I made it to I-94 Sure Step Speedway for the annual King of the Dirt show. A terrific 177-car field was on hand aiming for the crown.
I think I-94 is working to turn this into a big weekend annually. There were several campers in the lot. With Viking and Ogilvie taking the week off, the schedule sets up well. A few cars from the Madison/Montevideo area also pulled up as Madison cancelled for a second straight week.
It was the second night of the Rebel Midwest Modified tour – which had 45 cars on Friday and 39 on Saturday to get the tour off on a good note – and also an NLRA Late Model show, where 38 cars showed up to compete for $2,089 to win.
The track had a lot of laps on it on Saturday with 19 heat races and four B mains prior to intermission. One interesting thing: the midwest modifieds went 25 laps caution free as did the super stocks while the late model, short tracker and modified features had only one caution.
We will start out with the Rebel Midwest Modified Tour, which was entering Night 2. Cody the Cobra Lee of Starbuck won the opener on Friday and was looking for the sweep to open the tour. Right now, the Cobra looks really, really hungry.
Veteran Jason Grimes of Jamestown and Cody Lee, led a very strong Wissota Midwest Modified field to the green, and for the first several laps, the lead was a battle between those two. Brendan Blasyck of Hoffman moved into third with defending I-94 champion Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls sneaking by Ashley Mehrwerth of St. Stephen for fourth.
Grimes and Lee opened up some breathing room on the field but Gronwold was closing looking to make it a three-car battle for the lead. Lapped traffic played a major role as Grimes and Lee worked through several cars.
The Cobra found his way around Grimes in the lapped traffic and then opened up some breathing room. The real battle was for second behind Grimes, Gronwold and Brendan Blascyk who were in the midst of heavy lapped traffic.
Blascyk was running well on the bottom and closing quickly on Grimes and Gronwold. Grimes and Gronwold were in the middle of lapped traffic when they made contact, sending Gronwold into the infield. He made an incredible save to only lose a few spots, it could have been much worse.
Lee won by 1.82 seconds with Blascyk finishing a strong second. Lee, in his last four starts, has three wins and a third-place finish as he clearly has the 50C car dialed in. He and his sister Haley made the switch to SSR Chassis this season and it looks like it’s paying off.
I’m not sure where Lucas Rodin of Marion came from, honestly. He was outside the top five much of the night after starting 11th but worked his way to third by the checkered in a very good run for the defending national champion. Grimes and Gronwold rounded out the top five. Mike Nichols of Watertown, a winner at Casino last week, wqas sixth. Travis Saurer went from 18th to seventh ahead of Mehrwerth, who is a top runner in central Minnesota.
Jordan Tollakson of Montevideo took the lead over Cole Schill of Horace in the 35-lap NLRA Late Model main event. But working the lower line effectively was Jeff Massingill of Keewatin, and he eventually took over the top spot.
The first caution came out with 24 to go as Don Shaw of Ham Lake, who was running well, tagged the wall in turns three and four. I didn’t see if he had help, but the #42S suffered significant front end damage and was done.
After the restart, Canadian driver Shane Edginton battled with Schill for second, with Schill eventually taking over the second spot. Tollakson then caught Edginton for third as Massingill opened a commanding lead.
It became a fight to stay on the bottom, unfortunately, despite a few drivers going up and trying to make the high line work. It was a bummer because there wasn’t a ton of side by side racing for a while.
Edginton, however didn’t give up on the higher line and began to close back in on Schill for second.
Massingill was absolutely flawless on the bottom, picking off lapped car after lapped car on his way to a 6.064 second win. Schill finished second for a second straight night to kick his NLRA season off strong. Edginton was a solid third with Tollakson and Mike Greseth of Harwood, the defending NLRA champion, taking fifth. Greseth ran in the top five for much of the 35-lap race.
Defending I-94 champion Ryan Satter of Dent and Dave Mass of East Bethel led a stellar field of Wissota Street Stocks to the green flag.
