When you look at Ty Majeski’s run at Oktoberfest over the past few years, he has won every event he has participated in, except for the finale on Sunday. He won the La Crosse Late Model feature on Thursday night, won the Dick Trickle 99 in 2015, won the Big 8 Series event on Saturday, and the JMcK 63 on Sunday. But that 200-lap finale would have probably happened last year, until a vapor lock on a restart halted that opportunity.
Before coming into the weekend, that ARCA Midwest Tour 200-lap finale was something that was on Majeski’s mind. In fact, it was his main focus. Well, not just his main focus, but also the main focus of his entire team, especially crew chief Toby Nuttleman.
Nuttleman has been coming to Oktoberfest for over 30 years as a crew chief and never won the main event. He came close several times and even had weekends like what Majeski experienced the last two years with Charlie Menard a little over ten years ago.
Just like the demon that the late Dale Earnhardt experienced every year at the Daytona 500 or Susan Lucci winning best daytime actress Emmy, Nuttleman would leave Sunday at Fest doing the would’ve, could’ve, should’ve thoughts in his head.
While Majeski was beating Dan Fredrickson on those final restarts, both Majeski and Nuttleman were worried that seeing the checkered flag first was going to wait another year. The fear that came to fruition last year, almost reared its ugly head in 2016.
“Leading this race with ten laps to go, we went down a cylinder,” Majeski revealed after the race. “Must have been a plug wire or something, it would go away and come back then go away and come back. Once the caution came out, I thought we were done. I was just doing everything I could to get a good restart.”
All he had to do was just hold off Fredrickson for two laps, and for him and Nuttleman, that demon was exorcised in their respective careers.
“Toby has been trying for this for so many years now,” Majeski explained. “I think we had the car to beat in 2014, but we wrecked in a heat race. Last year, I thought we had it won until a caution came out and we had a vapor lock. Finally, it worked out this year, and it feels good.”
Watching from near the start/finish line in those closing laps, you could see Nuttleman just doing his usual pacing while looking down on the ground. His other crew members were also pacing around the infield, a few almost looking like they were praying. Majeski would come off of turn four and take Tom White’s checkered flag, Majeski’s team swarmed over Nuttleman for one giant hug while Majeski did a few burnouts on the frontstretch.
Majeski parked his car and tried to unbuckle as fast as he could, almost like the car was on fire and he had to get out of it right away. He exited his car, put his hand in the air giving his famous iRacing pose and jumped on the ground where he immediately ran over to Nuttleman for an emotional hug.
Nuttleman was smiling and trying to hold back his emotions of what just happened.
“It’s an incredible feeling, I am usually not this emotional, I don’t know what to say,” Nuttleman said. “Ty did an incredible job, like he always does. I just can’t thank everyone on the team for everything they have done. It’s an incredible day. Probably the best day of my life since my kids were born. I may sleep for a week now.”
Nuttleman was just taking it all in, smiling ear to ear watching Majeski stand up on stage not only with this Oktoberfest 200 trophy, but along with his third straight ARCA Midwest Tour championship trophy. The first driver in the nine-year history of the tour to accomplish that goal.
While there was happiness, there was disappointment.
Some would say that Dan Fredrickson is always overlooked as one of the best drivers in the Midwest in the modern era of racing. Many would also agree that his name belongs up in the ranks of legends like Trickle, Shear, Detjens, Carlson and others.
Even though he has won the Oktoberfest four times, a fifth win would put him as an equal to the late Joe Shear. That opportunity will have to wait one more year.
“Something broke in the rear end and was putting grease down on the racetrack and I was sliding around in my own oil,” Fredrickson said. “I am not happy with the runner up trophy, but the car was handling excellent. I pitted early because I wanted the car to be perfect and drove back through the field. I don’t know what happened with the rear end.”
Fredrickson gets respect because he tells it like it is and is not afraid to share it through his emotions. He is very respectable and thoughtful in defeat.
When he was asked about coming back to get that fifth win, just the look on his face showed that he also had some unfinished business.
On Sunday, 30 drivers started that race with one goal in mind…only one accomplished that goal. For the rest, it’s back to the drawing board and have one year to prepare to try again in 2017.