From Jeff Pederson
(November 14, 2021) – After negotiating an unusual, COVID-19-shortened 2020 season, it was back to business as usual for the Akright Auto Parts of Sheboygan Falls Midwest Sprint Car Association as its drivers and teams completed a full 2021 campaign, which drew to an official conclusion with the 23rd annual MSA Awards Banquet held Saturday, Nov. 13 at The Village at 170 in Kohler, Wis.
A total of 149 MSA supporters gathered to honor first-time MSA champion Travis Arenz of Sheboygan Falls, along with 18 other point fund-eligible drivers, who competed in at least 85 percent of the 27 points races that comprised the 2021 schedule.
MSA President Sheila Leamer opened the evening’s festivities by providing her reflections on the 2021 MSA season.
“After the shortened season we encountered in 2020 due to COVID-19, I was not sure what to expect in 2021,” Leamer said. “We came into the season with 33 scheduled points races and we wound up losing six to weather to end up with 27 points races. We added two non-points races at the end of the season at Beaver Dam Raceway to bring our total number of the scheduled race nights to 35 for the 2021 season.
“We had 19 drivers compete in 85 percent of the races to earn eligibility for the point fund,” she said. “We also had 11 drivers compete in 100 percent of our 2021 races. We averaged 29 cars per night with a high of 37 cars on May 29th. We had car counts of 30 more in 15 events this season. A total of 10 different drivers earned A-main victories and also as a series, we completed 1,920 green flag laps during the 2021 season. I would like to thank all of the drivers, car owners and crews for their support this year.”
After sharing her memories of longtime MSA flag man Dave Deicher, who passed away in May, Leamer also spoke about the strong support MSA received throughout the 2021 from those behind the scenes.
“We are proud to have one of the strongest Sprint Car groups in the nation thanks to the support of so many people,” Leamer said. “I would like to thank all of the fans for their support, along with the MSA sponsors, board members and safety team. Our 2022 schedule is beginning to take shape as we have started the process of contacting tracks. I would like to congratulate all of the drivers for a season well done. I am looking forward to an awesome 2022 season.”
Leamer announced that the 2022 MSA Board of Directors will remain intact with Sheila Leamer serving as president, Kurt Davis as vice president, along with board members Dan Mayer, Dan Teunissen, Todd Wondra, Tony Wondra and Scott Bader.
MSA Announcer George Baumman, who served as the master of ceremonies during the program, provided some perspective on the evolution of Winged 360 Sprint Car Racing in Southeastern Wisconsin.
“Back in 1995, Gary Schlafer, the owner of Beaver Dam Raceway, came up with the idea for a weekly 360 Sprint Car class,” Baumann said. “He is the reason this class happened in the first place. The first 360 Sprint Car race took place on April 17, 1996 at the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam. Dean Erfurth won that very first A main and the first season of 360 Sprint Car racing included a total of 14 nights, including 12 points shows.
“The MSA was formed three years later in 1999 and K.J. Skelton won the first MSA-sanctioned A main, which was held at the Dodge County Fairgrounds,” he said. “The MSA has come a long way since then thanks to the support of many people past and present.”
Baumann then distributed Supporting Company Awards to 2021 MSA Series sponsor Akright Auto, along with R&H Racing Equipment and Mayer Automotive.
The 11 drivers competing in all 27 MSA races in 2021 were recognized with 100 Percent Attendance Awards, including Travis Arenz (first), Ben Schmidt (second), Lance Fassbender (third), Justin Miller (fourth), Will Gerrits (fifth), Tim Haddy (sixth), Adam Miller (ninth), Bill Taylor (12th), Tyler Brabant (13th), Pokorski Motorsports-Alex and Paul Pokorski (14th) and Katelyn Krebsbach (20th).
Also honored were the eight MSA drivers earning 85 percent participation during the 2021 campaign, including Kurt Davis (seventh, 24 races), Justin Erickson (10th, 25 races), Jack Vanderboom (11th, 25 races), Tony Wondra (15th, 25 races), Tyler Tischendorf (16th, 25 races), Matt Rechek (17th, 24 races), Blake Wondra (18th, 25 races) and Preston Ruh (22nd, 23 races).
