It may be one of the wildest TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Championship chases yet. Heading into Monday’s Round Five Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes at Golden Sands Speedway, the top four in points are separated by just 46 points.
No one driver’s journey to this point in the season looks the same. Some have made it through strong runs and pushing through a bit of bad luck; some have made it by consistency. Here is a look at how each driver got to this point after four rounds, and what to watch from them on Monday.
The two-time series Champion came out of the gate strong in 2017. After breaking the track record at Wisconsin International Raceway in Krolls West Round One, it appeared Zehr was on his way to a win in the event, as well. However, a sheared sway bar bolt slowed him over the final few laps and allowed Steve Apel to make a last-lap pass for the win.
Zehr looked strong again in Round Two at LaCrosse, but had to settle for a Second Place finish behind Cole Anderson. Just like WIR, sparks began to fly from Zehr’s machine late in the race with another suspension issue. Zehr may have saved his title hopes on that day by finding a way to nurse his machine to the end.
Bad luck bit Zehr hard in Round Three at Jefferson. Starting toward the back after struggling in qualifying, Zehr had nowhere to go when an incident took place in front of him. Zehr absorbed his first TUNDRA DNF since Round One of the 2016 season.
In the most recent race, Zehr was able to bounce back at State Park Speedway. He patiently picked his way through the field and scored a Fourth Place finish – helping him pad his point lead over Second Place.
Monday could be a banner day for Zehr in the title chase if history is any indication. Zehr won the first ever TUNDRA race at Golden Sands on Memorial Day of 2013. He also secured the track Championship last year in the 7-11 car. Most recently, Zehr finished Second in a 50-lap feature on August 25.
The former co-Dean’s Satellite and Security Rookie of the Year has been a threat since coming back into the scene this season. Although Anderson did not make the call for WIR (and Lowell Bennett suffered a DNF as his substitute), he steadily has been gaining on Zehr in the title hunt.
Anderson looked extremely stout in his return to TUNDRA with a win at LaCrosse in Round Two. Although the likes of Zehr and Ty Majeski hung around to challenge Anderson on several restarts, the Minnesotan was too tough to corral. His first TUNDRA victory sent a message to the rest of the field for the season.
Unfortunately for Anderson, Jefferson was not as kind. He was also mixed up in the melee that claimed Zehr, but was able to carry on. The tricky quarter-mile is not so forgiving, especially when one is nursing damage. Despite that, Anderson was able to secure a Sixth Place finish.
Of all the title contenders, it was Anderson who looked the strongest at State Park Speedway. Anderson was the only one of the four to make the dash and grab a podium finish. With his Third Place effort, Anderson leap frogged both John Beale and Collin Reffner to move to Second. He sits 26 points behind Zehr in the standings.
Golden Sands Speedway will be a new experience for Anderson as it will be his first competitive appearance in a Super Late Model. What may help is his experience at Elko Speedway as the tracks are somewhat similar in layout. Also, drivers with Elko experience such as Paul Paine, Bryan Syer-Keske, Joel Thiesen, and Michael Ostdeik have had success at GSS in the past. In fact, Ostdeik set fast time for last year’s race in his first SLM appearance at the facility.
Consistency has been a major key to John Beale’s title hopes. The rookie competitor has been solid in experiencing new tracks this season and has kept pace with the top point-getters. He sits just 42 markers back of Zehr.
Beale began the season with a large statement by finishing Ninth in his first ever appearance at WIR in Krolls West Round One. The big half-mile has been known to humble drivers with little experience at it. To survive with a Tenth Place finish spoke volumes. Beale would go on to do the same at LaCrosse in Round Two.
It was Round Three at Jefferson that solidified Beale as a genuine title contender. With the other title contenders riding out tumultuous days, Beale was able to contend for the win. Not only did Beale make his move to the front, he also passed the most cars in the process. His Second Place finish to Wyatt Brooks was the best TUNDRA finish by a Rookie in the five series races at Jefferson.
Most recently, Beale enjoyed another decent day at State Park Speedway. In just his second time racing at the track (he had a Third Place finish in the Detjens Memorial a week prior), Beale scored a Fifth Place finish. Although he lost ground to Zehr and Anderson, he was able to score points on fellow Rookie Collin Reffner in the ROY battle.
Beale proved strong at Golden Sands on August 25 in his appearance at their most recent weekly show. He set fast time, won his heat, and made his way to the lead of the feature until he was involved in an altercation with less than ten laps to go. If Beale can repeat that performance, he may be able to gain some ground back on the Top Two.
The third-generation racer is still very much in the hunt to take home Rookie of the Year and Championship honors. Heading into Golden Sands and Dells Raceway Park will finally bring him back into some familiar territory.
Reffner wasted little time this season showing how much of a threat he could be for the title. He scored a Fifth Place finish in his first ever visit to WIR. The finish had the fan base buzzing about the most recent Reffner to show strong at the historic facility.
In Round Two it was more of the same for Reffner, although he had a bit more experience with some Oktoberfest races under his belt at LaCrosse. A Sixth Place finish was hard-earned for Reffner after being involved in an incident early in the race while battling for the lead.
The consistency continued for Reffner at Jefferson. After avoiding the melee and staying out of trouble through the 75-lap main, Reffner was able to finish Fifth – no easy task for someone with no experience at the facility.
It was a bit of a down day for Reffner and his team at State Park Speedway in the most recent TUNDRA event. They struggled to a 14th Place finish. However, Reffner is still just 46 points out and only two points back of Beale in the Rookie of the Year chase.
Round Five at Golden Sands may be the event to propel Reffner closer to the point leaders. Reffner was claimed Rookie of the Year honors at the track in 2011 with a Fourth Place finish in the point standings. Since that time Reffner has picked up multiple feature wins at the facility and should be seen as one who could exit Monday carrying the trophy.
Monday’s Round Five Powered by Wisconsin Potatoes at Golden Sands Speedway will also feature the Midwest Truck Series and Sportsman. Fan gates open at noon, qualifying is scheduled for 12:30 PM and racing starts at 2 PM.
Golden Sands Speedway is located on Highway 54 between Plover and Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. For more information visit www.gssraces.com