last competed on August 5 at Wisconsin International Raceway in Kaukauna, Wisconsin. Steve Carlson survived the 300-lap grind, which at times took on the tone of an endurance race. Carlson took the lead with 22 laps to go when race leader Eddie Hoffman ran out of fuel. Carlson then survived a green-white-checkered finish and held off Nathan Haseleu to record his third win of the season and second in a row. Tim Schendel rounded out the top three. Hoffman led a total of 231 laps, basically dominating most of the event. The fuel miscue however netted him a ninth place finish. Carlson was also the Bud Pole fast qualifier while eighth finishing Eric Fransen was the highest finishing Victory Circle Chassis Rookie of the Year contender. Haseleu's second place run was his best series finish since he won on August 27, 2000. Schendel's third place run was his first podium finish of the year. With the win, Carlson regained the series point lead and now leads Hoffman by 34 points with just one race remaining on the schedule.

* In the 2002 version of this event, Brian Hoppe was forced to start the 250-lap race at the rear of the field due to a violation of NASCAR's private testing rule. Hoppe drove to the front, aided by brilliant pit strategy, and found himself in the lead on lap 212 and led the remainder of the event. The win was his first in the Oktoberfest headliner. Jon Lemke and Justin Diercks rounded out the top three. Diercks was the Bud Pole fast qualifier. Leader Eddie Hoffman made a crucial pit strategy error on lap 189 that probably cost him the race. Hoffman appeared to have the race well in hand as the field circled the speedway, under caution, at lap 189. Hoffman faked like he was going down pit lane, but pulled back onto the speedway. Hoppe, Lemke and Diercks all pitted for fresh tires. In spite of the fact that they restarted the race mired in mid-pack, the fresh rubber quickly propelled them to the front of the class while Hoffman slid back to sixth.

* The most recent event at Wisconsin International Raceway greatly changed the complexion of the championship point chase. With his win, Steve Carlson got the point lead back for the first time since winning the season opener. After starting the season with 17th and 24th place finishes in the first two events, Jon Lemke had posted seven consecutive top-five runs and vaulted into fourth spot in the championship point standings. Lemke had fuel pick up problems at WIR, finished 13th, and slid back to fifth in the standings, 166 points behind Carlson. Eddie Hoffman entered the WIR event as the point leader. But when he ran out of fuel with 22 laps to go, he slid all the way to ninth in the final run down, and second in the point standings, 34 behind Carlson.

* As he has done from week one, Eric Fransen continues to lead a very talented Victory Circle Chassis Rookie of the Year class. Fransen recovered nicely from a poor run at Pikes Peak International Raceway with an eighth place run at WIR. Jeremy Lepak still sits second in the rookie standings, but his first DNF of the season set him back in his quest for the rookie crown. After WIR, Lepak split with car owner Dave Stammer and will finish the year behind the wheel of a Jerry Gunderman owned ride. Clint Bowyer (Sonic Drive Ins Chevrolet), Mark Voigt (Bilstein Shocks Chevrolet) and A.J. Rhoads (Dakota Rhoads Masonry Chevrolet) round out the top five in the rookie standings.

* POWERade Sports Drink is a welcome addition as a new contingency sponsor with the International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series in 2003. POWERade will put $750 up for grabs at each event to the eligible driver who advances the most positions during the course of the race.

* Hoosier Tire returns as the tire of choice for the International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series in 2003. The Indiana based company will give away over $4200 worth of their rubber at every series event. Other contingency sponsors include Anheuser-Busch, Auto Meter Products, Edelbrock Intake Manifolds, Five Star Stock Car Bodies, Flowmaster, G-Force, Goody's Headache Powder, Holley Carburetors, JE Pistons, Mac Tools, Mobil 1 Oil, Moroso, MSD, Penske Shocks, Quarter Master, Quick Car, Raybestos Brakes, "76" Racing Gasoline, Wix Air Filters and Victory Circle Chassis.

WHAT'S IN A NUMBER?

"The number 8 came about in 1996 when myself and Fred Appleton teamed up to run the ARTGO Challenge Series and run for Rookie of the Year. And at the same time I was hired to drive the Mike Butz owned number 8 at Kaukauna on Thursday nights. We didn't have a number for the ARTGO car. We weren't real picky but I didn't want number 1 like my dad had, because I didn't need that pressure as a rookie. I ran 16 on my Mid-American car, but that number was already being used in Chicagoland late model scene. We finally figured, I'm running the number 8, Mike Butz car, why not put 8 on the ARTGO car. It's been 8 ever since."0x2022Eddie Hoffman

FROM THE ARCHIVES

October 8, 19950x2022Steve Carlson, in search of his fourth Midwest Series title, entered Oktoberfest as the point leader. Carlson got tangled up in a multi-car incident early on in the 100-lap affair, damaging his mount. Joe Shear won the race, passing Matt Kenseth for the lead on the 82nd lap. Carlson settled for 26th. Kevin Cywinski drove home fourth in the race and stole the season-long championship from Carlson. It was Cywinski's first, and only, Midwest Series crown.

Fast Facts

What: Oktoberfest 250 (NASCAR Elite Division, International Truck and Engine Corporation Midwest Series, Race 11 of 11).
Where: LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway, West Salem, Wisconsin.
When: 1:00 p.m. CT, Sunday, October 5.

Track layout: .625-mile, semi-banked, asphalt oval.
Race length: 250 laps, 156.25 miles.

Schedule: Saturday, October 4, 7:00 a.m. (CT) Haulers Enter; 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Practice; 3:30 p.m. Time Trials (2 Laps); 6:30 p.m. Qualifying Race; Sunday, October 5, 1:00 p.m. Oktoberfest 250.

Current championship point standings: 1) Steve Carlson 1628; 2) Eddie Hoffman 1594; 3) Ron Breese, Jr 1527; 4) Brian Hoppe 1485; 5) Jon Lemke 1462; 6) Tim Schendel 1421; 7) Justin Diercks 1373; 8) Eric Fransen 1361; 9) Ryan Hanson 1338; 10) Jeremy Lepak 1332.

Current Victory Circle Chassis Rookie of the Year Standings: 1) Eric Fransen 93; 2) Jeremy Lepak 86; 3) Clint Bowyer 76; 4) Mark Voigt 64; 5) A.J. Rhoads 44

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR
Drivers Matt Kenseth , Dick Trickle , Ted Musgrave , Clint Bowyer , Tim Schendel , Justin Diercks , Steve Carlson , Scott Hansen