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Gerdes, Shaw, Gronwold, Mikkelson win Dick Johanneck Memorial; Martin and Aberle Win at RCS

Brady Gerdes won the Wissota Mod feature. (Photo from Colin Nelson/Outlaw Action Photography)

RaceChaser was back at I-94 Speedway for the Dick Johanneck Memorial. There was a nice tribute to the late track owner, who died in Oct. 2018, prior to the race. Johanneck was the owner of Polydome, which is the primary sponsor for Wissota, and and also built tracks in Fergus Falls, Sauk Centre and near Grove City, Minn. A big thanks to the Johanneck family for putting up the money for this event.

What a great field of cars. 43 late models, 31 modifieds, a track-record 25 limited late models and 26 midwest modifieds. I expected around 30 late models; but I-94 drew from South Dakota since Aberdeen was off (guys like Curt Gelling, Chad Becker, Brian Diede, Blake Swenson) and from Grand Forks, since River Cities didn't run late models (Brad Seng, Ryan Corbett, Shane Edginton, Brody Troftgruben, among others).

I didn’t do any video interviews last night because of the lateness. I confess I left a little after 11 with the red flag for the limited late models; having two kids under three isn’t real conducive to late nights anymore, lol. Five hour shows were fine when I was single and 35 but not so much now.

I’m not sure where to start with last night. A lot on my mind. With 125 cars, including 43 late models, I knew it was going to be a long night just because the volume of races (16 heats, three B mains). But one criticism, and one I’ve heard from other fans and drivers, it is the length of their shows. Urgency seems to be lacking in keeping the program going, and their intermissions, like the 40-minute one last night, are too damn long. I-94 isn’t the only track with this issue, by the way. No reason to have long intermissions when your heat races are done around 9:40, even if you are doing track prep. I like I-94 and go there pretty much every week even though I live in Fargo I can but this is one area that has to improve.

Part of the delays last night was the amount of cautions in the heat races which bordered on ridiculous, especially in the Limited Late Models. That isn’t the track’s fault, but maybe on a night where it is a special event, you go to a one-spin (solo) and you’re in for the heats. The Limited Late Model feature, which started 23 cars, was a caution fest as expected. That class has some good drivers and this isn’t an indictment on all of them — but way too many cautions and crashes from this group are happening right now. It’s bordering on embarrassing the way some of these drivers drive. It’s time to put a strict feature time limit on this class if things don’t clean up. Last week only five cars finished and this week 14 of the 23 starters made the finish.

The good news about the Wissota Midwest Modified class on Friday was the 18-lap feature went caution free and lasted just over six minutes. Nice job, drivers. The bad thing was the track was abrasive and fast and wasn’t very entertaining. Brock Gronwold had the pole and checked out on the field. There was a decent battle for second between Ashley Mehrwerth of St. Stephen and Justin Froemming of Alexandria for quite a few laps, but that ended when Mehrwerth suffered a flat right rear. By the way, she runs very well at I-94 Speedway; she was second a few weeks ago and won there a couple of years ago.

Gronwold was in his own area code and took the win with Froemming taking second. Brennon Weight of La Moure, N.D., last week’s winner, was third for his second top five finish. Ron Saurer of Dalton was fourth and Brandon Mehrwerth of St. Stephen made a late pass for fifth.

The long spin-out filled Limited Late Model feature was won by Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria for the second straight week. Dustin Johanneck — driving the number 76 made famous by Dick Johanneck — had a good run to finish second. Blake Saathoff of Alexandria was third, I believe that was the best finish for him in a Limited Late Model. Kris Wilke of Porter, Minn., was fourth, and Larry Samuelson of Erhard, who had his car tore up last week, bounced back with a fifth place finish. Ben Wolden of Alexandria had the pole and I figured he’d run away with it, but it look like a flat tire ended his night.

Didn’t see the mod or late model features unfortunately so will just keep the highlights. Brady Gerdes of Villard seems to rise to the top of the higher paying shows locally and he prevailed over former Wissota national champ Dave Cain. Don Eischens of Richmond always seems to run well at I-94; he was third after starting eighth. Dan Pederson of Underwood and Blake Jegtvig of Hawley rounded out the top five.

Don Shaw of Ham Lake took the Wissota Late Model win and also was crowned King of the Dirt. John Kaanta of Elk Mound, Wis., finished second, Jeff Wildung of Nassau — making his return after a damaging rollover at Viking on July 12 — finished third. Dan Ebert of Lake Shore and Rick Hanestad of Boyceville, Wis. rounded out the top five.

