St. Croix Falls, WI
It did not take Mike Mueller long to earn his third career UMSS Traditional sprint car feature win. In fact, just five days to be exact. Coming off a win at Proctor last Sunday night, Mueller held off Jimmy Kouba by a matter of just a few inches for his first St. Croix Valley Raceway win in a non-winged sprint and his second consecutive in the series during opening night action at the Open Wheel Nationals. The finish was so close that Mueller stated afterwards, "I wasn't sure that I had won until they signaled me to go to Victory Lane. I saw Jimmy Kouba alongside of me racing to the checkers. Wow, that was a fun race." Mueller was joined by his father Herb and crew in Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup Victory Lane to celebrate his inaugural SCVR sprint car win.
With 18 non-winged Traditional sprints signed in, equaling the series record for most cars on hand, three 10 lap heats were run using the usual passing and finishing point system. Rookie Jon Lewerer along with Johnny Parsons III and current point leader Cam Schafer won the heats. Schafer ended up being the high point driver, and much to his chagrin, he drew the #8 pill for the feature race invert. Mike Mueller and Jake Kouba sat on the front row for the 25 lap main event.
Kouba, who has been running extremely strong during the past several races, took the early lead. The race was slowed after one lap for a spin and then again after two laps for a crash in turn two. Chase Viebrock got sideways and collected Parsons and 2011 TSCS Champion Kevin Bradwell. The cars of Parsons and Bradwell suffered extensive damage in the accident and were done for the night. Viebrock restarted at the tail but only lasted one lap before he pulled off with damage sustained to his car in the crash. Jake Kouba meanwhile opened up a comfortable lead over Mueller and Rob Caho, Jr. when the race went green again. The third and final caution flew with 11 laps scored when Scott Brandt bounced off the turn two wall and stopped. Caho got on the binders and pitched his car sideways but still slid into Brandt's car. The resulting contact pinched off a header on Caho's car and he retired to the infield. It appeared that the top lane was starting to work for Caho, but his night was over. Two laps after the restart, leader Jake Kouba suddenly pulled off the turn one exit with smoke and steam coming from his 2K sprinter. It was later discovered that the radiator cap had come off, ending his bid for his second win. Mueller sped past, as the race stayed under the green flag.
With Jake Kouba out of the race, his father Jimmy Kouba began closing the gap on Mueller. Soon it was a two car battle up front. Jimmy Kouba tried several times to get by Mueller, as the pair raced clean for the lead. On the final lap, it was a drag race off turn four to the checkers with Mueller winning by the closest of margins. Kouba settled for second but during post-race tech his car was DQed for that pesky illegal carburetor booster height infraction. Attrition was high in this race, as only nine of the eighteen starters finished. The cars finishing sixth through eighth were also disqualified when a fight ensued in the pits after the race ended. It was reported that a crew member from Denny Stordahl's team rammed the cars of Alex Peper and Jake Hendrickson in the pits following the race. This resulted in a fight amongst those teams. All three cars were disqualified and the Stordahl car was asked not to return the following night. The driver, Denny Stordahl, did not start this but he is responsible for the action's of his crew. The #81 and #23 cars were allowed back the following night.
With all of the post-race "excitement" in tech and in the pits, this meant that only five cars finished the race. Jon Lewerer, Mike Walters, Joseph Kouba and Jori Hughes, making his debut in his own 21J sprinter, were the five cars that officially finished. It presented a bit of a strange turn of events, but the exciting close finish for the win is what many fans will remember.
The Traditional sprints returned for the second night of racing at the Open Wheel Nationals on Saturday July 12 in order to see if Mike Mueller could claim the GRP Motorsports Clean Sweep Bonus or if another driver would sit in Victory Lane at the end of the evening in this close and competitive division.
UMSS TSCS Race Results - St. Croix Valley Raceway July 11, 2014 (Race #12)
3rd Annual Open Wheel Nationals
Hoosier Racing Tire Heat #1 (10 laps): 69S Jon Lewerer, 55 Joseph Kouba, 78 Rob Caho Jr, 81 Alex Peper, 21 Jimmy Kouba, 23 Jake Hendrickson.
Driverwebsites Heat #2 (10 laps): 12 Johnny Parsons III, 50 Chase Viebrock, 27 Mike Walters, 95 Kevin Bradwell, 1 Jeff Pellersels, 17B Eric Becker.
Sprintsource.com Heat #3 (10 laps): 54 Cam Schafer, 2K Jake Kouba, 87 Mike Mueller, 7B Scott Brandt, 34 Denny Stordahl, 21J Jori Hughes.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service A Main (25 laps): Mueller, Lewerer, Walters, Joseph Kouba, Hughes, Pellersels DNF, Jake Kouba DNF, Caho DNF, Brandt DNF, Schafer DNF, Becker DNF, Viebrock DNF, Bradwell DNF, Parsons DNF, Jimmy Kouba DQ, Hendrickson DQ, Peper DQ, Stordahl DQ.
Lap Leaders: Jake Kouba 1-13, Mueller 14-25.
Photo courtesy of Vince Peterson at Track Rat Photos.