Mark Mackesy used the outside line to get to the front and then made a superb save on the inside to stay there on his way to returning to victory lane at State Park Speedway with a win in the 75-lap TUNDRA super late model feature Saturday night.
Mackesy scored his first win of the season at his home track, his second TUNDRA feature in the series’ four trips to State Park, and his third TUNDRA feature ever, besting a field of 18 cars to add to his collection of special event wins. He did so by holding off Mike Lichtfeld and Casey Johnson over the final 15 laps to win round three of the TUNDRA super lates’ six-race 2018 schedule.
Mackesy took the lead from early pacesetter Jordan Thiel on a lap 33 restart and led every lap the rest of the way. Starting on the outside of the leader, Mackesy got a good jump on the start and powered into first after Thiel had led the race’s first 32 laps.
The two drivers weren’t finished competing for the top spot, though. Battling fiercely again for first one lap after a restart with 26 laps to go, Mackesy got sideways in turn two on the inside of Thiel, nearly spinning in front of the entire pack. He kept the car straight, though, and was able to stay in the gas through the backstretch, keeping a nose inside Thiel as the cars entered the third turn and prevent him from taking the inside line. Mackesy then was able to get back by Thiel and clear him when the Appleton area driver drifted high out of turn four.
“I didn’t think I was going to be able to save it when me and Thiel got together there, and we both made it,” said Mackesy after the race. “I thought we were both going to spin, I don’t know how we held onto it but we did.”
Lichtfeld and Johnson also got past Thiel on the next lap, and both closed in on Mackesy over the next seven laps. Lichtfeld got to the leader’s back bumper on lap 59, but started to drift back soon after. Mackesy pulled away in the final laps to win by five car lengths, while Lichtfeld held off the challenge of the hard-charging Johnson for second, after the latter had moved through the pack after going to the back following involvement in a spin earlier in the race.
“The outside was pretty good here tonight,” said Mackesy. “A lot of nights here it’s not so good but the car rolled so good on the top. My crew chief, who’s not here tonight, decided to try something in the right rear to give it a little more spring, I was afraid we’d burn the right rear off but it worked out great.”
The night’s featured event was slowed by four yellow flags plus one red flag on lap 33. A restart on that lap saw John Beale, Neil Knoblock and Colin Reffner get together just past the start/finish line, with Knoblock’s car shooting across the track and hitting the outside retaining wall hard and ending up backed on top of a pile of tires entering turn one. The Wausau driver, who had made a charge from the 14th starting spot to fifth, was able to walk away but his night was finished, and fast qualifier Reffner also went to the pits and did not return.
Thiel dominated the race’s first 22 laps, starting on the pole and building a full straightaway lead on the field as the race remained green. His advantage went away when Steve Lichtfeld and Corey Jankowski tangled on the backstretch on lap 23, knocking both cars out of the race.
Thiel remained in first place through three restarts, including pulling away from Gabe Sommers on a lap 23 redo. During those restarts, though, Mackesy was moving through the field, advancing his positioning by choosing an outside line that many in front of him refused on restarts, and also moving up when Johnson got into Justin Mondeik on lap 32 while racing for third.
Mackesy went from ninth to third between laps 23 and 32, and then moved to the outside of the front row after second-place Sommers chose to start behind the leader Thiel on the inside on lap 32.
Thiel held on to finish fourth, while John Beale of Verona placed fifth. State Park Speedway weekly points leader Mondeik also moved back through the field and finished sixth.
Travis Volm helped make the night a clean sweep of features for SPS regulars. The Mosinee driver, a five-time pure stock champion at the track, won the 30-lap TUNDRA sportsman feature, and then came back with his limited late model car and claimed the 40-lap TUNDRA late model main.
Racing at State Park Speedway continues this Thursday, July 12, with the WCAR Gifts from Heaven bike giveaways in memory of loved ones. State Park’s regular weekly divisions including super late models plus support divisions will return, with Fred Mueller Qualifying beginning at 6 p.m. and racing at 7 p.m.
TUNDRA Super Late Models
Fast Qualifier: Colin Reffner, Wisconsin Rapids
Dash: Mike Lichtfeld, Pardeeville; Mark Mackesy, Wausau; Casey Johnson, Edgerton; John Beale, Verona; Reffner
First Heat: Jordan Thiel, Darboy; Gabe Sommers, Plover; Justin Mondeik, Gleason; Darek Gress, Neillsville; Wyatt Brooks, Amherst
Second Heat: Collin Slife, Richford; Jake Zellmer, Burlington; Neil Knoblock, Wausau; Corey Jankowski, Tomah; Jordan DeVoy, Lake Geneva
75-Lap Feature: Mackesy; M. Lichtfeld; Johnson; Thiel; Beale; Mondeik; Sommers; DeVoy; Slife; Zellmer; Mike Egan, Slinger; Gress; Sydney Wonderling, Glendale Heights, Ill.; Brooks; Knoblock; Reffner; Jankowski; Steve Lichtfeld, Portage
TUNDRA Late Models
Fast Qualifier: Travis Volm, Mosinee
Heat: Bryan Monday, Appleton; Mike Meyerhofer, Hilbert; Justin Woller, Kimberly; Volm; Jesse Bernhagen, Markesan
40-Lap Feature: Volm; Monday; Meyerhofer; Bernhagen; Woller
Fast Qualifier: Travis Volm, Mosinee
Heat: Dylan Wenzel, Fremont; Andy Casavant, Two Rivers; Volm; Phil Lehl, Kaukauna; Carson Sillars, Wausau
30-Lap Feature: Volm; Lehl; Casavant; Wenzel; Sillars