I made it to I-94 Sure Step Speedway in Fergus Falls for the first time in 2020 — hard to believe that came in July. A great field of 138 cars was on hand on a hot and humid evening.
New owner Don Shaw has made a lot of improvements to the facility. The two biggest are noticeable — an improved concession area with more selections of food, and the billboards in turn three truly help with the sun. There are also more walls in the pit area, including past the scale/tech shed.
The track was very fast in the features with some character and the top line was clearly the place to be on this night.
I’m not a fan of running seven classes, but I understand under the Covid-19 circumstances and tracks being closed why I-94 is doing it. For some, it’s their only option to race right now with their local track closed.
The big question for the street stocks was, could Ryan Satter of Dent win his fourth straight feature? Well, the streak is over at three for Satter.
Craig Gardner of Eagle Bend and Andrew Bangsund of Alexandria battled early for the street stock feature lead. Bangsund, interviewed above, took over the year and had a pretty nice advantage over second when the caution came out for debris with nine laps left. That brought a whole new dimension to the race as several contenders were now in the top six.
Kyle Anderson of Jamestown moved into second on the restart and set his sights on Bangsund. Meanwhile, a fierce battle between Jim "Nitro" Williams of DeGraff, Ryan Satter, Justin Vogel of Brooten and Eric Riley of Morris was taking place for third.
Anderson closed the gap on Bangsund and pressured him for the final few laps. Bangsund started out on a higher line but had switched to a lower line as Anderson got closer. Anderson peeked underneath Bangsund a few times but the Alexandria veteran -- a three-time street stock champion at Viking -- prevailed for the win. Anderson's outstanding season continued with a runner-up finish, with Nitro Williams holding off Vogel for third. Riley ran fifth. Satter, by the way, finished sixth.
Matt Baker of St. Joseph has figured something out at I-94. He now has three wins in a row in the Wissota Midwest Modified class at the 3/8-mile oval.
Jeff Nelson of Perham was looking for his first win of the year in the midwest modifieds. He took the lead but had plenty of company, including veteran Ron Saurer of Dalton, one of the 60-somethings who still is a formidable foe. Brennan Gave, Matt Baker and Brock Gronwold were all in the middle of a wild pack battling up front.
Gronwold ended up with his right side pretty crunched -- didn't see what happened -- and pulled in. Turns out, it was a motor issue. Baker, meanwhile, just crushed the field, building a straightway lead for the win. Nelson had an excellent race and finished second. One driver who steadily worked through traffic --- using the high line -- was Travis Engebretson of Cyrus who finished third. Saurer and Gave rounded out the top five.
Dustin Johanneck of Litchfield set the pace early in the Limited Late Models. Last week's winner, Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria, was flying around the outside and took the lead. Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls, interviewed above, was also on the move as he moved into the top five.
The caution came out with two to go after a car hit the wall; and under the caution Mikkelson's car quit, and he had to leave via the push track. Wolden controlled the final two laps for the win with Larry Fitzsimmons of East Bethel running a solid second. Johanneck was third. It was good to see veteran Rick Nelson of Alexandria with a good run, taking fourth after starting seventh. Tony Croninger of Watertown was fifth.
The Limited Late Models started out fine - but in that class cautions breed cautions, unfortunately, and it led to some tore up race cars.
Speaking of torn up cars, then there’s the Wissota Super Stock feature. Or should I call it a demo derby. Only 12 of the 22 starters finished, and two cars who finished in the top five — Jason Cook of Brandon and Jared Zimpel of Braham — had to be brought onto the scale via wrecker. That’s not to mention how many cars had damage.
The top three escaped the mess — William Lund of Brandon, Trevor Saurer of Dalton and Josh Zimpel of Braham — and put on a pretty good show at the front.
The complexion changed early as pre-race favorite Dave Mass of Isanti pulled in in the firts few laps. Veteran Jeff Flaten of Hancock --- a guy I’ve seen race for almost 30 years, dating back to the days at Viking when he used to race the #37 Sportsman car -- set the pace for the first several laps; however mechanical trouble ended his night, and Josh Zimpel of Braham took over the lead. It was a bummer for Flaten, who I thought had the shot at the win.
Giving chase and closing the gap were Lund and Saurer. The two closed the gap for the lead and soon, Lund, interviewed above made the move and took over the lead, and was the leader when the caution came out with three to go.
The restart saw Saurer apply pressure for the first final three laps -- and got beside him out of turn two, but Lund didn't flinch and picked up the win. Saurer settled for second with Zimpel finishing a solid third. Jared Zimpel and Jason Cook — both who had pretty significant damage — rounded out the top five (I didn’t see what happened, only the aftermath).
