Casino Speedway in Watertown, S.D., hosted the final night of the Moonshine Wissota Modified Tour on Sunday night.
Casino had 71 cars on hand, but only four Wissota Hornets and seven Gen X Late Models. A nice 21-car Wissota Mod field led the way followed by 15 Wissota Street Stocks and 13 Wissota Midwest Modifieds.
The Moonshine Tour entered the night with three different winners in three nights – Tyler Peterson of Hickson at Sheyenne, Travis Saurer of Elizabeth at Brown County and Joseph Thomas of Fargo at Miller. Brady Gerdes of Villard had run well all four nights with top five finishes at all three, while Mike Stearns of Aberdeen had finished in the top seven all three nights.
Gerdes and Matt Gilbertson of Montevideo were on the front row, with Stearns and Peterson in row 2 in what was a very strong field. A bad break happened before the race, as Dave Brooker of Tulare broke something on his #65 and had to leave on the hook.
Gerdes would jump out to the lead over Gilbertson with Peterson working on him in second. Stearns settled into fourth but had Saurer and Zach Johnson close behind.
A caution came out two laps into it for a spin in turn four, and on the restart a four-incident in turn two involved Lee Grosz of Watertown, Garrett Gross of Aberdeen, Justin Froemming of Garfield and Tyler Anglin of Aberdeen. Froemming and Gross drove away; Anglin and Grosz were done.
Peterson moved into second and was on the outside of Gerdes for the lead. Saurer had worked into fourth ahead of Stearns. The race for fourth was a good one between Saurer, Zach Johnson of Lowry, Thomas and Dale Ames of Huron.
Gilbertson spun his #23 machine in turn four while running in third and would pull in under caution.
Gerdes stuck the #2x machine to the bottom as Johnson moved into third behind Peterson. Stearns, Sauer, Ames and Thomas were locked in a great battle for spots 4-7.
Stearns and Ames were working up high to make up ground. Scott Ward of Watertown – debuting a new modified – was inching towards the top five.
The caution would wave with 12 to go for a dreaded debris caution.
It was clear that Gerdes was not going to waver from the bottom groove so Peterson went to work on the outside. He was closing when the caution waved with seven to go.
Another caution, thanks to some senseless driving back in the field with four to go, tightened things up. Peterson went back to work on the outside and it was clear he was making some headaway. As the while flag waved Peterson had the momentum and edged ahead, and would take the win at a track he knows and runs very well at. The margin of victory was just .500 seconds. It was a tremendous, hard-fought battle between two top guns in the mod class.
Gerdes finished in the top five at all four stops on the weekend, and I have to give him a lot of credit. He is used to running bigger tracks like Viking and I-94, and he went to four tracks he wasn’t familiar with and ran well at each. He’s a heck of a driver and needs to be included in the discussion as a top tier mod driver in this region.
Johnson would finish third; he was a DNF at Miller the night before. Ames capped off a good run in fourth with Thomas rounding out the top five. Stearns finished a solid sixth.
The 15-car Wissota Street Stock feature kicked off the night with Cory Giessinger and long-time veteran Al Schmidt of Watertown leading the field. Schmidt, by the way is 72 years old and a long-time racer out of Watertown.
Giessinger took the lead over Matt Goth of Huron. A good three-car fight for third with Tyler Lamb of Clark, Schmidt and Wade Tirrel of White was shaping up before the caution waved with 18 to go.
On the restart Goth was working the low line on Giessinger as the battle for the lead intensified with 15 to go. When racing resumed Lamb put all kinds of pressure on Giessinger for the lead for a lap but Giessinger would open a 1.132 second lead halfway through.
Point leader Maria Broksieck of Goodwin was moving up using the low line that she runs so well at Casino.
After a caution with nine left, things went three-wide for second with Lamb, Goth and Broksieck. Making a big charge through the field was Andy Rossow of Florence, who started 14th but had worked into sixth. Kyle Bertram, who was running in fifth, spun in turn two with five to go to bring out another caution.
Giessinger was making the high line work but Lamb was making a run on the bottom and made the pass for the lead, taking Broksieck with him. However, a spin in turn two negated that as the lineup went back to the previous lap.
Broksieck made a charge on the low line on the restart as she cleared Lamb, and her and Giessinger were side by side as the white flag waved. Broksieck had another big run on the final lap and inched ahead, and then drive a flawless final two corners to pick up a hard-fought win. She is up to seven wins in 17 starts this season.
Giessinger ran well and honestly, was probably undone by the cautions. Had the race stayed green he had built some breathing room but the cautions late were costly. He still finished a strong second. Lamb was third; last week’s winner Jason Marko of Watertown slid back early but quietly worked back to fourth at the checkered with Goth taking fifth.
Watertown driver Zach Laqua and Miller, S.D. driver Luke Johnson led the Wissota Midwest Modified field to the green. A caution waved on the first lap when veteran Scott Hansen of Garden City spun.
Laqua would take the lead but Johnson would use the bottom lane to take the lead. Laqua soon found pressure from Huron driver Cory Berquist. Adam Brotherton of Huron moved into fourth with Tommy Nichols battling Chad Williamson for fifth.
Brotherton would get by Berquist for third with 13 to go, and began to work on Laqua for second. Nicholsused the lower line to apply pressure to Berquist for fourth.
Slowly that group was reeling in Johnson, and Brotherton was fast on the bottom as he challenged for the lead. A caution would wave with nine to go for a spin.
Brotherton would take the lead as Nichols followed into second and the battle up front waged between those two as Laqua and Williamson were fighting for third.
Williamson was stalled in turn two to bring out the caution with three laps left. He was charged with the caution.
Brotherton got a great final restart and that was decisive. He would open up a 1.137 lead at the checkered to pick up the win. Laqua would finish third with Berquist and Johnson rounding out the top five.
