St. Croix Valley Raceway hosted its third annual Open Wheel Nationals, Friday and Saturday night, July 11 and 12. All four classes in competition for the annual event saw incredible action and excitement. Three, four, and sometimes even five-wide racing was taking place all weekend long at the racy quarter-mile bullring, featuring a bevy of last lap passes and an opening night photo-finish.
The night one WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature saw defending OWN champion Josh Bazey bring the 20-car field to green alongside of fourth heat race winner Justin Oestreich. Oestreich went to the point early, followed by Bazey and Mitch Weiss. Coming up fast was eighth starting Cory Crapser, who was up to fourth with two laps in, and he charged past Bazey and Weiss by lap four. A quarter of a mile later, Crapser dispatched Oestreich for the lead. Behind Crapser, Oestreich, Denis Czech, Weiss, Bazey and Jason VandeKamp were all vying for position. Things settled down in the second half of the race, with the exception of Joe Chaplin Jr., who was charging hard. Chaplin failed to finish his heat race, and raced from last to first in the B-feature. Starting in the ninth row of the A-main, Chaplin cracked the top ten prior to halfway and blasted up to fifth on a late race restart. At the double checkers it was Crapser winning the opening night feature for his second Valley victory in the space of three weeks. Behind the #07 of Crapser were Oestreich, VandeKamp, Bazey and Chaplin.
Passing was the order of the night through most of the Advantage RV Modified Tour main event, with four top ten finishers qualifying through the B-feature. Fourth heat race winner Keith Tourville and Brandon Jensen brought the field to green with Jensen and first heat race winner Buzzy Adams setting the early pace with frenzied three-wide action behind them. An eight car pile-up brought out the yellow for the third time just four laps in, but the three-wide action resumed on the restart, with Mike Stearns joining Jensen and Adams in the battle up front. Adams started to take control and gained a few car lengths over Jensen, while Stearns was diligently working his low groove. By lap eight, Stearns and Jensen swapped spots and Stearns set to reel in Adams. Just past the halfway mark, the leaders tangled in turn three, resulting in Stearns being sent to the rear on the restart. Back under green Adams took control again, while Dale Mathison and Matt Leer battled for second. Eventually, Jesse Glenz and Jason Grimes – who had each qualified through the B-feature – joined the fray making it a four car battle for second. Adams went on to win the opening night feature ahead of Jensen, who got hot again late in the race to take second over Glenz, Grimes and Andy Jones, another racer who came through the B-feature.
Two Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series victories in the same week in two different cars is nothing unusual for veteran racer Brooke Tatnell. The thrilling manner in which his 27th career UMSS win came on Friday night July 11 at the Open Wheel Nationals certainly was not something race fans have the privilege of watching every night though. Back in the familiar white #14 Nelson sprinter, Tatnell put on a show for the fans coming from the 18th starting position to sit in the Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup/Rock Auto Victory Lane at the 1/4 mile St. Croix Valley Raceway when the final checkers waved.
When Tatnell forgot to scale following his heat race, it meant the "Awesome Aussie" who now resides in Forest Lake would have to come from the back in both his Challenge race and the main event. Tatnell tuned up for the feature by racing from 10th to 4th in the Challenge, then started 18th in the feature. The three heats for the 20 cars on hand were won by 2013 UMSS Champion Chris Graf, Altoona, Iowa driver Carson McCarl, and Cam Schafer, who was doing double duty for the weekend in both sprint car divisions. Following Challenge race victories by young Gunner Cummings and versatile racer from nearby Deer Park, Rick Kobs, Graf ended up the high point earner. Graf drew the five pill for the feature race invert. This meant that Schafer and Kobs would occupy the front row.
At the drop of the green, many fans were watching Tatnell figuring he was going to be one motivated driver coming through the field. Kobs led the first ten laps, as the race was slowed once under caution with six laps in. Tatnell was up to seventh in just six laps! McCarl challenged Kobs for the lead following the restart and took the top spot on lap 11. Two laps later contact on the front stretch between Kobs and the lapped car of Dave Becker saw Becker slide sideways. Rookie racer Jamey Ogston got collected in the accident, causing heavy damage to his car and Becker's sprinter. Kobs also limped into the infield area, as all three cars were out of action. Tatnell was now sitting in fifth place. Two laps later he advanced to fourth with the leaders in sight.
