I ventured southeast to I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls for the Advantage RV Modified Tour opening night. A great field of 36 mods signed in on a nice night for racing.
I give Advantage RV Tour director Rueben Meyer credit for what he has done with this series. He keeps his entry fees low -- $40 is very reasonable (some other series could take a lesson). IF you are getting 36 modifieds -- some of which are very, very strong competitors -- I'd say that is a successful night. Keep in mind, there was a USMTS race at Cresco, Iowa, that had 16 cars over Memorial Day weekend.
The 40-lap modified feature saw a fierce four-car battle for the lead between Travis Saurer of Elizabeth, Dan Ebert of Lake Shore, Shane Sabraski of Rice and Don Eischens of Richmond, sometimes going 3-wide.
After a restart with 30 to go, Sabraski took control on the bottom and just flew. He built a straightaway lead on the field, and his car just stuck perfectly to the bottom of the 3/8-mile oval. I felt for Ebert — he was driving his tail off and didn’t seem to make up much ground, even with Sabraski working through lapped traffic. The bottom line was the 7A car was awesome all night and he won by more than a straightaway.
Brady Gerdes of Villard usually is near the front of the bigger races held at I-94 and Viking, and Friday was no exception. He started 12th on the 25-car grid and worked his way to third for another good finish. Ward Imrie of Winnipeg impresses me every time I see him; he was in the top five all race long and finished fourth. Very smooth.
Eischens held off Tyler Peterson of Hickson for fifth. For the 1TPO of Peterson it was a good run to sixth from 13th; he hasn’t had the best start to 2019 so it was an encouraging result for him.
Matt Baker of St Joseph was steady in his 27 Wissota Midwest Mod and needed to be. He took the lead over from Derek Rieck of Ortonville and then built a nice advantage. But the car flying on the cushion was Corey Storck of Morris. He closed the gap as Baker entered lapped traffic and honestly looked like he had a shot.
A restart with two to go allowed Baker to reset a little and he won with a few car lengths to spare. Storck settled for second. Justin Froemming of Garfield — who seemed to come out of nowhere — to take third. Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls was fourth and Haley Lee of Starbuck rounded out the top five. After a few early hiccups in the 28-car feature I thought the mid mods did a good job with a lot of battles for position.
Once Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls gets in front in the Limited Lates at I-94, it is usually over. After an early caution Wolden took the lead and completely checked out, winning by a straightaway. Herman, Minn., driver Dustin Bluhm took second (he is now running a crate in his 45 machine), with Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria third. LLM rookie Dan Dowling finished a solid fourth with young Bryce Sward working his way to fifth after an early spin.
—I counted six rookies in the Wissota Mods -- Blake Boelens, Brandon Dolman, McKenzie Gerdes, Corey Jones, Joseph Thomas, and Bill Yonke. When I mean rookie, I mean first full year in a car. All six have this in common - they started in the midwest modifieds. Which is exactly what the class is supposed to be ideally -- a feeder for the A mods.
—There is something that needs to be cleared up, IMO. There are just as many IMCA Mod drivers who spend big money on their cars as Wissota guys. All you have to do is walk around the pit area at Jamestown on Saturday to see that. Yes, Wissota motors cost considerably more than a Crate; but I've talked to several modified drivers who say IMCA mod tires are not as good or durable as the Wissota tire package (I've heard the word junk several times to describe IMCA's tires). One driver told me that to win a IMCA mod feature locally you almost have to put a brand new set of tires on the car every night. Now that adds up. Sorry, rant over, but it's an argument that gets old to me as a fan.
—Talked with former Wissota Modified national champ Mike Stearns of Aberdeen, SD, briefly before the races. It's been a slow start to his season; he ran one heat race at Brown County Speedway and the feature was rained out; he went to Viking on Memorial Day and had engine problems and didn’t make the feature. Good news is he made the show and looked pretty good in his heat.
—I visited with Kyle Dykhoff of Starbuck a little before the show. He sold his street stock to a driver in the Bismarck-Mandan area. He's off to a tough start in the midwest mods this year -- had a brake issue one night, and blew a motor last Sunday at Casino Speedway in Watertown. The motor is being fixed and he hopes to be back soon in his 11 machine.
