Strand Tops Ebert in Fallen Linemen Thriller at Viking; Hess Wins at Devils Lake
RaceChaser was back at Viking Speedway in Alexandria for the Sixth Annual Race for Fallen Linemen. A great 31-car Wissota Modified field was on hand for the $3,000 to win show. And man, what a crazy finish.
The Fallen Linemen Race raises money for families who've lost loved ones in the line of electrical line work. It's a great even Corey Svor has put together. A great field of cars and great crowd was on hand on a very nice night, weather-wise.
Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks, interviewed above, and Chris Mensen of Carlos led the field. Strand took the lead as Danny Bayer of Elrosa settled into second. Dan Ebert of Lake Shore and Dusty Bitzan of Brandon were waged in a great battle for third.
Ebert cleared Bitzan and moved into second. He cut into Strand’s lead and made the pass on the outside and opened up a sizeable lead. And honestly, I thought Ebert had it wrapped up.
That was far from the case.
Strand, who was being dogged by Landon Atkinson of Little Falls for second, was narrowing the gap each lap on Ebert as the leader entered lapped traffic. Soon, he had caught Ebert, who had a tough time clearing a lapped car.
Ebert went low to try and clear a lapped car but couldn’t get past him, and Strand found the opening on the outside to make the pass on the final lap and re-gain the lead, on his way to the $3,000 payday.
I talked with Strand afterwards and frankly, Viking Speedway has not been one of his best tracks. In fact he called it his “Kryptonite.” Well, Saturday’s win and payday had to feel good for Strand, who has dominated late model racing in the Red River Valley this season.
I felt for Ebert. Sometimes it’s when you catch lapped cars and when you are able to pass them. He was clearly very fast and had a great shot at the win. Atkinson, who won at I-94 Sure Step Speedway on Friday, was a solid third after starting ninth.
The Commissioner, Matt Gilbertson of Montevideo, ran a solid fourth while Zach Johnson of Lowry finished fifth. Both ran solid races. Johnson started 13th. Brandon Dolman of Alexandria was the Hard Charger, finishing 10th after starting 23rd.
The Wissota Midwest Modified feature was controlled for the most part by Brendan Blascyk of Kensington, who besides Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls has been one of the fastest cars in the division in western Minnesota. He had the pole and led from the outset over 49-year veteran Ron Saurer of Dalton.
Gronwold was on the move into the top three as he battled first with Sam Zender of Fergus Falls and then Justin Froemming of Alexandria. Gronwold made an outside pass of second-place Saurer, however, since a full lap had not been completed he had to go back to third.
Saurer chose the outside and Gronwold had the bottom on the restart. Gronwold was going all in on the restart — he went for the slider of Blascyk in turns one and two. However he nearly slide off of turn two and lost a couple of spots.
Blascyk opened up a lead but it was an insane battle for second between Froemming, Shawn Olson of Alexandria (who had a great restart at the end), Saurer, Gronwold and Zender. Some really good racing for those spots.
Gronwold found speed on the highest line you could but wit the traffic in front couldn’t advance his positions. The happiest guy seeing this was Blascyk who had a decent amount of breathing room at the checkered flag for his fifth win of 2020. While Gronwold’s 21-win season has garnered a lot of attention, Blascyk has quietly put together the best season of his career.
Froemming survived the multi-car battle to take second, while Olson’s late-race surge netted him third place. Saurer, the 67-year-old veteran, was fourth ahead of Gronwold.
It takes a pretty dang good performance to beat Dave Mass of East Bethel by several car lengths in the super stocks, but that was exactly what Trevor Saurer of Dalton, interviewed above, did on Saturday. The two-time Viking track champion weathered several cautions — which saw Mass on his bumper — to win for the second time at viking this season.
Saurer knew where to go for the feature — to the high lane — and stayed there the whole night. He opened up a commanding lead on Mass before one of the cautions.
Saurer is a pretty underrated driver, in my opinion, in the super stock ranks in this region. I talked with him a bit afterwards and he’s often trucking Monday through Friday nights, which limits his options of racing at I-94 or other weekday tracks weekly. His favorite track is Viking so he’s able to be there each Saturday.
Mass, with more than 550 career feature wins, settled for second. Jeff Crouse of Alexandria had another good run, taking third after starting eighth. He made a slider attempt for the lead on a restart but couldn’t make it stick. Nice solid race for the #29* machine.
Josh Zimpel of Braham was fourth after running in the top five all night while Ryan Kostreba of Elk River took fifth.
Eric Riley of Morris had never won at Viking Speedway entering the 2020 season. He won the Steffes Street Stock Tour stop in July by the narrowest of margins over Jonny Carter. On Saturday he didn’t have kept as much drama as he picked up his seventh win of the season and second career win at Viking.
