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Mensen Breaks Through at I-94; Satter, Gronwold, Mikkelson Win

Chris Mensen in victory lane (Photo by Krystal Ostenson, AOK Photography and Design)

RaceChaser blog made his season debut at I-94 Sure Step Speedway on Friday. A great field of 146 cars were on hand on a cool, breezy opening night.

The story of hte night to me, was the Wissota Modified feature — it marked the first career Wissota A mod feature win for long-time veteran Chris Mensen of Carlos. He’s raced in the division for seven years and has been a loyal competitor at I-94 and Viking Speedways, but hadn’t found victory lane. That isn’t the case anymore, and it was a big-time celebration in victory lane.

Some familiar drivers were in victory lane on Friday — Ryan Satter (Wissota Street Stock), Brock Gronwold (Wissota Midwest Modified), Ryan Mikkelson (Limited Late Model) and Shane Sabraski (Wissota Super Stock) all have been there plenty of times at I-94. Keewatin, Minn., driver Jeffrey Massingill won the late models while Matthew Dittman of Willmar won the Short Tracker main event.

We will start with Mensen’s win. The mod race was a dandy, and it featured a pretty entertaining three-car battle between Mensen, Jayson Good of Watertown, S.D., and Brady Gerdes of Villard. Lurking right behind was Tyler Peterson of Hickson. Mensen led early but Good had snuck ahead using the low groove when a caution came out.

Mensen, however, didn’t give up, and really drove an outstanding race. He overtook Good, one of the top mods in eastern South Dakota, and prevailed in what was a well-deserved win. Good was second, and Shane Sabraski was third. Peterson ran a solid fourth and Gerdes, a multi-time I-94 champion, was fifth.

The street stock feature was action-packed. Hunter Carter of Lisbon — a former King of the Dirt champion at I-94 — led early after a battle with Dan Aberle of Finley, N.D. Carter moved into the lead and soon, Parker Anderson of Phillips, Wis., joined the fray up front.

Anderson and Carter raced hard for the lead, and they made contact down the backstretch. It ended up costing both drivers — Anderson suffered a flat, and eventually, Carter’s left rear would go flat, although he’d manage to finish fifth. Anderson did battle back to finish eighth after going to the rear.

Satter, the defending I-94 and Viking champion, displayed patience from his 10th starting spot. He worked into the top three, and then found his way to the lead. Carter slid back as his tire went down. Meanwhile, Cory Dykhoff of Perham, applied pressure on Satter, using the low line.

Satter, interviewed above, prevailed for the win with Dykhoff taking a strong second. Aberle was a solid third, while Andrew Bangsund of Alexandria worked his way to fourth after starting ninth. Carter, despite a flat tire, amazingly finished fifth. Justin Vogel of Brooten was the hard charger, finishing sixth after starting 22nd.

It spelled trouble for the field that Gronwold was on the pole for the midwest modified feature, and the Fergus Falls driver led the whole way for the win, picking up exactly where he left off in 2021, when he won three track championships. It was a great run for Watertown, S.D., driver Mike Nichols, who started ninth and finished second. Brendan Blascyk of Kensington was third, Travis Saurer of Elizabeth, driving one of his dad Ron’s 42 cars, was fourth, and Sam Zender of Fergus Falls, who started 12th, worked his way to fifth at the finish.

Mikkelson, interviewed above, and Ben Wolden have had many battles in the Limited Late Models, and Friday’s feature came down to those two again. Mikkelson prevailed for the feature win. Wolden, who started eighth, was second, ahead of 2020 Viking Speedway champion Dustin Johanneck. Scott Zimmerman of Rothsay had a solid run, taking fourth ahead of Derek Quinn of Brandon.

Mikkelson, by the way, is driving the first SSR Late Model Chassis produced, although another is being built for another driver. He and his wife, McKenzie (Gerdes), are expecting their first child in July, congrats to both.

Some pretty usual contenders were at the front of the super stock main event, and Sabraski, perhaps the fastest super stock in Wissota last year, picked up the win. An interesting fact about the super stocks — the top three finishers — Sabraski, Kevin Burdick of Proctor and Dave Mass of East Bethel — are all former national champions. Pretty stacked field there.

