Young Max Kahler on the victory podium after he won the 55th annual National Short Track Championships late model stock car race at Illinois’ Rockford Speedway Sunday afternoon. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)
Young Max Kahler on the victory podium after he won the 55th annual National Short Track Championships late model stock car race at Illinois’ Rockford Speedway Sunday afternoon. (Stan Kalwasinski Photo)

Kahler Bumps, Runs To National Short Track Championship Win

LOVES PARK, Ill. — A rather rock ‘em and sock ‘em 55th annual National Short Track Championships 200 super late model stock car race took place Sunday afternoon at Rockford Speedway, with Max Kahler coming home the winner.

Kahler, a 17-year-old high school senior from Caledonia, Ill., put a little bump and run on leader Dale Nottestad with a lap to go to earn the victory and the $5,000 first prize money.  Racing late model-type cars since he was 13, Kahler wheeled his ReTool/Windsor Auto Sales/Machinery Source LLC/Trump Cabello/Candlelite Chicago/Rush Power Systems/BelRock Asphalt Paving/B&K Concrete-sponsored Chevrolet SS No. 17 to the win at the banked, quarter-mile, paved oval.

The last lap action saw Michael Bilderback grab second place with Nottestad ending up third. Nottestad was later disqualified during a post-race inspection for a carburetor infraction.

The official finish behind the top-two found Austin Nason, Landry Potter and two-time National Short Track Championship winner Alex Prunty in the top-five. Both Nason and Prunty looked to be in contention for the win during the race that was plagued by numerous yellow flags.

“I can’t believe. It’s incredible,” said Kahler.  “Last year, it was over before it started when the throttle stuck (in a weekday National Short Track Championship practice) and going over the fence over there (turn one). This makes up for all that.

“I let everyone kind of run me over all day. I never used anyone up except Dale (Nottestad) there at the end. He used me up two or three times (prior). He had to see it coming.  Second place coming to the white flag and I got it done. I had to stay close to his (Nottestad’s) bumper cover on the restart. I gave him a little bump in the left rear and he went way up the track. I ran him up. That’s how it goes here (at Rockford). It was a last lap scenario.”

A field of 16 took the green flag for the start of the race with Nason leading the way from his outside front-row starting spot. Getting into brake fluid from a broken brake line on the Bilderback No. 2, Kyle Shear brought out the first yellow caution flag when he hit the wall hard and rode up the barrier between turns three and four.

After a long cleanup period, Prunty lined up inside of leader Nason for a double-file restart with Bilderback’s crew able to make repairs and get him back in the race. Battling side-by-side for the top spot on lap 30, Prunty and Nason got together with both spinning off of turn four.

When racing got going again around lap 40, Nottestad was out front with Rich Bickle Jr., another two-time National Short Track Championship winner, giving chase. Fast qualifier Jake Gille was also in the hunt until a broken shock absorber ended any changes of winning, finally finishing 10th some 54 laps behind the winner.

A competition caution came out with 80 laps complete with everyone pitting except Rob Braun and Chris Purdy. When racing resumed, Nottestad quickly got back out front. Nason became the leader just passed the halfway mark with Kahler and Nottestad trailing.

Nason looked on his way to victory until another competition yellow came out with 178 laps complete. Racing began again on lap 183 with Nason being pursued by Prunty. The duo tangled with two laps to go as they raced down the main stretch with Prunty getting into the wall in turn one.

Nottestad was again the leader but found himself trying to hang on in the closing lap from the challenging Kahler. Eight cars finished the race with Kahler, a recovering Bilderback, Nottestad, Nason and Landry Potter completing all 200 laps.

The finish:

Max Kahler, Michael Bilderback, Austin Nason, Landry Potter, Alex Prunty, Rob Braun, Jake Vanoskey, Chris Pulera, Jake Gille, Casey Johnson, Rich Bickle Jr., Chris Purdy, Scott Koerner, Jon Reynolds Jr., Kyle Shear, Dale Nottestad.