October 6, 2013
Sopwith Motorsports put an exclamation point on a tough season by winning the first of four Mid-American Stock Car Series events at Wisconsin's half-mile LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway on Saturday night. The Mid-American races were part of the season-ending 44th annual Oktoberfest, where hundreds of teams from 19 divisions of motorsports converged at one of the Midwest's most prestigious short track events.
The McGunegill Engines/Boschett Timepieces #31 missed all of the morning practice sessions due to mechanical issues. Worse yet, driver Stephen Cox had never before driven at LaCrosse and had only 6 laps of afternoon practice in which to learn the track.
“What really saved us was the team's preparation,” Cox said. “Scott and Rod Null really hustled at the shop to prepare the right gear ratio and fine tune the carburetor. The car rolled off the trailer pretty close and the engine was strong. Chris Gagne, Russell Willingham and Rick Tackman did a great job interpreting what little feedback I could give them about the car and went right to work.”
The team made minor suspension adjustments to the McGunegill Engines/Boschett Timepieces car, setting both the cross weight and the sway bar for better handling on one of Wisconsin's fastest race tracks.
When the green flag fell, short track veteran and former CARS champion Tim Fulford jumped into the lead, while Stephen Cox settled into second place while running the low groove. “Tim is a good friend and a great driver,” Cox said. “His pit was just two stalls down from ours and I knew his car had been loose all day. I figured if I could stay underneath him, I could just wear him out. Tim was caught in the high groove and there's no way his right rear tire could stand up to that kind of beating.”
The duel ended when Fulford drifted high in Turn 4 and Cox slid underneath to take a lead that he would never relinquish. Ryan Gutknecht, a veteran who is always quick in the #01 Pontiac, drove hard and made a big charge for the lead in the waning laps, but Cox was able to hang on for his first victory of the 2013 season.
All four Mid-American events produced a different winner, with Bobby Gutknecht and Lyle Nowack driving brilliantly in their respective victories and Dan Gilster capping the weekend with a huge win. Sopwith Motorsports also congratulates Brad Keith, who secured the 2014 Mid-American Stock Car Series championship title after a fantastic season.
The entire Mid-American weekend at LaCrosse will be televised next month on TUFF TV, Untamed Sports TV, Time Warner of Wisconsin's SportsChannel, and Motorsportworld.tv.
Sopwith's win vindicates the team's season on several levels. The 44th Oktoberfest is a major short track event where victories are prestigious and difficult to achieve. Sopwith struggled with the #31 car through much of the season and finally got the chassis and drive train sorted out. And the team was able to end the season with a victory after being knocked out of what appeared to be two other certain wins earlier in the year.
“I'm just glad we could bring home a trophy for everyone at McGunegill Engines and Boschett Timepieces,” Cox said. “It took all season but we got the job done.”