FORT ATKINSON, Wis. (June 16, 2010) – In typical Mid-American Stock Car Series action, a spin in the first turn of a ten-lap race is usually enough to take any driver out of contention. Bill Prietzel isn’t just any driver, and the action at Road America is hardly typical.
Looking for a repeat of his 2008 spin and win in this Sunday’s Vercauteren Memorial at Road America (minus the spin, of course), Bill Prietzel knows that several competitors will stand in his way – including road racing ringer Mike Mulcahy.
The two have been inseparable in the past two Mid-American races at Road America. In 2007 Mulcahy was sent spinning into the gravel trap in turn one. Prietzel spun to avoid and recovered for a third-place finish. In 2008 Mulcahy led nine laps before Prietzel chased him down and made the fateful pass in turn five of the final circuit.
Although he has come out on top both times, Prietzel knows Mulcahy will be tough to beat again. “He probably has more experience than any of us, so he should be very good,” said Prietzel. “And he has been good. He’s definitely one to keep your eye on.”
The veteran road racer from Warrenville, Ill., who boasts over 800 laps of action at Road America, started his career in a Trans-Am Mustang. Mulcahy raced through the 1980s in the Trans-Am cars, but had his racing career take a shift in the mid-1990s.
“In 1994 my neck was broken when I was hit by a drunk driver,” Mulcahy said. “It changed my view of what was safe and what wasn’t. The stock cars seemed to be safer than anything else.”
A shift to stock cars was also aided by three-time MASCS champion Eddie Hoffman. New to Road America when Mid-American visited in 1993, the eventual race winner was looking for some help to figure out the four-mile course. Mulcahy was happy to provide some advice.
“(Hoffman) said, ‘it appears that you have this place figured out, could you give me some pointers?’ I said sure, come up to my motor home and we can chat,” Mulcahy recalled. “I thought...for me to give him a few pointers and win that race, I should look into trying to find one of those cars.”
After searching for several years for the right machine, Mulcahy purchased a car from Grundy County Speedway champion Tom Knippenberg. He converted it to a road-racing-friendly setup and made his MASCS debut at Road America in 2007, where he finished 7th.
With wins in the Kohler International Challenge and Stock Car Reunion at Road America last season, Mulcahy will have the attention of the Mid-American regulars.
The travelers have Mulcahy’s attention, as well. “There are a number of very good road racers in that group,” Mulcahy said. “The cars are so identically prepared. Mid-American does a great job of keeping the rules equitable and on a level playing field.”
While Mulcahy keeps his car road-race-ready at all times, the Mid-American drivers will have to put some extra preparation into their machines to ensure a competitive run. For Prietzel, extra preparation is part of the game plan.
“I spend a lot of time getting the car ready for Road America because I enjoy going there and I want to be as good as I can,” Prietzel said. “It’s probably the most prestigious place that any of us will ever go. It’s a world class facility right here. The people that have been there know that.”
To add to the prestige, Prietzel said he would be honored to secure another Vercauteren Memorial. Having won it twice, Prietzel acknowledged just how special the award is to any Mid-American driver who can capture it.
“He was a special person in his own way,” said Prietzel of MASCS founder Gary Vercauteren. “The advancement of this series, getting it started and making it go where it went was his whole deal. It’s a special deal to win that.”
Mulcahy also said he realized the significance of the award, and also said he feels honored to race with the Mid-American regulars. “It’s a great opportunity to get some track time and race with some really competitive folks. It doesn’t matter how good you are, it’s a huge accomplishment to win there.”
While Prietzel and Mulcahy agree upon the significance of the event, they do disagree on one thing – the length of the race. Prietzel, who is used to feature races less than 20 miles in length, feels that 40 miles will be plenty. Mulcahy, who is used to the longer road races, sees the 10-lap race as a sprint.
“It’s a short race, it goes by in the blink of an eye,” Mulcahy said. “You have to go out there and run as hard as you can, not use up your brakes, stay out of the gravel traps and you’ll be in contention at the end.”
Prietzel said patience will be a key, “Everyone wants to win on the first lap, but you only have to lead the last lap. Staying on course and saving our equipment will be paramount.”
As eyes are focused on the renewed Prietzel-Mulcahy Road America rivalry, two former MASCS champions could be in line to break up the fun. Mark Pluer, the 1996 MASCS champion has two third place finishes at Road America. James Swan, a four-time MASCS champion, won at the venue in 2007. Another former Road America winner, Bobby Gutknecht could be in contention as well.
Mid-American is slated to run a 40-mile (ten-lap) race to cap off the weekend of racing at Road America. The weekend, which spans from Thursday, June 17 to Sunday, June 20 features the NASCAR Nationwide Series, SCCA, Trans Am and more.
The Vercauteren Memorial is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and is to be preceded by qualifying at 10:15 a.m. Mid-American also has practices slated for 5 p.m. Saturday (after the NASCAR Nationwide race) and 8:40 a.m. Sunday.
Road America is located on Highway 67 just outside Elkhart Lake, Wis. For more information on Road America or the weekend’s events visit www.roadamerica.com or call 1-800-365-RACE (7223).
For more information about the Mid-American Stock Car Series, including the full 2010 schedule, results, standings and driver information visit www.midamericanracing.com.