KALWASINSKI: Chicago Chips


WEST SALEM, Wis.— If you want racing, the annual Oktoberfest Race Weekend at Wisconsin’s LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway is the place to be. This year’s 43rd annual weekend (Oct. 4–7) saw some 700 laps of feature racing with more than 15 racing divisions in competition.

Travis Sauter en route to winning the Oktoberfest 100. (Stan Kalwasinski photo)

This year’s event started again on Thursday and ran through Sunday, which saw the highlight of the weekend — the ASA Midwest Tour 100 lapper won by Travis Sauter.

Sauter, the third-generation Wisconsin speedster, claimed his fourth ASA victory of the season, although running a limited schedule. Part of the Sauter racing clan from Necedah, Sauter, the son of Tim Sauter and grandson of Jim Sauter, is now credited with three Oktoberfest victories.

Sauter’s uncle and NASCAR Truck Series competitor, Johnny Sauter, was the apparent winner of last year’s ASA 100 at LaCrosse, but a technical infraction found after the race caused officials to take away the victory and give it to Travis Sauter. Travis Sauter also won the race in 2009.

“I love this track and it’s a fun event with all the fans,” said Sauter after his victory. “I was loose as hell there (at the end). I thought we were done with 40 (laps) to go. I didn’t think I could hold on anymore.

“I guess we all fell off equally. I mean I was really loose. I was driving it hard there at the end. Luckily, we had enough to hold on.”

Sauter wheeled his Cranberry Creek Cranberries-sponsored Impala SS No. 5 to the victory over Skylar Holzhausen and three-time ‘Fest winner Dan Fredrickson. Racing on the five-eighths-mile paved oval, Sauter took the lead from Chris Wimmer on lap 55. Wimmer was driving his Impala, which carried a Larry Detjens-tribute paint scheme, honoring Wimmer’s late uncle. Detjens was part of Central Wisconsin’s “racing gang” and died from injuries suffered in a crash in 1981.

Jonathan Eilen of Hampton, Minn., claimed the ASA Midwest Tour Championship for 2012 with his fifth-place finish in the Sunday’s 100 lapper. Eilen, who scored one ASA victory during his title season, started 24th in the feature, but methodically moved through the field.

“This is just awesome,” said an emotional Eilen. “I couldn’t do it without my team, my family, my wife and everybody. The biggest thing with this kind of stuff is to never give up. You just have to go out and do what you have to do, but never give up and that’s just what we did.”

Eilen took a provisional start for Sunday’s main event and, going into the race, had only a 13-point lead over Nathan Haseleu, who finished eighth. Haseleu has the distinction of starting every ASA event since the series’ inception.

Jeff Storm paced a field of 35 entries during Saturday’s ASA qualifying. Storm’s day ended early Sunday as he was involved in a multi-car accident on lap two in turn three. LaCrosse favorite, Steve Carlson was among the other drivers caught in the pileup.

James Swan of Genoa City won the ASA Midwest Truck Series championship, scoring the victory in the division’s 30-lap feature race Friday. Swan also won Saturday night’s 40-lap Mid American Stock Car Series main event with Jeremy Spoonmore of Somonauk, Ill., finishing second and taking this year’s overall Mid American title.


Less than a week ago, the 29-year-old Spoonmore was involved in a scary-looking, fire-belching inferno when he blew the engine in his car during the Mid American feature race at Illinois’s Rockford Speedway. Racing in Rockford’s annual National Short Track Championships program, Spoonmore escaped injury, but his car was pretty much done for. Up stepped Lyle Nowak and Ron Bloomberg.

In a tight battle for the Mid American championship with Spoonmore, Nowak, the veteran Wisconsin racer, gave Spoonmore his ‘spare’ engine after the races last Sunday at Rockford. The next day, Spoonmore called Bloomberg, looking for a car to race at LaCrosse.

“I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Lyle,” said Spoonmore after securing the championship. “That guy (Nowak) is a true champion. The Mid American series is like a family. I could hug him (Bloomberg) right now. I called him Monday and he said just come get it (the car), it’s yours.”

Zach Riddle, of Brooklyn, Wis., (not New York) enjoyed a successful weekend during this year’s Oktoberfest. He started on the right foot by setting fast time on Saturday afternoon for the Big 8 Series late model action, out qualifying 52 other entries. Riddle won the night’s 68-lap series headliner. He came back Sunday afternoon and was the overall winner of the three-segment JMcK 63 for Big 8 Series-style cars. J. Herbst, Bobby Wilberg and Kyle Shear were winners of the individual 21-lap segments.

Jeremy Miller, of Rockton, Ill., wrapped up his fourth career Big 8 Series stock car title with his second-place finish in Saturday’s 68 lapper. Andy Jones, son of former Chicago area stock car speedster, Tom Jones, competed in two divisions during the weekend, wheeling for the first time an ASA truck and a super late model stock car – Erik Darnell’s ride. Darnell, a NASCAR Nationwide Series regular, came from a 20th starting spot in Sunday’s ASA 100 to finish seventh.

ASA’s Steve Einhaus reports that ASA will be back at the “Milwaukee Mile” in 2013 with Monday/Tuesday, July 7 and 8, as the dates.

The address for news and comments is 9618 Cypress Ave., Munster , Ind., 46321-3418 or email to [email protected]



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Stan Kalwasinski
Stan Kalwasinski has been involved in auto racing for nearly 50 years as both a writer and photographer. He has a particular interest in Chicagoland auto racing — primarily stock car racing. Look for him at tracks in the Chicagoland region of Illinois.