RaceChaser Thoughts on Trips to Superior and Rice Lake
About three times this year, and in the past, I’ve decided to venture on a longer trip to go racing, and be a fan. This blog is a passion of mine but it’s nice to have a break and just be a fan, too and not have to write or track down interviews.
So I ventured east to Gondik Law Speedway in Superior, Wis., on Friday and Rice Lake Speedway near Rice Lake, Wis., on Saturday. I won’t get into the full results here you can check them out on myracepass.
I like seeing how tracks operate and how the racing is at different parts of the Midwest. I’ve been to 50 tracks but I’d like to cross some new ones off the list this year. The racing is different in North Dakota than say Wisconsin, and the racing in northern Minnesota is different than southern Minnesota, if you get my point.
Gondik Law is considered a 4/10-mile track around the outside and 3/8-mile track on the inside. Its red clay is a vast difference from the tracks over our way. We have some gumbo, black dirt and clay, but no red.
What a beautiful racing surface they produce at Superior. A smooth, dry-slick surface where you could pretty much race where you wanted. It’s been that way every time I’ve been there. It is one of the best-prepared racetracks I’ve been to, and the racing reflects it. It’s on my top five tracks — might be in the top three after Deer Creek and Cedar Lake — because the racing is that good. Not to mention they have a scoreboard in turns one and two that is visible from both the front and backstretch, plus a good announcing speaker system around the backstretch and turns three and four where the tailgating is at. The tailgating area is full at Gondlik Law, by the way.
The announcers are informative as well. Good concessions with one on the backstretch, too. I don’t think there’s a lot of bad seats, either. For a public fairgrounds facility they’ve done a nice job there. The only issues I’d have are — there is only one exit from the fairgrounds which gets a little jammed at the end of the night. And the backstretch pit area is a little snug. But in the grand scheme of things those aren’t big deals.
Rice Lake is a 1/3-mile oval, similar clay to Superior. It has a lot of open bleacher seating, and several booths for fans or sponsors (although none are enclosed). Its pit area is pretty expansive as well. My biggest issue with that place is that is isn’t smoke free. The track wasn’t very racy in the heats but came around nicely come feature time. It is a private facility not far from town but is surrounded by trees and seems pretty isolated noise wise.
Some weekend observations.
—Shane Sabraski of Rice put on one heck of a show on Friday at Gondik Law — in two classes. He started seventh in the caution free super stock main event and worked his way into the top four. Using a higher lane than most of his competitors, Sabraski ate into the advantage the top two cars, Kevin Burdick of Proctor and Dave Flynn of Superior, had built. Burdick and Flynn had some contact in turn four and that opened the door from Sabraski who pulled away. Burdick, by the way, is the 2019 Wissota Super Stock national champion and a damn tough foe in the Twin Ports. Flynn won on Thursday night.
In the modified feature, he started in with, passed some good guys and took advantage of a caution and eventually overtook early leader Deven VanHouse of Silver Bay. Sabraski used a very similar line to the one he used to win the super stocks. He is so smooth.
—Ryan Gierke of Villard ran in both the modified and midwest modified divisions at Superior and he impressed me in the modified feature on Friday. He finished a solid fourth after starting sixth. He finished ahead of some accomplished mods like Johnny Broking, Jody Bellefeuille, Kelly Estey and Al Uotinen. What a great run using the low line. In the midwest modified he started dead last in the 17 car field and crossed the line seventh. He is the son of the late Bob Gierke and continues to run his dad’s #26.
—Brandon Copp of Brule, who won the Jeff Carpenter Memorial at Sheyenne Speedway in 2019, has moved into the Wissota Modifieds in 2020.
—I don’t get to see Travis Budisalovich race much, but the last two times I’ve been to Superior, he’s won late model features. He made a move past early leader Derek Vesel of Hibbing and pulled away to a straightaway win over Darrell Nelson. If you are beating Nelson by a straightaway at Superior you are fast.
—What a show the late models put on at Rice Lake as the track hurried the show to beat rain that was moving into the region. Vesel and Jeffrey Massingill of Keewatin had a great battle up front and each took turns leading. But it was the veteran Pat Doar who split the two on a restart and took over the lead to pick up the $2,000 winning check.
The showstopper though was Chad Mahder of Eau Claire. He absolutely pounded the cushion around the high side of Rice Lake. He moved into the top five, but on a restart was stuck on the bottom and dropped back. Once he got back to the high side he absolutely flew, making to second and cutting Doar’s lead to a few car lengths by the checkered. What a show the 55C put on running the high line. By the way Vesel looked outstanding in taking third; Massingill’s top four finish was ruined by mechanical failure in turns three and four on the final lap.
—One interesting note about both Superior and Rice Lake is they sanction Wissota in the Pure Stocks. Superior also runs Wissota-sanctioned Hornets. The car counts were good at both tracks, so sanctioning is working for them, but I prefer to leave the entry-level classes unsanctioned (whether it’s IMCA or Wissota), much like Sheyenne, Jamestown and Devils Lake do locally. Let the local tracks set up the rules that fit their track and not add a bureaucracy.
—Buzzy Adams, a former Wissota 100 modified champion and four-time Wissota Mod national champion, has a late model this year. He was running in the top seven or eight before contact ended his night.
—I give props to Rice Lake for getting its show in as rainfall neared. Intermission was cut down and they managed to get all five features in with a pretty racy track. Nice work by the crew there, and nice work by the drivers not turning the night into a caution fest. One adjustment Rice Lake made for Covid-19 was to move its concession line outdoors (previously you went indoors to purchased food).
—Both tracks had excellent crowds which is so good to see at this point in the season.