Gronwold, Zender, Strand, Satter, Cain Lead I-94 King of the Dirt Winners
RaceChaser blog was back at I-94 Sure Step Speedway for the annual Dick Johanneck King of the Dirt Special. A big field of 156 cars was on hand for the night, which also capped off a weekend doubleheader.
The 3/8-mile oval, baked by the sun over the past two days with temperatures running near 100 degrees, had a lot of laps and race cars on it the past two days — so it was understandable to see the track rubber up on Saturday. There were more than 300 race cars, and a ton of laps raced, over the past two nights. It was a tough track to pass on but was smooth. In honestly, with 95 degree weather, little humidity and a lot of wind, track officials probably did the best they could to keep the track going. I can guarantee there weren’t many hammer-down tracks in the Midwest this weekend!
It’s hard to believe that with all of the wins Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls, interviewed above, has piled up at I-94, that he’d never won the King of the Dirt. That winless streak ended on Saturday as he won his second straight Rebel Midwest Modified Tour event. He also won on Friday.
Shawn Kelley of New Richmond, Wis., led early in the race with Travis Schulte of Clear Lake giving chase. Lucas Rodin of Marion and Gronwold were right in the hunt.
Rodin’s hopes for a win ended with a spin in turn one, sending him to the rear. He did not finish the feature.
Justin Froemming of Elbow Lake, Corey Storck of Morris and Mike Nichols of Watertown, S.D., also were battling for spots in the top five.
Gronwold saw his opening on the outside and powered by Schulte for the lead. Gronwold’s knowledge of I-94 came in handy as he used the high line to take the lead.
Nichols, Froemming and Schulte had a great battle for second while Storck battled Kelly for fifth. Nichols cleared Schulte for second using a lower line, and Froemming soon followed into third.
Gronwold, meanwhile checked out on the field to nearly a straightaway lead as he won the King of the Dirt for the first time. By the way, he dodged a bullet -- his radiator hose blew out in victory lane.
Nichols always impresses me when I see him run. He’s run well at I-94 and also has had good runs at the Seitz Memorial at River Cities Speedway in recent years. He finished a strong second on Saturday. Froemming is another driver who is very solid and finished third. Schulte and Storck rounded out the top five.
Cody the Cobra Lee of Starbuck was the hard charger. He worked his way from 23rd to 9th at the checkered to cap off a good performance.
Sam Zender of Fergus Falls, interviewed above, is a steady runner in the Wissota Midwest Modified and won his first career feature a couple of years ago. His Viessman Late Model win on Saturday may be the biggest of his career as he took home $1,088 for the win.
Brad Staples of Herman and Dustin Johanneck of Litchfield led the limited lates to the green. Zender got into the lead. Staples and Johanneck settled into the top five.
Two contenders were also moving up towards the front — Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria and Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls.
Zender, who won his first limited late model feature earlier this season, had to weather some cautions — which brought Mikkelson to his bumper — and went on to take the win. Mikkelson was second. Tony Croninger of Watertown, S.D., had a nice run — he ran in the top four all night and took third over Wolden, a former King of the Dirt winner. Johanneck was fifth.
It was a nice win for Zender and came against a pretty solid field of limited lates.
Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks and Cole Babcock of Rothsay shared the front row in the NLRA/Wissota Late Model feature. Strand took the lead from the outside, and after a pair of early cautions, the race ended with a long green flag run.
Strand and Dave Mass of East Bethel, who won the first NLRA race at I-94 in May, were flying and Mass applied pressure to the 71 car as the leaders encountered lapped traffic. Another car making his presence felt was Bryce Sward of Nelson, who started sixth but was riding the cushion into third.
Mass poked his nose underneath Strand a few times and was right on his tail, but once Strand cleared some lapped cars, he took off to pick up his first NLRA win of the year. It is also Strand’s first career victory at I-94.
Mass settled for second with Sward capping off a great run to finish third. Veteran Brad Seng of Grand Forks was fourth with Cole Schill of Horace capping off a good run taking fifth. Ryan Mikkelson also ran well, taking sixth after starting 12th. Mike Greseth of Harwood started 17th but finished ninth.
Ryan Satter of Dent is a past winner of the King of the Dirt, so him winning the Wissota Street Stock feature should be no surprise. And once again, it turned into a battle between him and Parker Anderson of Phillips, Wis.
Veteran Royce Jawaski of Horace led the early part of the race before Satter took over the lead. Anderson worked his way past Jawaski and set his sights on Satter. Meanwhile, Justin Vogel of Brooten, who won Friday at Fiesta City Speedway, and Andrew Bangsund of Alexandria had a nice battle for fourth.
A few cautions bunched the field together and brought Anderson to Satter’s bumper, but the #67 machine was steady as Satter picked up the win. Anderson was second. Vogel moved Into third — it would have been interesting to see what a caution would have done for him late — with Jawaski fourth. Bangsund’s solid race landed him in fifth. Kasey Ussatis of Nome started 11th but worked up to sixth at the checkered.
