MID-AMERICAN STOCK CAR SERIES 2009 REWIND
Mid American Stock Car Series
December 29, 2009
FORT ATKINSON, Wis. (December 29, 2009) – The departure of James Swan from the Mid-American Stock Car Series in 2009 left a glaring question – who would replace the four-time champion? That question was answered by a dark horse competitor who snatched the championship on the final evening of Mid-American’s 17th campaign.
The 2009 MASCS season preview left a long list of possible competitors to replace Swan. However, one competitor stealthy crept into the campaign relatively unheralded, just as his stealthy black and green Chevy Monte Carlo crept through fields all season long.
Paul Neisius should not have been a surprise contender. The Hastings, Minn., veteran won championships on the dirt and had strong equipment, as proven by his car owner and cousin, Justin Neisius.
To make his presence known early in the season, Paul Neisius dominated the season opening event at Golden Sands Speedway after two washouts in April. Neisius took an early lead from pre-race favorite Brian Back and coasted to a win in the 40-lap feature.
“I think it was good. Starting off on the right foot gave us some momentum to know that we had the capability to run up front,” said Neisius. That early season momentum was key, he said, as he had not raced full time in five years.
After the fast start, Neisius consistently deposited top ten finishes into his bank through the mid-point of the season with his worst finish of eleventh coming in the Vercauteren Memorial at 141 Speedway. With three races remaining, Neisius began to peak.
“We found a few things that worked at the Madison race, we kept using them where we went and the car kept getting better,” Neisius said. In fact, Neisius won two of the last three events including a capstone win at Oktoberfest to take the championship.
The win at Oktoberfest to clinch the title came only one week after a hard wreck at Rockford Speedway, which put Neisius’ championship aspirations in jeopardy. He and his team worked all week to re-stub the front end of his racer and prepare for La Crosse. “It made it all worth while, all the hard work we put in,” said Neisius.
The driver who Neisius surpassed on that October evening is no stranger to hard work either. He is also no stranger to hard luck.
Bill Prietzel, whose crew normally consists of himself and his wife Jan, held a 21-point advantage entering Oktoberfest. After finishing second and third in MASCS standings the past two seasons, the three-time champion was poised to tie Swan’s record fourth crown.
However, luck was not on the side of Prietzel as he was involved in several incidents during the feature event. The circumstances brought back memories of the 2001 season when Prietzel was surpassed by James Swan for the title after a last-lap wreck at Oktoberfest.
The long-time short track veteran, having been in a similar situation, realizes that having a short-term memory is the best way to keep perspective. “Once things are done, what do you do,” Prietzel said. “You can’t change things once they are done and can’t sit and dwell on them.”
One memory that will stay with Prietzel from 2009 was his win at Hawkeye Downs. With caution flags as abundant as corn fields along Highway 151 and the heat index topping at 100 degrees Fahrenheit, Prietzel somehow kept his cool and found victory lane.
Unsympathetic conditions on that August afternoon spoke volumes of the MASCS competitors, Prietzel said. “I think the Mid-Am Series showed that you can put up with adversity and still have a good race. We were prepared, we were good and we came out on top, which was good.”
On that day several drivers dropped to the pit area with heat exhaustion. Others who made it through the event were in less-than-top form after the checkered flag fell. One competitor looked as though he could have gone another 100 laps after a seventh place finish.
Mark Pluer declared he was ready to hop back into his Chevy Monte Carlo and hit the half-mile for another round. Following a slow start, the 1996 MASCS champion began to hit his stride after a win at Dells Raceway Park in July and a strong top five at Hawkeye Downs. After eight starts in 2008, Pluer secured a strong third place finish in the 2009 standings.
In the final seven events Pluer recorded four top tens and three top fives. “We picked up a few things mid-season. After that we started to get a handle on things” Pluer said.
Although he had a slow start, Pluer said he met his 2009 expectations. After taking a hiatus from Mid-American to pursue racing late models, last year’s return and a full-time campaign in 2009 helped Pluer re-familiarize himself with Mid-American style cars.
“The cars haven’t changed. The technology is all the same. The tires have changed a bit. The guys need to run a different spring and shock to hook up at these tracks,” said Pluer.
Securing the third spot was no easy task for Pluer as he was challenged by one of the strongest rookies in Mid-American’s history. If not for a few DNFs and some bad breaks along the way, Paul Neisius may have been watching his cousin celebrate a truly historic feat.
A strong campaign from Justin Neisius should have been far from surprising, as well. Neisius was the 2008 Elko Speedway sportsman champion and twice was the organization’s mid-season champion. He also rounded out the ’08 season in a strong fashion with a fourth place finish at Oktoberfest.
With four top fives and six top tens an impressive season may have made an even bigger splash without two crucial DNFs. One DNF came at Madison in the second segment of the Split 50 and the second came while leading at Oktoberfest. Both wiped out sure top ten finishes.
However, Neisius identified another portion of the season he felt set him back. “What really hurt me the worst was that swing through Norway and Francis Creek,” he said. Neisius set fast time at Norway, but was unable to work through the feature field. He finished ninth. At 141 Speedway, Neisius accepted a provisional and finished 13th.
Although a few what-ifs were left in ’09 for Neisius, he said his expectations were exceeded. Before the season Neisius predicted that both he and Paul would finish in the top 10. Chalk up two top-fives for the Neisius cousins, and a title to boot.
“I didn’t think one of us would win the championship,” Justin Neisius said. “We couldn’t have been happier.”
What the Neisius cousins also may not have expected was the experience they would garner through traveling with Mid-American. Although they have a good amount of experience between them, they each said they took some lessons from this season.
“I actually learned that you don’t have to touch the car as much as you think you should,” said Justin Neisius. “I started with a baseline setup everywhere I went, and it seemed to work. I didn’t have to change the car as much as I thought I would.”
Paul took a similar lesson from hitting the road. He offered that a step away from the weekly grind helped him discover more about his operation. “When you run this series, if you’re going to run up front all the time you have to be trying to step up your game all the time.”
Both cousins also enjoyed hitting new venues, and racing with a new group of competitors. “We met a lot of good people. Everyone is really helpful to everyone else. That’s the way it should be,” said Paul Neisius.
The Mid-American Stock Car Series will round out its 17th season on Saturday, January 16, 2010 with its annual awards banquet at the Wintergreen Resort and Conference Center in Wisconsin Dells. The banquet will feature two guest speakers and the giveaway of a new B&B race engine, as well as several other giveaways.
For more information about the Mid-American Stock Car Series, including results, the final 2009 standings, and driver information visit www.midamericanracing.com.
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