Drivers say winning the Larry Detjens Memorial is an honor
By Bert Lehman
Editor, Full Throttle Magazine
Certain races don’t need to pay a lot to win, just the prestige of winning is enough for drivers. The Larry Detjens Memorial race is one of those races.
“I was here when they ran the first one in 1981. They ran it in September that year. Joe Shear I think won one feature and I think Dick Trickle won the overall title. The history of names who have run this event is just incredible. It’s a special deal to win it,” said Mark Mackesy, a Super Late Model driver who has won the event three times — 1999, 2006 and 2012. Mackesy is also married to Detjens’ daughter, Margo.
Mackesy is correct, the list of winners contains famed asphalt drivers, including: Trickle, Tom Reffner, Wayne Breitenfeldt, Bryan Reffner, Kirby Kurth, Chris Wimmer, Scott Wimmer, Chris Weinkauf, and Tim Sauter just to name a few.
The honor of winning
“Even to win it once, it’s huge,” Mackesy said. “This is like my Daytona 500.”
Each of this three wins was thrilling, but the first one was huge for Mackesy.
“It was a big weight off my shoulders,” said Mackesy, of the first time he won the event. “So many years my dad tried to win it in the 1980s. He’d come close. He’d maybe win a feature, but not the overall title. I was second a few times and to finally win it in 1999 it was like a monkey off my back. That was pretty special.”
Chris Wimmer won the event in 2000, early in his Super Late Model career. He hasn’t won it since.
“I didn’t appreciate it as much back then as I would now,” Wimmer said. “It kind of came quick in my career. I’ve been trying ever since then, 14 years now.”
He admitted a win now would mean more to him than that first win because he would appreciate it more.
“It came pretty quick and I thought it was pretty easy [to win the Larry Detjens Memorial race]. But ever since then it’s just a tough race. Everything has to be right. It has to be a perfect day to win the race,” Wimmer said.
He said he finished second a couple of years ago after he was passed for the lead with five laps to go in the race.
“That one stung for a while,” Wimmer said.
Tim Sauter, who won the race last year for the first time, said winning the race was special.
“It was pretty special because I was a kid watching Larry Detjens race a long, long time,” Sauter said. “It’s probably one of the most prestigious races that you would like to win.”
Sauter was also confident about his chances this year.
“We have a good car, so barring any unforeseen things, we should be in the hunt,” Sauter said.
Chris Weinkauf, who won the race in 2004, 2010 and 2011, said the Larry Detjens Memorial race date is one he circles on his calendar each year.
“We’ve just been honored to put this on our schedule and come here every year and share this with the fans,” Weinkauf said.
Ron Wimmer, owner of State Park Speedway in Wausau, said the Larry Detjens Memorial is the biggest race the track hosts each year.
“He’s been dead for 35 years and to look up in the stands you see people anywhere from eight years old and younger up to the 60s,” Ron Wimmer said. “A lot of these people knew Larry. A lot of the children never met him. It’s remarkable how the parents continue the tradition of the Larry Detjens Memorial and how they respect him. Their parents knew him and they passed that on to their children.”
Scott Wimmer, who is Larry Detjens nephew, said the race is the most important race to him as a driver and to his family.
“It’s just a lot of memories and a lot of special people come to this race,” Scott Wimmer said. “It’s just a neat atmosphere. I haven’t run this race in about 10 years. I’m glad I’m back here and running this race. It bring a lot of excitement to the area and the community, remembering a local legend, which Larry was.”
Scott Wimmer won the race in 2001 and 2002.
“It was really special. I ran this thing seven or eight years before I won it,” Scott Wimmer said. “I was fortunate enough to win it back-to-back years. I tried to win it again and never could.”
Scott Wimmer said winning it the second time was just as thrilling as the first time.
“The first one was really hard. I ran for quite a few years and had really good runs and never could get that win,” Scott Wimmer said. “When I finally got it, it was a big relief. The pressure was off on the second one so I just came in and said, ‘Well, we can win it.’ And we went out and won it.”
Weinkauf set fast time during time trials.
“We worked on it really hard all day,” Weinkauf said after setting fast time. “The crew did a great job working on everything. We’re usually pretty aggressive for qualifying so that helps. We still have to watch out for Sauter, he’s going to be fast.”
Weinkauf said the key would be saving tires for the final 50 laps, since teams would not be allowed to change tires at the 75 lap break.
“For some reason this race track really likes to eat tires and you really can’t have a loose car because people are going to get you. I just want to save everything and tighten it up for the feature and be there at the end.
The afternoon of the race, Mackesy also predicted Sauter would be tough to beat, as well as Chris Wimmer. Mackesy was correct, as those two drivers dominated much of the first 75 laps of the race. After a 10 minute break after lap 75, Sauter dominated the rest of the race, while Chris Wimmer struggled to hang on to third place.
“From the drop of the green flag [for the final 50 laps] the car just wasn’t right,” Chris Wimmer said after the race.
At the break, Skylar Holzhausen was struggling and said his car was horrible. After making changes to the car during the break, he worked his way up to finish second in the race.
“We just freed it up. It was really good after the break. I made some really good passes. It wasn’t too bad. I don’t know if I had anything for Sauter,” Holzhausen said.
It was a good comeback for Holzhausen who said he bypassed racing five minutes from his home in Bangor, to drive three hours to compete in the Larry Detjens Memorial.
M.G. Gajewski finished fourth, Mackesy finished fifth, and Weinkauf finished sixth.
At the end, it was Sauter taking home his second straight Larry Detjens Memorial Race.
“I’m really happy. It was great to win it last year but this is just really beyond great,” Sauter said after the race. “I’m really excited about it. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves leading up to it and just hoping to be able to pull it off. I’m just thankful for that.”
(This article first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Full Throttle Magazine.)