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American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing


Matt Panure
Mid American Stock Car Series
April 1, 2007

Fort Atkinson, WI, April 1-- One year ago today, the Mid-American Stock Car Series kicked off its inaugural campaign under new owners Doug and Julie Strasburg. By all accounts, the 2006 season was an incredible success with an average of 27 cars per race (which was up 27% over the 2005 average) and a season high car count of 39 at the Milwaukee Mile for the Governor’s Cup Weekend. When the last checkered flag fell at the LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in October, James Swan of Lake Geneva WI was crowned Series champion. The championship was the second for Swan, five years removed from his first in 2001.

The campaign for the 2007 season championship begins on April 14th at Rockford Speedway as a part of the 60th annual Spring Opener. Former central Wisconsin late model ace and defending race winner Lyle Nowak will be back to defend his crown in the Spring Opener 60. “We always look forward to Rockford Speedway. It's a drivers track and very challenging…we have a pretty good set up there and will do the best we can,” said Nowak.

The first three races of the 2007 season look to favor Nowak based on his performances in 2006. Nowak backed up his win at Rockford with a 10th place finish at Grundy County Speedway (IL) Memorial Day weekend, a race that is slated to take place again in 2007. However, in 2007 the Memorial Day race at Grundy will be the third event on the schedule as opposed to the second. The second race will be held on Sunday afternoon April 29th at Golden Sands Speedway in Plover, WI. Nowak was a favorite to win at Golden Sands last August and did not disappoint as he was challenging for the lead late in the race until tire problems sent him to the pit area.

Another driver who is looking forward to a return trip to Rockford is 2006 Mid-American Rookie of the Year Jake Finney of Sycamore, IL. Finney made his Mid-American debut last spring at Rockford and quickly made a good impression with a strong 7th place run. However, Finney and his team are ready to take the next step, “I definitely think we can improve on last years finish. I really think we have a good chance of winning. Rockford has to be one of my favorite tracks, and as a team we really have a good hold on it,” Finney stated. Although Finney had a strong rookie season finishing a solid 6th in points, he did not pick up a feature win in 2006. Finney and his team know what they have to do to make it to the next level in 2007, “Last year I think we showed how competitive we can be, so hopefully we can take it a step further and win some races. As a driver I feel I need to step up my qualifying efforts this season. It has always been my weakness,” he said.

The first three races also look good for Finney and his team as they took a 6th place from the Golden Sands Speedway and are familiar with the track at Grundy County. While Finney could only salvage a 13th place finish at his home track last Memorial Day, he is still anxious to return to Grundy, “I am really excited to be going back to Grundy for a race. It is my home track and I love racing there,” he exclaimed.

A driver, who on the surface may seem to be dreading a return trip to Rockford is Oak Creek WI’s Bobby Gutknecht. Gutknecht finished a season low 21st at Rockford last April, but backed that up with a strong 5th place finish at the Short Track Nationals, which is slated for the weekend of September 29th and 30th in 2007. The trips to Rockford will be better in 2007 according to Gutknecht, “We found the problem,” he said with confidence. “I think we are ready, I think we are going to run really strong (at Rockford),” Gutknecht added.

Gutknecht cites that his strengths are at the half-mile tracks such as Madison (July 7), Wisconsin International Raceway (June 9, July 11, August 18 as part of the Red, White and Blue State Championships) and LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway (October 6, Oktoberfest Weekend), a track where Gutknecht took fast time and looked dominant at the end of 2006. Gutknecht and competitors will only have to face the tough contingent at the 141 Speedway on September 1st. The bullring of the Mid-American Stock Car Series, 141 is a track that is unpopular among those who have yet to master its tight quarters. “I kind of like the place,” said Gutknecht, “but I can never get a rhythm until the feature,” he added.

The 2007 season brings new challenges for Gutknecht and his team as they have decided to focus on making a serious run at the title. Part of that will include knocking off defending champion James Swan. When asked how he planned to knock Swan off the top, Gutknecht replied with a chuckle, “I’m not sure, it will be hard but we are really going to give it a run.” Gutknecht has been a regular with the series for many years but has not won a championship. “We are going to give it a run this year and maybe start pulling back the reins next year,” said Gutknecht.

James Swan knows that Gutknecht is gunning for his title and is prepared to defend the championship in 2007. “He really stepped up at the end of last year,” Swan said of Gutknecht’s late charge to third in series standings. “And I know (Gutknecht and his team) are putting an extra effort into (this season),” he added.

Swan’s season began with a strong 6th place finish at Rockford after starting at the tail end of the field. The last time Swan was at Rockford, he won the Bahama Brackets, and he carries a quiet confidence going into the Spring Opener, “We are going to try to get through it,” he said, “you never know what is going to happen at Rockford.” Swan also won at Golden Sands in 2006 and finished a strong 6th at Grundy. The mid portion of the season looks good for Swan and his team as well, especially at WIR Swan won two of the three races at WIR and finished a close second to George Schultz of Bristol WI in the White Race.

Swan was dominant throughout the season winning four events, finishing in the top 5 nine times and the top 10 twelve of fourteen races. Swan was also the quickest qualifier at five events in 2006, including the fall race at Rockford. It is scary for the competition to think that Swan could be any better, but he claims that the Adam Berge owned machine will be stronger in 2007. “We adjusted a couple little things…every little bit counts,” said Swan.

The quest for the 2007 Mid-American Stock Car Series Championship is slated to begin as a 60 lap feature at the Rockford Speedway in Love’s Park, IL on Saturday April 14th. The 2007 season will be the 15th anniversary season for the Mid-American Series as well as the 60th for Rockford Speedway. For more information about the Mid-American Series including the final 2006 standings, a 2007 schedule and driver info visit www.midamericanracing.com.

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