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DÉJÀ VU AT LA CROSSE : SWAN, PRIETZEL, CHAMPIONSHIP

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Bill Prietzel, James Swan

DÉJÀ VU AT LA CROSSE : SWAN, PRIETZEL, CHAMPIONSHIP

Matt Panure
Mid American Stock Car Series
October 4, 2007


(Fort Atkinson, WI), October 4 -- As the saying goes: “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” Going into the final event of the 2001 Mid-American Stock Car Series season at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway, Bill Prietzel led James Swan by a slim eleven point margin. Reverse the roles, widen the gap to 54 points and the 2007 situation is set.

Both Swan and Prietzel remember that day very well. Prietzel had transmission problems as soon as he pushed his machine off of the trailer. Swan went out to set the fourth fastest time and was set to be tied with Prietzel when the green flag dropped on the feature. However, Prietzel repaired his transmission in time to qualify after the late models and set fast time. “At the time it seemed unprecedented, but looking back I guess it was the right thing to do,” said Swan. Keep this in mind.

Swan charged his way through the field and was running third toward the end of the race while Prietzel was marred in traffic trying to hold on to a top ten which would have won him the championship. “We took the white flag and the rest is history,” said Swan.

History indeed to Prietzel. “It was an unfortunate mistake. That was a long time ago. It mattered when it happened. But once the race is over its done with,” said Prietzel.

Prietzel wrecked violently on the last lap of the 2001 Oktoberfest 40. That wreck handed the championship to Swan who held on for his top five finish. “It’s isn’t that I didn’t work hard for that championship, but I wanted to win it racing against Bill,” said Swan.

Six years later, through one of the most competitive seasons in Mid-American history, Swan and Prietzel are again at the top of the heap reaching for the championship. Both drivers have unique storylines to their 2007 season.

Midway through the season Swan and his team were in a rut. It was during the middle of the season during Swan’s 2006 championship campaign that he showed his muscle. This year it has been a late season charge that has handed Swan the points lead back and expanded that lead to where it is heading to La Crosse. “Looking back on it now, it wasn’t so bad,” said Swan. “But in the middle part of the year, it was probably one of the worst seasons I’ve ever had.”

Engine troubles hounded the Berge racing team through most of that mid-season slump. Swan and his team reached a critical point at Wisconsin International Raceway on July 21st. The team was suffering engine problems once again and could have taken a detrimental blow at WIR. “The turnaround was at Kaukauna. All we had to do was push the car in the trailer and we were going home. We decided to fix it at the track and we finished second. That was the saving grace of the season.,” said Swan.

During that event, Swan was allowed extra time to replace a valve and qualified into the feature after the late models. Sound familiar?

Bill Prietzel, once a beneficiary of the rule, suffered a points hit on that day. However, Prietzel knows that the ball can bounce both ways. “At Kaukauna, when they let (Swan) qualify late, it was absolutely the proper thing to do,” said Prietzel.

Prietzel has had a consistent year and a special one considering he did not know if he would be attending all of the races in 2007. “It’s been an excellent year. If you told me last winter that I’d end up second when I said I didn’t plan on racing much, I’d tell you that you were full of it. I would have never expected to be in this position last winter,” said Prietzel.

Whether he expected it or not, Prietzel does have a chance to collect his fourth Mid-American championship. Prietzel hopes to do it, but hopes that there is no repeat of the situation from 2001. “I want to beat him in the worst way,” explained Prietzel. “If James ends the race on his hood or wrecked that would be a terrible way to win. I want to beat him on the track.”

A maximum of 18 points can be made up in qualifying if Swan would qualify outside of the top 10 and Prietzel took fast time. Swan, who has yet to use his provisional this year, would then have to start the feature and finish 9th or better if Prietzel took the win.

“Whatever happens, happens. I’m going to race as hard as I always do,” said Swan. “Once the feature starts I think I’ll be fine and I’ll drive like I normally do,” he added.

The Mid-American portion of the 38th Annual Oktoberfest Race Weekend takes place this Saturday, October 6th. Top drivers from the Elko Speedway, such as defending race winner Doug Brown of Savage, MN, have already pre-entered for the season ending event. The Mid-American Stock Car Series will then take a three week break and host the first ever “Fight for the Cure Fall Classic” at Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI on Saturday October, 27th. More details on that event are forthcoming at www.midamericanracing.com

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