Carter, Baker, Gerdes and Shaw Win ROC Qualifiers at I-94; Froemming Wins Special at Fiesta City
I was back at I-94 Speedway for Friday’s show. It was Race of Champions qualifier night at I-94 in the four Wissota classes. Qualifying for the race of champions were Jonny Carter (Wissota Street), Matt Baker (Wissota Midwest Modified), Brady Gerdes (Wissota Mod) and Don Shaw (Wissota Late).
A good field of 96 cars signed in at I-94. This was despite rain in the morning in the area. The track escaped some weather later in the day: about 20 miles east of Fergus Falls there was a severe thunderstorm warning in mid-afternoon.
Not many track prep guys put in the hours Scott Engfer does, and Friday was a challenge, with the rain earlier in the day and a very humid evening. There was some character to the track but for the most part I thought it held up pretty good.
Some interesting names pulled in. One was Deven VanHouse of Silver Bay, Minn., who brought his Wissota Late Model and Wissota Modified to town. For those wondering, that is about a 5-hour drive, one-way. I'd seen VanHouse run a modified at Proctor before but he is fairly new to the late models. He had a solid fifth-place run in the late models after starting 10th.
Also in the mods, Austin Arneson of Fargo -- who won the $10,004 Legendary 50 IMCA Modified feature at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan last week -- made his first Wissota appearance of the year. Michael Johnson of Moorhead was also back for a second straight week in his #84 modified; he was fifth at Norman County in Ada on Thursday, racing IMCA. He runs a Crate engine in that machine. Tim Thomas, the younger brother of #6 mod driver Corky Thomas, also brought his #51 machine back to town.
There was an incident in the pits before one of the Limited Late Model heats. Since I did not witness it, and did not have the time to interview all involved, I won’t comment or talk about it further, because it isn’t fair to either side. All I will say is track conduct rules (and consequences) are for everyone to follow and should be enforced accordingly.
Jonny Carter of Lisbon, interviewed above, started on the outside pole of the Wissota Street Stock feature and jumped to the lead ahead of Eric Riley of Morris. Carter had a decent lead, but the real battle was for second between Riley, Ryan Satter of Dent and Kyle Dykhoff of Perham. Man, I wish I could have a video of that battle — showing you can race hard without driving into or over each other.
The three cars battling for second closed the gap on Carter and weren’t far away, but the Lisbon driver picked up his 13th win of the year and also qualified for the Wissota Race of Champions. Riley took second and Satter edged Dykhoff at the line for third. Kyle Anderson of Jamestown had a solid run in his first trip of the year to I-94, taking fifth. Cory Dykhoff of Perham started 17th and ended up sixth, a nice run for him.
Matt Baker of St. Joseph sure seems to like I-94 Speedway. He picked up his third win of 2019 at the track, starting third and taking the Wissota Midwest Mod win over Shane Howell of Buffalo. Baker has the most wins in the class (three) of any driver this year. Despite that, he is third in the points, trailing leader Nick Bruder of Long Prairie by 17. Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls is only 12 back in what is shaping up to be a pretty good battle. Gronwold, Bruder and Alex Langland of Casselton rounded out the top five. Hunter Hougaard of Karlstad, Minn., started 10th and finished seventh.
Fergus Falls driver Ben Wolden, interviewed above, continues to hum along in the Limited Late Models. He won his fourth feature of the year at I-94; he started seventh and wasted no time getting to the front, taking a commanding lead. Brad Staples of Herman — who to me is improving a great deal week-by-week — closed the gap some on Wolden but settled for second. Dan Dowling of Davenport, N.D., started ninth but worked up to third at the checkered; it was his best finish in a Limited Late Model so far. Dustin Johanneck (fourth) and Satter rounded out the top five.
