Racing Notebook: Scharpf Enjoys Comeback, Late Models Enjoy Parity, Quarter Mile Cars Enjoy Resurfacing | Competition

WEST SALEM — Steve Carlson won the NASCAR Weekly Late Model race at La Crosse Speedway Saturday in a victory for the track’s veterans.

While Carlsson was celebrating, another driver who finished 15th was one of the most popular men in the garage.

Gibb Sharpf, 59, of West Salem, got back behind the wheel of a car on the track for the first time in 16 years. What brought back the 1997 Sportsmen’s Champion?

“Boredom,” Sharpf said in the back of the trailer after the race. “We got this car last fall and I needed some work done in my shop, so I started rebuilding it between me, Adam (Degenhardt), CNC Motorsports… It’s a great car. It’s much easier to drive than the old cars.”

Sharpf began working on cars as early as 1974 and began racing on the track in 1994 with the Thunder Stock division. In 1997, he beat out Johnny Sauter for Rookie of the Year honors in the Late Model division.

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Scharpf eventually gave up driving for work and returned to the primary role of his racing career: helping crews build and maintain cars. Sharpf even worked with Steve and Tom Carlson.

While Gibb enjoys driving today’s late models, he admitted he has taken on the task of going straight to the track’s top division after years away. Not to mention changing a thing or two about it.

“It’s like jumping right into the deep end of the pool,” Sharpf said. “I’ve gained weight or my fire suit has shrunk, one or the other. It’s really hard to just jump into one of these things and go.”

It wasn’t just the time off the track that made hearts grow fonder of Sharpf, he was personable and engaged with every driver, fan and crew member who came to visit him after the races.

“It was fun,” Sharpf said. “I’m still getting used to it, working out the bugs. I was going to back off a little bit and see if I could run out and catch some guys. It’s going really well, I’m with good people… They’re all people I see, but there are some relatives I haven’t seen here in years. It’s quite interesting to be back in the seat again. It is very funny.”

LATE MODEL SPLIT PARITY

With the NASCAR Weekly Late Model regular season races winding down, parity is something that keeps racing interesting on the track.

Through nine feature races, the division has seen eight different winners, with Jacob Goede winning the double features on May 21, making him the only two-time winner in 2022.

Steve Carlson’s win last Saturday wasn’t the first time this year that his No. 66 went to victory lane after Mike Carlson drove it to victory earlier in the season. Mike Carlson’s lead car had broken down earlier in the day, forcing him to take his father’s ride.

Mike Carlson is second in the series points standings, 22 points behind Brent Kirchner, the most notable omission from the winner’s circle this season.

Kirchner – along with other winless drivers such as Jeremy Wagner and Michael Beamish – have three more races to find a win, with one coming up this Saturday before the August 13 doubleheader.

Meanwhile, Bob Fort’s four wins in the sportsman division aren’t keeping him out of the clutches of championship hopefuls.

After finishing last in the most recent series, Fort’s lead in the standings is one point ahead of Bill Schott. Schott himself is 22 points ahead of third-place driver Sam Niles.

QUARTER MILE RECEIVING RAVING REVIEWS

The Speedway’s newly renovated quarter-mile “action track” crowned its first champion last Saturday. Charles Vian Jr won the Hobby Stock feature and the championship in their final race of the season before Oktoberfest.

Vian was among many to turn their fastest quarter-mile times after being resurfaced from the entrance of turn one to the exit of turn four in the offseason. The #28 car broke the Hobby Stock track record not once but twice this season, setting the mark at 15.21 seconds.

While the high speeds and close distance draw spectators’ attention, one of the biggest benefits of the resurfacing for the Vian is improved safety and comfort.

“In previous years there was a hole going into turn one where my car as it is today couldn’t get through,” Vian said. “They did a good job fixing that hole. The whole track is smooth, there are no transitions, there is good traction. It’s just a very nice racetrack.”

Vian isn’t the only one breaking records. Every series that has raced at the redesigned quarter mile has seen the series qualifying time record fall except for the High School Racing Association.

Christopher Berg, driver of the No. 25 car in the Hornets division, said the resurfacing has raised the difficulty a bit for newcomers.

“It’s intense,” Berg said. “You have to pay attention. There are a lot of young drivers here who are just learning. For us veterans, it’s still a lot of fun.”

The Hornets and Street Stocks will race on the quarter mile this weekend, while the Late Models and Sportsmen race on the 5/8ths mile oval. The night will end back at the quarter mile for the annual Trailer Race of Destruction. Gates open at 5.30pm and racing starts at 7pm

James Krause can be reached by email at James.KrauseJr@lee.net or on Twitter @jkrausepro.