Slinger Speedway gets dirty with SODA

3 Mins read
Credit: C.J. Greaves

Slinger Speedway in Wisconsin is dubbed the “World’s Fastest Quarter Mile Oval” thanks to its length and 33° banking in the turns. Since its opening in 1948, the track has been one of the premier venues for grassroots and occasionally national stock car racing, with the Slinger Nationals being a major super late model event while NASCAR Cup Series champions Matt Kenseth and Alan Kulwicki made their names here before moving up.

This past weekend, the traditionally paved oval was the site of… off-road racing?

6/7 May saw Slinger host the season opener of the Short-course Off-road Drivers Association (SODA). Founded in 2021, it assumed the identity of the series that served as the hub for Midwestern short course racing from the 1970s to 1990s with notable drivers like longtime NASCAR faces Brendan Gaughan and Jimmie Johnson. After racing exclusively at Gravity Park USA in the inaugural year, the series branched out to add dates at Slinger and Outagamie Speedway & County Fair. The Slinger round was originally scheduled for 29/30 April before being postponed a week due to weather.

But why Slinger? Track owner and promoter Todd Thelen recalled the interest in holding an off-road race began circa 2014/15 with a stunt by his friend Garret Loehrer.

“This all started about eight years ago when a friend brought out his off-road race truck out at one of our SlamFest (Eve of Destruction) events to go over a jump,” Thelen told The Checkered Flag. “Of course, he went way further than anticipated and landed halfway up turn two and almost hit the wall, the place went nuts. After that event we started talking about some day doing an off-road race.

“Fast forward to November 2021 and I get a call from the friend and he says the SODA guy is going to call to try and work out a deal to have an off road race at Slinger. We finally worked out a deal in February to put on the event.”

Obviously, SODA did not just go around the oval and call it a day. The event was promoted as “Asphalt vs. Dirt”, and the course was therefore a combination of the paved quarter-mile oval and a temporary section in the infield. A lap began by going through oval turns one and two and down the backstretch before swerving onto dirt in the infield, where a sharp left took cars onto pavement from the track’s figure-eight layout. After crossing the track diagonally, another left led into the course’s centrepiece: an over/under jump that crosses over the aforementioned figure-eight section. Upon clearing the ramp and a series of kicker jumps, the car rejoined the oval in turn four and completed the lap with a final ramp across the start/finish line.

Credit: Short-course Off-road Drivers Association

To oversee construction, SODA and Slinger approached Town & Country Lawn Service, a local landscaping business, and owner Ryan Kuhn, who competes in snowmobile racing and operates Hartford Snocross Racing, was intrigued. The company supplied heavy machinery and was responsible for building the over/under jump.

“One of the critical items was getting a local company to build the cross over jump, Ryan Kuhn from Town and Country Lawn Care came on board to sponsor the event and build the cross over and track,” said Thelen.

Thirteen classes took part in the weekend: Class 170 (won by Bennett Nerison), Class 1600 (Dannon Tessmer), Class 6100 (Dustin Rogaczewski and Cody Shebuski), Class 11 (Joe Jorgensen), Class 2 (Robert Degreet and Rich Devroy), Class 4 (Kaitlyn Anderson), Class 6 (Tanner DeGroot and Trevor Sova), Class 14 (Milan Mazanec), Class 450 (Riley Bartline), Class 7 (Matt Oreskovish), Class 1900 (Kyle Sharkley), Class 9 (Kevin Galdman), and Class 8 (Joey Maciosek). Off-road champion C.J. Greaves brought his Polaris RZR Pro R 4 UTV and turned laps during a twenty-minute intermission, with fans who won a Facebook contest riding as passengers.

“I thought the racing was entertaining,” Thelen continued. “The classes like buggies that typically get strung out even put on a good show because of the track layout. They used the asphalt track from turn four to the middle of the backstretch; that was something different for the competitors, adding a good place to pass clean.

“I don’t know a lot of the off road competitors but I had heard of C.J. Greaves, it was really cool to see him race. Overall, for a first time event, I would say it was a success.”

TCF has also reached out to SODA president Willie Freshour for further comment and a potential interview.

While rare, there have been cases of asphalt ovals hosting mixed-surface off-road and rallycross races. From 2012 to 2014, Red Bull Global Rallycross raced at NASCAR circuits owned by Speedway Motorsports such as Atlanta, Bristol, Charlotte, Las Vegas, New Hampshire, and Texas; non-SMI tracks like Daytona International Speedway, Irwindale Speedway, Evergreen Speedway, and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park had GRC dates as well. All but Bristol, Evergreen, and Thompson are longer than a mile but the series exclusively used the frontstretch and infields rather than much of the ovals for them. The 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway also hosted the Stadium Super Trucks from 2017 to 2019.

The next SODA round is scheduled for 21 May at Gravity Park USA.

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About author
Justin is a History major at San Jose State University and lifelong racing fan who has worked for The Checkered Flag since 2018. His coverage mainly focuses on NASCAR, the Stadium Super Trucks, and off-road series like Extreme E and SCORE International. He also dabbles in other disciplines such as IndyCar, rallycross, and sports cars.
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