WEST SALEM — It’s pretty safe to say that yellow is not Jerimy Wagner’s favorite color.
When it came out, he likely saw red.
The stock car driver from Onalaska was powering his 2015 Ford Fusion ahead of the 27-car Late Model field Saturday night for the first 13 laps of the 25-lap feature race at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway. When Carter Christenson’s car ended up in the grass of the backstretch, the flagman waved a yellow caution flag that changed everything.
Suddenly Wagner’s several car-length lead was gone, and a restart was in order. On that restart, Matthew Henderson jumped to the outside line, then swiped the lead from Wagner two turns later.
Henderson would go on to win the feature race, while Wagner was left wondering, “What if?’’ the caution didn’t happen.
He’s probably still pondering that thought, too, as it would have been his first feature victory since 2012.
“I felt like I was good enough to win it. I knew Matt would have a hard time getting around me if things went green the whole race,” Wagner said. “That yellow had to come out, you know, as it usually does.”
Wagner, Henderson and Cole Howland were tightly grouped for the first half of the race with the rest of the field — including the top two in points, Nick Panitzke and Steve Carlson — at least 10 car lengths back.
Panitzke and Carlson, in fact, were penned in for much of the race as they battled with several hard-nosed drivers, including Tony Leis.
“I looked (in his mirror) once in a while and I see Steve got out (from the pack) and I was kind of watching for him coming through,” Wagner said of Carlson. “My car, it was loose the whole race. I couldn’t get back on the gas coming out of the corner. It was good enough for a third-place finish.”
While Wagner reluctantly settled for third place, it was an impressive overall performance. One that turned some heads, and one that pushed him toward the top 10 in the Tobacco Outlet Plus points standings.
Entering this Saturday night’s racing program, Wagner is 11th in the standings with 206, just 18 behind 10th-place Mike Ehde.
“It shows that we can run up front with these guys,” Wagner said. “We have a little bit more tweaking to do to the car, but it seems pretty close.”
TENSE MOMENTS: Ryan Brown, a Late Model rookie who never raced at any level before this season, won his first race last week when he captured a heat race.
Surprisingly, Brown said he’s the most nervous when his car is stopped.
“I tell you what, the most nervous I get is when we are sitting in the car before a race, getting lineup,” the 28-year-old La Crosse man said. “Everybody is lined up, the adrenaline is going. As soon as that green flag drops, all worries are gone and I am just going around the track.”
HUMFELD STILL LEADS: Randy Humfeld of Chaseburg is having a strong season as he remains atop the Dean’s Satellite Sportsmen Division season points standings. Humfeld, who finished third behind Steve Bachman and Adam Oxborough in Saturday’s 15-lap feature, has 332 points on the season.
That is 35 more than Brad Warthan and 61 more than the third-place Bachman.
MOORE ROLLING: Sparta’s Adam Moore holds the points lead in the Auto Value Thunderstox Division just past the mid-point of the season. Moore had 382 points, 23 more than another Sparta driver, Jason Bolster.