Mikkelson Gaining Momentum and Confidence in Late Model in 2022
For Ryan Mikkelson, the challenge of getting a late model car to work is as fun as driving the cars themselves.
“What I absolutely love about it is, how hard the competition is, and how hard these cars are to figure out,” Mikkelson said. “That’s what makes me like racing more is figuring out the cars. I still like driving just a tick more, hence why I’m still driving. One day, if I can enjoy setting up and building a car more than I like driving, then I will not drive anymore.”
The driving part remains fun for the 32-year-old Mikkelson, who has developed into a consistent top competitor in the Wissota Late Model division. He is currently third in the Wissota Late Model Challenge Series points, heading into a five-night swing next week.
“It’s tough,” Mikkelson said. “It’s probably the most humbling class because any one of these guys could win. It’s not about what you draw but who you draw.”
Mikkelson, who works for Viking Coke, is originally from Jamestown, N.D. and now lives in Alexandria, Minn. His father owned the Perkins restaurant in Jamestown and was a long-time sponsor of driving legend John Corell. That is what sparked Mikkelson’s interest in racing.
“My dad sponsored Johnny C., he had the Perkins family restaurant,” Mikkelson said. “It was inevitable.”
He raced in the Bomber class for two seasons and at the age of 16, hopped into a Wissota Midwest Modified. He then raced a Wissota Modified before hopping into the Wissota Late Model class in 2017.
No matter what the class, Mikkelson has proved to be a formidable foe. Mikkelson’s late model win on July 1 at I-94 Sure Step Speedway was his 75th career feature win. He has 37 Wissota midwest mod wins, seven modified wins, 22 limited late model wins and nine Wissota Late Model wins. In his Wissota Late Model in 2022, he has one win and seven top five finishes in 10 starts in his SSR Chassis.
“This season has been a big improvement to say the least,” Mikkelson said. “Last year I felt that the car was faster than me…I was able to make the changes to find balance and the speed has came with me feeling more confident.”
When at the racetrack, particularly at I-94 Sure Step Speedway in Fergus Falls or Viking Speedway, Mikkelson is surrounded by family. His wife, McKenzie, pilots the #13x Wissota Modified, and his brother-in-law, Brady Gerdes, drives the #2x Wissota Modified.
“It’s dynamic,” Mikkelson said.
McKenzie Mikkelson took the 2021 season off as the couple welcomed their first child, son Leo. She is back behind the wheel this year. And Leo gets to join them both at the racetrack.
“It’s McKenzie’s turn to race because she took last year off,” Mikkelson said.
Mikkelson was particularly strong in the Challenge Series last weekend at Brown County Speedway. He finished fourth on Friday, second on Saturday and finished third in the $10,000 to win Dacotah Rumble. During Saturday’s challenge series race, Mikkelson led til the final lap when Shane Edginton made the pass for the win. Mikkelon also led the first 31 laps of the Dacotah Rumble before Bryce Sward passed him on a restart.
“Aberdeen was an emotional roller coaster with Toterhome issues and passing points and flat out getting beat on Friday night,” Mikkelson said. “I had to watch the video back and analyze on what I need to do to be better as a driver. The car is so close I just had to adapt my driving style and get up on the wheel. It was a successful weekend and I am grateful. On the other hand missing out on my first challenge series win and the rumble belt was demoralizing but it certainly showed how tough it is.”
On Sunday at Casino Speedway in Watertown, he ran in the top three for much of the race before a right rear tire when down, ending his night.
He has clear goal for the rest of the 2022 season.
“Marquee wins,” Mikkelson said. “I’m only racing challenge series, I’m not doing weekly stuff. I will not go to a show unless it’s $1,000 to win. I feel like I get better when I race 38 late models. I’d love to get a challenge series win and any win in September.”
Wissota Late Model #15*
Residence: Alexandria, Minn.
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