Sward Captures Challenge Series Opener at I-94 EMR Speedway
The Structural Buildings Wissota Late Model Challenge Series is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and kicked off the 2023 campaign at I-94 EMR Speedway with 34 cars on hand.
I thought it was a deep field with a bunch of drivers capable of winning.
The Hermantown Hammer, Darrell Nelson, took the early lead of the 25-car, 40-lap main event with Bryce Sward of Nelson on his tail.
Cole Schill of Hawley, who won Week 1 at I-94, battled former series champion Jake Redetzke of Eau Claire, Wis.,, for third with defending race champion Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., settling into fifth. A caution came out two laps into the race for a two-car incident in turns three and four.
Redetzke moved into second on the restart and went to work on Nelson for the lead with Doar chasing Sward for third. Another caution came out with 36 to go. On the restart, Sward went to the high line and surged past Nelson, who was running low, to take the lead.
Also lurking in sixth was Canadian Shane Edginton who was running well on the bottom. He would pass Doar for fifth and then cleared Schill for fourth. He turned his attention to Redetzke for third.
Sward and Nelson opened up a decent amount of distance on third-place Redetzke who had his hands full with Edginton. Edginton would move into third with 25 to go.
Sward’s lead grew to three seconds over Nelson, who was well ahead of Edginton in third.
Sam Mars of Menomonie was sneaking through the field as well and moved into sixth. He was pressuring Doar, who was trying to close the gap on Redetzke.
Nelson was beginning to cut into the lead, cutting the lead to 1.123 seconds with 17 to go. Edginton was closing in on Nelson as the top three encountered heavy lapped traffic.
Once Sward cleared ome lapped cars the lead grew quickly to 2.6 seconds.
The best battle was for fourth as Mars and Redetzke raced hard for that spot. Those two were also starting to eat into the advantage Edginton had built for third.
Sward’s #1-2 was a complete rocket on the top and his lead grew to 3.1 seconds. Nelson and Edginton finally cleared some lapped cars but faced a huge deficit. Edginton was working hard on the low line to close on Nelson for second.
Sward had a near-scare with three to go as he had to be creative through a pair of lapped cars, but made the move through and went on to the win. Sward led the final 36 laps and picked up the $5,000 win. Sward won the $10,000 Dacotah Rumble at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen last year and is quite a talent.
Nelson fended off Edginton for second with Mars capping off a good run from seventh to fourth. Redetzke was fifth and Doar finished sixth. The Hard Charger, who picked up a $500 bonus, was Dustin Sorenson of Rochester, who is the defending USMTS champion. He is driving the 28 car for Jimmy Mars this season.
I thought it was a terrific race with a very nice, smooth, multi-lane track. Hats off to the folks at I-94 for a beautiful surface.
Defending Wissota 100 champion Braden Brauer of Eyota and Cole Greseth of Harwood, two very promising young drivers, led the 13-car Wissota Street Stock field to the front. While it wasn’t a huge street stock field it was pretty stout. That also included Jeff Ekdahl, Kyle Anderson, Eric Riley and Week 1 winner Ryan Satter of Dent.
Brauer took the early lead over Greseth with Anderson, who finished third in Week 1, giving chase.
The best battle at least early was for third as Anderson, Satter and Ekdahl put on a show for that spot. Satter and Anderson ran side by side for several laps with Ekdahl right on their heels. Satter would move into third with eight to go and set his sights on Greseth. Soon, however, Ekdahl was pressuring Satter for third as the 11Jr machine looked very strong.
Brauer, who won at Fiesta City Speedway last week, turned the race into a runaway. He led every lap and won by 4.3 seconds. Ekdahl, who won at Red Cedar Speedway last week, worked his way past Satter and passed Greseth late for second to cap off a great run from seventh. He’s impressed me this season. Greseth, who had tough luck in Week 1 at I-94, will take a solid top three finish.
Satter and Anderson rounded out the top five, which was a pretty stout group. No cautions in what was a very clean-driven race. The track was excellent with multi grooves.
Riley, a car I expected to contend, had trouble and pulled in early.
Taylor Bitzan of Garfield set the early pace in the Wissota Midwest Modified main event but the car that was hooked up from the get-go was Corey Storck of Morris. Storck started fifth and then went to the bottom and chased down Bitzan for the lead.
Ron Saurer of Dalton, a young pup at age 70, moved into third and cleared Bitzan for second after a restart with 13 to go. The Nichols brothers from Watertown, Tommy and Mike, also were in the top six.
Tommy Nichols’ #28 machine was off the pace after a caution with 10 to go, and he pulled in, ending what could have been a top five finish.
As the laps waned, Mike Nichols, who started seventh, began to pressure Storck for the lead as those two had a big advantage on the field. They ran side-by-side for a handful of laps, as Nichols was working the low line. With three laps to go. Nichols then moved smoothly through a few lapped cars to open up a one-second lead at the checkered. Storck ran a solid second with Ron Saurer taking third.
Nate Reinke of Lisbon might want to run I-94 every week at this rate. He won opening night at I-94, and had moved into the top five after starting 13th. He came home in fourth to cap off a great run. Bitzan also was solid all night and finished fifth.