Massingill has usually run well when he’s come this way, and the Iron Range driver did a heck of a job picking up the win on Friday. Shane Edginton of Winnipeg was second, with Mass, late model rookie Mike Greseth of Harwood and Scott Ward of Watertown, S.D., taking fifth. Greseth, by the way, started eighth.

The Short Trackers boasted the most cars of the night — 28 — and it proved to be a good night for Willmar drivers, as three finished in the top five. Matthew Dittman took the win from the pole, with Josiah Martin of Willmar taking second. Kevin Youngquist of Barney had a nice run, moving up to third after starting sixth, while Peter Martin of Willmar taking fourth. The hard charger of the night was Madison Schreiber of Dalton, who started 28th but finish fifth.

Street Stock Notes

I’m always happy to see new faces in the street stock class, and this year, a pair of Short Trackers — Cole Greseth of Harwood and Daniel Harstad of Fergus Falls— have hopped into the class. Greseth is only 14 and has a very promising future in racing. Harstad bought Mike Hart’s street stock and knows I-94 well as a multi-time Short Tracker champion. I look forward to seeing their development this year. Another rookie is Avery Wendt of Brandon, Minn., who drives the #44 and is only 20 years old. And remember, Jack Koranda of Bluffton, who won some features last year, is only 16.

It’s good to see young talent in the class, which has some very good, established veterans like Justin Vogel, Ryan Satter, Eric Riley, Kyle Dykhoff, Cory Dykhoff and Kasey Ussatis. Riley, by the way, sold his old car to Grand Forks driver Greg Jose and has a sharp looking brand new Stealth Chassis — plus he’s a proud first-time father. I enjoy my visits to the street stock area of the pits as those are good folks.

Edginton Back in 5E

I talked to Winnipeg driver Edginton, who was the 2019 River Cities Speedway champion. Like almost all Canadian drivers, he was unable to race in the states last year because of the travel ban and the Covid-19 pandemic. This year he’s planning to live in the US through the end of October, which means he can race here throughout the summer. Edginton told me he plans to run all over, but will be based mainly out of the Grand Forks area. It is great to have him back; now we need these travel bans lifted to see other Canadians race down here.

More I-94 Notes

—The “Wild Child” Scott Ward was in town in his familiar #37-numbered late model. A different look this year for the Watertown, SD veteran, as he went with a sharp red and white look this year. I personally like it. He was bad fast in his heat, starting last and storming to the front for the win.

—The turn three and four wall claimed a couple of pretty good mod drivers as victims in a heat race. Former national champion and Wissota 100 champion Dave Cain hit the wall in turn three; he was done but able to drive to the pits. Travis Saurer also tagged the wall pretty hard, and while he made it to the infield, had to leave by wrecker.

—There were 11 limited late models on hand, and with Viking Speedway dropping the class, I wonder what the future of the class is locally. Madison runs them on Saturday nights, and Buffalo River Speedway in Glyndon will have the class their several times. Hopefully, we see some solid numbers as we go along.

—I talked to Mike Greseth of Harwood for a little bit. He’s moved into the late model class this year. He bought Buzzy Adams’ Rocket Chassis and it’s a good looking #17 machine. That car, by the way, only has eight nights on it. I expect an adjustment period as he comes from being in the mods for a long time, but it shouldn’t be long before he’s battling for feature wins.

—I was thinking, but this might be the first or second time I’ve been to a race in April. I remember going to Red River Valley in the late 1990s but don’t remember if that was late April or early May.

—Car counts were solid; keep in mind the super stocks, which had 20 cars, will not run weekly at I-94 this summer. They will make a handful of appearances. Based on my drive down, I see an awful lot of tractors in the field — which means I am guessing some drivers who farm or have occupations that involve farming aren’t quite ready for 2021 year. It’s been a tame spring weather wise allowing a lot of people to get into the field early. (I can remember getting six inches of snow on April 30 in the past).

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