Previewing the Dick Johanneck King of the Dirt Special at I-94 Sure Step Speedway
The Dick Johanneck King of the Dirt Special is set for Thursday, Friday and Saturday at I-94 Sure Step Speedway in Fergus Falls. More than 220 cars are pre-registered for event and I’d expect even more to show up for tonight’s opener.
The qualifying races will be run on Thursday and Friday with passing points determining the top 20 starting spots for Saturday’s main events. A purse of more than $120,000 is set for this week.
Qualifying Races will be the following length:
Short Trackers- 18 laps
Street Stocks- 20 laps
Limited Late Models- 20 laps
Midwest Modifieds- 20 laps
Super Stocks- 20 laps
Modifieds- 25 laps
Late Models- 25 laps
For the fun of it, I decided to preview each class with some picks based on those pre-registered. These are purely my opinion!
Wissota Street Stock
Contenders: Eric Riley, Ryan Satter, Kyle Dykhoff, Justin Vogel, Jonny Carter
Darkhorse: Danny Richards
Satter won track titles at Viking and I-94 and knows the place as well as anyone. He has finished in the top five in 26 of his 32 starts this year with 12 wins.
Riley won at I-94 for the first time a few weeks ago and lost a tiebreaker to Jonny Carter to win the Steffes Street Stock Tour title. He had four wins on the tour, by the way and has a career-best seven this season.
Vogel is a two-time winner of the Wissota 100 at I-94 and usually rises up to the front at the big shows. He has eight wins this season including two on the Steffes tour.
Carter has 11 wins this season including four on the tour. He’s picked up some big momentum in June.
Richards, from Mondovi, Wis. has run well at the Wissota 100 and other big events. He has four wins this season and has 24 top fives in 28 starts.
My pick: Kyle Dykhoff. He has three wins in his last four starts, including the win at the Seitz memorial and while I think it will be a heck of a race between several cars, he’s my pick.
Wissota Midwest Modified
Contenders: Matt Baker, Brock Gronwold, Brendan Blascyk, Corey Storck, Mike Nichols
Darkhorse: Brennon Weight
Gronwold won three track titles — the only midwest mod driver to do so this year — and has 21 wins. He’s been the dominant car in western Minnesota all year.
Baker has five wins and is really fast at I-94 weekly; he narrowly lost the point title to Gronwold at I-94.
Blascyk has run as well as anyone of late. He has six wins, including wins at I-94, Viking and NCR this season.
Corey Storck, who won for the first time at I-94 in August, has five wins this season, including a big $2,500 win at Madison in August.
Nichols, from Watertown, S.D. has 10 wins this season in 29 starts and finished a strong second at the Seitz Memorial. He is the 2020 Casino Speedway track champion.
I’m considering Weight a dark horse only because he doesn’t run regularly at I-94. He has eight wins this year and has won at Jamestown, Sheyenne and Tri-County Speedways this season.
My pick: Gronwold. Can’t pick against a guy with 21 feature wins. I don’t think this will be easy by any means, and I think several cars could be factors before it’s all said and done. The draw for the qualifying races will be huge with more than 45 cars pre-registered.
Wissota Super Stock
Contenders: Dave Mass, Shane Sabraski, Don Eischens, Kevin Burdick, Jeff Crouse
Darkhorse: Dustin Nelson
Mass’s super stock credentials speak for themselves with hundreds of wins. He has six this season but hasn’t raced the super stock as much as previous years.
Sabraski has been almost unbeatable in the super stock this season and came from the back to win a 24-car feature at Ogilvie earlier this year. He also won the special at Viking.
Eischens is former national champ and a savvy super stock veteran with many wins.
Burdick is the 2019 Wissota National Champion and a top runner in the Twin Ports. He has nine wins this season and has 31 top fives in 40 starts.
I like Crouse in these type of races because he can usually get to the front, and he knows I-94 well.
Nelson, from Ogilvie, has seven super stock wins this season, racing mainly at North Central Speedway and Princeton Speedway. He won title at Princeton and was second in points at NCS.
My pick: Shane Sabraski. I don’t dismiss the level of competition here but he’s been in a class by himself this season.
