MORRIS, Ill. — A cancellation in his homestate of Wisconsin caused Dalton Zehr and his team to decide Saturday morning to travel two and a half hours down to Illinois’ Grundy County Speedway where Zehr captured the 62nd annual Bettenhausen Memorial 100 presented by Elite Tradeshow Services late model stock car special later that night.
Slated to compete at Dells Raceway Park in Wisconsin Dells, Wis., Zehr saw the postponement of one race benefit him in his second choice as the Florida native became the 31st different winner of the annual Chicago area stock car event at the third-mile paved speedway.
The 32-year-old Zehr, who now calls Verona, Wis., home, wheeled his Gildan American Apparel/First Business Bank-sponsored, Beale Family-owned, Toyota Camry No. 119 to the $6,200 victory ahead of former two-time race winner, Paul Shafer Jr.
Zehr took starter Greg Kuntz’s checkered flag with a 0.740-second margin of victory. Josh Nelms came home third, followed by Anthony Danta, Stan Zolodz and Blake Brown. D.J. Weltmeyer, fastest qualifier Andy Jones, Clay Curts and 2015 race winner Scott Tomasik rounded out the top ten in the 25-car field.
Eight-time late model track champion Eddie Hoffman jumped into the lead from his outside front row starting spot, battling Danta for the top spot. Danta came back and took over the lead on lap 24 with Zehr moving into the lead on lap 29 with the likes Danta, Shafer, Zolodz, Nelms and Brown in tow.
A couple of double-file restarts at the 45-lap mark saw Shafer trying the outside groove and battling with Zehr for the lead. Shafer began pressing Zehr for the lead with lapped-car traffic giving everyone headaches with Zehr using the slower cars to his advantage.
Stretching his lead, Zehr was in control to the finish with Nelms seemingly the fastest car on the track at the end.
“Paulie (Shafer) is a great race car driver,” said Zehr about his biggest challenger. “I was able to get to the front before him. We had a really good restart on the outside to get the lead. He (Shafer) almost took it away from me. He was all over me in an open track, but I was a little bit better in traffic it seemed. I was able to gap him a little bit there.
“I had two slips. The car was a little tight so I had a lot of rear brake in it. If I put too much wheel input to it, it would start to swing around. I needed the rear brake to get the car to rotate. It wasn’t perfect but it was good enough.”
Jones, whose dad Tom won the Bettenhausen 100 lapper 50 years ago when it was held at Indiana’s Illiana Motor Speedway, was the races fastest qualifier with a lap of 14.682 seconds in his Keith Tolf-owned Camry. 27 cars took qualifying runs.
Three-time race winner Ricky Baker and Timmy Stewart won 8-lap qualifying heat races. Tristan Batson won the 10-lap last chance race. Veteran driver Steve Seligman was involved in a wild ride after getting the green flag in the second heat, crashing and flipping to the end of the main straightaway. He escaped injury.
Dalton Zehr, Paul Shafer Jr., Josh Nelms, Anthony Danta, Stan Zolodz, Blake Brown, DJ Weltmeyer, Andy Jones, Clay Curts, Scott Tomasik, Braden Berge, Tony Brutti, Josh Wallace, Ryan Farrell, Kyle Shear, Dean Patterson, Timmy Stewart, Jeff Wakeman, Vince Kuelbs, Eddie Hoffman, Tristan Batson, Nathan Kelly, Ricky Baker, Jim Weber, Dennis Lyp