Riley took the lead from the outset. He was pressured by Justin Vogel of Brooten a few times on a couple of restarts but each time was able to open up a 5-6 car length lead. Vogel had a pretty firm handle on second while Russell Kostreba of Zimmerman was running a strong third.
The top three stayed that way till the checkered with Riley picking up his second win in as many nights after winning at I-94 on Friday. Vogel was second and Kostreba third.
Jack Koranda of Bluffton continues to impress me in the #22. The 15-year-old is smooth and you usually find him near the front at the end. He started sixth and found some speed on the bottom and finished in fourth.
Two Street Stock Mafia veterans had a nice battle for fifth for much of the race as Ryan Pommerer of Oriska, N.D., and Viking track champ Ryan Satter of Dent went at it for several laps. Kyle Genett of Auburndale, Wis., however worked his way by both to finish in fifth. He started 10th and did a nice job in his #16x machine. Satter was sixth and Pommerer was seventh.
Both the supers and the streets tested flagman Justin Nieland’s patience with cautions. The street stocks went to the caution/black, in fact. The mods had their share, for that matter.
Alexandria veteran Rick Nelson had a roller coaster weekend. He was DQed at I-94 Sure Step Speedway along with Tony Robertson for some extra-curricular stuff under a caution on Friday. On Saturday, Nelson had the pole at Viking and led every lap to pick up his third win of 2020. Quite a turnaround for the long-time veteran.
Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria gave a persistent chase but couldn’t make a serious threat and settled for second. Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls, the I-94 Sure Step champion, was third followed by Nick Panitzke of Lonsdale, Minn., and Derek Quinn of Brandon.
—Veteran Terry Engebretson of Cyrus was back in a Wissota Modified. He is a familiar name at Viking driving the #1X machine. It was his first night out of 2020.
—The 23 street stocks on hand were one shy of the season-high 24 that were on hand for the Steffes Street Stock tour race in July. Great field of streets, and what is good for Viking is the amount of local new faces that have hopped into the class. Many just need some more seat time.
—Jason Cook of Brandon, a long-time racer in the Wissota Midwest Modified and Super Stock class at Viking, has sold his #79 Wissota Super Stock. He told me earlier this summer his plan was to step away from racing after the 2020 season. He’s a good solid driver who will be missed.
He sold the car, by the way, to Jake Froemke of International Falls. Froemke ran almost every show of the Steffes Street Stock Tour this year and is a promising young talent. Froemke plans to run the super stock at Gondik Law Speedway in Superior next weekend for the Northern Nationals. Next year his plans are to run northern tracks with the super stock.
—Brainerd-area driver Shawn Wageman was back in a new Wissota Super Stock this past weekend. He destroyed a car with a wild rollover off of turns one and two at Viking (he had help) earlier this year. Wageman also ran at I-94 on Friday.
—Speaking of Blascyk, his younger brother Tayten is a rookie in the Midwest modified class.
—I wonder what the future of the Limited Late Models are at Viking. Only seven took the green in the feature on Friday. Car counts have been down at both I-94 and Viking in the class this year. We’ll see what the offseason entails, things could change if 3-4 drivers move up into the class.
Hess, Haugland Lead Devils Lake Winners
Trey Hess of Lakota topped Dustin Ebensteiner of Devils Lake for the Wissota Street Stock win Saturday night at Devils Lake Speedway. Hunter Domagala of Bismarck was third, Tracy Domagala of Bismarck fourth and Kyle Zittleman of Mandan fifth. Seth Klostreich of Grand Forks started 15th but worked his way to sixth.
Eric Haugland of Brocket topped Randy Thompson of Lakota for the Wissota Midwest Modified win. Cole Haugland of Brocket was third, Nate Reynolds of Hoople fourth and Preston Carr of Carrington fifth.
Bismarck driver A.J. Davenport topped Stoney Kruk of Langdon for the Pure Stock win. Dan Arends of Devils Lake was third, Tony Bundy of Balta fourth and Steven Richards of Finley was fifth.
Rob Caho Jr. of Rush City won the Non-Winged Sprint feature. Ken Hron of Grand Rapids, Minn., was second, Joel Larson of Fertile third, Brandon Palm of Portland fourth and Adam Sobolik of Grand Forks, last week's winner, was fifth.
Saturday Night Notes
--Billie Christ of Jamestown won the Wissota Street Stock feature Saturday at the Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen. Saturday's show was the finale of the Big Buck Nationals. Kyle Anderson of Jamestown was second, Maria Broksieck of Goodwin fourth and Jaden Christ of Jamestown fourth.
Scott Bintz of Jamestown was third while Jaren Wibstad of Jamestown was fifth in the Wissota Midwest Modified feature. .
Tyler Peterson of Hickson was third in the Wissota Modified feature ahead of Mike Stearns of Aberdeen Who was fourth.