Contenders: Shane Sabraski, Johnny Broking, Dan Ebert, Brady Gerdes, Dave Cain, Landon Atkinson
Darkhorse: Don Eischens
Sabraski is a threat in any race he runs in that Lethal Chassis. Between his modified and super stock he has 38 wins this season and 65 top fives.
Johnny Broking, from Grand Rapids, has nine wins this season and is a top runner on the Iron Range.
Ebert has 10 modified wins and runs very well at I-94. He was one lap away from winning the Fallen Lineman Race at Viking on Labor Day weekend.
Brady Gerdes won the Viking Speedway track title and is coming off of a win at Madison. He’s a multi-time track champion at Viking.
Cain won the Bob Gierke Memorial at I-94 earlier this summer and is the 2018 Wissota 100 champs in the mods. Cain is another driver who usually shows up for the big shows.
Atkinson is the defending Wissota 100 champ and has three wins this summer. He is the 2020 Ogilvie track champ too.
It’s hard to call Eischens a darkhorse because of his long-time success but I needed to pick one. He’s looked good the few times I’ve seen him at I-94.
My pick: Dan Ebert. I expect there will be up to a dozen contenders, or more, for this one but we’ll go with Ebert with a slight edge over Sabraski and Atkinson. But any of those three plus a score of others could win it In what should be a loaded field.
Wissota Late Model
Contenders: Dave Mass, Cole Schill, Ryan Mikkelson, Jeffrey Massingill, Dan Ebert
Darkhorse: Bryce Sward
Mass is the I-94 track champion and has two wins there this season and has been pretty fast wherever he’s unloaded the Shaw Trucking machine.
Schill has four wins this year and is a former I-94 champion and ran in the top five much of the night at the Seitz Memorial in Grand Forks before being spun.
Mikkelson has two wins at I-94 this season and has run well in his #15* car this season including a top 12 at the Seitz Memorial.
Massingill had a heck of a run at the Seitz Memorial, going from 23rd to fifth. He has one win this season but also has 16 top fives.
Ebert, driving the Breeschoten-owned #66, has one late model win at I-94 — on a night he started 13th.
Sward was runner-up at I-94 on Sept. 4 after leading several laps and also qualified for the Seitz Memorial A main. He’s run in several big races this season and won’t be afraid of the competition level.
My pick: Mikkelson. I think this race is wide open…there are several others who could contend besides the ones I listed. Mikkelson, however has been formidable all year so I’ll go with him.
Limited Late Model
Contenders: Ben Wolden, Ryan Mikkelson, Brad Staples, Brady Mellendorf, Dustin Johanneck
Darkhorse: Sam Zender
Wolden is the three-time Limited Late Model champion at I-94 and has won four times. He’s been the car to beat the past three years.
Mikkelson, however, has been a challenger for Wolden, driving the Polydome #77 to six wins this season, including two at Fergus.
Staples, 24, is having the best year of his young career. He has five wins overall including two at I-94. In 15 events he’s finished in the top five nine times.
Mellendorf, from Brandt, S.D., was second in the points at Madison with one win. He has two wins overall and seven top fives in 17 starts.
Johanneck won the track title at Viking and has two wins this season.
Zender is new to the class but nearly pulled off a win a few weeks ago. He’s a solid veteran who wouldn’t surprise me if he was in the hunt.
My pick: Wolden. Hard to pick against the driver with the most wins in the class the past three years. But I don’t rule Staples and Mikkelson out as prime challengers.
Contenders: Daniel Harstad, Cole Greseth, Randy Thompson, Matt Pederson, Austin Lammers
Darkhorse: Levi Lease
Harstad is a two-time Short Tracker champion at I-94 and ran away with the title this season. He had three wins at his home track.
Greseth, only 13, has run as well as anyone lately in the division with two wins.
Thompson hasn’t raced a ton — just 10 times — but has three wins, including winning the Hornet special at Norman County Raceway earlier this year. Pederson, also from Lake Park, is usually fast wherever he goes and he has one win in 11 starts this season.
Lammers has two wins this year as well and usually is a top five car at I-94.
Lease picked up his first career win earlier this season and was second in points at I-94. He had four top five finishes.
My pick: Harstad. He’s been the top gun at I-94 all year and it’s hard to pick against him now, although I do think there are several who will challenge. A key in this class is attrition — avoiding crashes, flat tires and mechanical trouble.