Brian Hoppe returns to Re/Max Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring victory lane with Oneida Bingo & Casino 250 win. Kaukauna, Wis (August 6, 2002)--Brian Hoppe captured his third RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring win of the season, Tuesday ...
Brian Hoppe returns to Re/Max Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring victory lane with Oneida Bingo & Casino 250 win.
Kaukauna, Wis (August 6, 2002)--Brian Hoppe captured his third RE/MAX Challenge Series, NASCAR Touring win of the season, Tuesday night, in the Oneida Bingo & Casino 250 at Wisconsin International Raceway. The win was Hoppe's second in the prestigious event, the other coming in 2000, and netted him $8,050.
Current RE/MAX Challenge Series championship point leader, Steve Carlson, trailed Hoppe across the finish line by 3.094 seconds. Local favorite Terry Baldry went from fifth to third in the final corner of the event. Paul Menard and Josh Vadnais rounded out the top five.
"We had a good car in practice," said Hoppe. "But I'm really surprised we were able to pull away at the end."
The 250-lap grind started with Hoppe, in his Gildan Activewear Chevrolet, on the pole with Nathan Haseleu along side. Haseleu was making his first series start of the year, subbing for Scot Field.
Hoppe quickly jumped out to a commanding lead, leaving Haseleu, Scott Hansen, Vadnais and Jon Lemke to battle for second. Carlson started from the seventh spot, but by the time the first caution flew on lap 22 he was riding in third.
Carlson shot around Hansen on the restart to assume the runner-up position and immediately set his sights set on Hoppe.
Almost seeming satisfied just to log laps in the early going, Hoppe didn't put up much of a fight as Carlson went by him on lap 28.
Once out front, Carlson set a torrid pace, leaving only 15 of the original 25 drivers on the lead lap around the big .50-mile oval.
The second caution, again for debris, flew on lap 85. All of the lead lap cars, except for Vadnais and Jeff Kendall, used the opportunity to pit for fuel and rubber.
Hoppe's crew gave him a superior stop while Carlson had his progress slowed when he was held on pit road for an infraction.
"Those guys were awesome," said Hoppe referring to his crew. "I screwed up the pit stop the last time we were here. And we just really worked hard at not making any mistakes."
Once back underway, Vadnais led a handful of laps before Hoppe could work past he and Kendall. Hoppe then proceeded to punish the rest of the field, opening up as much as a four second advantage.
One final caution slowed the pace on lap 191 when Lemke, Menard and Larry Hunter all tangled in turn four. Menard and Hunter were able to continue while Lemke was forced to his pit stall for lengthy front end repairs.
With 15 laps to go, Carlson had inched up to Hoppe's rear bumper and appeared ready to make one final assault on the leader.
"I was saving my tires for one final run on him," said Carlson. "But my car was loose and it really got loose there at the end and I just didn't have anything left."
Baldry's podium finish almost didn't happen as the eight-time Wisconsin International Raceway track champion was saved by a caution just a car length prior to being lapped.
It got even more crazy for the driver of the E-Z Lube Chevrolet in the final two laps.
"The 29 (Justin Diercks) and the 18 (Menard) were really going at it there at the end," recalled Baldry. "Then going into three on the last lap it looked like the 18 tried to go to the high side of the 29, then the 29 spun. I'm not real sure what happened, I just drove by them."
Jeremy Lepak, competing in just his third RE/MAX Challenge Series event, came to the checkered sixth with Diercks, the Bud Pole fast qualifier, recovering from his spin to place seventh. Former track champion Scott Hansen, Tim Rothe and Tim Schendel rounded out the top ten.
Hoppe led 182 of the 250 laps that made up the event. With his win, he moved to within 60 points of Carlson in the chase for the season-long championship.
The RE/MAX Challenge Series next travels to Madison International Speedway, in Oregon, Wisconsin, August 23-24, for the running of the Howie Chaussee Automotive 250.