Brady Molter of Rothsay was the early leader of the Short Tracker feature but soon found pressure from Willmar driver Joe Martin. Martin would take the lead; Molter would try to regain the lead but made contact with Martin, brining out the caution. Martin suffered left front damage and left on the hook while Molter also retired from the field.
On the restart Travis Olafson moved into the top spot with Martin fighting with defending track champion Shawn Beto of Wahpeton for second. Waylon Current of Bemidji was running well and moved into the top four ahead of John Heacox of Lisbon.
A potential battle for the lead was surfacing as Beto was closing in on Olafson; Olafson, however slowed and would pull the #00 car into the pits. Beto would cruise from there to pick up the win. Peter Martin was second, Current third, Heacox fourth and Jeremy Fahleen fifth. Fahleen, driving the #00 truck, is also a wrecker driver at I-94.
--My best guess is the Long Haul award for the Late Models went to Logan Dowson of Glendive, Mont. That is about 445 miles one way (all interstate from what I see on the map). I saw Dowson race for the first time last year at the John Seitz Memorial, he has a pretty sharp #4 machine.
--Former challenge series champions on hand were John Kaanta of Elk Mound (six-time champion), Doar (five-time), Redetzke (two) and Nelson (one). Doar is the all-time leader in series wins with 36, Kaanta has 32.
--Sam Zender of Fergus Falls is driving Scott Rachels’ late model once again in 2023. Zender sold his Gen X late model to Rachels, and in week 1 of the season, Dave Mass drove that car to the win.
John Current of Bemidji, a long-time Hornet/Short Tracker driver, has a Wissota Street Stock now.
--Veteran Larry Samuelson of Erhard is racing in the Wissota Late Models this year and still has his Gen X car he expects to bring out in the next few weeks.
--Dustin Bluhm of Herman is back in a late model this year. Bluhm has raced a little bit of everything in recent years – IMCA Stock Cars, IMCA RaceSaver Sprint, Gen X Late Model, and years ago, was in the B mods. Bluhm was running well in the B main before a mechanical issue ended his night.
--One guy who never seems to catch a break is Cory Dykhoff of Perham. He was involved in a wreck in his heat race and spun and was unable to make the call for the feature.
--A shoutout to former Short Tracker champion Daniel Harstad of Fergus Falls. He struggled mightily with mechanical issues in his first two seasons in a street stock. His new car looks more competitive and he was in the midst of a multi-car battle back for seventh; he would finish in ninth.
Dobmeier, Klostreich Win at River Cities
Mark Dobmeier of Grand Forks won the Buffalo Wild Wings NOSA Sprint feature Friday night at River Cities Speedway. Jack Croaker of East Grand Forks was second, Jade Hastings of Grand Forks third. Jordan Graham of Grand Forks went from 14th to fourth with Blake Egeland of Climax fifth.
Lance Schill of Langdon topped Jory Berg of Grand Forks for the Wissota Midwest Modified win. Justin Olson was third, Nate Reynolds fourth and Jamie Dietzler fifth.
Seth Klostreich of Grand Forks won for the second time in a week as he won the Wissota Street Stock feature over John Halvorson of Warren. Weston Ramsrud of Bagley was third.
Tyler Peterson of Horaced topped Rick Delaine of Stony Mountain, Man., for the Wissota Modified feature. Joseph Thomas of Fargo was third, Ward Imrie of Winnipeg fourth and Jordan Duray of Halma fifth.
The Wissota Late Models had the night off at River Cities.
Johnson, Eckerdt Lead Red River Valley Winners
Sean Johnson of Kindred went from 16th to first to pick up the INEX Legends feature win over Alex Braseth of Ulen. Joshua Wiest of Jamestown was third, Kody Machart of Moorhead fourth and Evan Hendrickson of Mapleton fifth.
Brodee Eckerdt of Grand Forks won the IMCA Hobby Stock featue with Tim Otterness of Brainerd taking second. Brad Orvedal of Fargo was third.
Dave Shipley of Argusville won the IMCA Modified feature over Kollin Hibdon of Pahrump. Jeff Odden of Relies Acres, Darren Pfau of West Fargo and Tyler Hall of Fertile rounded out the top five.
Scott Jacobson of Fargo topped Rich Pavlicek of Casselton for the IMCA Sport Mod feature. Chris VanMil of Barnesville took third. Ryan Restad of West Fargo went from 15th to fourth.
Defending track champion Rob VanMil of Barnesville won the IMCA Stock Car feature with Brennan Borg of Harwood taking second. Trent Grager of Sykeston was third, Mike Anderson of Walcott fourth and Andrew Jochim of Harwood fifth.
Princeton driver Tyler Rabenberg topped Ty Hanten of West Fargo for the IMCA RaceSaver Sprint feature. Andy Pake of Felton was third.
A good 98-car field was on hand for RRVS’s opener.
Justin Vogel of Brooten won the Wissota Street Stock feature Friday night at Fiesta City Speedway in Montevideo.
A shoutout to young driver Sophie Anderson of Chokio, who recorded a top five finish in the pure stocks at Fiesta City.
Travis Scott of Montevideo won the Wissota Super Stock feature with Karter Reents of Glenwood taking third.