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Showdown at The Zone!

By Jeffrey Sachse
Wednesday, August 31, 2011 - Oshkosh, WI. - It's going to be a showdown, and just like the old west, the fastest reflexes, the best timing, and a little luck will come into play as to who is standing when the smoke clears. When the final checkered flag falls on Friday evening, five new champions at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway will be crowned. For the point leaders the surest way to the championship crown is through the winner's circle, and for the challengers, their best hope is reaching the checkered flag first during the feature events.

The point battles which waged throughout the 2011 season have been among the closest since Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway opened in 1999. Heading into the final night, mathematically 19 different drivers have a shot at a championship using the most extreme cases which would involve the point leaders encountering mechanical difficulty and being unable to start the feature. However, the reality is in four of the five divisions it will take until the checkered flag falls in the feature events before the title is decided.

The closest of these battles will take place during the Total Power Sales Street Stock division. In that division Jeff Jungwirth started the season with a victory and has found himself in the thick of the title chase ever since. Jungwirth's key has been consistency. In addition to his victory, he has cracked the top five in a feature nine times this season and most importantly has avoided dropping from a feature contest early in an event.

His nearest rival is veteran racer Jerry Winkler. Winker is no stranger to track championships having won season titles before and has proven his speed taking home three feature wins this season. The past few weeks he has methodically trimmed Jungwirth's lead and now, on the final night Winkler is within striking distance for the showdown. Winker has been racking up points in the heat races winning three of his last four heat events and he has not finished worse than second since June 3rd in a heat race, should that trend continue Jungwirth and Winkler could be nearly dead even with only a 20 lap feature left to decide the title on Friday night.

The Miller Lite Grand Nationals have a similar showdown, only in this case it's young hot shoe T.J. Smith looking to record his first track title at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway. At 18 years of age Smith already has two Grand National titles to his name at 141 Speedway and is hoping to add a championship at The Zone to his resume. Smith holds a slim 6 point advantage into the final night of action over Tim Warner.

Warner has had an up and down season seeing several feature victories disappear when he encountered mechanical difficulties. Even so, over the past three weeks Warner has closed the gap but the question remains, is it too little - too late? Or can Warner steal the title on the final night of action? Again the outcome won't be known until the checkered flag flies. Adding to the drama will be defending champion Larry Richards. Fresh off a feature win and now only 13 points from the lead, should both Smith and Warner encounter difficulties, Richards could sweep past both and win his second straight title in dramatic fashion.

The fastest weekly division at the Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway is the Automotive Supply Company Modified division where Brian Drexler clings to a eight point lead over Tim Lemirande who has a pair of victories and a third in facture action over the most recent three weeks. Before that performance Lemirande was in fifth place some 26 points behind Drexler. While Lemirande will be shooting for another victory to close the gap, Drexler will need to remain consistent and finish with a solid top five performance to secure his title hopes. Should both Drexler and Lemirande encounter difficulties during the final point program, Eddie Muenster who is 12 points out of the lead position is poised to take advantage and possibly come home with the 2011 track title.

The last division up for grabs is the Lynn's Service Center Dirt Devils. Jason Fairbank, who has lead the standings in the division for most of the season holds his fate in his own hands. With a 10 point gap on Dan Juszczyk, Fairbank will need to avoid dropping from the feature contest and finish solidly in the top 10 to earn his first career championship. For Juszczyk, his goal will be a sweep to maximize points and put the pressure on Fairbank.

The only title which is secured heading into the final point night is in the Leon's Frozen Custard Sport Modified division. Zeke Bishofberger is sporting a 46 point lead on Kevin Bethke. Since the maximum points possible in one night is 43, Bishofberger has earned the division title. Second however will be up for grabs as Bethke holds a slim 9 point advantage on Adam Pugh making that position the focus of attention in the point chase on the final night.

Racing action for the season championship night presented by LaSure's Banquet Hall will begin at 6:30pm.

Grandstands open at 5:00pm and the pit gate opens at 4:00pm

Adult tickets for the race are just $10, with tickets for students ages 11 to 15 at the discounted price of only $5. Children 10 years of age and under are admitted FREE with an adult.

Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway is a 1/3 mile semi-banked clay oval located at the Sunnyview Expo Center which resides near the intersection of Highways 76 and County Trunk Y in Oshkosh. Weekly racing Friday Night racing continues until September.

Fans and drivers are encouraged to visit the track website at www.oshkoshspeedzone.net for additional information on upcoming racing events.