OSHKOSH, Wis. — Somewhere between remembrance and celebration, between honoring those of the past and looking to the future, between understanding the impact each participant makes in the sport to the victory celebrations by future stars of the raceway made for a night with a wide range of emotions for many in attendance at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway on Tuesday night.
The annual “Walk of Fame” presented by Coors Light had a dual function this year. It served both as a remembrance of the heroes of the Leo’s Speedway forerunner to today’s Oshkosh Speedzone and a honoring of Jeremy VanderZanden a racer still at the start of his career who tragically lost his life in a motorcycle accident just over a week ago.
While VanderZanden hadn’t won many titles or races, his efforts in the racing community, especially with the Kid’s Club and young fans were honored this evening. There were several special celebrations including an honorary victory where fellow competitors in the Grand National division a class in which he competed, stopped their cars on the racing surface during their feature contest to allow Jeremy’s familiar #84j car to be driven to the finish line first, taking the checkered flag and giving Jeremy a symbolic victory.
While VanderZanden was remembered so too were those who laid the groundwork for racing in Oshkosh, drivers Larry Hunt, Jim Holdren and Bill Kienast were honored during opening ceremonies for their efforts at Leo’s Speedway which had closed in the mid-1970’s. Each gave a brief speech reflecting upon the way racing was indicating that fun is the key to its continued success.
There was also plenty of racing action with nearly 100 cars in the pit area representing the tracks five weekly divisions.
Matt Klenz who won his first career Automotive Supply Company IMCA Modified main event in a time shortened contest at the beginning of July earned his second career victory tonight in an event that ran its entire distance, fending off the challenges of John Schultz and then running away from the field.
In the Hansel Trucking IMCA Sport Modified feature contest it appeared second year racer Brock Saunders was headed for his first career victory until a late race pass with less than two laps to go by rookie Steve Schneider, would place Schneider in victory lane for the third time this season. The Outlaw Chassis Grand Nationals saw the feature field stop on the race track to allow the car which had been driven by Jeremy VanderZanden to claim a symbolic victory. Defending division champion Brian Henry was awarded first place points and money by leading at the white flag.
Jerry Winker would top the Total Power Sales Street Stocks in the feature contest for the third time this season and Kyle Stark completed the list of the evening’s winners by topping the Ellington Mutual Insurance Dirt Devils.
Matt Klenz would pace all 20 laps of the Automotive Supply Company IMCA Modified main event taking the opening lead. John Schultz would apply the pressure in the opening rounds seeking to take away the top spot, while Matt’s father, Mike Klenz attempted to keep the lead positions in the family, running third in the early going.
A spin by Mike Mueller in turn two on lap seven bunched the field but Matt Klenz was able to maintain the top spot as racing resumed. During the caution fourth running Johnny Whitman headed to pit lane allowing Mike Wedelstadt to take the position.
Matt Klenz soon found himself running wheel to wheel with Schultz as the pair drew even on several occasions with Schultz running the inside of the track and Matt Klenz running the high line.
Marcus Yarie meanwhile cracked the top five by the hallway point and began to challenge both Mike Klenz and Wedelstadt as the trio were locked in a battle for the third spot.