Theil Wins Open Wheel Nationals at St. Croix

Scotty Thiel in victory lane at St. Croix Valley Raceway. - Vince Peterson at Track Rat Photos.

Scotty Thiel in victory lane at St. Croix Valley Raceway. - Vince Peterson at Track Rat Photos.
Scotty Thiel in victory lane at St. Croix Valley Raceway. – Vince Peterson at Track Rat Photos.
From Greg Parent

St. Croix Falls, MN — (June 29, 2013) — Sometimes a person finds themselves in the right place at the right time. Such was the case for Sheboygan, Wisconsin hot-shoe Scotty Thiel. Thiel recorded his biggest win of his young sprint car racing career when he raced to victory in the $5,000 to win Open Wheel Nationals event at the St. Croix Valley Raceway on Saturday June 29. Following a 360 spin by race leader Chris Graf, Thiel found himself sitting in fifth on the restart. When fellow eastern Wisconsin racer Ben Schmidt’s motor stumbled just a bit on the restart, the field bunched up some entering turn one. Thiel saw his opportunity to blast down low, and when he exited turn two he had the lead. Ten green flag laps later, Thiel drove into Victory Lane for his second Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series win on the season and his second at the track this year. Thiel had made the trip over in late May and picked up the win at the Tabor Memorial.

On this night at SCVR, the lion’s share of the money headed back to the eastern side of the state with Thiel and Schmidt finishing first and second. Commenting after the race, a still energized Thiel stated, “Once I got the lead, I kept telling myself to settle down and not make any mistakes in those final laps. Those laps couldn’t go by fastest enough for me. I was nervous thinking about not jumping the cushion and hitting the wall or not messing up. I was glad to see the checkers waving. This is my biggest win in sprint cars so far. This is awesome!”

For current UMSS point leader Chris Graf, it was a gut-wrenching moment while leading the feature with 10 laps to go and then suddenly looping around in turn four. Following the race, Graf discovered that a right rear shocking mounting bolt had broken causing him to do the 360 spin. The yellow flag flew and Graf knew his chances of winning had just gone down the drain along with the top prize and unique steering wheel trophy.

Graf and preliminary feature winner Lee Grosz brought the 20 car starting field to the green for the 35 lap championship main event. Following a caution on the initial start when Jason Tostenson spun around at the pit exit in turn one, Graf grabbed the early lead with Grosz close behind. Three laps into the race, 2011 & 2012 UMSS Champion Jerry Richert, Jr. slowed down the back stretch with a sour motor. Cam Schafer hopped over the left rear tire of Richert and flipped over to bring out the red flag. 2010 UMSS Champion Cody Hahn was also collected in the accident but was able to restart at the tail of the field. Surprisingly, Hahn’s car seemed to work better after the incident as he was on the move forward.

A couple of cautions waved for the Kennedy family, as both Lou and Thomas dropped out of the race. Graf continued to lead Grosz, but on lap 10 Grosz ducked underneath Graf. Three laps later Graf returned the favor and regained the top spot. With fifteen laps in, Grosz spun in turn two while running second and was relegated to the rear of the field. Jared Goerges did a 360 spin three laps later to slow the pace once again. Graf powered away from the field up on the high side during the next seven laps before misfortune came knocking.

Over the course of the last half of the feature, some great racing was taking place behind the leaders. Jack Dover was on the move forward from his 14th starting spot along with 12th starter Tony Norem. Once Thiel made the move from fifth to first on the last restart, the race went green the final ten circuits around the 1/4 mile dirt oval. Finishing behind Thiel and Schmidt was Norem, Dover and Rick Kobs with his best UMSS winged sprint finish. Norem and Dover swapped the third spot on several occasions in the waning laps. Rounding out the top ten finishers in the very entertaining feature race were Gregg Bakker, 17th starter Cody Hahn, Grosz, Tostenson and Graf.

With the Friday night preliminary program setting things up for Saturday, three heat races were run. Dover, Kobs and Thiel won the heats. Lee Grosz topped the Pole Dash with Graf in second. The finish of the dash set the first three rows of the championship feature. The next four drivers in points after the heats found themselves locked into positions 7-10 in the feature. Those drivers were Kobs, Thiel, Richert and Thomas Kennedy. Two Last Chance Races provided the final opportunity for drivers to make the A Main. Lou Kennedy, Jr. and Norem took home the wins with the top five finishers transferring to the feature.