Veteran Jason Thoennes of Garfield took the lead from the pole in the modified feature, but Dan Ebert of Lake Shore was in hot pursuit. Ebert drove the wheels off of his 60 machine and was all over Thoennes, but the Garfield veteran hung tough. After a restart, former I-94 track champion Brady Gerdes of Villard moved into second and then used a slider to pass Thoennes. Gerdes pulled away from there for his second I-94 win of the year. Keep in mind, Gerdes started eighth on the field and really was strong the entire race. The guy can wheel a car.
Thoennes held off Ebert for second, with Tyler Peterson of Hickson having another good run, taking fourth after tarting 10th. Austin Arneson, mentioned earlier, was fifth after starting ninth. You should have seen the racing between Peterson, Arneson and Zach Johnson for fourth. Outstanding stuff.
Cole Schill of Horace and Shawn Kirwin of Morris had a nice battle for the lead in the Wissota Late Model feature, but Shaw once again was fast in picking up his fifth I-94 win of the year. Schill was second, Kirwin third, Shawn Meyer of Wahpeton fourth and VanHouse fifth. Shaw hasn't lost at I-94 this season.
Shaw is a good driver and is fast; however the amount of slide jobs he does to pass people irks me a bit as a fan. I don't mind a slider being used from time to time as long as it is clean (like Gerdes did in the mods), but to pass pretty much every car that way (including slower lapped cars) doesn't sit well with me. Just my opinion.
Only six cars took the green for the Short Tracker feature, and Austin Lammers of Pelican Rapids picked up his first win of the year. Daniel Harstad of Fergus Falls, the point leader at I-94, was second and Brent Engler of Barrett was third.
—Kyle Dykhoff was debuting a new Kurshinsky Street Stock car that was making its track debut. He's had the frame all year but has been focused on his midwest modified racing. He took the motor and seat out of his midwest modified and put it in the streeter; I think he'll take fourth for the first night out.
—Cory Tammen of Moorhead blew a motor in his Wissota Late Model heat, and now is looking at options as he does not have a second motor readily available.
—Where have the Short Trackers gone? The class used to draw 20-plus cars a night. On Friday there was eight in attendance, and only six took the green for the feature. It is an affordable class and a good way to get into racing, and I’m puzzled where the numbers have gone.
—If Austin Arneson starts running at I-94 weekly, watch out. He’s won there in the past — including the King of the Dirt — and is a dang talented driver.
—The Veralrud brothers, Austin and Ryan, were in town in the Wissota Midwest Modified class. Both run the IMCA Sport Mods at Red River Valley and Buffalo River Race Park. Austin has run well this year at West Fargo in his 6 machine and finished 13th in the feature after starting 19th.
I talked to Andy Wagner of Ada, who has run both the sport mods and midwest modifieds; the differences between the two classes are engine compression settings and some rear suspension rules. You can run a Crate in both classes; in fact, in Wissota you can run a 4-inch spoiler if you run a Crate.
Pierce Leads Winners at River Cities
Austin Pierce of Grand Forks topped Jade Hastings of Grand Forks for the NOSA Sprint feature win at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks on Friday.
Ty Hanten of Fargo, Nick Omdahl of East Grand Forks and Jack Croaker of East Grand Forks rounded out the top five.
Lance Schill of Langdon won the Wissota Midwest Modified feature with Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls taking second. Eric Haugland of Lawton was third and Reise Stenberg of Argusville fifth.
Brad Seng of Grand Forks won the Wissota Late Model feature with Ryan Kereluk of St. Andrews, Manitoba second.
James Meagher of Grand Forks topped Ryan Johnson of Karlstad for the win in the Wissota Street Stocks. Seth Klostreich of Grand Forks was third.
Froemming Wins Special at Fiesta City
Congrats to Justin Froemming of Garfield for winning the Wissota Midwest Modified special at Fiesta City Speedway in Montevideo on Friday. Corey Storck of Morris started 14th and finished second. Lucas Rodin of Marion, N.D., was fourth.
Justin Vogel of Brooten added another Wissota Street Stock win at Fiesta City.
Congrats to Kasey Ussatis of Nome, N.D., for winning the Wissota Street Stock feature Friday night at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen. It is the second feature win of 2019 for Ussatis.