Satter knows I-94 as well as anyone and stuck his #67 machine to the bottom as he jumped in front. Eric Riley of Morris likewise went to the bottom and kept pace.
There was about a four-car battle for third beteen Parker Anderson of Phillips, the Wolverine Justin Vogel of Brooten, Hunter Domagala and Dave Mass for a few laps.
Anderson, driving Scott Bintz’s #1S machine, moved into third with Domagala, making the trip from Mandan, N.D., taking fourth.
Anderson started to pressure Riley on the bottom and then took a peak to the outside, with Domagala right in tow. The happiest guy to see this was Satter as he opened up some breathing room.
Domagala moved up a line and found some speed there but a lapped car slowed him.
The best battle was between Anderson, the defending national champion, and Riley. And a lapped car forced Riley to go up higher and Anderson got by.
It looked like Satter was on his way to a pretty comfortable feature win, but the caution waved for Greg Platzer’s spin in turn two, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. Satter was the last person who wanted to see a caution at that point.
Anderson stayed close to Satter and gave him a nudge in the final corners but to no avail as Satter picked up his second win in as many nights. Anderson settled for second while Riley finished a solid third.
Vogel, never a guy content to follow the leader, tried valiantly to make the higher line work but the bottom was the place to be. He did pull off a fourth-place finish for his second top four finish in as many nights. Jeff Nowak of Wausau, Wis., made a late move to finish fifth after starting 10th. Kyle Anderson of Jamestown had a nice run to finish sixth after starting 14th making him the Hard Charger. The late restart was costly for Domagala who finished seventh but probably deserved a better finish.
Landon Atkinson of Little Falls and McKenzie Mikkelson of Alexandria paced the 28-car Wissota Modified field to the green.
Atkinson was the early leader but closing quickly was defending Wissota 100 champion Dan Ebert of Lake Shore. Ebert ran up top and Atkinson ran a more middle line.
Ebert would take the lead but Atkinson, also a former Wissota 100 winner, was far from through. He fought back using a lower line after Ebert opened up a few car lengths and regained over the top spot.
The top two set a frantic pace and lapped some cars. Meanwhile Don Eischens of Richmond and Jody Bellefeuille of Duluth were among the cars battling for third.
One driver who impressed the heck out of me in the modifieds was Duluth driver Jody Bellefeuille. He is a top runner in the Twin Ports area and usually a force on a dry slick track.
The race went caution free until there were four laps left for a spin in turn four. Ebert took a gamble on the restart, taking the high lane looking to get around Atkinson on the outside.
While Ebert was good on this night, Atkinson was simply better as he pulled away to about a second victory over Ebert. Bellefeuille made a late pass of Eischens for third. Shane Sabraski of Rice topped Eischens for the fourth spot. Dusty Bitzan of Brandon had a good run, going from 11th to sixth.
There were a ton of good cars in the modifieds and it made working through the field very, very difficult. You would be hard pressed to find a stronger field at any Wissota event aside from the Wissota 100 or maybe the Fall Classic.
I don’t know what it is about the #7A of Sabraski in the Wissota Super Stocks, but that car looks absolutely flawless at times. Saturday was one of those nights.
He started fourth but was into the lead by the first lap was never seriously challenged. Sabraski is fast and smooth and once he gets into the lead, the race is usually over. In this case it was as he won by 1.86 seconds.
Dexton Koch of Becker was really good himself and didn’t led Sabraski turn the race into a total runaway. He finished second on the field after starting fifth and was solid. He could have used a caution to see if he had anything for Sabraski.
Jordan Henkemeyer of Sauk Rapids worked into third early and stayed there the whole race. Former national champion Dave Mass made a decent move through the field, going from eighth to fourth, while Jacob Knapper of Montevideo was a solid fifth. Bailey Rosch of Alexandria, coming off of his first career win last week at Viking, went from 18th to ninth in a really nice run.
