Edginton, Dykhoff, Froemming, Mikkelson, Thomas and Kort Win I-94 Openers
I made my first race trip of the season to I-94 Sure Step Speedway in Fergus Falls with 94 cars on hand.
New clay was added to I-94 this season, and with a horrible month of April weather-wise, I expected the track to have some character and it did. The track workers put in a lot of time and work just to get it ready for Friday and I give them credit for that. If you are expecting perfect racetracks at this time of year, considering the lack of a spring we’ve had, you aren’t being realistic. We are dealing with the hand we are dealt weather-wise right now.
Of course there were hiccups being the first night of the year, but the consensus I got was people were just really happy to be back at the track after a long winter, and another thing I gathered is several people are waiting for parts/engines to finish their cars. That could be a pattern this summer I’m afraid.
The Viessman Late Models kicked off the features and consisted of Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria and Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls in the front row. If you were a betting person, and you would have bet one of those two would win vs. the field, you’d take the former.
Mikkelson won the duel this time between the two cars who have been the most dominant in the class in recent years. Wolden, who has won all of the Limited Late Model titles at I-94 since the class was added, took second. Brad Staples of Herman had a solid run in third with Sam Zender of Fergus Falls fourth and the veteran Larry Samuelson of Erhard fifth.
Outside pole sitter Dan Aberle of Finley, N.D., vaulted into the early lead of the Wissota Street Stock feature; he was seeking his first win at I-94. And for a while, it looked like he was on his way to that.
Then came a caution with nine laps left, and that brought Kyle Dykhoff of Starbuck into play. Shortly after the restart he passed Aberle for the lead and took control. The car on the move was Jeff Ekdahl of Oakdale, who started 10th. He moved into the top three and was challenging Aberle for second.
Scott Bintz of Jamestown ran in the top three for much of the race but had a mechanical issue and he pulled in. Defending I-94 champion Ryan Satter of Dent was around the top five all night.
Dykhoff picked up the win, and Ekdahl capped off a great run in second. Aberle finished a solid third with Satter taking fourth. Cory Dykhoff of Perham – running a self-built new car – rounded out the top five.
Wissota Late Model rookie Kevin Burdick of Proctor, a former Wissota Super Stock national champion, took the lead of the late model feature from his outside pole spot, and set a quick pace. He led the first nine laps before a caution waved.
That brought Canadian driver Shane Edginton, the defending River Cities Speedway track champion, into the mix. He took over the top spot from Burdick and then checked out on the field.
The best battle was for second between Burdick and multi-time I-94 champion Cole Schill of Horace. Those two traded spots and raced hard for the second spot. Bryce Sward of Nelson was also in contention in the top four.
Defending I-94 champion Dave Mass of East Bethel was on the move after having trouble in his heat race and starting way back into the field. He moved into the top five and was making a big-time charge through the field.
After a restart, Edginton vaulted into the lead and just took over the race. He was a straightaway ahead of second at the checkered flag to pick up his win. Burdick outlasted Schill for second. Sward was fourth and Josh Zimpel of Braham, a late model rookie, outlasted Shawn Meyer of Wahpeton for fifth.
The Wissota Midwest Modified feature was an adventure with a lot of attrition on a tough racetrack. Brennan Gave and Brendan Blascyk led the 24-car field to the green.
Blascyk led early, with Justin Froemming of Elbow Lake applying pressure. Cody the Cobra Lee of Starbuck and Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls were also in contention for the top spot.
Froemming took over the lead from Blascyk, who had pressure from Gronwold and Lee. Also joining the battle was Matt Schow of McIntosh.
There were several cautions, and several cars pulled in. That included Ron Saurer of Dalton, Gronwold, Lee, Haley Lee of Starbuck, Bintz and Lindsey Hansen of Watertown. You would have had a good race with just that group alone.
The car on the move, after going through the B feature, was Corey Storck of Morris. He had trouble in his heat and had to go through the B. He started 22nd in the main event and after the cautions and some cars dropping out, had moved into the top five. Zach Reinke of Lisbon also was having a solid run in the top five.
Froemming had some pressure from both Blascyk and Schow but survived those to pick up a well-earned win. Blascyk took second with Schow capping off a nice run in third. Storck capped off a great run going from 22nd to fourth. And what a nice run for Scott Oeltjen of Villard, who quietly hovered around the top five all night and finished fifth.
A pair drivers made pretty good runs through the field – Cole Neset of Fargo went from 19th to eighth while Kyle Preston of Fergus Falls went from 24th to 10th. Only 10 of the 24 starters finished.
I expected it would be tough to beat Brady Gerdes of Villard once he started on the outside pole, and it look like he was on his way to another I-94 win. He led the first several laps, but broke and pulled in. Joseph Thomas of Glyndon took over the lead and was flying around the top in his #7T.
The best battle was for second between former I-94 champion Dusty Bitzan of Brandon and defending Wissota Mod national champion Tyler Peterson of Hickson.
Another driver running well was Lee Grosz of Watertown, S.D.,; he is a modified rookie after racing sprints for several years. He was in the top five much of the night.
Thomas prevailed for the win with Bitzan holding off Peterson for second. Grosz and Don Eischens of Richmond rounded out the top five.
Only six Short Trackers were on hand and five took the green for the feature. It turned into a good race, however between Zach Kort of Fergus Falls and Shawn Beto of Wahpeton, who waged a good battle for the lead.
That battle went to the wire and Kort held on by half a car length over Beto, who is seeking his first career feature win. Hunter Goulet of Fargo was third.
--Wissota Midwest Mod driver Lindsey Hansen of Watertown, who totalled his GRT Chassis at the Wissota 100 last September, is back with an MB Customs car this year. He won the B feature in the class on Friday.
--2021 Short Tracker champion Kevin Youngquist of Barney made his debut in the Wissota Street Stock class on Friday. Other street stock newcomers included Nick Shumansky of Perham, who has raced IMCA Hobby Stocks previously, and maverick Janssen of Barnesville, driving the #23 machine.
--A pair of Wissota Mod drivers came out of retirement in 2022 – Jason Thoennes of Garfield and Cody Skytland of Horace. Thoennes debuted a new MB Customs car and finished in sixth, with Skytland taking seventh. Good to have both veterans back behind the wheel.
—Jeff Nelson of Perham has a new Wissota Midwest Modified TRC chassis for 2022, but is still waiting on an engine. He borrowed Ryan Verlarud’s E6 machine for Friday’s show.
--I mentioned Grosz earlier. He is married to late model driver Morgan Ward, who is the daughter of long-time Watertown, S.D., veteran Scott Ward. Grosz spent many years racing sprint cars but has hopped into a modified this season.
--Dustin Johanneck of Litchfield raced in the Viessman Late Models in recent years but has moved into the Wissota Late Model class. Newcomers in that class on Friday included Burdick, Max Nelson and Josh Zimpel of Braham.
--Sam Zender of Fergus Falls bought a Viessman Late Model for this season after spending several years in the Wissota Midwest Modified class. He is also piloting a Wissota Late Model owned by Scott Rachels of Fergus Falls.
--Some late model drivers had tough heat races. Mikkelson was leading his heat and blew a motor; Mass suffered front-end damage and had to pull in; and Wolden tagged the wall at the start of his race and eventually pulled in.