Atkinson, Gronwold, Staples, Riley & Harstad Win at I-94; Dietzler, Pierce & Strand Win at RCS
RaceChaser was back at I-94 Sure Step Speedway in Fergus Falls for Season Championship night. It was a busy night with all seven classes running.
The track was in great shape for the features with some damn good racing.
Ryan Satter (Wissota Street Stocks), Daniel Harstad (Short Trackers) and Ben Wolden (Limited Late Models) already had track championships wrapped up in their classes. Dusty Bitzan just had to show up to win the Wissota Modified title while the Wissota Midwest Modified, Wissota Super Stock and Wissota Late Model titles were still up for grabs.
The closest point race entering the night was in the Wissota Midwest Modified class where Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls held a five-point lead over Matt Baker of St. Joseph. Gronwold, as it turned out, eliminated the drama by winning the feature.
Sam Zender of Fergus Falls set the pace early in the midwest modified main. He was chased by Corey Storck of Morris, who had the previous week.
Gronwold and Baker worked into the top five, as was Brennan Gave of Princeton. Also on the move was Travis Schulte of Clear Lake from his ninth starting spot.
Storck passed Zender on the low line for the lead and was looking smooth til the caution came out. But on a restart, Gronwold had the outside lane and got by Storck; but the battle wasn't over and as the two battled side by side for the next 4 laps.
Baker, meanwhile, slid out of the top five as his hopes for a track championship faded away. Gronwold picked up win #21 for 2020 - if there was national points he'd be running away with it -- and clinched his third track title of 2020. He also won titles at Norman County Raceway and Viking Speedway.
Storck was second, and Zender had a good run to take third. Gave outlasted Schulte for fifth. Baker by the way, finished sixth.
Also up for grabs was the Wissota Late Model point title. Cole Schill of Horace, a two-time I-94 champion, led the points by 14 entering the night over Dave Mass of East Bethel. Shawn Meyer of Wahpeton was 16 points back while Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria was 21 back.
Casey Meyer of Wahpeton set the pace early in the late model main event, but he was soon pressured by Mass. 16-year-old Bryce Sward of Nelson was proving fast and went to the low line, and made an aggressive move to pass the top two cars to take the lead.
Sward checked out on the field and looked like he was headed for his first late model win. But the one thing he didn’t want to see happen happened — a caution came out with five to go for debris. On the ensuing restart, Shawn Kirwin of Morris got into Jordan Tollakson’s #32 machine and sent him spinning. Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria and Schill had nowhere to go but pile into Tollakson. All three were done for the night. Kirwin was charged with the yellow — as he clearly should have been — and pulled in moments later. Not sure if he wasn’t happy with the call or not but he clearly spun Tollakson, who I thought had a car capable of winning the feature.
On the next restart, Mass found some speed up high and was able to edge ahead of Sward for the top spot. He held on for the win and picked up the track championship as a result. Sward ran an excellent race to finish second while Casey Meyer held off Don Shaw for third. Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls finished a solid fifth after starting ninth.
Mass controlled the Wissota Super Stock feature which should shock no one.
The real battle was between William Lund of Brandon, Jeff Crouse of Alexandria and Matt Miller of Glenwood for the points title. Lund led Crouse by 12 points going into the feature while Miller was 15 back.
With Mass in control up front after taking the lead early, Lund and Crouse battled for second, while Karter Reents of Glenwood and Trevor Saurer of Dalton -- the 2020 Viking Speedway track champion -- went at it for fourth.
Mass won by a decent margin with Lund wrapping up the season title by finishing second. Crouse was third. Saurer made a late pass of Reents for fourth. It was a nice, clean super stock feature with 18 cars taking the green.
Bitzan took the green to wrap up the Wissota Mod point title, but it was a pretty darn good race. Brent Dutenhoffer of Watertown, S.D., took the lead from the inside pole. The car making a move was Landon Atkinson of Little Falls, who started seventh. His Lethal Chassis was an absolute bullet no matter which part of the track he was running.
Atkinson, interviewed above, worked on Dutenhoffer and made the pass for the lead, and opened some distance as the laps waned. Another car was flying, however, and that was Brady Gerdes of Villard in the 2X. Gerdes caught and passed Dutenhoffer for second. He probably needed a caution to get to Atkinson but that would have been one heck of a battle for the lead as both were bad fast.
Atkinson, the 2020 Ogilvie Raceway track champion, picked up his fourth win of the year while Gerdes, the 2020 Viking Speedway champion, took second. Dutenhoffer capped of a good run by finishing third, followed by Joseph Thomas of Glyndon. Brian Haben of Appleton, who was the season runner-up at I-94, was a solid fifth. Atkinson’s #18A car was absolutely flawless in that race.
Eric Riley of Morris, interviewed above, has been cursed in the Wissota Street Stocks at I-94. He’s finished second numerous times but had yet to win at the 3/8-mile oval. He ended that jinx on Friday.
