Schafer Crosses Second,
Finishes First at St. Croix Valley Raceway Opener
St. Croix Falls, WI, May 16, 2014
by Greg Parent and Terry Lehnertz
St. Croix Valley Raceway finally kicked off their season Friday night under thick clouds and windy, chilly conditions, but the drivers and fans who braved the elements were rewarded with some fantastic racing.
Sometimes the car that crosses the finish line first at the end of the race is not the car that ultimately wins the race. Such was the case at the St. Croix Valley Raceway during the season opener for the UMSS Traditional Sprint Car Series on Friday May 16. Brian VanMeveren led the 25 lap feature event flag-to-flag, celebrated in Victory Lane, and then went to post-race tech. Cam Schafer, who made it close at the finish line, thought he had finished second. He would later find out that he was the winner after VanMeveren was disqualified in post-race tech for an illegal carburetor.
Following two 10 lap heat races for the 17 car field on hand, Johnny Parsons III was the high point driver. The TSCS sprints use passing and finishing points in their heat races, and the high point driver then draws the invert pill. Parsons drew a six which inverted the top six in points. This put VanMeveren and Tommy Kamrath on the front row for the main event on the quarter-mile dirt oval. VanMeveren immediately blasted into the early lead. The first of three cautions waved with six laps scored when Jake Hendrickson spun in turn four and collected rookie driver Mike Walters. Hendrickson rode the hook to the pits while Walters re-fired. A ragged start going back to green necessitated another caution and a warning to the field from the flagman to stay in line. Defending and two-time series champion Rob Caho, Jr. was on the move on the restart, as he worked his way to second. Caho reeled in VanMeveren over the next several laps and the battle for the top spot was on. On a couple of occasions, Caho pulled alongside VanMeveren. As VanMeveren worked lapped traffic, he got a bit high in turns one and two on lap twenty. Caho dove low, but he got a little too close to the infield tractor tire and clipped it. The resulting impact caused damage to the front end of his car. The yellow blinked on and Caho was on the hook to the pits. This set up a six lap dash to the checkers. Cam Schafer moved past Parsons for second on lap twenty and immediately began applying pressure on VanMeveren. On the final lap, VanMeveren slid high in turn four allowing Schafer to pull alongside him exiting the corner. VanMeveren had the momentum to edge out Schafer at the line. However, his night would not go well in post-race tech giving the win to Schafer. Kamrath, inaugural series champion Kevin Bradwell, 2013 Rookie of the Year Mike Mueller, and Joseph Kouba completed the top five. An impressive run for rookie driver Chase Viebrock in sixth followed by fellow rookies Pastor Mike Haseltine and John Lewerer (former Legend car racer) completed those cars that finished. Parsons dropped out of the race late as did Mike Walters. Traditional heat races were won by Parsons and Mueller. A total of five rookie drivers made their season debut on opening night. One rookie, Alex Peper, was not able to start the feature when the engine in his non-winged sprinter went up in smoke during his heat race.
The tightest contest of the night was definitely the Pure Stock feature, which might have been the closest finish in the history of the race track. After charging from sixth to first in just five laps during the qualifier, heat race winner Tim Baxter started the feature in the fifth starting position. Darren Kohler and sophomore racer Kaylee Remington started on the front row with Kohler setting the early pace. Baxter quickly moved up to third and dispatched runner-up Ben Kaphing on lap five. The remainder of the twelve-lap main would see Baxter continually applying pressure to Kohler, and Kohler continually fending him off. Things were especially tense the final two circuits and the leaders were often side by side. The duo drag-raced out of the final turn and to the finish line virtually welded together at the door handles, with Kohler denying Baxter of his clean sweep by an eye lash. Kaphing settled for third in front of Casey Ogilvie and Remington.
The WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds were paced to green by Jared Gorka and second heat race winner John Remington. Remington grabbed the early point while being chased by Mitch Weiss, Jason VandeKamp, Dan Wheeler and Gorka. By lap three, VandeKamp and Weiss swapped spots and it took VandeKamp just two more laps to swipe the lead away from Remington. The last half of the race saw VandeKamp continue his 2013 dominance, never feeling a serious challenge on his way to checkers over Weiss, Remington, Wheeler and Jacob Toepper.
The WISSOTA Modifieds made their return after a several year hiatus from the weekly program sporting a light six-car field with heat race winner Justin Oestreich and Keith Tourville on the front row for the feature. Tourville led early while Chet Atkinson shot from fourth to second. Oestreich got back around Atkinson one lap later and the field settled in a groove the rest of the way. Tourville claimed the first weekly Modified feature in years over Oestreich, Adam Ayotte, Atkinson, Doug Gustafson and Kyle Steffen.