MSA Competition Driver Scott Bader acknowledge the efforts of 2021 series staff, including officials Fred DeBlaey, John Metzger, Sheila Leamer, Angela Dulmes, Donna Bader, Lee Glomski, Dan Teunissen, Jerry Priesgen, flag men Steve Crass and Alex Gilhart, announcer George Baumann, photographer, videographer and graphic designer Rob Eisentraut of RC Custom Design, race report writer Jeff Pederson of Pedal Down Promotions and the members of the MSA Safety Team.
“In addition to the MSA staff members that I noted, I would also like to recognize and thank the push truck and wrecker drivers for all that they do to support our racing program,” Bader said. “It is very important not to forget the people that work behind the scenes to make the MSA go. It takes all of these people for the MSA to put on a race.”
Bader also thanked each of the tracks on the 2021 MSA schedule, including The Plymouth Dirt Track in Plymouth, Wis. Angell Park Speedway in Sun Prairie, Wis, Beaver Dam Raceway in Beaver Dam, Wis., the Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam, Wis., Outagamie Speedway Powered by EWSC Racing in Seymour, Wis., Gravity Park Speedway in Chilton, Wis. and Wilmot Raceway in Wilmot, Wis.
The first of seven special awards went to Katelyn Krebsbach of Cascade, who claimed the 2021 MSA Rookie of the Year Award on the strength of a 20th-place finish in the point standings, which included one top-10 A-main finish.
“I would like to thank all of the drivers in the MSA,” Krebsbach said. “It has been great group of drivers to race with and they’ve all taught me a lot. I would like to thank my mom and dad for the opportunity to race and the crew and sponsors for helping to make it happen.”
The Most Improved Driver Award went to Jack Vanderboom, who finished 11th in the MSA point standings, while earning one A-main victory, three top-five and 13 top-10 A-main finishes to go along with five heat race victories in 25 MSA points events. Vanderboom also claimed a non-points MSA A-main victory at Beaver Dam Raceway on Saturday, Oct. 2.
“We gained a lot of speed toward the end of the year,” Vanderboom said. “Hopefully, we can continue to build on that for next year. Overall, it has been a very good year for us with a lot of good competition.”
Lance Fassbender claimed the Best Appearing Car and Crew Award for a throwback car design in honor of his late father Fuzzy Fassbender. The Hard Luck Award went to Tyler Brabant of Waupun and the Hard Charger Award was claimed by Travis Arenz, who passed the most cars during the 2021 MSA season.
Beth Meyer of BMG Designs presented the Harry Neitzel MSA Mechanic of the Year Award to Rick Vanderboom and Rick Keller of the Jack Vanderboom-Fast Jack Racing team.
“This award took me totally by surprise,” Rick Vanderboom said. “We have been learning a lot as we have gone along. We are three years into this now and without Rick Lemanski and Scotty Neitzel of R&H Racing Equipment, we wouldn’t be where we are now. We put a lot of work into this.”
“It was an interesting season,” Keller said. “I started racing with Jack when he was 10 years ago. He has grown quite a bit since then. I can’t thank Rick and Scotty at R&H enough for all they do to help us. I have to thank everyone with he MSA too. They are a fun bunch of people to race with.”
The final award recipient to take to the podium was 2021 MSA champion Travis Arenz.
Arenz turned in a dominating 2021 season by posting 10 A-main victories, 20 top-five and 24 top-10 A-main showings and eight heat race wins in 27 MSA points events en route to his first MSA title by a 144-point margin over runner-up Ben Schmidt of Plymouth. Arenz also won a non-points MSA A-main event at Beaver Dam Raceway on Friday, Oct. 1 to tallying a total of 11 A-main triumphs during the 2021 season.
In just four full seasons of MSA 360 Sprint Car competition, Arenz has amassed 22 A-main victories to stand in a tie for sixth on the all-time main event victory list with Donny Goeden of Kewaskum.
“Our four years of racing 360 Sprint Cars has been very eventful,” Arenz said. “Many hours of work went into this effort and it is a great accomplishment for us to win a title with the MSA organization. This accomplishment was definitely not done alone as so many people have contributed to this.
“I want to thank all of the crew members, sponsors, supporters, friends, family and fans that contributed,” he said. “I wouldn’t have been able to do this without all of you. It is a dream come true to be racing a Sprint Car and now to become a champion with the MSA.”