Casino looked like Brotherton and Tommy Nichols will fight for the points title, especially with Hansen recording at DNF. Mike Nichols was not in attendance; he was just one point behind going into the night. Tommy Nichols, who won last week at Casino, trailed by eight going into the night.
Scott Harrington of Waubay surged on the outside to take the lead of the six-car Gen X Late Model feature. Scott Borstad of Volga was facing a challenge from Tony Croninger of Watertown.
Harrington had built a 1.71 second lead over Croninger when the dreaded debris caution came out with five to go. That caution changed the complexion of the race.
On the restart Croninger was ruled to jump the start and had to drop back one row, which moved the long-time veteran Doug Walsh of Watertown into the top three.
Borstad would mount a run for the lead and take the top spot with four to go. Borstad, however got tight off of turn two and had to get off the gas, and Harrington and Croninger would both pass with big surges down the straightaway
Croninger would go on to take the win as Harrington would spin in turn two on the final lap. Walsh was second and Borstad was third.
There were a 11 Wissota Late Models on hand, down a bit from a usual weekly show. A couple of local drivers had a lot of damage from a big crash during the challenge series last week so I expected the number might be down a little.
Williamson, doing double duty in a late model, jumped out to the lead with Justin Karlen of Howard moving into second. Jayson Good of Watertown, who repaired his machine after a big crash last week, moved into third ahead of Trevor Anderson of Watetown.
Anderson was working the high side and it was starting to come around; Good moved into third. Karlen would drop out with trouble. Defending national champion Chad Becker of Aberdeen started seventh but had moved into fourth and was closing on the top three.
Good was reeling in Williamson for the top spot with 15 to go and went around Williamson on the high side to take the top spot. Becker had gotten past Anderson for third and was pursuing Williamson for second.
Good had opened up a 1.885 second lead on Becker with 10 laps left. Anderson and Williamson were battling for third while Curt Kranz of Watertown settling into fifth. Anderson would move into third with eight to go.
Good’s lead stayed steady and was up to 2.1 seconds with five laps left and it appeared as if a caution would be the only thing that might deter Good. But the race went green from the start and got done in a hurry.
Kranz, the Week 1 winner at Casino who started ninth, had caught Williamson for fourth and soon took over that spot.
Good would pick up an impressive two-second win over Becker. Anderson was a solid third, with Kranz capping off a good run in fourth. Williamson held off Blake Swenson of Watertown for fifth.
One note about the late models – veteran Chuck Swenson of Watertown was slated to start on the outside pole but was a scratch and did not start.
It was a dual between Canby driver Adam VanDerostyne and Bradley Rossow of Florence for the Wissota Hornet feature, which had only three cars take the green. VanDerostyne would hold on for the win with Rossow second and Brayden Begalka of Elkton third.
--The Moonshine Mod Tour is on its inaugural swing, and I was pretty realistic in terms of car count expectations. The average of the four shows this weekend was around 18 cars. Keep in mind Wissota mod counts in eastern South Dakota aren’t high right now, and Sheyenne Speedway is in its first year of racing the class weekly. It will take a few years to build the numbers.
--“The Commissioner” Matt Gilbertson of Montevideo made an appearance at Casino in his #23 modified. Gilbertson is a long-time Chippewa County Commissioner and currently is the chairman of the county board. I’ve seen him race for many years being from that area and he’s a very formidable competitor. Coming into Sunday he had only raced three times and has a win at his hometown track, Fiesta City Speedway.
--Onyx Johnson is a 13-year-old rookie in the Wissota Midwest Modified class. But his last name and number should look very familiar to western Minnesota race fans – his dad is the Millenial Farmer Zach Johnson of Lowry. Zach Johnson raced with the #73 for many, many years in the modified and late model classes before taking over Corey Svor’s #6X modified.
--Harrington, who spent many years in the Wissota Midwest Modified class, has only raced the Gen X Late Model this year. In five previous starts he had finished second four times and was in strong contention for a win on Sunday before the late spin. Harrington was a very good Midwest modified driver.
Buffalo River Winners: Goulet, Pavlicek, Myers, Pederson, Hendrickson and Seidel
Hunter Goulet of Fargo started 10th on the Short Tracker field – but worked all the way to the front to pick up the feature win Sunday at Buffalo River Speedway. Kody Crabtree of Fargo was second, Weston Clauson of Kathryn was third, Christian Kast of Fairmount was fourth and Troy Lesmann of Fargo was fifth.
Rich Pavlicek of Casselton topped Chris VanMIl of Barnesville for the IMCA Sport Mod feature win. That was the same finishing order as Friday at Red River Valley Speedway. Scott Jacobson of Fargo was third, Kelly Jacobson of Fargo was fourth and young Jayden Pavlicek of Casselton was fifth.
Fritz Myers of Hackensack won the IMCA Modified feature over Brennan Borg of Harwood. Allen Kent of West Fargo was third with Jamie Schulz of Harwood fourth.
Tucker Pederson of East Grand Forks won the Wissota Street Stock feature over Trey Hess of Grand Forks. Kasey Ussatis of Nome was third, Tyler Klugman of Wheaton fourth and Cole Greseth of Harwood fifth.
Evan Hendrickson of Mapleton topped Collin Compson of Valley City for the INEX Legends win. Compson had entered the night on a three-night winning streak with wins at Sheyenne, Red River Valley and Jamestown. Ryan Braseth of Ulen was third, Joshua Wiest of Jamestown fourth and Shawn Wiest of Fargo fifth.
Chris Seidel of Brainerd picked up the IMCA Hobby Stock win over Chad Visser of Ironton. Caleb Gardner of Glyndon was third, Marvin Priem of Moorhead was fourth and Tyler Hehn of Horace was fifth.