LAKELAND, FL (August 27, 2017) – Hastings, NE Mike Molnar dominated the 21 car VLR World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series field at USA Speedway on Sunday night, but a hard charging Austen Semmelmann of Brookfield, WI took command with two laps to go after rallying from eighth place to hang on to win the season opener in a wild finish.
Eric Hough rounded out the top three after rallying from the B Main and starting 14th in the 16 car A Main to earn the hard charger award. The Iowa driver was followed home by Marc Molnar and Brad Casch rounding out the top five.
“We had a great run here tonight,” Semmelmann said in Victory Lane. “I wish the show went a little smoother and we had more green flag racing, but all in all it was a really good night and I personally like having the track so slick like it was tonight. I was able to put myself in good position most of the night and we eventually got up there to battle for the win and pull it off.”
Semmelmann and Howard Weaver qualified first and second for the 35 lap event and won their respective heat races, but an 8 car invert for the A Main put the two veterans starting mid-pack.
Tommy Rowe Jr. was the main beneficiary of the invert as the 38 car would find himself on the pole for the main event, with Mike Molnar starting to his outside. The race quickly got off to a rough start however, as third starting Dillon Semmelmann got loose on throttle and turned up the track into the #7 of Howard Weaver, sending Semmelmann flipping wildly on the front stretch, and forcing Weaver into the pits early.
Once the race went back green, it would only be a couple more laps before trouble struck again. The 8 car of Chris Beck misjudged a slide-job and drifted into the pathway of Australian driver Bob King, ending his night in the process.
On the ensuing restart, Mike Molnar took the lead with Chris Adams making an impressive rally from 9th to 2nd in only a handful of laps. The third caution of the night would come on lap 18 when pole-sitter Tommy Rowe Jr. got loose out of turn four and made hard contact with the outside wall.
The next restart with 13 laps to go was the most intense of the evening as the leaders swapped spots several times over the ensuing laps. It was the number four of Chris Adams, in his first ever start at VLR, who made a bold pass on the outside of Mike Molnar in turn 2 to take over the top spot.
Adams lead would be short lived however, as the 28 of Brad Casch made a daring move on the inside of turn four the same lap to move into the top spot with a perfectly executed slide-job. All the while, the 18 of Austen Semmelmann was stalking the top two drivers after moving past Molnar for third.
One more caution slowed the event with eight laps to go, and the racing was just as frenetic after this restart as it was the prior one. With seven to go Semmelmann crossed under Chris Adams to move into second spot and set his sights on Brad Casch in first.
Suddenly three cars were under a blanket as Semmelmann, Casch, and Molnar all swapped spots incessantly. All the while, the #14 of Eric Hough was one of the fastest cars on the track and moved into fourth.
With three laps to go Semmelmann zoomed by Casch to take the lead and would not look back. Mike Molnar also made quick work of Casch to move into 2nd, with Eric Hough rounding out the top three finishers after a wild move around Casch on the high side.
“I was in third, I think, with five laps to go,” Semmelmann explained. “I just tried all different lines to pass and the car seemed to stick wherever I ran. I'm just happy to make it out of here with the win and hell of a job from Mike and all those guys for racing clean but hard.”
Mike Molnar was satisfied with a second place finish in his first race ever at VLR, but had to be thinking what could've been had he hung on for the victory.
“I knew I needed to move around,” Mike Molnar said of his late decision to change lines. “We were staying high most of the race but I saw other guys making up time by running low or just running low in turn four and we started doing that after we fell back some and were able to get back up here. I'll take a second place finish for my first time here and against some big names in the world of iRacing. Definitely a good way to start our season here.”
Hough's third-place finish solidifies his status as one of the best sim dirt racers there is after charging from the back of the field and making aggressive moves that most drivers wouldn't dare attempt.
“It was a really frustrating night at first, but there's something about starting at the tail of a field and working your way up that's really rewarding,” Hough said of the race. “This was a really strong field and even though the race didn't go as smooth as we would've liked, I'm still happy to bring it home with a top three and have the car in one piece. We'll move on to next week and hopefully get another solid run out of it."
The Team VLR World of Outlaws Series are now set to head to Eldora Speedway for what is sure to be another wild one. Check out our Facebook page and website at teamvlr.com for more information.
USA Speedway Notebook
Feature Results (35 Laps - Top 16 transfer)
1. (8th) Austen Semmelmann
2. (2nd) Mike Molnar
3. (14th) Eric Hough
4. (13th) Marc Molnar
5. (6th) Brad Casch
6. (7th) Howard Weaver
7. (4th) Drew Neel
8. (1st) Tommy Rowe, Jr.
9. (15th) Timothy Gustin
10. (12th) Curtis Kelley
11. (9th) Chris Adams
12. (10th) Chris Belk
13. (16th) Daniel Passmore
14. (11th) Scott Schrader
15. (5th) Bob King
16. (3rd) Dillon Semmelmann