The third and final caution blinked on with 19 laps scored for a spin in turn four. This set the stage for a six lap shootout to the checkers between McCarl and Tatnell. On lap 21, Tatnell edged by McCarl for the lead. McCarl battled hard to regain the top spot, but Tatnell was just too strong. McCarl had to settle for second. A very impressive run by rookie Ryan Bowers saw the #199 car equal his career-best third place finish in just his 11th start in a winged sprint. Graf and Schafer completed the top five. Commenting after the races, Tatnell stated, "We're committed to race at Knoxville tomorrow night, but if they rain out early enough I want to be back here and try for a weekend sweep. It's a blast racing with these guys, and the level of competition has definitely gotten better since when I first started running with the UMSS."
It did not take Mike Mueller long to earn his third career UMSS Traditional sprint car feature win. In fact, it took just five days to be exact. Coming off his second career UMSS win at Proctor Speedway last Sunday night, Mueller held off Jimmy Kouba by mere inches for his first St. Croix Valley Raceway win in a non-winged sprint and his second consecutive in the series. The finish was so close that Mueller stated afterwards, "I wasn't sure that I had won until they signaled me to go to Victory Lane. I saw Jimmy Kouba alongside of me racing to the checkers. Wow that was a fun race." Mueller was joined by his father Herb and crew in Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup Victory Lane to celebrate his inaugural SCVR sprint car win.
With 18 non-winged Traditional sprints signed in, equaling the series record for most cars on hand, three 10 lap heats were run using the usual passing and finishing point system. Rookie Jon Lewerer along with Johnny Parsons III and current point leader Cam Schafer won the heats. Schafer ended up being the high point driver, and much to his chagrin, he drew the #8 pill for the feature race invert. Mike Mueller and Jake Kouba sat on the front row for the 25 lap main event.
Kouba, who has been running extremely strong during the past several races, took the early lead. The race was slowed after one lap for a spin and then again after two laps for a crash in turn two. Chase Viebrock got sideways and collected Parsons and 2011 TSCS Champion Kevin Bradwell. The cars of Parsons and Bradwell suffered extensive damage in the accident and were done for the night. Viebrock restarted at the tail but only lasted one lap before he pulled off with damage sustained to his car in the crash. Jake Kouba meanwhile opened up a comfortable lead over Mueller and Rob Caho, Jr. when the race went green again. The third and final caution flew with 11 laps scored when Scott Brandt bounced off the turn two wall and stopped. Caho got on the binders and pitched his car sideways but still slid into Brandt's car. The resulting contact pinched off a header on Caho's car and he retired to the infield. It appeared that the top lane was starting to work for Caho, but his night was over. Two laps after the restart, leader Jake Kouba suddenly pulled off the turn one exit with smoke and steam coming from his 2K sprinter. It was later discovered that the radiator cap had come off, ending his bid for his second win. Mueller sped past, as the race stayed under the green flag.
With Jake Kouba out of the race, his father Jimmy Kouba began closing the gap on Mueller. Soon it was a two car battle up front. Jimmy Kouba tried several times to get by Mueller, as the pair raced clean for the lead. On the final lap, it was a drag race off turn four to the checkers with Mueller winning by the closest of margins. Kouba settled for second but during post-race tech his car was disqualified for that pesky illegal carburetor booster height infraction.
Feature action for night two of the Open Wheel Nationals started with what should have been thought impossible. The UMSS Traditional Sprints topped the ultra-exciting finish of the previous night’s race by stretching the tension over the entire 25 laps and including six cars in the race-long battle for the win. Following an opening lap caution, the feature ran nonstop to the checkers. The outcome was not determined until two-time and defending series champion Rob Caho, Jr. of Wyoming, MN pulled off a last lap, last corner pass coming out of turn four to the checkers! Rookie driver Mike Walters had been absolutely impressive in this race, leading 24 3/4 laps of the feature only to lose out to Caho in the waning moments coming to the finish. For Caho, it was his fourth win of the season and 19th career TSCS triumph.
