Bickle Fends Off Prunty, Continues Dells Raceway Park Winning Streak in Tundra Round One
Streaks may be made to be broken, but some streaks last a long time before they're snapped. On Saturday night Rich Bickle stretched his Dells Raceway Park winning streak to 14 straight since 1989.
Bickle passed Dalton Zehr with 11 laps remaining in the 80-lap TUNDRA Super Late Model Series feature event. He felt late pressure from Dennis Prunty, who charged through the field after an early caution, but held on to win in front of a thrilled crowd.
"Once I passed (Zehr) I thought I had it licked and kind of backed off," Bickle said. "(Prunty) ran a good race. I knew he wasn't going to go by me unless he hit me. I have a lot of respect for the guy; he's come a long way in ten years of racing."
With a late start due to poor weather conditions throughout the afternoon, TUNDRA drivers drew for their starting spot in the feature. The field was led to green by Landry Potter and Terry Schoppenhorst. Potter got the early jump on Schoppenhorst and led the first circuit.
The first caution of the race fell on lap one when Kelsey Bauer was sent spinning in turns one and two. Prunty stopped as part of the yellow and headed to the pit area to check over his machine before the green flew again.
On the restart Zehr, who won two features at DRP last season, jumped to the outside. Zehr worked furiously to find away around Potter, who seemed to be fighting an ill-handling machine. On lap nine Zehr moved past potter into the lead.
Before Zehr had the chance to build his lead, a caution fell when Mike Egan and Kenny Reiser tangled. The restart gave Zehr the front row to himself with Potter and Bickle starting side-by-side in the second row.
Coming back to green on lap 11, Potter and Bickle made contact, which sent the remainder of the 26-car field scurrying. Zehr built up a large advantage while Bickle battled with the likes of Michael Bilderback, Bobby Kendall and Josh Wallace in the top five.
As Bickle began to close in on Zehr another caution fell on lap 18 when Dan Lensing spun in turn two. Bickle this time was accompanied in the second row by Bilderback with Kendall and Wallace behind.
With Zehr taking off on the short run once again, defending Champion Frank Kreyer and Corey Jankowski were moving through the field. By lap 22 Kreyer and Jankowski were door-to-door for the sixth spot with Prunty in hot pursuit. Eight laps later, Kreyer had moved past Jankowski with Prunty still hanging on his back bumper. The tandem then passed Bilderback to secure fourth and fifth.
Zehr and Bickle continued to cruise out front while Kreyer and Prunty sliced through the top ten. On lap 38, the pressure from Prunty was too much and Kreyer surrendered the fourth spot. The duo then crept to the back bumper of Bobby Kendall when another caution fell on lap 50 for a spin on the front stretch.
With another solid restart, Zehr jumped out to another sizeable advantage. Bickle was left to deal with Prunty, who soon swung behind Bickle and began to log laps.
A seemingly insurmountable lead for Zehr was slowly closed on by Bickle. With 15 laps remaining Bickle caught Zehr and began to survey his options. Three laps later Bickle went to the top and slid past Zehr. Two laps later Prunty rocketed past on the inside.
"I've never raced that kid before, and he was really fast," Bickle said of Zehr. "I saw his car giving up a little. My car seemed to get better in the longer run. The thing I liked best about the race was that I passed him on the outside. People say you can't pass on the outside, but I always have and always think you can."
In the closing laps Prunty got to Bickle's bumper on several occasions, but could not find enough room to make a maneuver. In the final trip through turns three and four Prunty gave Bickle a nudge, but did not shake him off the bottom.
"My brother David came on the radio and said, 'just so you know, Rich Bickle hasn't lost a race here since 1989," I wanted to change that for him," Prunty said. "I wanted to do it clean, but I just couldn't quite get there."
Kendall capped off a strong run with a third-place finish, Kreyer was fourth and Jankowski made a late-race pass to round out the top five.
In securing a victory in TUNDRA Super Late Model Series Round One Bickle made a statement that he may have been out of the game for a few years, but he is still a force. The win was Bickle's first since 2006 and also had special significance.
"It felt good to win here with my mom being really sick and being able to win the race for her tonight was really special," Bickle said.
Bickle said he hopes to extend his streak over the next four TUNDRA Super Late Model Series races at Dells Raceway Park.
"It's like the same racing we've had here forever. It's a good group of guys with a lot of fast cars. I really thought my streak could get broken tonight."
Whether Bickle's streak gets stretched to 15 straight will be determined when TUNDRA comes back to DRP on June 16 for Round Two.
Dells Raceway Park is located at N1070 Smith Road, five minutes north of downtown Wisconsin Dells, Wis., off highway 12-16. For more information including the latest news, the 2012 schedule and more visit www.dellsracewaypark.com.