Let me vent…

Why is the Wissota Late Model Challenge Series scheduling a race at Ogilvie against this event?  The reason I-94 Speedway scheduled for this week was Dick Johanneck's birthday was Aug. 22 and they wanted the Dick Johanneck Memorial to be as close to that date as possible. Which makes perfect sense. Yes the Ogilvie show was scheduled first, but considering I-94 wanted the event closest to Dick's birthday, the Challenge Series race could have been adapted. I have nothing against Ogilvie Raceway all, I think it is a great track and does some real great things for racing but this scheduling wasn't good for anyone. To me this is more on the Challenge Series for not thinking this through and moving this.

Well guess what -- I-94, which paid a great purse ($4,586 to win, $386 to start LM feature). -- had 43 lates. The challenge series race at Ogilvie had 10. Keep in mind, some drivers I consider challenge series regulars -- John Kaanta, Steve Laursen and the Hanestads -- were at I-94. When there are conflicting events, usually the drivers choose the money. The Challenge Series is a great thing and I support it when I can, but it needs to coordinate its dates better so they don't run against events like the Johanneck Memorial. Just sayin'.

I-94 Notes

--Tyler Hall of Fertile deserves credit. He brought his #60 car -- which he runs IMCA and is powered by a Crate engine -- to compete with the Wissota crew. Competing with a Crate against that level of competition is tough so I give him a ton of credit for winning a B main. However, he was DQed for not having a Wissota sticker showing properly. I’ve heard some things in my day, that might be the most ridiculous reason to DQ someone; keep in mind it was Hall’s first night of Wissota this year. I am guessing a car was just lost for the Wissota 100…

A couple of IMCA drivers who came down to race at I-94 on Friday and told they weren't happy with how they were treated by a tech official. One wasn't allowed to race at all (even though two sport mods raced there earlier this season) and Hall was the other, DQed for not having a sticker in the right spot. I realize tech inspectors have a tough job trying to enforce rules -- don't get me wrong and I want them enforce -- but they don't have to be pricks or treat people poorly.

--It had been many, many years since I had seen Chuck Swenson of Watertown, S.D., race. Last time I saw him he was running the X Wissota Sprint. Swenson, a long-time veteran, was leading his late model heat by a decent margin but after a caution the car wouldn't re-fire. It was costly -- cost him a spot in the feature and in the re-draw.

--Cody Skytland of Horace was driving Donny Schatz's #15 late model. He was in a transfer spot in his heat as well but shredded a right rear tire. That forced him to go into a B main. He has struggled in the #75 modified in limited appearances this season; certainly not having the kind of year we are used to seeing from him.

Martin, Aberle Score Wins at River Cities

Bob Martin of Grand Forks scored an upset win in the NOSA Sprints on Friday at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. Martin topped Mark Dobmeier of Grand Forks for the win. Nick Ranten of Fisher, Wade Nygaard of Grand Forks and Jade Hastings of Grand Forks rounded out the top five.

Dan Aberle of Finley picked up the Wissota Street Stock win Friday at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. Doug VanMill of Bagley was second, Ryan Johnson of Karlstad third, Tucker Pederson of East Grand Forks fourth and Trey Hess of Lakota fifth.

Lance Schill of Langdon won the Wissota Midwest Modified feature over Ryan Schow of McIntosh. Todd Johnson of Petersburg was third, Jamie Dietzler of Larimore fourth and Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls fifth.

Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks won the Wissota Modified feature over Schill. Dustin Wahl was third.

Friday night notes

Jonny Carter of Lisbon won the Wissota Street Stock feature Friday at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan. That is win #21 on the year for Carter. Kyle Anderson of Jamestown was third.

Andrew Jochim of Glyndon was third and Brody Carlsrud of Moorhead was fourth in the INEX Legends feature at Dacotah.

Justin Vogel of Brooten is dang near unbeatable at Fiesta City Speedway in Montevideo. He won his eighth Wissota Street Stock feature at the track on Friday. Travis Scott of Glenwood was econd, Ryan Pommerer of Oriska, N.D., fourth and Eric Riley of Morris fifth.

--Congrats to Allen Kent of Fargo for winning the Tri-City Mod Tour title. The mini-tour wrapped up at Mandan. Greg Friestad of Valley City finished second. Casey Arneson of Fargo won the IMCA Mod feature.

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