By: Eric Huenefeld
The Big 8 Late Model Series presented by Gandrud Chevrolet wraps up its tenth season this Saturday October 4 during the Oktoberfest Race Weekend at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem Wisconsin. When the checkered flag falls on the final race of the series’ tenth year, history could be made.
Edgerton Wisconsin’s Casey Johnson leads the Big 8 Series point standings heading into LaCrosse and if the 24 year old can hold the point lead and win the series championship, it will be his second consecutive Big 8 crown. If Johnson clinches another series championship, he joins four-time series champion Jeremy Miller as the only multi-time champion since the series began counting points in 2005.
Last season, Johnson and Dale Nottestad came into LaCrosse separated by merely one point. As the last race day of 2013 progressed, both drivers not only found themselves in a battle for the series championship, but in a battle to simply make the race. Both men locked themselves into the 68 lap main event via the last chance race and started the championship feature side-by-side. Nottestad’s day-long hard luck continued into the feature, while Johnson made just enough headway to clinch his first series championship.
This season, Johnson has won four races on the Big 8 tour, more than anyone else. A win at Oktoberfest not only would clinch a series championship in style, but it also would tie the single season mark of five wins in one year (set by Ross Kenseth in 2009).
Johnson’s chief rival headed into Oktoberfest is Roscoe Illinois teenager Austin Nason, who sits 45 points behind Johnson in second place. Nason is a multi-time winner this year in Big 8 competition, winning his first-ever series race at Slinger (WI) Speedway in July, then following it up with a win just two weeks ago at Elko (MN) Speedway, where Nason held off a last lap charge from Johnson.
This weekend marks the eleventh visit by the Big 8 Series to LaCrosse and the tenth Big 8 Series race at Oktoberfest. The Big 8 Series began its engagement at ‘Fest back in 2005, racing on Thursday night, a tradition that continued 2008. The race has since become a mainstay on Saturday night of Oktoberfest and has expanded in recent years to 68 laps. The first Big 8 68 lapper at Oktoberfest in 2011 saw local favorite Skylar Holzhausen charge from seventeenth starting spot to the lead with just a few laps to go en route to the victory. Last season, Minnesota’s Chris Marek made a late race move on Austin Nason to capture his first ever Oktoberfest win.
Oktoberfest Fest Race Weekend runs through Sunday afternoon at LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway in West Salem Wisconsin. The 45 year old event features over 500 cars and over 600 laps of feature racing including the Big 8 Late Model Series 68 lap event this Saturday night October 4. For more information on Oktoberfest Race Weekend, including a complete schedule of events and more, please visit www.oktoberfestraceweekend.com.
For more information on the Big 8 Late Model Series, please visit www.big8series.com.