By: Eric Huenefeld
The twelfth season of the Big 8 Late Model Series comes to an end this Saturday night at the 48th Annual Oktoberfest Race Weekend and while this season’s Big 8 Late Model Series championship has already been decided, there are still quite a few things to keep an eye on as the “Best Weekly Warriors in the Country” trek to western Wisconsin.
First and foremost, Oktoberfest has always welcomed the largest and deepest field of Big 8 racers each and every year. Since 2005, an average of 52 drivers have entered the Big 8 portion of Oktoberfest, with champions and challengers taking to the track from all corners of the Midwest. This year, expect a field of 50 or more Big 8 cars at Oktoberfest with as many as 70 track and series championships between them. Add that solid driver roster with the recently updated Big 8 “Qualifying Race” format and you’ve got a recipe for a sure-fire short track extravaganza!
A second thing to keep an eye on this weekend is Michael Bilderback. The South Beloit Illinois resident locked up his slice of history last Saturday night at Rockford Speedway, thanks to a dominant win the 108 lap Big 8 Late Model Series National Short Track Championship race. The win, coupled with issues for current points runner up Jeremy Miller, locked up the 2017 Big 8 Late Model Series championship for Bilderback and in the process made him the first driver ever to win three consecutive Big 8 Late Model Series titles. The win also tied Bilderback with Miller at the top of the all-time Big 8 Late Model Series wins list.
Bilderback has a chance at even more history this weekend at LaCrosse, a track where he still seeks a Big 8 Late Model Series win. Victory in Saturday’s 68 lap main event would mean a fifth win on the 2017 Big 8 tour for Bilderback, tying him with Ross Kenseth for the most prolific season in Big 8 Series history. Kenseth won five of nine races in 2009, while Bilderback is seeking a fifth conquest in eight tries this season. A win Saturday would be Bilderback’s 25th Late Model win since the beginning of 2015.
Another thing to watch at Oktoberfest will be the battle for sixth place in Big 8 points, important because it insures a driver eligibility in Sunday afternoon’s ‘JMcK 63’ All Star Invite, ran in memory of John McKarns. Coming into Oktoberfest, Jerry Mueller currently sits fifth in Big 8 points, eight markers ahead of Jake Zellmer, who is already locked into the JMcK with two weekly wins at Dells Raceway Park this year. NASCAR Illinois Rookie of the Year Jake Vanoskey currently sits seventh in Big 8 points, just 26 points behind Zellmer. Nearly 80 drivers are eligible for Sunday’s JMcK, including 2017 weekly track feature winners, past JMcK winners and the top six in Big 8 Late Model Series points.
For more information on the 48th Oktoberfest Race Weekend, please visit oktoberfestraceweekend.com. For more information on the Big 8 Late Model Series, please visit big8series.com.