Gunnar Sterne proved on Saturday that his victory in the last round of TLR Cup racing was not a fluke, and he grabbed a lead early in the Pro Champ 440 final at the Wausau 525 race in Wausau, Wisconsin, and made it last through two red flags and restarts to earn the victory.
Sterne, the driver of the No. 220 Ski-Doo-powered mod from West Chicago, Illinois, won the Friday Night Thunder final at the Eagle River World Championship eight days earlier after the top four drivers on the track all had issues. Saturday’s victory was much cleaner, as he grabbed second on the first lap and then passed Jordan Wahl in the early going to take the top spot.
After that, Sterne ran clean lap after clean lap while other racers battled behind him.
The first red flag came just past the mid-way point after a crash involving Cody Knutson in turn two. The race was restarted and ran for a few laps before a scary-looking crash leaving turn four. With Sterne leading and Nick Van Strydonk claiming second just one lap earlier from Jordan Wahl, Wahl’s sled broke loose leaving turn for, and he went sideways and appeared to run over four-place Matt Schulz’s skis. That caused Schulz to check up, and fifth-place Cardell Potter run into him, and then a following sled ran into Potter and sent Potter and his sled tumbling down the front stretch.
While medics checked out Potter, the race was reflagged again.
Sterne got another great jump on the next restart and sped away from second place Van Strydonk, who didn’t come off the line nearly as strong and got passed by Wahl. Try as he might, Van Strydonk couldn’t get the spot in the waning laps. Sterne ran away with the victory, with Wahl second, Van Stryonk third, Schulz fourth and Dellandrea fifth.
Post Race Interviews
In post race interviews with super-reporter Lindsey Fontaine that were aired over the DitchbangerTV Facebook page (which, if you are an oval fan and you aren’t watching the races on Ditchbanger, you’re really missing out!) each racer recapped the event.
“It was a good race, we came off of the line second and were battling with Jordan there a little bit there, he had a great start,” Sterne said. “It was real loose, I felt that everybody was loose and then once the track got sloppy everybody got even looser. By the end everybody was just holding on, trying not to spin around.”
Asked about his fast machine by Fontaine, Sterne said, “We’re trying to make it last, we know the tracks are going to get beat up and sloppy and we’re trying to set it up so it kind of handles better toward the end of the race. I’m trying to keep my lines as smooth as possible and just keep it tight but also fast,” Sterne said. “The whole team has been behind me this whole season.”
For Wahl, it was his first TLC Cup podium of the season.
“It’s definitely good to get up here again,” Wahl said. “This track is great, Ralph and the crew put 100 percent effort into it and it’s always good every year.”
Van Strydonk didn’t match last Sunday’s heroics, when he won the World Championship at Eagle River, but he generally seemed happy with is podium finish.
The track “got real sloppy after five or six laps, it really kind of turned into a one-lane track,” Van Strydonk said. “You had to pick and choose your line and just try to stay clean.” Later he added.
Racing continues Sunday with Day 2 of the Wausau 525.