By Ray Beste
Alexandria, MN (July 2nd, 2011) – Knapp, WI legend Craig Thatcher outlasted Ryan Gustin taking top honors in the 25-lap WISSOTA Modified Qualifying Feature Saturday night at Viking Speedway. Starbuck, MN driver Cody Lee scored his first ever WISSOTA Super Stock victory while Shane Sabraski reigned victorious in the WISSOTA Midwest Modified Qualifying A-main. The capacity crowd in attendance was treated to nail biting finishes in all three divisions taking part in day one action with all three feature events being decided on the final trip around the speedway. Drivers, pit crew members, sponsors, and racing enthusiasts from all over the Upper Midwest packed the Douglas County Fairgrounds once again for the 7th Annual, “Minnesota Modified Nationals.”
With all the pre-race activities put to rest, the WISSOTA Super Stocks took to the speedway first to qualify for the night’s 20-lap A-main. Alexandria’s own Jeff Crouse led all 10-laps from the pole taking the win in heat race one while Montevideo, MN traveler Jeremy Jerve moved from his second row outside starting position to take the win in heat race two. Shane Sabraski proved to be passing points leader in the WISSOTA Super Stock division, which drew 16 strong entries.
The next item on the docket was five stacked WISSOTA Midwest Modified heat races with some of the best in the business in attendance. Brandon, MN driver Derek Quinn shocked a lot of those in attendance by dominating heat race one while Brady Gerdes nursed a broken left front to the checkers in second. Levi Arneson charged up six positions in the 10-lap affair coming home third ahead of Steve Houle and Zach Hintermeister.
Although Jason VandeKamp led early on, it was Travis Saurer reigning victorious in heat race two. Saurer moved out front from his sixth starting position on lap four, never looking back on his way to the win. VandeKamp, George Dalbeck, seventh starter Randy Laage, and Denis Czech rounded out the top five finishing order.
Viking Speedway regulars William Lund and Todd Berg drag raced to turn one to see who would grab the early lead in heat race three. Lund was able to get there first and was scored the leader at the conclusion of the first lap. Despite the fact Lund would lead wire to wire, Sabraski would move up four positions into second locking himself into the night’s qualifying feature with Jason Hoffman finishing third. Berg and Shawn Olson were also members of the top five finishing order as well during heat three.
Heat four proved to be a good one with Annandale, MN driver Shawn Nolan taking the win behind the wheel of the Schleusner Motorsports #97 Skyrocket. Nolan battled with defending Viking Speedway track Champion Brian Haben early on before scoring the victory in fine fashion. Haben, Troy Berends, Matt Suckow, and Tim Ims all scored top five runs in heat race four.
The fifth and final heat race was dominated by Danube, MN WISSOTA Midwest Modified rookie Phil Braun. Braun worked his way by Kelly Haack and Andrew Nelson never looking back on his way to victory. Matt Weisman charged from eighth to second during the 10-lap affair with Nelson, Darrin Braaten, and Rick Spanswick all scoring top five runs, as well.
With 58 WISSOTA Modifieds on hand, they were broken into six heat races. Like in past years, passing points was the system used to determine where an individual would start in night one’s qualifying feature event. The first heat race of the night went green, white, checkered with outside pole sitter Dallas Gulbrandson punching his ticket to the big dance in dominating fashion. Sixth starter Craig Thatcher steadily worked his way forward to finish second with Jake Wildman third, eighth starter Kyle Wieberdink fourth and Jason Miller fifth.
Heat two proved to be an absolute slobber-knocker between WISSOTA Modified standouts Dave Cain and Cody Skytland. Cain grabbed the early lead from the pole while Skytland sliced and diced his way to the front moving into second near the midway point of the race. Skytland closed up on the backside of Cain a few times during the middle stages of the event but in the end it was Cain taking the win. Skytland put on his dancing shoes finishing second ahead of Modified standouts Travis Saurer, Jody Bellefeuille, and Shayne Laske; each members of the top five, as well.
The most exciting qualifying race of the evening belonged to heat three which featured a battle between Jason Grimes and Scot Danzeisen. After Danzeisen took the lead from the pole early on, Grimes was able to wheel by on the top side of the speedway with three laps remaining. Danzeisen did his best to regain the top spot but was unable to negotiate the #99 of Grimes. In just his second race of the season, Rick Jacobson punched his ticket to the A-main starting eighth and finishing third in heat race three. Jeremy Houle and Ryan Canon finished fourth and fifth respectively in heat three, which featured nine entries.
WISSOTA Modified heat four was dominated by Marshalltown, IA traveler Ryan Gustin. Gustin, who starter ninth, wheeled the #19R machine wherever he needed to on his way to a jaw dropping heat race triumph. Josh Thoennes, Chase Junghans, Kelly Estey, and Curt Lund battle for spots two through five with Thoennes coming home second. In the end it was Gustin, Thoennes, Junghans, Estey, and Lund.
Ryan Aho took the early lead on lap two of heat five for the WISSOTA Modifieds. It wasn’t long, however, before he was joined by Jason Thoennes. Thoennes, who started sixth, pulled even with Aho several times before finally taking the lead with four laps remaining. Shane Sabraski put his third car of the evening in a feature event moving from eighth to fourth in heat five. Out front it was all Thoennes taking the win. Aho, Ward Imrie, Sabraski, and Dave Schroeder were each members of the top five, as well.
The sixth and final heat race was led flag to flag by 2009 Minnesota Modified Nationals Champion Dale Mathison. Mathison looked strong during the 20-lap affair never seriously being challenged. Row four starters Darrell Nelson (second) and Kyle Koehntop (third) each locked them into Saturday night’s $7,000 to win main event while Jayme Lautigar and Shane Edgington rounded out the top five. The final rundown included Mathison, Nelson, Koehntop, Lautigar, and Edgington.
