Rice Lake WI, – A.J. Diemel swept past pole sitter Jake Redetzke on lap seventeen and then held off a determined late race challenge by Redetzke to win the One Main Financial WISSOTA Challenge Series race Saturday night at the Rice Lake Speedway.
After scheduled pole sitter Jeff Wildung failed to show on the track for the green and the field was crisscrossed for the start, Redetzke and defending Challenge Series champion John Kaanta took the green side by side and that’s the way they raced around the track for the first two laps before Redetzke edged into the lead. Running the low line, Redetzke edged away from Kaanta while Diemel, who started fifth in the adjusted start, moved to the high side after just a couple of laps and quickly started to make time toward the front.
Also moving to the high side and finding it to his liking was Chad Mahder who had started ninth but was also on the move toward the front. Diemel moved past Jeff Provinzino and Scott Gilberts to take third and then, with another strong move around the rim, drove past Kaanta into second.
The yellow flew with thirteen laps complete for debris on the track and on the restart, Redetzke continued to lead but Diemel was right on him, looking to make the move for the lead as Mahder continued his charge on the top side, working past Gilberts and then setting his sights on Kaanta.
On lap seventeen, the second and final yellow flew for a Chuck Metzger spin in turn four and on the restart, Diemel got a great run off the top side and as the two leaders exited turn four, Diemel blasted into the lead.
Mahder soon followed past Kaanta into third and set off to catch the top two runners. Rick Hanestad found a good line in the middle of the track and he drove past Kaanta to take over the fourth spot.
The race stayed under the green the last twenty three laps of the contest and for most of that time, Diemel continued to hold about a six car length lead on Redetzke, who refused to give up in his chase.
As the race moved into the last ten laps, Redetzke found great traction coming low off the corners and he began to perceptibly cut into Diemel’s advantage. A.J made a slight line change of his own though, and the key move came with eight laps to go and Diemel’s lead cut to three car lengths.
A.J made an outstanding move as he split the tail of the field cars of Steve Isenberg and Nate Beyenhof and that gave him clear sailed for the last few laps. Diemel crossed the line with the two laps cars between himself and second running Redetzke. Mahder continued to pound the cushion for the rest of the contest and while he didn’t challenge the top two, he finished a solid second. Hanestad had a consistent run for fourth with Kaanta settling for fifth.
Key Notes: Diemel earned his first series victory of the season and twelfth career Challenge Series win. …The win was Diemel’s third ever victory at Rice Lake in the Late Models but first since 2006…This was the first time Rice Lake has hosted the Challenge Series since 2008 and the first Late Model race at the track since 2012…Jeff Wildung had redrawn the pole for the forty lap feature race but battery problems prevented him from taking the green flag. Wildung’s crew had trouble replacing the battery and Wildung missed the green with the field crisscrossing for the start…Diemel and Jimmy Mars raced back for the event after a scheduled Corn Belt Series race Saturday in Darlington Wisconsin was rained out. Diemel swapped cars and made the effort pay off with the $2,000 win while Mars opted to let his brother-in-law Scott Gilberts drive the Paul Gilberts owned car that Mars drives in WISSOTA races on occasion…The race, which also featured the five divisions that race weekly at the track drew one of the biggest crowds in recent years to the speedway.
On the move: Chad Mahder from Eau Claire Wisconsin charged from ninth to finish in the third position while Steve Laursen from Cumberland Wisconsin started fifteenth and moved up to eighth in the final order.
Car count: twenty five