Cory Dykhoff of Perham took the lead from the outside and had a pretty nice advantage. Jack Koranda of Bluffton, who has three feature wins htis season, was in second, while there was a fierce five-car battle for third between Ryan Pommerer of Oriska, N.D., Tyler Klugman of Wheaton, Riley and Ryan Satter of Dent.
Riley cleared that pack to move into third. Dykhoff's undoing, unfortunately was a caution with five to go for a spin in turn two.
Riley capitalized, getting a great start and taking over the lead from Dykhoff He was in good shape when the caution came out with two to go to bunch up the field one last time.
Riley weathered the green-white-checkered restart to win for the first time ever at I-94.
Satter, who won the point title going away by well over 200 points, finished second ahead of Koranda. Pommerer and Klugman had a great battle to the finish with Pommerer hanging on for fourth.
What a mess the Limited Late Model feature was, at least until the final six laps. Cautions, some extra curricular activity and a hard crash into the wall in turn three summarized the night.
Sam Zender of Fergus Falls led the field from the green and led much of the night. Track champion Ben Wolden was moving up but was charged with a caution for spinning Dustin Johanneck -- I didn't necessarily agree with the call, but with only eight cars in the field, It didn't take long for him to be in the top three.
Scott Zimmerman of Rothsay was turned into the turn three wall hard to bring out a caution. He was OK but the car was beat up.
Moments later, Rick Nelson of Alexandria and Tony Robertson of Watkins got together to bring out the caution. They weren't done, either as some extra-curricular activity under the caution, resulting in both drivers being black-flagged. Rightfully so. Nelson and Robertson won't be getting together for beers any time soon.
The restart saw the race turn into a battle between Zender -- who was in his second night in the car -- and Brad Staples of Herman, interviewed above. And what a race it turned into. Zender ran the low line while Staples went up high. He worked that line and edged ahead enough to pick up his second I-94 win of 2020 and his fifth overall of 2020. Zender capped off a great night finishing second, while Wolden, who won the track title by more than 100 points, was third. Blake Saathoff of Alexandria was fourth and Andrew Tysdal of Fergus Falls -- making his racing debut -- finished fifth.
Staples, by the way, started seventh.
Harstad already had the Short Tracker title in hand but put an exclamation point on the championship with a feature win. He started fourth in the 22-car field and took the lead. Matt Pederson of Lake Park gave chase but settled for second. Hunter Goulet of Fargo was third, Zach Kort of Fergus Falls fourth and Grady Shearer of St. Cloud fifth.
A field of 130 cars were on hand at I-94.
--The next event for I-94 is the Dick Johanneck King of th'e Dirt on Sept. 16-18. Look for more details on that later in RaceChaser blog.
--Scott Rachels has bought the former Limited Late Model previou0sly riven by Ryan Satter. Zender has driven the car the past two weeks.
--Tim Compson of Valley City had his #49 Wissota Super Stock out for the first time in 2020. He's also raced a late model and stock car this year.
—One driver who is not having a good year, at least not to what area fans are accustommed to, is Travis Saurer of Elizabeth. The 21X car spun in his modified heat and finished 13th in the feature n
—Sward is 16 years old, by the way, while 77-year-old Clarence Washburn of Hector, who has been racing since 1970, was also in the Wissota Late Model field. Pretty cool.
Pierce, Strand, Schow, Johnson Wrap Up River Cities Speedway Track Titles
Austin Pierce of Grand Forks wrapped up the Buffalo Wild Wings NOSA Sprint Championship with a feature win over Jade Hastings of Grand Forks. Jack Croaker of East Grand Forks was third while Tom Egeland of Climax, who started 19th, finished fourth. Jordan Graham of Grand Forks was fifth.
Jamie Dietzler of Larimore picked up the Wissota Midwest Modified feature over Lance Schill of Langdon. It was the third win of the year for Dietzler. Jory Berg of Grand Forks was third while Matt Schow of McIntosh, who is the 2020 track champion at RCS, was fourth. Nathan Raasakka of Grand Forks was fifth.
John Halvorson of Warren won the Wissota Street Stock feature over Alan Lane of Williams, Ryan Johnson of Karlstad wrapped up the season championship by finishing third. Joe Potter of Euclid was fourth an Trey Hess of Lakota was fifth.
California driver Jori Hughes won the Northern Renegade Wingless Sprint feature over Rob Caho Jr. Joel Larson of Fertile was fourth and Adam Sobolik of Grand Forks, who picked up his first career win at Devils Lake last week, was fifth.
Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks won the Wissota Late Model feature and wrapped up the track championship in the process. Brad Seng of Grand Forks was second, Tom Corcoran of East Grand Forks was third, Joey Pederson of East Grand Forks was fourth and Brody Troftgruben of Grand Forks fifth.