With all the qualifying events in the books, the WISSOTA Super Stocks took to the speedway with Larry Lund and Cody Lee starting on the front. The green flag dropped over the field with Lee taking the early advantage. Fourth starter Scott Brown quickly moved up into the third spot behind Lee and Lund while Sabraski cracked the top five on lap two. Lee continued to lead on lap seven while Sabraski continued his onslaught toward the front. Sabraski moved into second with eight laps remaining with ninth starter Jeff Crouse cracking the top five on the same trip around. Lee chose the top with Sabraski on the bottom as the duo locked horns in a battle for the ages. Sabraski edged ahead on more than one occasion but Lee kept his top side momentum up, holding the lead in the process. With the field taking the white flag Sabraski loaded up his #7A machine one final time in an attempt to overtake Lee. Cody, however, made zero mistakes going on to post his first career WISSOTA Super Stock victory. Sabraski settled for a hard fought second ahead of Crouse, who nipped Brown at the line for third. Jeremy Jerve was the final member of the top five.
The WISSOTA Midwest Modified Qualifying Feature was a barn burner from the start with past National Champions Shane Sabraski and Travis Saurer battling for the top spot with Jason VandeKamp right at their heels. Sabraski remained smooth throughout the 15-lap affair, fending off Saurer’s advances taking the win in the process. VandeKamp remained within striking distance during the duration of the race coming home third with Brian Haben fourth, and Derek Quinn fifth. Because Sabraski took the win in the night’s Qualifying Feature he was able to choose where he wanted to start Saturday’s $2,000 to win A-main. Sabraski chose the outside pole which meant he would be joined on the front row by Saurer on Saturday night.
With the top 16 in passing points locked in, the WISSOTA Modified qualifying feature rolled out onto the speedway for the final event of night number one. WISSOTA standouts Jason Grimes and Rick Jacobson manned the front row starting duties as 25-laps were put up on the board. The green flag waved over the 16-car field with Jacobson taking the early advantage. Third starter Craig Thatcher looked very strong early on moving into second while the rest of the field sliced and diced behind. Ninth starter Ryan Gustin used his familiar diamond maneuver as he cracked the top five just six laps into the event while Thatcher now took the lead out front. Gustin continued his onslaught toward the front moving into second with seven laps remaining while Jason Thoennes looked to be on the move, as well. Thoennes rolled off from the 10th starting spot and moved all the way up to the fifth at the line. Out front the final three laps featured a three car battle between Thatcher, Gustin, and Grimes. Gustin closed up on the backside of Thatcher several times in the remaining laps but it was not enough as Thatcher would take home the win. Gustin, Grimes, Dave Cain, and Jason Thoennes completed the top five putting a cap on night one at the Mod Nationals.
As always, for more information regarding Viking Speedway, log onto vikingspeedway.net.
Qualifying Feature- Craig Thatcher, Ryan Gustin, Jason Grimes, Dave Cain, Jason Thoennes, Rick Jacobson, Ryan Aho, Cody Skytland, Kyle Koehntop, Darrell Nelson, Josh Thoennes, Shane Sabraski, Dallas Gulbrandson, Dale Mathison, Kyle Wieberdink, Jeremy Houle
Heat 1- Gulbrandson, Thatcher, Wildman, Wieberdink, Miller, Dykstra, Clarke, Engebretson, Hoium, Schilling
Heat 2- Cain, Skytland, Saurer, Bellefeuille, Laske, Bitzan, Bayer, Gilbertson, Borgen, Tofte
Heat 3- Grimes, Danzeisen, Jacobson, Houle, Canon, Mickelson, Blascyk, Trautner, Werk
Heat 4- Gustin, Jo. Thoennes, Junghans, Estey, Lund, Esala, Davis, Trautner, S. Bruns, Sersha
Heat 5- Ja. Thoennes, Aho, Imrie, Sabraski, Schroeder, Lavasseur, Sjoman, Olson, Arneson
Heat 6- Mathison, Nelson, Koehntop, Lautigar, Edgington, Storck, Hilluka, M. Bruns, Gierke
WISSOTA Super Stocks:
Feature- Cody Lee, Shane Sabraski, Jeff Crouse, Scott Brown, Jeremy Jerve, Larry Lund, Matt Miller, Jeff Flaten, Mike Peterson, Jon Stepan, Alan Johnson, Jeff Kluver, Ashley Donald, Derrick Lemke, Dusty Peterson, Terry Merten
Heat 1- Jerve, Sabraski, Kluver, D. Peterson, Brown, Donald, Johnson, Lemke
Heat 2- Crouse, Stepan, Lund, Lee, Miller, Flaten, Merten, Peterson
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds:
Qualifying Feature- Shane Sabraski, Travis Saurer, Jason VandeKamp, Brian Haben, Derek Quinn
Heat 1- Quinn, Gerdes, Arneson, Houle, Hintermeister, Mensen, Larsen, Thompson, Estey
Heat 2- Saurer, VandeKamp, Dalbeck, Laage, Czech, B. Johnson, Bitzan, Reents, Greeley
Heat 3- Lund, Sabraski, Hoffman, Berg, Olson, B. Spanswick, Thorstad, Bruder, Schleusner
Heat 4- Nolan, Haben, Berends, Suckow, Ims, Rizer, Donahue, Kerzman, Muzik
Heat 5- Braun, Weisman, A. Nelson, Braaten, R. Spanswick, Vanderby, Haack, Tofte