LaCrosse cashes in on the biggest victory of his career
By Bert Lehman
Editor, Full Throttle Magazine
On July 12, Benji LaCrosse totaled his Modified race car in an accident at a Badger Mod Tour race at Dodge County Fairgrounds in Beaver Dam. It could have been a season-ending blow, but LaCrosse didn’t let it end his season.
A new MadMan chassis was built during the week after the wreck and LaCrosse was back on the track at Oshkosh Speedzone Raceway exactly one week after the wreck. After pitting early in the feature at Oshkosh, he went from last to first to win that feature.
Next on the schedule was the makeup date for the postponed Clash at the Creek V Modified special at 141 Speedway that paid $10,000 to the winner. LaCrosse had already qualified for the race by finishing second in a qualifying feature a month earlier.
Earlier in the evening on the night of the $10,000-to-win feature, LaCrosse said he thought he had a good chance at winning the race.
When asked if he did anything over the past month to prepare for the race, LaCrosse responded with a laugh, “I put a brand new chassis together.”
He said the new chassis was just as good as the one that got destroyed.
“I did change the setup a little bit from what I used to run,” LaCrosse said. “Just a little bit to try some other stuff and it definitely works better than it did before. I think this chassis is just as good as the other one, I just changed the setup a little.”
Troy Jerovetz, who won the qualifying feature a month prior, was on the pole for the main feature. He, too, was confident heading into the race.
“I’m feeling as confident as I can be, so hopefully it’s confident enough,” Jerovetz said prior to the race.
Jerovetz also said he was trying to treat it as just another race.
“We’ll see how the track holds out and we’ll make our changes from there but I think our car is pretty good so we’ll take it from there. Hopefully we can be there at the end,” Jerovetz said.
The other five drivers who had qualified for the race a month prior, agreed that track position was going to play a huge role in where they finished.
“We have a good car. We’re going to need some luck on our side and see how it all plays out. We’ll do our best,” said Shawn Kilgore, who had won $10,000 at Farley Speedway in Iowa in early July.
Brian Mullen and Felix Dart, who had provisional starting spots for the feature, both said they were going to try to better their starting positions. They had a good reason for trying to race in — they both put crate motors in their cars, so they needed seat time to get accustomed to the crate motor.
“We’re probably going to try to race in,” Dart said. “We actually put a crate motor in the car and I haven’t run it yet so it’s going to be a little test and tune for that too.”
Mullen said, “We’re going to try and better our position but at least with the provisional we guarantee ourselves are in. We elected to throw in a crate motor for tonight, so if that doesn’t pan out right away at least we are in the show.
“We’ll need to try and get some laps on it to adjust the car a little bit for it. Obviously there are other shows where they are running real well at, so we might as well get it in and try it.”
Only two out-of-state drivers returned for the second night of the Clash at the Creek — Darin Duffy of Urbana, Iowa and Kyle Strickler of Mooresville, N.C. Both those drivers also recently put crate motors in their cars.
“I talked to a lot of guys who put them in and won the first night out with them,” Duffy said prior to the race. “We’ve got some pointers from a couple of friends that have been running them. I think we should be fine.”
“We went with an open motor and ran Vinton and just got our butt whipped so I called every sponsor I have and got some money together and went out and got a crate motor,” Strickler said. “It’s been really fast ever since. …I think it’s the answer to what we need from last time.”
Going with a crate motor didn’t hurt Mullen as he won the qualifying feature and started the main event on the outside of the front row. He jumped out to the early lead and led until the race was halted by a competition yellow at the completion of 25 laps. He again pulled out to the lead when the race was restarted.
Shortly after the restart, LaCrosse went from fourth to second with a daring pass of Jason Czarpata and Johnny Whitman. With the laps winding down, Mullen had a stranglehold on the lead when he slowed on the track and pulled into the pits with seven laps remaining.
This gave the lead to LaCrosse, who led the rest of the way, to claim the $10,000 top prize.
“I’m feeling pretty good. That was a pretty exciting race. I didn’t think I was going to get there with the traffic. I didn’t think I was going to be able to get by those guys.” LaCrosse said after the race.
LaCrosse said at the halfway point of the race he was trying to figure out how to at least get from fourth to second.
“I wanted to get a shot at second to see if I could get the leader or not,” LaCrosse said.
Once LaCrosse made the pass for second and the race progressed, he came to realize that it looked like he would have to settle for second. That is until he saw Mullen slow on the track.
“I thought, ‘What the heck happened to him? It’s falling right into my hands,’” LaCrosse said. “It’s unfortunate it happened that way but what are you going to do. Sometimes luck happens. It happened to me here in 2011.”
After what happened the previous couple weeks, it was a satisfying win.
“We built the car in four days and went out and raced,” LaCrosse said. “I only had two races on it and then we came here. It’s a good feeling because it costs a lot of money to build another new car, so this will really kind of make up for it.”
(This article first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Full Throttle Magazine)