—Alexandria driver Cody Lee has not had the best of luck in his 50C Wissota Midwest Modified to start the season. At Sheyenne Speedway on Monday he had engine issues that cost him the night, basically. He is a former I-94 track champ and a top competitor around here, and I expect once his luck changes, he'll be back battling up front. Cody finished seventh and was able to drive the car off the track so I am guessing he will take that.
—Haley Lee dominated her heat race in the 50H machine. That car looks fast this year, and I have a hunch her first feature win isn't far away. She drove an excellent race in the feature and should have finished third, if not for a late restart. She finished fifth which is still a good finish against that level of competition.
—There are some rookies in the limited lates who I am curious to see how they fare this year -- Dowling, Trent Grager from North Dakota, Larry Samuelson of Erhard being among them. Dowling will still race a sport mod at Glyndon; Grager still has an IMCA mod. Samuelson made the jump from the midwest mods to the lates.
—The big shocker in the modifieds was Dave Cain of Corcoran not making the show. He was in position to qualify through the B-main but broke, ending his night.
Schill, Schow Lead Winners at River Cities
Cole Schill of Horace picked up the Wissota Late Model feature win Friday night at the River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. Schill started on the pole in the 20-car field. Shane Edginton of Winnipeg, Brad Seng of Grand Forks, Joey Pederson of East Grand Forks and Tom Corcoran of East Grand Forks rounded out the top five.
Matt Schow of McIntosh topped his brother in law Reise Stenberg for the Wissota Midwest Modified feature win. Stenberg has raced six times this season — and has finished in the top five all six times, with three wins at three different tracks.
Mark Dobmeier won the NOSA Sprints — no surprise at all — with Chris Ranten of Climax taking second.
John Halvorson of Warren held off Eric Riley of Morris for the Wissota Street Stock win. Riley started seventh and made a late charge and just came up short. Adam Burrows of West Fargo was fifth.
Schmidt, Sean Johnson win at Red River Valley
Minot driver Adam Goff won the IMCA Hobby Stock feature at RRVS with Mathew Olson of Morton second and Tim Shiek of Fargo taking third. It was good to see Alyssa White of West Fargo finish well (fifth) after what has been a tough start to the year.
Kindred, N.D. driver Brandon Schmidt won the IMCA Sport Mod feature over Kelly Henderson of Minot. Austin Veralrud was third. The win was Schmidt’s first in the sport mods.
Sean Johnson won the INEX Legends, which are on the second night of their Minn-Kota tour. Tye Wilke of Detroit Lakes was second, Andrew Jochim of Glyndon third and Ryan Braseth of Ulen fourth.
Rob VanMil of Barnesville is unbeaten in the IMCA Stock Cars at RRVS this summer; he topped Rich Schulz of Horace for the win. Tim Compson of Valley City was third. Alan Trucscinski of Greenbush topped Josh Abrahamson of Moorhead for the NLSA Lightning Sprint feature. The IMCA Modifieds had the night off.
Stenberg, Johnson, Wilke Win at Norman County
It’s early in the year but it appears Reise Stenberg has figured some things out with his 87S Midwest Modified. He picked up his third win of the year — in just five starts — at Norman County Raceway on Thursday. In fact, Stenberg has yet to finish outside the top five in a feature this season.
Luke Johnson of Moorhead won the IMCA Sport Mods; West Fargo driver Torey Fischer finished fourth, which is her best finish in a sport mod. She will keep getting better and better.
Rob VanMil of Barnesville won the IMCA Stock Cars while Tim Shiek won the IMCA Hobby Stocks. Teenager Tye Wilke won the INEX Legends feature for his second win of the season. Alex Truscinski prevailed in the Lightning Sprints. The IMCA Modifieds had the night off.
—Congrats to Jaden Christ of Jamestown (pictured above) for picking up the Wissota Street Stock win at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen. It is the first feature win of his young career. Kasey Ussatis of Nome took second.
—Austin Arneson of Fargo finished second in one of the IMCA Modified feature qualifiers at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan. Dylan Goplen of Fargo was fifth. Casey Arneson of Fargo took fourth in his feature.
—Jonny Carter of Lisbon is off to a red-hot start in the Wissota Street Stocks. He topped a 26-car field for the win at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan.