By Jim den Hollander
Patience and consistency paid huge dividends for Jay Orr of South Milwaukee as he topped the sheet at the Impact Survival Series Lucky Leprechaun 300, leading the field of 92 racers in the first ISS event held at Dells Raceway Park.
Orr knows from experience as a regular in the ISS series. He has won races in the past and placed 18th at the season opening Chill Chaser at 141 Speedway in Chilton.
This time around, he drew in on the sixth row and never fell outside of the Top 20 in his Mitsubishi Eclipse, built for speed as opposed to appearance.
Having been through these 300-lap events before, Orr knows the drill. His goal through the first 200-lap session was primarily to stay out of trouble and in doing so, he avoided the quick but costly dash off track that so many others underwent for a variety of malfunctions including primarily flat tires. That came from a track that saw only limited carnage in terms of vehicles, but some major debris issues as front bumpers simply didn’t want to stay on.
At the Lap 200 Break, Orr, expected he was in contention but found out he was in an even better spot that he hoped for.
“Just keeping your eye on the track and where accidents are happening (was the strategy),” said Orr. “The first half you kind of want to stay out of trouble, not go a lap down type thing, just kind of stable. At break time, I knew I was in the top five or so – just kind of watching how many cars you are passing compared to how many are passing you, you kind of gauge off that where you’re running.
“At the break, I was second, so I knew that. I knew where I was and I knew who was leading. I made sure I got that before we got back running.
For Orr, it was a mostly drama-free afternoon.
“The alternator belt was loose and it was squealing on red flags a bit, but that was it,” said Orr adding with a chuckle that while he addressed a few things during the quick 200-Lap Break, “I forgot about that though. We just changed both front tires and kept right on going.”
Orr said the issue was primarily after the brief red flag delays on the early laps and luckily that wasn’t an issue at the end as the final 76 laps were run without stops.
Orr clearly had a fast car, but as one of the top two finishers, he will lose it as the down side to collecting a $4,600 first place prize is losing his vehicle. To keep things interesting, Series owner/promoter Matt Rowe keeps the top two finishing vehicles and holds them out one race before reselling them.
So, Orr will have to find something quick to run at the next event at Jefferson Speedway on April 13. He is happy to do so.
“I’ll be there with something, not sure what yet,” said Orr with a smile after the race.
Orr jumped to 13th on the opening lap and bounced around a bit on the opening laps before crossing the line 10th on Lap 10. A lap later he was eighth and he moved to sixth and ultimately up to fourth by Lap 16. He fell back a bit to seventh and held positions between fourth and seventh in a battle for the next 30 Laps.
He moved to third on Lap 47 and remained there for more than 100 Laps before jumping into the runners up spot on Lap 155.
After the Break, Orr continued in second before jumping to the point spot on Lap 213 and he was unmoved the rest of the way.
Devon Dixon, from Afton was the runner up. A Jefferson Speedway regular, Dixon made an aggressive and successful move to the front from the back of the field. Dixon crossed the line 74th after a lap and jumped 12 spots on his next circuit to 62. By the time 10 laps were complete, Dixon sat 23rd and six laps later he jumped inside the Top 10. He was third at the end of Lap 23, but dropped to fourth on the next trip, staying there for five laps, then back into third for a dozen laps. He took over the lead on Lap 51 and held that spot for 20 Laps, recapturing on Lap 83 and holding all the way to Lap 212 when Orr made the winning pass.
Dixon who earned a $2,300 check while also losing his vehicle, did not take part I the season opener.
Justin Schelitzche, from Waconia, MN and defending Wissota Hornets Track Champion at Granite City Speedway, wrapped up third spot in his #14.
After being drawn 60th for a 20th row starting spot, Schelitzche managed to jump to 53rd on the opening lap and improved that to 42nd in the opening 10 Laps.
He continued steady progress through the pack and moved into the Top 10 on Lap 54. Just 20 Laps later he was in the top five and he ran 40 laps in fourth spot before slipping briefly back to fifth and sixth. He grabbed third place for the first time on Lap 162 and again slipped back to fifth on Lap 184. He stayed there until Lap 279 when he jumped to fourth and he grabbed a podium spot on the final two laps.
Fourth place finisher was Kurt Schweitzer (#73), a regular in the Sizzlin’ 4’s Division for the Fox River Racing Club at Wisconsin International Raceway and fifth went to Scott Blanke (#45.
Rounding out the Top 10 in order were: Dale Chitek (#62); Josh Klopotek (#181); Jared Baughman (#4X); Jake Balk (#13) and Bob Voigt (#52).
Rowe was pleased with the car count, especially since the race was originally scheduled for the previous weekend but moved due to a late thaw at the track.
There are bugs to work out for the first time at any track, but Rowe was happy with the way things went at DRP, a spot he hopes will be a regular for his series.
“Obviously every track is going to be different. Things that have to be learned by myself, my team and the racers as well. It’s the fastest track we’ve been to in a while. Not a whole lot faster, maybe five mph or so, but that makes a big difference. Some guys want to change the tire sizes here. Some of them have to do different things with their cars.
“We have to communicate and learn to work with their team and stuff. We had the radios programmed for example, exactly to their frequency – just some little things like that.
The crew did a great job here compared to where we were two weeks ago with waist-deep snow and underneath the waist-deep snow was six inches of ice everywhere you go. Just crazy the conditions they had to. It was a shame we had to postpone the race, but we started 92 cars today. We had 92 that pre-registered so what happened was we had about seven guys that couldn’t make it because we rescheduled and we had about six (late sign ups) that came and took their place.
“We’re pretty proud of the car count, the guys that are out here and continue to do this. Now the challenge is the three week turnaround before we go to Jefferson Speedway. “
The wide ring at DRP is well suited for this type of racing with some of the tightly bunched groups racing four and even five wide all the way around at different times.