If the high line is fast, chances are it’s Travis Saurer’s kind of track. And it was. The Elizabeth, Minn., driver, pictured above, led the entire way to claim his first Wissota Modified feature of the year at I-94. Brady Gerdes of Villard and Dusty Bitzan of Brandon — who each have wins at I-94 this season — had a good battle for second after a restart with Gerdes prevailing. Tyler Peterson of Hickson made a good run through the field, placing fourth after starting 11th. Brian Haben of Appleton, Minn., was fifth.
While Mass didn’t fare well in the super stocks, he did in the Wissota Late Models, picking up the win. Bryce Sward of Nelson ran a strong race and finished second. Shawn Meyer of Wahpeton started ninth but finished third for a good showing with veteran Shawn Kirwin of Morris taking fourth. Casey Meyer of Wahpeton taking fifth after starting 11th.
It was good to see the Meyer cousins -- Casey and Shawn -- back on the track after a very damaging crash last week at River Cities in Grand Forks. Shawn's 18x took the brunt last week and I'm guessing it took a lot of work to get both cars ready for Friday. Both looked good in the feature.
Cole Schill of Horace won his heat, but a broken axle forced him to take the green and pull in early in the feature.
What a run for two cars in the Short Trackers — Corey Mehrwerth of St. Stephen and Andy Booke of Wahpeton. Mehrwerth started eighth and picked up the win, while Booke started 21st and charged through the field to finish second. Daniel Harstad of Fergus Falls — driving a borrowed car after blowing a motor last week — finished third. Brady Hagen of Montevideo was fourth ahead of Jeff Hanson of Barrett.
Nick Ranten Wins 1st Career Sprint Feature at RCS
Nick Ranten of East Grand Forks picked up his first career NOSA Sprint win Friday night at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. Ranten, a third-year driver, started second and prevailed. Jack Croaker of East Grand Forks was second, Brenden Mullen of Grand Forks third, Wade Nygaard of Grand Forks fourth and Austin Pierce of Grand Forks fifth.
Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks won the Wissota Late Model feature for his first RCS win of the year and second overall. Joey Pederson of East Grand Forks was second, Steffen Snare of Hallock third, Tom Corcoran of East Grand Forks fourth and Brad Seng of Grand Forks fifth.
Lance Schill of Langdon won the Wissota Midwest Modified feature over Jason Strand of Portland. Jory Berg of Grand Forks was third, Matt Schow of McIntosh fourth and Nathan Raasakka of Grand Forks fifth.
James Meagher of Grand Forks held off Daniel Aberle of Finley to win the Wissota Street Stock feature. Ryan Johnson of Karlstad was third, John Halvorson of Warren fourth and Nick Minske of East Grand Forks fifth.
I-94 Sure Step Speedway/Friday night notes
—I got to meet the Mehrwerth family from St. Stephen, Minn. Look for a blog feature on that group, very nice family. Ashley and Brandon are in the midwest modifieds while Corey, 17, is in the Short Tracker/Hornet class. Because of work schedules it's rare to see all three siblings at the same track on the same night.
—The 23 super stocks might be the most I've seen at I-94 for a regular night. I'm guessing if that class keeps drawing well, Don Shaw will keep it in the weekly show at I-94. We will see what happens when Fiesta City opens and Viking Speedway KRA Speedway how that affects the super numbers at I-94. Right now, many of those cars don't have a lot of options to race right now.
—I got to meet long-time street stock driver Jim "Nitro" Williams, and look for a feature blog on him soon. Williams is the all-time street stock wins leader at Viking Speedway and I've watched him race for many years now. What I didn't know he is 61 -- and still driving the wheels off of his car. I wish I would have had more time to visit with him, I can imagine the stories that have piled up for the #22 team. He finished a solid third on Friday.
—If there is an award for most improved driver, my early vote is Joseph Thomas of Glyndon. He has come a long way in the Wissota Modified class, including getting a win at I-94 a few weeks ago. It shows how valuable seat time is how a driver improves, and it's also nice to have your father, Corky, who has won dozens of features, as a mentor. Corky, by the way, told me he hasn't retired and likely will be out this season in his #6T machine. He was there to help Joseph on Friday.
--It was a rough night for the Crouses of Alexandria. Jeff left via the wrecker in the super stock feature while Jon Crouse left with some front-end damage.
—Congrats to Maria Broksieck of Goodwin, S.D., for winning the street stock feature Friday night at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen. Kasey Ussatis of Nome, N.D., was third. Broksieck, a very good competitor in the street stocks for a number of years, picked up her first win of 2020.
—Rich Pavlicek of Casselton was third in the IMCA Sport Mod feature Friday at Southwest Speedway in Dickinson, N.D.
—Brody Carlsrud of Moorhead was third in the INEX Legend feature after starting ninth.