SCHENDEL WINS OKTOBERFEST 200 AT LACROSSE; DIERCKS CLAIMS SECOND NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP WEST SALEM, Wis. (Oct. 8, 2005) -- Justin Diercks ended Steve Carlson's four-year championship streak in the NASCAR...
SCHENDEL WINS OKTOBERFEST 200 AT LACROSSE; DIERCKS CLAIMS SECOND NASCAR AUTOZONE ELITE DIVISION, MIDWEST SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP
WEST SALEM, Wis. (Oct. 8, 2005) -- Justin Diercks ended Steve Carlson's four-year championship streak in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series, by winning the 2004 title for himself. Their rivalry carried over into the 2005 season, as the two short track stars ranked at the top of the Midwest Series point standings for most of the season.
This year's battle culminated in the season-ending Oktoberfest 200 presented by Kwik Trip, at the .545-mile LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in Western Wisconsin. While Tim Schendel won the race, Diercks claimed his second consecutive championship with a third-place finish.
"It's a dream come true, winning two in a row," said the newly-crowned two-time champion from Davenport, Iowa. "I'm glad it's over, I'm really happy. The whole entire year has been great. All of my family and friends who support me -- I have a great crew behind me."
With his title assured, Diercks says he raced conservatively in the closing laps. "I could've made a charge on [Eddie Hoffman and Erik Darnell]. I don't know if I could've gotten by them, but I thought better of it. I got behind them and ended up getting a good finish out of it."
A good finish for Diercks, indeed. In the final tally, Diercks beat Carlson for the title by a 59-point margin (1,489-1,430).
The championship-deciding race began with Ryan Carlson and Tony Bagstad on the front row, after the top eight qualifiers were inverted, and Carlson assumed the lead in the opening laps. Schendel, who resides close to the speedway in Sparta, Wis., started in the fourth position and grabbed the lead after the sixth lap, while Brent Kirchner and Diercks ran second and third.
After 45 laps, Schendel's lead remained intact. Meanwhile, near the middle of the pack, Steve Carlson was racing in the seventh spot -- mathematically out of title contention yet slowly gaining on the leaders after he had started at the rear of the field.
Pit strategy became a factor when a caution flag slowed the field on the 48th lap. During the caution period, Darnell, Hoffman and Steve Carlson serviced their cars on pit road, yet Schendel and Diercks stayed out on the race track.
Diercks stayed with Schendel when the race restarted. The duo soon opened a gap of nearly three seconds over the rest of the field, which was led by Darnell in the third position. Darnell eventually caught Diercks and passed him for second with 79 laps left to race, and began to slowly reel in Schendel.
Darnell caught Schendel with less than 50 laps remaining and the two battled for the lead until the race's second caution flag waved with 36 laps remaining. The leaders pitted during the caution with Schendel remaining in the front after beating the others off pit road.
With the Midwest Series season completed, the teams and drivers will gather Oct. 29 in Green Bay, Wis., for the championship awards banquet. The top 10 in the final standings have also been invited to compete in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, Nov. 11-12 at Irwindale (Calif.) Speedway. This special post-season invitational event awards nearly $500,000 to competitors and will be televised live on SPEED Channel.