In his post-race interview from Anderson’s Pure Maple Syrup Victory Lane, Caho stated, "I saw the two to go signal and figured I better not be a pansy and get up on the steering wheel if I wanted to win this deal." Get up on the wheel he did, as the high groove was to Caho's liking as it is on many race nights. The crowd went wild as Caho powered around the top side in turns 3-4 while Walters held to his line that he had run the entire race about a car length or so above the bottom. For the second night in a row, the outcome was in doubt to the checkers. You just cannot get much better racing in any division for that matter, than what was witnessed by fans in the TSCS sprints at the 2014 edition of the Open Wheel Nationals.
After point leader Cam Schafer and Jimmy Kouba won the heat races, Schafer earned the right to pull the invert pill. Schafer drew a five pill which put Mike Walters and Jimmy Kouba on the front row for the feature. The caution blinked on before one lap could be completed when Chase Viebrock, Johnny Parsons III and Jeff Pellersels tangled in turn four. All cars were able to restart, but Parsons dropped out a few laps later. The race would then run nonstop to the checkers, as Walters held a narrow lead for most of the race with six cars in the lead pack. Positions changed hands before Walters on several occasions as the laps clicked off under green. Jimmy Kouba challenged for the lead, then Caho took a peak up top, and then Schafer was in the battle. Mike Mueller and Jake Kouba also were in the lead pack.
Coming to the white flag, Caho was gaining ground up top and had moved past Schafer into second a few laps earlier. Caho roared around the high side at both ends of the track while Walters was steady and strong in the lower groove he had been running throughout the race. As Caho powered off turn four on the final lap, the blue #78 slipped by the white #27 with the crowd cheering. Caho crossed the line about a car length ahead for the win. Walters certainly caught the attention of fans and fellow drivers with his strong performance. Schafer, Jimmy Kouba, Mueller and Jake Kouba completed the top six. Another rookie competitor, Alex Peper also turned in a very solid effort with a seventh place finish followed by Viebrock, Josh Hendrickson and Mike Haseltine.
Night two for the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds had Dan Wheeler and third heat race winner John Remington sitting on the front row with Remington showing the way at the start. Justin Oestreich followed Remington through lap four, and took over the point on the fifth circuit. Jason VandeKamp took over second on lap eight, followed by Mitch Weiss, Cory Crapser, Tony Schill and Jason Schill. Crapser gained third at the crossed flags while Oestreich continued to lead over VandeKamp. Inside of ten laps to go, the top two exchanged positions and Oestreich briefly drifted back to third. When Crapser was unable to continue after a late caution, Oestreich was back up to second. At the end of 25 laps, VandeKamp claimed his second Open Wheel Nationals title and third OWN feature win over Oestreich, Jason Schill, Travis Saurer and Tony Schill.
With the IRA 410 Outlaw Sprints rained out at Rice Lake Speedway, Scotty Thiel and his team decided to head over to the St. Croix Valley Raceway on Saturday July 12 and pull their 360 sprint car out of the hauler in an attempt to repeat his Open Wheel Nationals title from last year. At the end of the night, the young Sheboygan racer once again was "The Real Deal" at the 1/4 mile bullring winning in his second appearance of the season with the UMSS. Thiel celebrated with his crew following his eighth career UMSS victory in Anderson's Pure Maple Syrup/Rock Auto Victory Lane to conclude the UMSS portion of the this popular annual event.
Commenting after the win, Thiel stated, "We are racing with the IRA full-time this season and running wherever we can when they don't race. With Rice Lake raining out early, it was an easy decision to head over here and race with the UMSS at a track where we have had success in the past. The UMSS always thanks us for racing with them, and that is something we don't always see over on the other side of the state. I have to thank my parents, my awesome crew and all of our sponsors for giving me the opportunity to drive a sprint car. It's a blast!"
With the field pared down a few cars from the opening night due to three drivers heading to Knoxville and four cars out of action on account of crash damage or mechanical issues, the fourteen cars on hand ran two heats and two Challenge races to set the lineup for their 25 lap main event. 2013 UMSS Champion Chris Graf of Glencoe won the first heat while 2011-2012 UMSS Champion Jerry Richert, Jr. of Forest Lake topped the second heat. Challenge race victories went to Thiel and rookie Ryan "Showtime" Bowers of Ham Lake. Bowers continues to impress in his first year behind the wheel of a winged sprint car, and he was the high point driver following the usual double round of qualifiers. Bowers found the pill draw to his liking when he pulled the zero pill for a straight-up start based on passing and finishing points from the heats and challenge races. Thiel would line up outside Bowers on the front row.