Kyle Dykhoff of Starbuck has either been feast or famine this season in his Wissota Street Stock. He has four feature wins, but also has been plagued with some bad luck. This time, it was a spark plug that worked loose, ending the night for a car I thought could contend for the win.
Dave Mass of East Bethel and Shane Sabraski of Rice ends up dueling for the Wissota Super Stock feature — like they have many times before. Mass started on the outside pole and led the whole way, weathering some pressure from Sabraski for the win. Taking third was Terran Spacek of Phillips, Wis.. Karter Reents of Glenwood finished fourth to cap off a good run with Josh Zimpel of Braham taking fifth.
Dave Cain of Corcoran became a two-time winner of the King of the Dirt with a solid victory in the Wissota Modified feature. The win was worth $1,088. Cain was runner-up to Shane Sabraski of Rice on Friday but was not going to be denied on Saturday.
Cain and Jeremy Nelson of Alexandria, driving the Mastersbilt by JMR mod, broke away from the field and for a while Nelson was within striking distance. Cain, however, usually doesn’t make mistakes and didn’t on Saturday either as he extended his lead.
Defending I-94 champion Dusty Bitzan was alone in third as Sabraski settled into fourth. Zach Johnson of Lowry and Joseph Thomas of Glyndon had a good battle for fifth.
Cain won by a comfortable margin over Nelson with Bitzan taking third. Sabraski and Johnson rounded out the top five. I’ll tell you this, there weren’t many slouches in that mod field, it’s as deep a field as I’ve seen all season.
Jacob Aarhus of Canby is no stranger to victory lane at I-94 — he won the Wissota 100 title in the Hornets a couple of years ago — and added another big win on Saturday.
Aarhus started third on the 20-car field and led much of the way. Kevin Youngquist of Barney, who started seventh, moved into second and was closing the gap on the lead. A restart with three laps to go bunched the field together.
Youngquist moved to the outside of Aarhus down the backstretch but couldn’t make the pass. Aarhus weathered the challenge and opened up a few car lengths on his way to pick up the feature win. Aarhus is a top runner down at Fiesta City and Madison. Youngquist was second, while Brady Molter of Rothsay was third after staring eighth. Devin Goulet was fourth after starting 11th while Shawn Beto finished fifth.
—I visited with late model rookie Jason Strand of Portland, N.D. Strand is enjoying the class and is driving the Millennium chassis built by Dustin Strand. Jason’s car this year was driven by Dustin last year.
—Lindsey Hansen of Fargo has been plagued with carburetor issues in his #32 midwest modified but won the b feature on Saturday to make it to the A main.
—After 41 midwest modifieds showed up on Friday, 39 were on hand on Saturday for the Rebel Midwest Modified Tour. I think that’s a great start. And the quality and the depths of the fields both nights were excellent.
—Veteran Larry Lund of Brandon was back behind the wheel of the #54 Wissota Super Stock. He finished a solid sixth in the feature. He’s a former track champion at Viking Speedway.
—Jeff Nelson of Perham has turned his backup Midwest modified into an IMCA car which he as ran at North Central Speedway. He plans
to hit the big-paying shows at the end of the month at North Central.
—Darren Pfau of West Fargo ran an IMCA modified earlier this year; however he blew up the motor in that, and has moved back to the Wissota Midwest Modified class. He was a very formidable competitor in that class before switching to the A mods.
Saturday Night Notes
--The Buffalo Wild Wings NOSA Sprints were on hand at Devils Lake Speedway, with Brendan Mullen picking up his second win of the season. Mullen started fourth.
Mullen’s mentor, Wade Nygaard of Grand Forks, was second. Zach Omdahl of East Grand Forks finished a career-best third with defending series champion Jade Hastings of Grand Forks taking fourth. Shane Roemeling of Grand Forks was fifth.
Dustin Ebensteiner of Devils Lake won the Wissota Street Stock feature over Cody Armstrong of Devils Lake. Trey Hess of Lakota was third.
Nate Reynolds of Hoople topped Logan Salazar of Neche for the Wissota Midwest Modified win. Jory Berg of Grand Forks was third.
Joe Armstrong won the Pure Stock feature.
--Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls won the Wissota Midwest Modified feature Saturday at Greenbush Race Park. It was his second win of the week; he won at Norman County Raceway on Thursday.
Daniel Aberle of Finley, N.D., won the Wissota Street Stock feature. Dave Meyer of Thief River Falls was second, Tucker Pederson of East Grand Forks third, John Halvorson of Warren fourth and Seth Klostreich of Grand Forks fifth.
—Congrats to Jaren Wibstad of Jamestown for winning the Wissota Midwest Modified feature Saturday at Jamestown Speedway. Jeffrey Schwind Jr. was third and Cole Neset of Fargo fifth.
Bob Banish Jr. of Milnor won the Wissota Street Stock feature.