WEST SALEM — The top two drivers in the Late Model Division put on quite a show in the first of two scheduled 20-lap features Saturday night at the La Crosse Fairgrounds Speedway.
Steve Carlson did what he does — win races — while the season’s hottest newcomer, Nick Panitzke, came from back of the 24-car pack to finish third.
In a way, it was a victory for each.
While Carlson made a sweet move on Lap 14 to swipe the lead from Cole Howland, Panitzke was on a mission seldom seen at the Fairgrounds Speedway. Panitzke, who was top qualifier before being disqualified in a post-race inspection, started 24th in the field and maneuvered his way through the field.
By somehow grabbing a third-place finish, he remained in the hunt for the track championship.
Carlson, with his second feature win of the season, remains atop the Late Model standings.
“We’ll get it the next time,” said Panitzke, who entered the night five points behind in the standings.
Carlson moved into fourth place by Lap 7, to third by Lap 10, then cruised by Ty Reedy on Lap 13. It was just a matter of time before he would get by the hot-running Howland.
“What do you say?” Howland said when asked by the track announcer if he saw Carlson coming. “The car really wasn’t that special. It is going to have to be improved upon if we are going to run up front in the second feature.”
Heavy rains hit the Fairgrounds Speedway about 8:45 p.m., postponing the event. As of Tribune press time, the races had not resumed. Chuck Deery, general manager at the Fairgrounds Speedway, said if rain continued the second feature would be run this coming Saturday night.
Panitzke, meanwhile, put on two new tires for qualifying when only one new one was allowed in accordance with track rules. Drivers were able to buy two new tires before racing started, but they could only use one new one for qualifying, then another new one for the actual races.