The Future Four division saw Nicki DuBois and Steven Johnson lead the field from the front row for their main event with Johnson grabbing the top spot quickly followed by fourth-starting heat race winner Kayla Lallier. After dominating in the heat, Lallier was unable to mount a serious challenge to Johnson who led the entire distance, picking up the win over Lallier, DuBois, Dan Rick and Adam Nelson.
The UMSS Micro sprints saw reigning champion Ty Sampair trying to do something that hasn’t been accomplished in years at The Valley – best "Silent Thunder" Greg Gunderson in a micro. Gunderson has won virtually every race he has finished in the micro sprint division at the track. Sampair was putting on an impressive display and maintaining a healthy lead over Gunderson. But just prior to halfway, Sampair’s #64 machine lost traction in the middle of turn four – bringing out the yellow and handing the lead to Gunderson. Gunderson subsequently jumped the restart and was docked two positions, relegated to third on following restart. Val Urman took over the top spot from there and led to the finish, claiming the victory over Jack Berger and Sampair. Gunderson was unable to finish, coasting to a stop on the infield on lap nine.
Next Friday at St. Croix Valley Raceway will be the 3rd Annual Davey Tabor Memorial featuring the UMSS winged sprints along with the Traditional sprints, micros, WISSOTA Midwest Mods, pure stocks and future fours. The WISSOTA Modifieds have the night off.
UMSS Traditional Sprints:
Meeks Video Heat #1 (10 laps): 12 Johnny Parsons III, Owatonna MN; 24 Brian VanMeveren, St. Paul MN; 78 Rob Caho Jr, Wyoming MN; 50 Chase Viebrock, New Richmond WI; 55 Joseph Kouba, North Branch MN; 23 Jake Hendrickson, Amery WI; 81 Alex Peper, Milltown WI; 2 Tom Porter, Blaine MN. DNS: 7N Brad Nelson, Brainerd MN.
Track Rat Photos Heat #2 (10 laps): 87 Mike Mueller, Stacy MN; 14 Tommy Kamrath, Hudson WI; 54 Cam Schafer, Clearbrook MN; 95 Kevin Bradwell, Luck WI; 2K Jake Kouba, Minneapolis MN; 27 Mike Walters, Lake Elmo MN; 5 Mike Haseltine, Forest Lake MN; 69S John Lewerer, Coon Rapids MN.
GRP Motorsports A Main (25 laps): Schafer, Kamrath, Bradwell, Mueller, Kouba, Viebrock, Haseltine, Lewerer, Parsons DNF, Walters DNF, Caho DNF, Kouba DNF, Hendrickson DNF, Porter DNS, Peper DNS, Nelson DNS.
Lap Leader: Van Meveren 1-25 (DQed in post-race tech though).
Heat – Justin Oestreich, Keith Tourville, Adam Ayotte, Chet Atkinson, Doug Gustafson, Kyle Steffen (DNS)
Feature – Tourville, Oestreich, Ayotte, Atkinson, Gustafson, Steffen
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Heat 1 – Mitch Weiss, Jason VandeKamp, David Simpson, Jacob Toepper, Joe Prusak, Jimmy Patzner
Heat 2 – John Remington, Dan Wheeler, Jared Gorka, Cory Bruggeman, Elizabeth Toepper, Tony DuBois
Feature – VandeKamp, Weiss, Remington, Wheeler, J. Toepper, Gorka, Prusak, E. Toepper, DuBois, Patzner, Simpson (DNF), Bruggeman (DNS)
Heat – Tim Baxter, Darren Kohler, Casey Ogilvie, Ben Kaphing, Kaylee Remington, Kyle Dahlheimer (DNF)
Feature – Kohler, Baxter, Kaphing, Ogilvie, Remington, Dalheimer (DNS)
Heat – Kayla Lallier, Steven Johnson, Nicki DuBois, Dan Rick, Adam Nelson (DNF), Derek Reding (DNF)
Feature – Johnson, Lallier, DuBois, Rick, Nelson, Reding (DNS)
UMSS Micro Sprints
Heat – Greg Gunderson, Ty Sampair, Val Urman, Jack Berger, Al Sachs
Feature – Urman, Berger, Sampair, Gunderson (DNF), Sachs (DNF)