Shawn Beto of Wahpeton won his first career feature on Friday in the Short Trackers. He told me before the race he was going for No. 2 on Saturday.
He did just that, and in impressive fashion. After a restart he got past early leader Zach Kort of Fergus Falls and then checked out to a dominating win, which was worth $489.
Beto bought his uncle, Kevin Youngquist’s car from 2021 – that car that won the 2021 Short Tracker title at I-94. It’s taken a few nights but he seems to have figured it out.
Beto’s margin of victory was 3.84 seconds. The best battle was for second between Kort and Brady Molter of Rothsay with Kort prevailing. Kevin Wahl of Fergus Falls and Brent Engler rounded out the top five.
Travis Saurer has hopped behind the wheel of the #77 Poly Dome Viessman Late Model twice this season – and won both features, including on Friday. On Saturday he started on the pole and that spelled trouble for the rest of the field.
He took the early lead over Brady Mellendorf of Brandt, S.D., with John Kaiser of Lake Nordin, S.D. settling into third.
Five-time I-94 champion Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls and Sam Zender of Fergus Falls were looking to move up. Saurer set a blistering pace up front with Mellendorf taking over second.
A spin in turn four brought out the caution, and at that point Wolden was in fifth. He got into the top three and then on a restart challenged Saurer, even getting beside a few times, but Saurer would pull away to a convincing win. Saurer, including Midwest modifieds and modified victories, now has 509 feature wins in his career according to I-94 announcing legend Ron Krog – and is only 44 years old.
Wolden had to settle for second for the second straight night but made good progress after starting eight. Scott Harrington of Waubay, S.D., a long-time solid Midwest modified driver in that area, really did a nice job from my view – going from sixth to third. Mellendorf was fourth and Scott Zimmerman of Rothsay made good progress through the field, going from 12th to fifth.
King of the Dirt Notes
--One driver who cannot catch a break is Cory Dykhoff of Perham. He had a good heat race and was slated to start fifth in the Wissota Street Stock feature but a broken throttle pedal ended his night.
--Superman Mike Stearns of Hecla, S.D., was in town with his #24S Wissota Modified, coming off of a feature win at his home track of Brown County Speedway on Friday. Mike is always a good guy to visit with in the pit area.
--You would have had a pretty dang good race with the cars who didn’t qualify for the A main in the Wissota Midwest Modifieds: Matt Schow, Avery Anderson, Jamie Dietzler, Austin Chyba, Haley Lee, Scott Harrington and Cole Neset being among them. A testament to how tough the field was in that class.
--Two drivers did triple duty on Saturday – Travis Saurer (Viessman Late Model, Midwest modified and modified) and Dave Mass (street stock, super stock and late model).
--The long-time veteran from Brandon, Larry Lund, brought his super stock out for the weekend. He is a two-time super stock track champion at Viking Speedway and always has been a good, solid runner.
Saturday Night Notes
--Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls picked up a pair of wins Saturday night at Greenbush Race Park. He captured his first Wissota Modified win and also won the Wissota Midwest Modified main event.
Alex Truscinski won the lightning sprint feature over Dexter Dvergsten in a battle of Greenbush drivers. Ironically those two finished in the same order on Friday at Red River Valley Speedway.
--Joe Potter of Euclid won the Wissota Street Stock feature over Daniel Aberle of Finley Saturday night at Devils Lake Speedway. Nate Reynolds of Hoople won the Wissota Midwest Modified feature while Adam Sobolik of Grand Forks won the non-winged sprint feature.
--Australian driver Glenn Mitchell picked up the INEX Legend win Saturday night at Jamestown Speedway. Brennon Weight of LaMoure topped Jaren Wibstad of Jamestown for the Wissota Midwest Modified feature while Rory Opp of Hannaford topped Kasey Ussatis of Nome for the Wissota Street Stock feature.