LAKELAND, FL (May 23, 2017) - Austen Semmelmann shook off a rough start to the VLR Super Late Model Series by parking his #18 mount in Victory Lane Sunday night at the USA International Speedway. The Brookfield, WI driver was able to hold off charges from Howard Weaver and Shane James to earn the victory.
The 40-lap feature event was slowed by five cautions in the first 18 laps which kept the field bunched up. Semmelmann quickly jumped out to a lead following each caution before the race finally went green the last 23 laps of the race. Semmelmann quickly pulled out to a big lead after the final caution whilst leaving Weaver and James to battle behind him for second. The win was not only his first of the season, but his first top five as well in the VLR Super Late Model series.
“It feels great to get a win finally after the bad luck we had to start the season," commented Semmelmann after the race. "Our results definitely don't show how competitive we've been. We were running top five all race at Eldora in the opener and had some issues at the end, and then at Volusia last week we were running third and got caught up in a big wreck at the end.
"To finally finish in the top five and not only that, but to win, is huge going forward and gives us a lot of confidence that we can get it done. And despite the bad luck the first two races we're suddenly leading the points so maybe things are turning around for us already."
Crossville, TN driver Howard Weaver started on the outside pole for the A Main but was never able to strongly contend for the win. Weaver and Indiana driver Shane James had an exciting battle for much of the race with the two flip-flopping positions until Weaver finally cleared James for good on lap 26.
"This is definitely not my best track so it's kind of ironic that we were able to get second here after not doing near as well at my two best tracks the last two weeks," said Weaver. "I gotta say thanks to Shane James for racing me clean all race because this is a hard track not to run into people and he was really patient. It kinda got strung out there at the end but I will take a second place at this track any day."
James ended up coming home third, just a few car lengths behind Weaver. The pilot of the #5 machine showed flashes of being able to keep up with Semmelmann, but in the end it wasn't enough as he would fade to a third place finish late in the race. However, it was still a solid day for James in his first ever race at VLR.
"We had a decent car tonight. I was just happy to be able to run up front with these guys here," said James after the race. "I feel like we were really good on the short runs but once it got spread out there at the end we faded a bit, but picking up third and not wrecking is still a good finish for us."
Completing the top ten were Zachary Mietzner, James Sheasby, Philip Neace, Shane Kline, Christopher Moody, Chris Orencia, and Bryce Sheasby. In preliminary action, Austen Semmelmann set fast time with a 21.323.
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Lap Leaders: Austen Semmelmann (1-40)
Optima Batteries Hard Charger of the Race: Zachary Mietzner (started 8th; finished 4th)
Midwest Sheet Metal Spoiler Challenge Point Leader: Austen Semmelmann