WEST SALEM, Wis. – Casey Johnson won the Oktoberfest 200, the season finale for the ARCA Midwest Tour at the 52nd annual Oktoberfest Race Weekend at the LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway on Sunday afternoon.
The Edgerton, Wis., native took the lead on lap 118 from Ty Majeski and held off a late challenge from Majeski and Travis Sauter en route to adding his name to the list that of drivers who have won the 200-lap Oktoberfest finale.
“Sure has a ring to it, doesn’t it,” a smiling Johnson said in victory lane when asked about being the big Oktoberfest winner. “We had a good car. It was hard to put that one away on Friday (where he finished second in the Dick Trickle 99 event), but we knew this was our best bullet and boy did she come alive late.”
Johnson led twice in the race, the first was when he took the lead from Dan Fredrickson on lap 79. He would lead until lap 88 when the only non-competition caution waved for an incident involving Fredrickson and Levon Van Der Geest in turn four. Fredrickson would retire from the race, while Van Der Geest re-joined the field with no right side door.
The defending two-time ARCA Midwest Tour champion would make his only controlled pit stop during the caution and would restart in sixth.
Majeski was one of five cars to stay on the track during the caution and would inherit the lead when the green flew on lap 97.
It only took 20 laps for Johnson to move back into the lead around Majeski.
Majeski, who wrapped up his fifth ARCA Midwest Tour championship, started to fade back all the way to 15th and would go a lap down on lap 145.
Four laps later, the second and final competition caution waved and Majeski would get the lucky dog to get himself back on the lead lap. He would come into the pits and get fresh tires to make a run to the finish.
The green flag would wave on lap 156 with Johnson getting the lead over Sauter. Sauter would try to stay within a second of Johnson but would not get close to challenge Johnson for the lead.
Majeski, with a fresh set of Hoosier tires on his car, made a hard run to the front hoping to catch Johnson to get the victory and a $15,100 Ultimate Challenge bonus since he elected to start at the rear of the field.
He would make a strong charge to the front in the final ten laps as he went from fifth to second. Johnson had a big lead and Majeski would come up 2.827 seconds short of securing his third Oktoberfest 200 victory in a row, and fourth overall in his career.
Sauter would hold on to third with Rich Bickle Jr., in his final Oktoberfest Race Weekend event, coming home fourth. Dalton Zehr would round out the top five.
“We basically set a pace, and that pace happen to be fast and keep it up front,” Johnson said. “We stayed in clean air, stayed out of trouble and everything just went our own way.”
Majeski’s strategy didn’t work out as they hoped for during the race.
“Obviously hindsight is 20/20, but all we needed was a caution there and we would have looked like the smart ones,” Majeski said after the race. “It’s just the way it goes sometimes. You win some that way and you lose some that way. Today just wasn’t our day.”
Sauter was in the top three throughout the event and fell back to third in the late going of the event.
“I am not satisfied for sure. When you have a car that is this good, you should win the race,” Sauter said. “It’s just frustrating. I wore the right front tire out. Not sure why, but it just took away any chance we had to make a run at Casey. Honestly, I thought with 20 to go, I was going to blow the right front and knock the wall down. I was just hanging on there.”
Majeski makes history becoming the first five-time champion of the ARCA Midwest Tour.
“It means a lot. We have been doing this a long time together now,” Majeski explained. “I’m not the young guy on the block anymore. It’s been a pleasure to race with these guys with so many years and accomplished the things we did, these race cars are great and I get to drive them.”
Luke Fenhaus, who finished second in points, won the ARCA Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year title.
Casey Johnson, Ty Majeski, Travis Sauter, Rich Bickle Jr., Dalton Zehr, Skylar Holzhausen, Derek Kraus, Luke Fenhaus, Braison Bennett, Riley Stenjem, Ryan Farrell, Jonathan Eilen, Gabe Sommers, Carson Kvapil, Austin Nason, Matthew Henderson, Paul Shafer Jr., Jeff Storm, Dillon Hammond, Johnny Sauter, Derek Lemke, Kody Vanderwal, Levon VanDerGeest, Mark Lamoreaux, Bryan Syer-Keske, Dan Fredrickson, Griffin McGrath, Justin Mondeik, Andrew Morrissey, Andrew Brocker.