SLINGER, Wis. —Long after the races ended with the crowd filed out of the gates and the parking lots emptied Tuesday night, the quietness around the Slinger Super Speedway would normally be a time for Rich Bickle to reflect on a tremendous career at the world’s fastest quarter-mile oval after earlier crossing the finish line second behind Steve Apel in his final Slinger laps during the SuperSeal Nationals presented by Miller Lite.
However, the stillness quickly turned to surprised astonishment when word came that after Apel’s car failed postrace technical inspection due to an illegal carburetor spacer, Bickle was declared the winner, his fourth triumph in the prestigious super late model event. The fact the victory came in Bickle’s last event at the Slinger speed plant in this, his final year of competition, made it even more emotional.
“He’s (Apel) a good kid, I don’t know what the hell happened or what’s going on. I’ve been on that side of it too, he’s tore up and that makes me feel bad,“ Bickle stated from the pit area after learning the $9,999 top prize would be going to him. “I don’t want to win a race that way but that’s the way it is.”
“This is my last year of racing, “ Bickle continued. “I spend $150,000 building cars and doing that so I guess the 10 grand will go toward paying for the car I just bought. There’s two ways of looking at this tonight, one guy is really upset, one guy doesn’t feel like he deserved it, but if you (speedway officials) wouldn’t have done that (disqualification) then 34 people, whoever else was here would be on their case about why you didn’t disqualify him and you let him go and that would hurt them. But to see him (Apel) tore up, it sucks but he’s man enough to walk over and hand it (the trophy) to me…it’s tough.”
Apel had the dominant car throughout much of the second half of the race, leading the final 65 laps and holding Bickle at bay over four restarts in an apparent win but his emotions plummeted from sky high in victory lane to rock bottom as the Nationals trophy was solemnly handed over to Bickle. The emotions flowed following the exchange and Apel left the speedway with the dejected look of a driver who drove his heart out to a perceived huge victory unaware of the mechanical intricacies inside the race car.
Dennis Prunty finished second.
“We’re definitely getting closer, “Prunty said. “We made some adjustments at halfway that just seemed to completely backfire on us. We’ll keep working on it and maybe next year we’ll get this one. I’m hoping if we can stop bouncing off of (Rich) Bickle we can win some races.”
Ross Kenseth equaled his best Nationals finish for the third time with a third-place while Casey Johnson completed his first Nationals run with an impressive fourth-place finish. Florida driver Steve Dorer turned in his best Slinger performance by finishing fifth.
Kyle Chwala won the 25-lap Area Sportsman feature.
Rich Bickle, Dennis Prunty, Ross Kenseth, Casey Johnson, Steve Dorer, Brad Keith, Ty Majeski, Brad Mueller, Dale Prunty, Jeff Holtz, James Swan, Chris Blawat, Nick Wagner, Rebecca Kasten, Robert Braun, Brian Johnson Jr., Al Schill, Conrad Morgan, Garrett Evans, Travis Dassow, Lowell Bennett, Michael Bilderback, Steve Apel.