When the 2nd Annual Open Wheel Nationals had concluded, fans had witnessed an incredible amount of racing over the course of two days. Memories were made, races were won and lost, and several dramatic moments played out. In the end, the Open Wheel Nationals proved to be an event fans will want to be sure and mark on their racing calendars each year.

With the UMSS continuing to put on entertaining racing programs for the fans, the chase for the championship continues when the UMSS heads north with both divisions in action on Saturday July 6 at the Hibbing Raceway and then the following night on July 7 at the Proctor Speedway. Fans can stay updated on all of the UMSS racing action by checking out our website at or by following us on our Facebook page.

UMSS Race Results – St. Croix Valley Raceway June 29, 2013 (Race #6)
2nd Annual Open Wheel Nationals:

Championship Feature (35 Laps): 1. 64-Scotty Thiel[8]; 2. 35-Ben Schmidt[4]; 3. B1ST-Tony Norem[12]; 4. 53-Jack Dover[14]; 5. 34-Rick Kobs[7]; 6. 11X-Gregg Bakker[3]; 7. 23-Cody Hahn[17]; 8. 14-Lee Grosz[1]; 9. 36-Jason Tostenson[6]; 10. 20G-Chris Graf[2]; 11. 29-Leigh Thomas[16]; 12. 48-Neal Matuska[18]; 13. 77-Brandon Allen[20]; DNF 9-Jared Goerges[15]; DNF 7-Dave Becker[13]; DNF 3TK-Tony Kaus[19]; DNF 20K-Thomas Kennedy[10]; DNF 21K-Lou Kennedy Jr.[11]; DNF 63-Jerry Richert Jr[9]; DNF 5-Cam Schafer[5]

Lap Leaders: Graf 1-9, Grosz 10-12, Graf 13-25, Thiel 26-35. Cautions: (7).
Last Chance Race 1 (10 Laps): 1. 21K-Lou Kennedy Jr.[4]; 2. 7-Dave Becker[2]; 3. 9-Jared Goerges[6]; 4. 23-Cody Hahn[3]; 5. 3TK-Tony Kaus[5]; 6. 37-Sye Anderson[1]; 7. 5-Anna Kouba[7]; 8. 91A-Reed Allex[8]; DNS 33-Scott Broty; DNS 31-James Broty
Last Chance Race 2 (10 Laps): 1. B1ST-Tony Norem[1]; 2. 53-Jack Dover[8]; 3. 29-Leigh Thomas[6]; 4. 48-Neal Matuska[2]; 5. 77-Brandon Allen[5]; 6. 34TW-Gunner Cummings[7]; DNF 20-Jordan Wilmes[4]; DNF 27-Carson McCarl[3]; DNS 10X-Jennifer Eriksen
Pole Dash (6 Laps): 1. 14-Lee Grosz[1]; 2. 20G-Chris Graf[2]; 3. 11X-Gregg Bakker[3]; 4. 35-Ben Schmidt[5]; 5. 5-Cam Schafer[4]; 6. 36-Jason Tostenson[6]
Ultimate Sprint Heat 1 (10 Laps): 1. 53-Jack Dover[2]; 2. 21K-Lou Kennedy Jr.[3]; 3. 63-Jerry Richert Jr[1]; 4. B1ST-Tony Norem[4]; 5. 29-Leigh Thomas[6]; 6. 48-Neal Matuska[7]; 7. 20-Jordan Wilmes[5]; DNS 33-Scott Broty
Ultimate Sprint Heat 2 (10 Laps): 1. 34-Rick Kobs[1]; 2. 37-Sye Anderson[3]; 3. 27-Carson McCarl[5]; 4. 23-Cody Hahn[4]; 5. 3TK-Tony Kaus[2]; 6. 5-Anna Kouba[6]; 7. 91A-Reed Allex[7]; DNS 10X-Jennifer Eriksen
Ultimate Sprint Heat 3 (10 Laps): 1. 64-Scotty Thiel[1]; 2. 20K-Thomas Kennedy[4]; 3. 7-Dave Becker[3]; 4. 77-Brandon Allen[5]; 5. 34TW-Gunner Cummings[6]; DNF 9-Jared Goerges[2]; DNS 31-James Broty