By Brandon Aschenbrenner
Special to the City Times
New ownership took over Golden Sands Speedway for the 2017 season, and the Smiley family wanted to kick winter, and a wild and crazy Yeti, to the curb with an early spring race.
The inaugural Thaw race left fans smiling in the stands and drivers happy to get the cob webs shaken off of the race cars. Beautiful weather brought the droves of fans to the stands and some great racing took place on the speedway in all divisions.
Leading off the afternoon was the Super Stock/Sportsman class. Rule changes have made things easier for different classes that are normally run at other tracks to participate together. Dave Trute (2), a touring champion last season, returned to Golden Sands and took fast time honors. The first heat would find Tim Schultz (5), a Michigan native, make his way to victory lane. In the second heat race, Greg Back (6), a very strong weekly championship contender last season, stretched his muscle and made it to victory lane. Trute and Back went back and forth on social media leading up to this event, and it would come down to the feature to see who would take home the win in the Spring Fever 40.
The feature was a hard fought battle for the lead between Tim Schultz and local Brad Scholze (87) for the first few laps, and then Scott Luck (12), a normal Dells Raceway Park driver, made his way to the outside of Schultz and raced side by side until the very end. Schultz held the inside line with success until Luck made a strong push and got a nose ahead of Schultz at the line as the white flag flew. Schultz then spun in turn 1 bringing out a caution and creating a yellow/checkered situation, which would hand the win to Scott Luck. John Zuch (8) was given the 2nd position after spinning to avoid the Schultz car. Greg Back kept Dave Trute behind him and took 3rd and 4th respectfully with Jason Stark taking a top 5 finish home to Sparta.
The Late Models packed 31 cars from 5 different states into the pit area to attempt to make the 20 car starting field. The top 16 would make the field on time with 4 moving up from the Frost 30 lap event. Jim Sauter Jr. (20) driving for car owner Marion Cole, took fast time tripping the transponder at 12.186. The top 16 in time then ran odd/even races to determine the starting positions for the 100 lap Thaw main event. Jerry Brickner (9) was able to fend off the rest of the field in the odd race for the rookie’s first win in a super late model. Mike Lichtfeld (44) dominated the even race to claim the 2nd starting position for the main even after starting near the back. In the Frost 30, the top 4 drivers would advance to the feature. Eagle River’s Natalie Decker (04) was able to make her way to the front after 9 laps and a few minor cautions and took home the win and a 17th place start in the main event. Wyatt Brooks (25), Austin Nason (14) and Eugene Gregorich Jr. (14) rounded out the top 4 to advance.
The Thaw started with Jerry Brickner and Mike Lichtfeld on the front row and Lichtfeld wasted no time getting to the lead and began to pull away from the field. Lichtfeld caught the back of the pack to start lapping cars within 13 laps and Natalie Decker spun 2 laps later to bring out the first caution after going a lap down. A long green flag run followed with Lichtfeld continue to annihilate the field. With 33 laps remaining, the 20 car of Jim Sauter Jr spun off of turn 4. After the restart, contact between MG Gajewski (22) and Gregg Pawelski (42) sending the 42 car spinning. Lichtfeld continued to lead and get great restarts including after another yellow with Jerry Brickner spinning in turn 2 collecting Rich Schumann (54) and 2nd place qualifier Travis Dassow (35). A final restart felt like a rerun as Mike Lichtfeld never looked back or gave up the lead taking home the Thaw 100 Yeti trophy. Casey Johnson (5) had his car come to life late in the race and he managed to pull out a 2nd place finish while Stratford, WI’s Derek Kraus (9) took 3rd place. Veterans Mark Eswein (71) and Jeremy Lepak (40) finished out the top 5 spots. Eugene Gregorich Jr made his way up to 4th before slowing with 5 laps remaining after running out of fuel.
In the Pure Stocks, Karl Genett (16K) took quick time by almost beating the track record. Mark Kalata (75x) was back to the race track and he picked up the win in the heat race. During the Spring Thunder 25, Kalata had the early lead, but Karl Genett was able to work past his brother Kyle (OneSixX) and Kalata to capture a win in a dominating performance. Kalata would hold on for 2nd, Kyle Genett 3rd, Louie Merriam (17) 4th and Brandon Knoblock (71) 5th.
The 4-Cylindar Outlaw and Stock cars were run together, and it would Ian Arneson (14), last year’s track champion, picking up fast time. Charlie Nickel (12), the Chili, WI driver took care of business running away with a win in heat 1. Tim Hintz, the 2nd place qualifier, took home the win in heat 2. The feature, the Frostbite 25, saw Charlie Nickel start up front and he ran away from everyone until just after half way when the car appear to start losing speed. Tim Hintz, the past local Late Model and Super Stock champion, made his way past Nickel. A spin by Dave Auringer (3) would cause a caution with 5 laps left. Nickel was able to stay close to Hintz on the restart, but could not make a pass on him as Tim Hintz took the checkered flag. Nickel, Brandon DeLacy (119), Scott Ciesielski (21) and Ian Arneson took top 5 finishes.
The next event at Golden Sands Speedway is Friday, May 5. It’s the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Golden Sands Speedway and the Grand Re-Opening of the stock car racing season. All of our weekly divisions will be in action.