Sunday, October 1, 2023

1978 - Watson Posts Convincing Victory in Oktoberfest Main

Dave Watson receives congratulations from La Crosse Interstate Speedway promoter Larry Wehrs after winning the Oktoberfest 200. – Wayne Mioskowski Photo

West Salem, Wis. (October 1, 1978) – Not even a blown engine suffered after winning the day’s second 50-lap event could prevent Dave Watson from claiming the 100-lap championship feature to take the overall title in La Crosse Interstate Speedway’s ninth annual Oktoberfest 200 for late models on Sunday afternoon.

In addition to his Sunday triumphs, Watson won the 20-lap race of champions and his dash, Saturday night, to dominate the three-day event. Watson earned $2,225 from the $20,650 purse for his efforts.

Joining Watson in the feature winner’s circle on Sunday was Doug Strasburg of Johnson Creek, who captured the afternoon’s initial 50-lap headliner.

Just after Watson had captured the second 50-lapper, his car’s engine gave way, forcing his crew to install a new powerplant prior to the 100. Fortunately, the crew had proven equipment to utilize. That same engine which Watson used to win the USAC Fair Stock 150 at the Milwaukee Mile in August, was hurriedly installed in the racer and Watson started the 100-lap finale in the ninth position.

Polesitter Joel Laufer grabbed the lead as the green flag waved but Steve Burgess, driving a brand-new 1978 Camaro, took over the top spot on lap 7.

Mark Lamoreaux, at the wheel of a Camaro he recently had purchased from Burgess, moved into contention moments later and overhauled Burgess to claim first place on lap 13.

Racing bumper-to-bumper, Lamoreaux and Burgess then pulled away from the rest of the field, with Burgess regaining the lead on lap 39.

Burgess remained in front until lap 43 when he spun in turn four, giving the lead back to Lamoreaux, and necessitating the event’s first caution flag. Burgess was able to resume racing, but the mishap dropped him from first to seventh in the standings.

Prior to the caution, Watson had been running third, about a half a lap behind the pacesetters. However, the caution permitted him to make up a major portion of that deficit and as the field readied for the restart, Watson found himself in fifth place with Pat Schauer fourth, John Ziegler third and Jim Back in second.

Another yellow came out on lap 45 when Jim Weber spun in the first turn.

After the green flew once again, Watson made his move, quickly passing Schauer, Ziegler, and Back, and then overtaking Lamoreaux to claim first place on lap 48.

Back took second from Lamoreaux 10 circuits later and Ziegler and Schauer advanced to third and fourth, respectively, on the 70th round. Two more trips around the 5/8-mile oval, Schauer took third from Ziegler.

However, no one was able to keep pace with Watson the rest of the way and at the checkered flag, the Milton chauffeur held a full straightaway advantage over Schauer, who had taken second from Back on lap 99. Back settled for third with Ziegler fourth and Burgess completing the top-five.

Earlier, Lamoreaux had dominated the first part of the opening 50-lapper, leading the first 28 circuits before Tom Reffner took over. Although his car began smoking just as he gained the upper hand, Reffner remained in front while Strasburg, and Tony Strupp battled Lamoreaux for second place.

Strasburg, who had started fifth, finally took second but seemed to have little hope of catching Reffner until the final circuit. Then, the differential broke on Reffner’s car, forcing him to slow his pace entering the second turn. Strasburg nearly slammed into Reffner’s suddenly slowing mount but avoided contact and soared into the lead.

Strupp, who had started on the pole, put on a strong closing rush but had to settle for second place at the finish. Lamoreaux paced third, Weber fourth and Reffner hung on to finish fifth.

Reffner, who had won Oktoberfest titles in 1970 and 1975, had established himself as one of the favorites for the overall title on Saturday, setting fast time (20.513) and winning the first 10-lap dash. However, racing despite the loss of oil in Sunday’s first 50-lapper damaged the engine in his 1978 AMC Concord and he lasted only two laps in the 100-lap finale.

Polesitter Bob Jusola paced the first five laps of the second 50-lapper before Marzofka, who won the 1978 La Crosse late model crown, took over.

Watson, who had started ninth, used the outside groove to pass Marzofka on lap 10 but Marzofka regained the top spot five laps later.

Remaining in the outside grove, Watson surged back into the lead on lap 17 and led the rest of the way despite constant pressure from Marzofka, who settled for second. Third place went to Schauer with Johnny Boegeman taking fourth and Jusola rounding out the top five.

Results –

1. Dave Watson, Milton
2. Pat Schauer, Watertown
3. Jim Back, Vesper
4. John Ziegler, Madison
5. Steve Burgess, Fall Creek
6. Marv Marzofka, Nekoosa
7. Mark Lamoreaux, Bloomington, Minn.
8. Larry Hicks, Lake Geneva
9. Dick Stang, Prior Lake, Minn.
10.John Boegeman, Shakopee, Minn.
11.Doug Strasburg, Johnson Creek
12.Bob Jusola, Centuria
13.Tom Musgrave, Mundelein, Ill.
14.Bruce Sparrman, Excelsior, Minn.
15.Jerry Eckhardt, Lake Mills
16.Steve Holzhausen, Bangor
17.Axel Dahlberg, Mauston
18.Joel Laufer, Hartford
19.Willie Goeden, Kewaskum
20.Larry Schuler, Lockport, Ill.

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