In the years since the inaugural Dixieland Challenge in 1981, the event now known as the Gandrud Auto Group 250 at Wisconsin International Raceway has been dominated by drivers from Wisconsin. Aside from a pair of Mark Martin wins and a trio of wins from Butch Miller, a Wisconsin driver won the Dixieland race every year until 2005 when North Carolina’s Stephen Leicht and two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch won back-to-back races in 2005 and 2007.
However, it was just recently when a driver from Mississippi and a team from Florida joined forces and took the Dixieland trophy back home with them across the Mason-Dixon line.
In the midst of a full ARCA Menards Series season Chase Purdy and Antony Campi Racing took on select Super Late Model shows together. Among the stops for the duo were at the Slinger Nationals and the Dixieland 250 in the state of Wisconsin with Chris Wimmer helping lead the team, but it was the latter that flipped the Midwest Super Late Model world on its head.
Purdy was 11th quick in qualifying out of the 39 cars on hand, which would be a lucky number after the inversion put him on the pole for the 250-lap affair. With past Dixieland winners Dennis Prunty, Nick Murgic, and Johnny Sauter, future race winners Ty Majeski and Paul Shafer Jr., and former track champion Jeff VanOudenhoven all out of the race by halfway, it opened the door for a potential surprise winner at the end of the night.
As the race went on, the race appeared to be in the hands of two-time ASA Midwest Tour champion Dan Fredrickson, who led 177 of the 250 laps that night with Purdy and Fox River Racing Club regular Brent Strelka in tow. However, it would come down to one final restart with 47 to go.
On said restart on lap 203, Purdy would get the jump on the Minnesota veteran and lead the rest of the way over a final caution-free 47 laps to shock the crowd on hand and earn what was then the biggest win of his racing career over Fredrickson and Strelka.
“If you asked me if I was going to win this race when I walked in the gate this morning, I probably would have looked at you like you were insane,” Purdy told Short Track Scene on that night in 2018. “This right there shows you never give up, your time is coming, and you just have to wait for it. Man, I am glad this moment is here.”
Purdy is one of just six drivers from outside the state of Wisconsin to win what’s now the Gandrud Auto Group 250. Mark Martin (Arkansas), Butch Miller (Michigan), Stephen Leicht (North Carolina), Kyle Busch (Nevada) and Paul Shafer Jr. (Indiana) are the only others to do so.
With nine states and a Canadian province represented in Tuesday night’s field, the opportunity for a driver outside the Badger State to come in and take the win hasn’t been higher. Bubba Pollard (Georgia), Gio Ruggiero (Massachusetts), and Cole Butcher (Nova Scotia) have all won with the ASA STARS National Tour, while Sammy Smith (Iowa) has a runner-up finish in the Gandrud 250 in 2021.
Tickets for the Gandrud Auto Group 250 are now for sale on the Ticket Hoss app. Advanced tickets are $25 on Ticket Hoss, and $30 at the gate. Kids 12 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased at https://tickethoss.com/event/531.
The Gandrud Auto Group 250 will be co-sanctioned with the ASA Midwest Tour, which will be race number seven on the season. Gabe Sommers currently holds the Midwest Tour points lead over Justin Mondeik.
The ASA STARS National Tour opened the ten race, six-state schedule at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL on March 11. Cole Butcher is the most recent winner, claiming the victory in the Redbud 400 at Anderson Speedway.