WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. (June 10, 2012) – There is a reason Mid-American Stock Car Series clashes at Dells Raceway Park are dubbed the Dells Duels – they always seem to come down to a final battle in the late stages of the feature event.
This year’s installment of Dells Duel Part One came down to the last two MASCS Champions as James Swan chased down Lyle Nowak, provided several challenges, but came up short of his third straight win in 2012. Nowak survived the charge to visit victory lane at Dells Raceway Park for the second time in his last four visits.
When asked of the final circuits, Nowak offered this retort. “James Swan makes me nervous every week. He’s having a phenomenal year. We’re just happy that we’re running good enough to be in the mix too.”
After a sixth-place qualifying run Nowak started the 40-lap main on the outside of the second row. At the drop of the green pole-sitter Jeremy Spoonmore took the early advantage over Rick Tackman. Jay Foster, who started on the inside of Nowak in the second row, jumped to the second spot. Foster’s move opened space for Nowak to maneuver past Tackman.
The field nearly saw a caution on lap three when several cars bottled up out of the second turn. Although everyone was able to keep going, Chris Storey absorbed damage to the front of his machine and he retired in the infield.
Just moments after the near-miss Nowak stole the second spot from Foster and set his sights on Spoonmore. After only two laps of chasing, Nowak was able to get to Spoonmore and quickly worked past him to the top spot.
From that point on lap seven, Nowak placed his machine on cruise control. Although he did not open up a large advantage over Spoonmore and the rest of the field, Nowak looked completely in control of his MASCS counterparts.
“It helps especially with the concrete down here; you have to get yourself into a rhythm,” Nowak said of the long green-flag run that ensued. “When you can go caution-free like that it helps you to find your rhythm and be smooth all at the same time.”
Behind Nowak spots in the top five were swapping on a lap-by-lap basis. One of the most furious battles of the entire race was between Jay Foster and Adam Bendzick. On lap nine the two met for the first time and engaged in combat for fifth. The two would not separate until the checkered, where Foster bested Bendzick to the line for seventh.
As Foster and Bendzick began their dispute, Swan, who started ninth after setting fast time, patiently had crept into the top seven. Early in the going the defending MASCS Champ was mired deep in traffic, but some patience paid off around lap ten when lanes began to open.
“I was in the right lane,” Swan said of the early-race traffic jam. “I just had to wait for a couple cars on the outside to fall back then I went to the outside to make my move.”
What followed was a dazzling display by Swan picking off spots in the top six. Whichever line opened was the line Swan utilized to make the pass. On lap 14 Swan cracked the top five with an inside pass of Bendzick. On lap 16 Swan worked to the outside of Mike Lange and Rick Tackman. In one shot, by the halfway point, Swan was in third.
However, by the time Swan had moved to third, Nowak and Spoonmore stretched out their advantage over the pack. With a dozen laps left in the feature, Swan finally got to the bumper of Spoonmore. Again showing his versatility, Swan dived to the inside of Spoonmore to take the runner-up spot.
With the clock ticking, Swan pushed his machine to the limit, chewing away at Nowak’s lead. Nowak caught lapped traffic on lap 33, which allowed Swan to close the gap even more.
Swan caught Nowak with four circuits remaining and began to survey Nowak’s line. Since Swan was comfortable utilizing either line, he first tried to get to the bottom. A savvy veteran, Nowak saw Swan’s attempt, and quickly closed off the lane.
Knowing that Nowak would not allow a pass on the bottom, Swan decided to try the top side. On lap 38 Swan swung up high and pulled closer to Nowak. However, Swan lost grip in his final attempts to take the lead away and Nowak held on to win by less than a car length.
Although Swan seemed to have the faster racer, he knew that catching Nowak was one thing, passing him was another. “I don’t know that I could have passed Lyle,” Swan said. “He was good enough that when I got side-by-side with him, I wasn’t going to be any faster than he was.”
Nowak, in turn, was just happy to see the race stay green throughout. “If the caution would have come out our lead would have evaporated and it would have been a real battle,” he said.
With the win Nowak slid to the second spot in MASCS standings. Unofficially, he sits 42 points behind Swan in the title chase. However, with the uncertainty of Swan’s MASCS schedule, Mid-American’s 20th Championship is as up-for-grabs as ever.
If a win at Dells Raceway Park is any sort of omen for Nowak, a win in 2010 propelled him to a late-season stand that ended with the 17th title of his storied career.
Ever modest, Nowak kept perspective on the young season. “We’re just happy to be here,” he said. “If we can be in the mix with guys like Jeremy Spoonmore, James Swan and Ryan Farrell, we’ll be happy.”
After three races in a 12-day span, the Mid-American Stock Car Series will take a three-week break until the next event on Friday, June 29 at Madison International Speedway. Another short turnaround finds the series at State Park Speedway in Wausau, Wis. the following Thursday, July 5.
For more information about the Mid-American Stock Car Series, including results, the 2012 schedule, standings and driver information visit www.midamericanracing.com.