WISCONSIN DELLS, Wis. — Rich Bickle Jr.’s final year of racing will simply be a memorable one, not only for him but for the many fans who have watched him race.
On Saturday night, Bickle created another memorable moment by winning the inaugural Jim Sauter Classic 200 at Dells Raceway Park by holding off a late challenge from John DeAngelis for his second ARCA Midwest Tour victory this season.
Along with a special one-of-a-kind trophy designed Wehr’s Machine & Racing Products, he also collected the largest pay day in ARCA Midwest Tour history by winning $15,555, honoring the famous No. 5 for the late Jim Sauter.
For Bickle, this victory was about more than the big pay day.
“My whole life isn’t about money, it’s about racing,” the veteran driver said. “That’s what people don’t understand. Like I said, if I win the lottery I will keep going. But it’s been a magical year. It’s just kind of ironic to win the Joe Shear Classic and now the Jim Sauter Classic. Just think I am the only guy in the field to have raced with those guys. It makes you realize how old you are sometimes, but to win it, it is very special.”
Bickle started ninth in the 200-lap event and ran his style of a race where he basically let the race come to him.
He was running eighth when a competition caution came out on lap 67, where he would come to pit road for an adjustment, but not change any tires. He restarted 18th when the race went back to green on lap 75.
The Edgerton, Wis., native was running 14th when the caution flew on lap 101 for debris. Bickle stayed out while most of the field in front of him came in for their pit stop. This allowed him to restart fourth when the field took the green flag on the lap 110 restart.
While Bickle was running third, ahead of him Ty Majeski and Luke Fenhaus, the top two in the current ARCAMT point standings had a spirited side-by-side battle for the lead.
On lap 119, Majeski and Fenhaus were side-by-side as the two made contact going into turn one, causing Majeski’s car to wheel hop and make contact with Fenhaus causing Fenhaus to spin and bring out a caution.
Both were sent to the rear for the incident, giving Bickle the lead.
Bickle would take the lead for good on the restart on lap 130 by getting by Jonathan Eilen for the top spot.
Behind him, Casey Johnson was making his charge to the front and chasing down Bickle until the final competition caution flew with 25 laps to go.
The restart on lap 182, Bickle and Johnson were racing side-by-side until on lap 183 where the two made contact in turns three and four causing them to get loose. Bickle was quickly able to get his car going and held on to the lead, while Johnson drifted back, allowing DeAngelis and Gabe Sommers to move into podium positions.
A multi-car wreck in turn two with 10 laps to go, would tighten the field for a final single-file restart.
DeAngelis would get within a car length of Bickle and sent his car sailing into turns three and four with seven laps to go to see if he could get by the veteran. DeAngelis would not prevail and slipped back a few car lengths to give Bickle some breathing room to the checkered flag.
“I really didn’t see what happened, and I just missed Luke,” Bickle said. “I knew I couldn’t pit because there were too many cars on the lead lap. So I said we have to drive this thing to the end on four tires we started with, and after the race the right rear went flat. It went as far as you can take it.”
DeAngelis earned his second podium finish in a row.
“We are so close, track position hurt us once again. We got taken to the back like 30 laps to go and it hurt us big time,” DeAngelis said after the race. “If we could have stayed up there, it would have been a different outcome.”
Sommers finished third after leading early in the event.
“The car was really good. We did a little different pit strategy where we pitted early just trying to get that track position after everyone else pitted,” Sommers said. “It worked out, but we just needed a little better car at the end. Third in a big race like this, I’m happy with it.”
The Sauter family rounded out the top five with Travis, grandson, finishing fourth and Johnny Sauter, son, finishing fifth.
Rich Bickle Jr., John DeAngelis, Gabe Sommers, Travis Sauter, Johnny Sauter, Casey Johnson, Austin Nason, Luke Fenhaus, Ty Majeski, Justin Mondeik, Mike Lichtfeld, Jeff Storm, Levon VanDerGeest, Dennis Prunty, Skylar Holzhausen, Jonathan Eilen, Dalton Zehr, Brady Bill, Dillon Hammond, Andy Monday, Paul Shafer Jr., Ryan Farrell, Andrew Brocker, Alex Prunty, Michael Anthony,