One of the most experienced Midwest Sprint Car Association drivers in the pit area also turned out to be the fastest, as Jim Melis of Glenbeulah led all 20-laps of A-main competition on the way to victory in the third annual MSA Harry Neitzel Tribute Race at the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam, Wis. on Wednesday, July 3.
The special event to honor the universally respected Neitzel, who was one of the MSA’s biggest supporters, drew a strong field of 31 360 Sprint Cars and a near capacity crowd of enthusiastic spectators to the track commonly dubbed, “the horsepower half mile.”
Melis, who is a 38-year veteran of open-wheeled racing, began the A-main from the pole flanked by Kevin Karnitz of West Bend. On the drop of the green flag, Melis got the jump and outpowered Karnitz to gain the lead in turn two of the opening circuit, while Karnitz settled into second and Tim Haddy of Waupun, charged up from the sixth starting to take third on the fast, narrow and tricky racing surface.
As Melis began to stretch out his lead to a half-straightaway margin in the early going, Haddy was on the move as he used the high groove to shoot past Karnitz exiting turn four on lap 3. Haddy continued his charge over the next five laps to cut Melis’ advantage to just 10 car lengths on lap 8.
However, disaster struck on lap 9 when a red flag appeared after Josh Walter of Plymouth spun in turn two, which triggered a four-car incident involving Haddy, the third-place car of Karnitz and the fourth-place machine of two-time MSA champion Danny Schlafer of Sussex, who started eighth.
Karnitz flipped after clipping the stalled machine of Walter, while Haddy and Schlafer also suffered damage in the melee, which forced all four drivers to retire from the race.
On the restart, Melis again powered away from the field while 10th starter Tony Wondra of Campbellsport snuck underneath Travis Arenz of Sheboygan, who started 12th, to seize second in turn four on lap 10.
As Melis build up a half-straightaway cushion over Wondra at the front of the field, 14th starter Adam Miller of Plymouth was making his presence felt as he moved into the top five on lap 12 and wasted little time tracking down his brother, 2018 Plymouth Dirt Track Racing 360 Sprint Car champion Justin Miller of Plymouth, who started fourth, to work his way into fourth on lap 15.
Wondra closed the gap significantly as the leaders encountered slower traffic over the final three laps, but he was not able to mount a serious challenge as Melis secured his first career Harry Neitzel Tribute Race victory and 20th career MSA A-main triumph.
Wondra placed second, Arenz finished third, Adam Miller wound up fourth and Justin Miller completed the top five.
2005 MSA champion Lance Fassbender of Burnett captured the 12-lap MSA B main, while heat race victories went to Chris Clayton of Waldo, Al Schlafer of Sussex, Kevin Karnitz and Tim Haddy.
The next MSA race on the 2019 schedule is this Saturday, July 6 at TNT Speedway in Three Lakes, Wis. Gates open at 4 p.m. with hot laps at 5 p.m. and racing beginning at 6 p.m. Also on the card are Modifieds, Pure Stocks, Street Stocks and Trucks.
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Midwest Sprint Car Association
Dodge County Fairgrounds
Beaver Dam, Wisconsin
July 3, 2019
1, Chris Clayton 2, Tyler Brabant 3, Justin Miller 4, Lance Fassbender 5, Adam Miller 6, Scott Conger 7, Brandon Berth 8, Chris Flick.
1, Al Schlafer 2, Jim Melis 3, Robbie Pribnow 4, Kurt Davis 5, Josh Walter 6, Bill Taylor 7, Tyler Davis 8, Blake Wondra.
1, Kevin Karnitz 2, Danny Schlafer 3, Travis Arenz 4, Tony Wondra 5, Sean Rayhall 6, Chris Larson 7, Nick Daywalt 8, Bryce Schmitt.
1, Tim Haddy 2, Will Gerrits 3, Paul Pokorski 4, Nich Melis 5, Tyler Tischendorf 6, Jack Vanderboom 7, Mike Yurmanovich.
1, Lance Fassbender 2, Nich Melis 3, Bill Taylor 4, Scott Conger 5, Sean Rayhall 6, Jack Vanderboom 7, Tyler Tischendorf 8, Blake Wondra 9, Nick Daywalt 10, Tyler Davis 11, Brandon Berth 12, Chris Larson. 13, Chris Flick (DNS), 14, Bryce Schmitt (DNS) 15, Mike Yurmanovich (DNS).
1, Jim Melis 2, Tony Wondra 3, Travis Arenz 4, Adam Miller 5, Justin Miller 6, Will Gerrits 7, Robbie Pribnow 8, Kurt Davis 9, Lance Fassbender 10, Paul Pokorski 11, Al Schlafer 12, Nich Melis 13, Jack Vanderboom 14, Bill Taylor 15, Scott Conger 16, Tim Haddy 17, Kevin Karnitz 18, Danny Schlafer 19, Josh Walter 20, Sean Rayhall 21, Tyler Brabant 22, Chris Clayton.