LUXEMBURG, Wis.– Zack VanderBeek took control with eight laps in the books, and then withstood a caution with two laps remaining to score the victory Tuesday night at the Luxemburg Speedway in the opening round of the USMTS Badgerland Summer Shootout presented by Prestige Custom Cabinetry.
One of seven drivers in attendance Tuesday who were here when the United States Modified Touring Series last visited the 1/3-mile dirt oval in 2005, VanderBeek actually arrived in Eastern Wisconsin two days early and may have picked up a little luck when his Casey’s General Stores team visited Lambeau Field in Green Bay on Sunday night.
But Tuesday morning changed everybody’s mood.
Word spread quickly today about a tragic accident early this morning which ended the life of Jessica Miller-the founder of Karsyn’s Krusaders, friend of the USMTS family and a walking instruction manual of how to treat others.
“It just leaves an empty feeling in the pit of your stomach,” VanderBeek said following his win. “We met Jessica three or four years ago at P.R.I. (Performance Racing Industry trade show), and have been friends since. She was an inspiration to a lot of people.”
It was his race car that helped keep VanderBeek and his crew busy and focused throughout the day.
“I hadn’t worked on the car since Deer Creek (Speedway) last week, so we that kept us pretty locked in,” he added.
His race car almost kept him out of the main event Tuesday night. A failed bearing in one of the rear wheel hubs in his heat race forced the team to thrash on their machine until feature time, just finishing their work and making it into the lineup for the parade lap.
Unlike his last visit to Luxemburg where he started 16th and finished fifth, the ‘Z-Man’ rolled off from the inside of the second row.
Polesitter Mike Mashl led the first five laps and Curt Myers paced the next three circuits before VanderBeek took charge and took off from the pack in what was nearly a caution-free affair.
After lapping the 11th-place car of Lucas Schott and with the white flag in flagman Ryne Staley’s hands, the race’s first yellow flag waved with 38 of 40 laps complete.
That set up a green-white-checkered finish with Ryan Gustin and Cade Dillard tucked in behind the leader.
But VanderBeek was unfazed by the late-race disruption and the 32-year-old from New Sharon, Iowa, cruised the final two laps to his fourth USMTS victory of the season and second straight in the RHRSwag.com USMTS Northern Region presented by Summit Racing Equipment.
He pocketed $3,000 for his efforts while extending his points lead in the region and notching his 40th career triumph.
Gustin, who started seventh, held off Dillard for the runner-up spot while Dereck Ramirez raced from 11th to get fourth at the finish line.
Thirteenth-starting Benji LaCrosse got by fellow Dairy State driver Cory Crapser during the final two-lap sprint to claim fifth, with Myers, Paul Niznik, Jake Timm and Stormy Scott rounding out the top 10.
Mashl, who saw a top-10 run extinguished on the final lap, earned the Sybesma Graphics Pole Award by being the driver who collected the most money in his helmet during intermission when drivers walked through the crowd to collect donations for Jessica Miller’s family and Karsyn’s Krusaders.
Karsyn’s Krusaders is a not-for-profit charity started in 2010 by Miller and her husband, Andy, to raise money and awareness to help others affected by cancer. Karsyn’s Krusaders works with drivers, race tracks and dirt track fans across the country. At the age of 3, the Millers’ daughter, Karsyn, was diagnosed with leukemia in 2008. She was successfully treated and today is a vibrant little girl who continues to be the inspiration for the charity that helps children and their families across the country.
USMTS drivers will do the fan walk-through at the other three events this week.
Wednesday marks the series’ first-ever visit to the 141 Speedway near Francis Creek. General admission is $20, seniors and students ages 12-16 are $10 and children 11 and under are free. Pit passes are $35.
The pits and grandstands open at 2:00, hot laps begin at 5:30 and racing starts at 6:00. Street Stocks and Sport Mods will also be competing.
The 141 Speedway is a high-banked 1/3-mile clay oval located off of I-43 at exit 160, then 1.1 mile east on CR K, then 2.0 miles north on CR R in Maribel, Wis. For more information, call (920) 863-3377 or visit www.141speedway.com.
On Thursday, July 13, the USMTS moves around Lake Winnebago to the Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway in Oshkosh, followed by the finale on Friday at the Plymouth Dirt Track in Plymouth.
Drivers each night will battle for a $3,000 top prize, and local drivers will be getting a big bonus thanks to Prestige Custom Cabinetry. An accomplished racer himself, owner Mike Mashl and his company are supporting a four-race points fund for the local racers in the Wisconsin Bay Area competing in the Badgerland Summer Shootout.
Any driver that has raced at least two times at any of the four tracks will be eligible for the bonus money. Drivers will have to race in at least three of the four events to earn bonus money, and points will be awarded by finishing position for locals vs. locals using the USMTS points system.
To learn more about the United States Modified Touring Series, visit www.usmts.com online or call 515-832-7944. You can also like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/usmts, follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/usmts and Instagram at www.instagram.com/usmts or subscribe to our YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/usmtstv. Keep up to speed with everything USMTS by joining our email list at www.usmts.com/subscribe.