Miller, Thomas, Satter, Saurer and Asche Win Viking Speedway Openers
I ventured to Viking Speedway in Alexandria for the 57th season opener at the half-mile oval. On a very chilly May evening a solid 82 cars were on hand. To tell you how cold the evening got, there was a frost advisory scheduled overnight for the Alexandria area. Football weather, maybe but definitely not racing weather!
The crowd wasn’t bad considering the cold weather, and the track stayed nice and smooth which considering the weather, is a win. All in all, a solid opener at Viking in my opinion.
There were 17 Wissota Modifieds on hand running for an increased purse. It was a strong field that included Dan Ebert of Lake Shore, the defending Wissota 100 winner; Tyler Peterson of Horace, the defending Wissota Mod national champion and Mike Stearns of Hecla, S.D., a former Wissota Mod national champ, joined a field that included regulars like Brady Gerdes, Jason Thoennes, Josh Thoennes and Dusty Bitzan.
The Wissota Modified feature, thanks to the donations from businesses and individuals, was paying $1,250 to win. There was also a $300 Hard Charger bonus plus some other extra money included in the purse throughout the finishing order. Joseph Thomas of Glyndon and Dusty Bitzan of Brandon led the field to the green.
Unforunately, the race got off to a bad start with a big pileup entering turn one. I didn’t see what triggered it but it was one of those chain reaction deals– and it involved more than a half-dozen cars. Todd Berg of Starbuck suffered the worst fate as his #20 machine rolled over one time. It wasn’t a hard roll but left the car significantly damaged. South Dakota driver Travis Saurer, Matt Heinzerling, Ebert, Josh Thoennes, Talan Thoennes and Tyler Peterson were also involved and were eliminated.
In the case of Berg and Talan Thoennes, they were entering the corner at a high speed with cars pretty much blocking the track, and had nowhere to go but into the pile. All drivers were OK but there were some beat-up race cars left in the aftermath, including several cars who I thought had shots at the win.
After the early mess, the race settled into a great duel at the front between Thomas and Bitzan. Thomas took the early lead on the outside, and Bitzan was working the lower and middle lines.
For a while, it seemed like Bitzan was the quicker car, but he couldn’t find his way into the top spot. Thomas then opened up a 3-4 car length lead.
Multi-time Viking track champion Brady Gerdes of Villard settled into third. Danny Bayer of Elrosa was battling former track champion Jason Thoennes of Garfield for the fourth spot.
Bitzan closed the gap on Thomas and a few times, pulled beside him, including on the backstretch on the final lap as he looked. But Thomas weathered the storm and picked up the $1,250 win for his second victory of 2022. Bitzan settled for second despite a valiant effort at the win. Gerdes was third, while Jason Thoennes topped Danny Bayer for fourth.
The hard charger, by the way, was Ryan Gierke of Villard, who went from 13th to seventh.
Two drivers with victories under their belt this season – Brendan Blascyk of Kensington and Justin Froemming of Elbow Lake led the 22-car Wissota Midwest Modified feature to the green. While there was some good racing at the front, the race turned into a caution-fest that lasted more than 25 minutes. And a four-time national champion was the guy who stood alone at the top when it was all said and done.
Blascyk and Froemming had a great battle up front for the lead with Blascyk holding the early advantage. After a series of restarts, Froemming was able to get around Blascyk on the high side to take over the lead.
Four-time national champion Travis Saurer, who started ninth on the field, had worked into the top five along with his father, Ron. Also having a solid run was Heinzerling, who started fourth and was running in the top five, and Morris driver Corey Storck.
Travis Saurer worked into second and began pressuring Froemming for the top spot as Blascyk slid back to third
It literally came down to a matter of inches. Travis Saurer had edged into the lead at the line as Froemming regained a slight advantage in the corners. The caution came out shortly after; however, the lineup was reset to the last completed lap, and Travis Saurer had held the lead at that point.
The race was shortened to a green-white-checkered finish, and Saurer had control on his way to a 4-5 car length win. Blascyk and Froemming went at it again for second with Blascyk earning the spot at the finish.
Heinzerling had a top five car but tagged the wall on a late restart and was eliminated.
Two drivers who had really solid runs were Shawn Olson of Alexandria and Avery Anderson of Alexandria. Olson, the defending Viking track champion in the class, worked his way from eighth to fourth while Anderson finished fifth after starting seventh.
Nitro Jimmy Williams of DeGraff was supposed to start on the inside pole of the Wissota Street Stock feature, but a transmission issue after the heat prevented him from starting the main event. Williams would have contended for the win at a track where he’s won a bunch of features.
That left Russell Carlson of Montevideo and Taylor Garberich of Maynard on the front row. Garberich was the early leader, but defending Viking track champion Ryan Satter soon moved into position to battle for the lead.
Satter used the lower line to work into the top spot.
Kyle Anderson of Jamestown and Eric Riley of Morris were battling for second, but on the move was Chippewa Falls, Wis., driver Ty Agen. Agen started 11th but had worked into the top five, and soon took over the second spot.
Agen stayed with Satter but couldn’t get close enough to make a run at the lead. Anderson and Riley went at it for the third spot.
After a final restart, Agen had his hands full with Anderson for second as Satter opened a little breathing room. Satter picked up the win with Agen, Anderson, Riley and Garberich rounding out the top five.
Granite Falls driver Payton Asche started sixth but didn’t take long getting to the front in the Short Tracker feature. He passed early leader Tristan Raths of Donnelly early and was never threatened to pick up the win.
David Wahl of Fergus Falls had a really good run through the field. He started 11th but worked his way into second by the checkered. Raths was third, Brent Engler of Barrett fourth and Maddie Swenson of Alexandria fifth.
Matt Miller of Glenwood might be one of the few Mopar-powered car in the super stock class, but it stood alone at the top on Saturday in a very impressive victory.
Ryan Flaten of Madison was the early leader, with defending Viking champion Trevor Saurer of Dalton moving into second.
There was a good battle for third between Karter Reents of Glenwood, Jack Koranda of Bluffton and Miller.
Miller took over third, and after a restart, got by Saurer for second. He then powered by Flaten for the lead and was not challenged the rest of the way.
Saurer took over second, and Koranda had settled into third. Bailey Rosch of Alexandria was having a good run as well into the top five after starting seventh.
Miller picked up the win with Saurer settling for second. Koranda was third with Rosch capping off a good night to take fourth. Flaten was fifth.
--The Short Trackers are a regular weekly class at Viking this year and 11 cars were on hand for the opener.
--Multi-time Viking Speedway track champion Jeff Crouse of Alexandria had a tough night in the super stocks and was a DNF in both the heat and feature.
--Heinzerling easily won the long haul award for the night. He brought two cars from Spearfish, S.D., with to Viking. That is about a 500-mile drive by the way – one way.