On Saturday night at Slinger Super Speedway, 17-year-old Luke Fenhaus will take on racing champions known worldwide in the Camping World SRX Series. He earned that opportunity by virtue of winning Tuesday night’s Slinger Nationals, a 200-lap Super Late Model event on the high-banked quarter-mile north of Milwaukee.
Fenhaus will be a relative unknown compared to the likes of Tony Stewart, Helio Castroneves, Bill Elliott and the rest of the Superstar Racing Experience field fans will see on CBS Saturday night. However, he has quickly become a recognizable name in Midwest short track racing due to a meteoric rise up the racing ranks.
The Wausau, Wisconsin won his first Super Late Model track championship when he was just 14 years old. That accomplishment came in 2018 at his home track of State Park Speedway. As part of his championship season, Fenhaus won the Lodi Memorial at State Park, one of the track’s marquee events. He also won four Midwest Truck Series races between 2017 and 2018, finishing second in series points during the 2018 season.
Entering the 2019 season, Fenhaus was named as one of seven finalists in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program. He once again won State Park’s Lodi Memorial while traveling more that season, competing with touring series such as the ARCA Midwest Tour. He also finished eighth in his first attempt at the Slinger Nationals that year.
In 2020, Fenhaus improved to a podium finish in the Slinger Nationals, coming home third after setting fast time in qualifying. He also completed a Lodi Memorial hat trick, winning his third-consecutive appearance in the event.
While the Kulwicki Driver Development Program took a break in 2020 as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Fenhaus was once again named a program finalist for the 2021 season. He started the year with a win at the Icebreaker at Dells Raceway Park and has now added Wisconsin’s biggest race, the Slinger Nationals, to his resume.
Just like Fenhaus was the youngest track champion in State Park Speedway history after his 2018 season, he is now the youngest to ever win the Slinger Nationals. He joins a list of Slinger Nationals champions that consists of some of the greatest to ever compete in short track racing. NASCAR Cup competitors of past and present who have won the Slinger Nationals include Alan Kulwicki, Dick Trickle, Mark Martin, Rich Bickle, Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch. That’s not to mention local short track icons who have won the event, such as Butch Miller, Larry Detjens and Joe Shear.
Simply put, Fenhaus has accomplished in a few years what many racers, especially in the ultra-competitive Wisconsin racing scene, dream of doing in a lifetime. Tuesday’s win on its own was a record-breaking, historic achievement.
It will also be the beginning of a Cinderella story for the teenager, who will be taking on champions of NASCAR, IndyCar and Trans-Am racing in his home state all before he is legally old enough to vote. Can Fenhaus join Doug Coby as a victorious “Balboa” driver, a local hero defending home turf against racing greats to win in the Camping World SRX Series? Whether or not Fenhaus wins on Saturday, it will be a chance for the rising star to display his talents to a nationally televised audience.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo