KAUKAUNA — Ty Majeski can’t tell you the exact night he first came to Wisconsin International Raceway. It must be 15 years now.
He was a young go-kart racer from nearby Seymour, and he had never seen a race like this on a track like this. But he knew he liked it.
“Right in Turn 1,” Majeski recalled. This is where he and his family sat. “We came to a red, white and blue race and Steve Holzhausen wore them down.”
The next time Majeski returned to the D-shaped half-mile, he was driving his own car. And the last time he left – Tuesday night – he was back in winning ways.
“It’s my favorite track, not just because it’s my home track,” Majeski said after winning the ARCA Midwest Tour Gandrud 250. “This place is badass.
“Always happy to come back here. Always lots of fun.
The 27-year-old five-time Midwest Tour champion didn’t exactly wear down the competition on Tuesday night like Holzhausen did all those years ago. This victory, Majeski’s third in four years, is the result of a combination of perseverance, speed, experience and good fortune. Majeski and his team overcame mechanical issues in qualifying and at the end of the race he took the lead from Gabe Sommers with 26 laps to go and he held off the ever-difficult Casey Johnson in an eight-lap shootout. .
Majeski, one of the nation’s top short-track racers and now a full-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, picked up his third $15,000 payday of the season after wins at Citrus County Speedway in Inverness, Fla. , and at the South Alabama Speedway.
“It’s been March since we won,” Majeski said, looking surprised at the achievement. “Honestly, we had some really good cars, but we didn’t get the results and we didn’t get back to winning ways.
“So it feels good to get back into winning lane, to back up a great truck race on Saturday night (in Clermont, Indiana). Almost won that one. So a lot of good things on the horizon for us.
Majeski became the event’s second three-time winner, following Butch Miller in 1985, 1986 and 1988.
His drought might as well have continued, considering Majeski’s troubles.
Prior to qualifying, his car got stuck in first gear and crew chief Toby Nuttleman had to use a lever to free it. The team changed the transmission before the race.
Then Majeski battled a failing power steering system throughout the event, eventually arriving on pit road under the warning flag with 66 laps to go.
“It’s hard to countersteer when you don’t have power steering, so hopefully I wasn’t going to spin on the exits,” said Majeski, who rose from fourth in seventh place when stationary. “I was super fluid, I was trying not to come loose and luckily I was able to hold on to a position on the track.
“Luckily the pinhole was small enough that we filled it with power steering fluid and it lasted. I was lucky.
Johnny Sauter, Majeski’s sometimes ThorSport teammate in the trucks, led twice for 95 laps and controlled the race until his car’s left rear axle snapped as he led the field to a restart with 55 laps remaining.
“Brand new,” Sauter said. “Everything is brand new.
“I rode cautiously, felt a bit of a vibration…I went to put the throttle on and it just broke.”
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Sauter’s troubles opened the door for Sommers, Plover’s 2019 Midwest Tour Rookie of the Year, but he needed the race to make it to the finish without warning.
“I would have liked to be in the winning lane, but we will be there soon,” Sommers said.
“The tires had 60, 70, 80 more laps, so it’s just hard to compete with that. But the car was really good so far and very balanced, and I’m happy with today.
Johnson did his best to challenge Majeski, but Majeski got the jump on the restart for the eight-lap shootout after Jeff Kendall spun and finished 0.324 seconds ahead.
“Finishing second in the (Gandrud) 250 is nothing out of the ordinary,” said Johnson, who won the 2017 race after Kyle Busch was disqualified. “But we had a great car and a great team, and we are playing at a very high level. We want to get those wins.
Stephen Nasse, the barnstormer from Florida who was making his first start on the track, obtained the best result of the visiting drivers, sixth. Two-time track champion and recent NASCAR Hall of Famer Matt Kenseth finished 11th after a late spin with Grant Griesbach. Kenseth was making his first start on the track in 15 years. NASCAR Cup Series driver Erik Jones retired with a mechanical issue in 21st.
“This place is tough on equipment,” said Majeski, who won the Gandrud 250 in 2020 despite engine failure. “We had a lot of mechanical breakdowns here. We had a water pump belt in 2015, we had a clutch hub, we had all sorts of things. It’s just hard on the equipment.
“It’s a rough old racing circuit, so you have to cross your points and points when you come here.”
You will notice that Majeski’s other description of the place – favorite – includes these two letters.