Thiel left little doubt in anyone's mind that he would be the car to beat, as he blasted to the early lead on the second start attempt following a caution on the opening lap when Cam Schafer spun in turn four. Schafer would restart tail-end and make an impressive charge through the field though. A stretch of 22 laps of green flag racing saw Thiel pull out to a commanding lead while Graf garnered the runner-up spot on lap 8 from Bowers. With Schafer coming all the way from the tail to battle Graf for second, his bid for a victory came to an end up when he sat sideways in turn four with steam coming from under the hood with 22 laps scored. Thiel's big lead was erased with Graf and Bowers now right behind him. Thiel was able to hold off Graf over the final three circuits for the win. Graf, Bowers, 12th starter Cody Hahn, and Chad Patterson completed the top five. For Patterson, the 2011 UMSS Co-Rookie of the Year, it was his best career finish in a winged sprint and he and his dad wore big smiles on their faces after the races.
Facing a 40-lap marathon, Andy Jones sat on the pole alongside of Scott Splittstoesser for the big Advantage RV Modified Tour headliner. At the drop of the green, Splittstoesser used the early preferred higher groove to set the early pace in front of Jones, Dale Mathison, Jason Haugerud, 2012 OWN champion Dave Cain and eighth starting Jesse Glenz. Splittstoesser was strong down the middle while Jones was building momentum off a high cushion, which finally bore fruit for Jones on lap seven as he took over the point. By lap ten, Glenz worked the low groove up to second – then the leaders set out on a nearly 20-lap high-low battle for the ages. Lap after lap after lap Advantage RV tour announcer Larry Nelson bellowed the phrase “side-by-side” over the PA system. Each time the Jones/Glenz duo crossed the start-finish line, Jones’ advantage could only be measured in eye-blinks. With twelve laps remaining, the slightest hiccup finally changed the dynamic…Jones jumped the cushion in turn two. That tiny opening was all Glenz needed to wrest firm control of the point and he immediately set out to stretch his lead. Distracted by the epic battle for the lead, many fans missed equally exciting battles through the field, like the nearly identical high-low tussle for third between Dave Mass and Friday night’s hard-luck runner, Mike Stearns. Stearns started tenth on the grid and methodically worked towards the front to do battle with Mass, and later Jason Grimes. In the waning laps, Jones drifted back to the battle for third and Stearns used traffic to move up to second in the last few hundred feet of the race. The forty laps ended with a jubilant Glenz celebrating the win on just his second night ever at St. Croix Valley Raceway. Behind Stearns, Jones, Grimes and Mass completed the top five, capping off a dazzling, thrill-filled weekend at The Valley.
Regular weekly competition returns to SCVR this weekend along with the NVSR vintage race cars.
More details and information may be found on the track’s website, www.SCVRaceway.com, as well as their Facebook page.
Open Wheel Nationals results, night one – July 11
Advantage RV Modified Tour
A Feature – Kevin Adams, Brandon Jensen, Jesse Glenz, Jason Grimes, Andy Jones, Dave Cain, Matt Gilbertson, Jake Miller, Larry Zeller, Travis Saurer, Jason Voigt, Jason Haugerud, Matt Leer (DNF), Dale Mathison (DNF), Mike Stearns (DNF), Chet Atkinson (DNF), Dave Mass (DNF), Johnny Broking (DNF), Doug Gustafson (DNF), Keith Tourville (DNF)
B Feature – Jason Haugerud, Jesse Glenz, Jason Grimes, Jake Miller, Andy Jones, Chet Atkinson, Travis Saurer, Jason Voigt, Adam Ayotte, Bob Broking (DNF), Jayson Good (DNF), Tim Baxter (DNS)
Heat 1 – Adams, Leer, Mass, Miller, Ayotte, Baxter
Heat 2 – Cain, Johnny Broking, Gustafson, Jason Haugerud, Grimes, Atkinson
Heat 3 – Zeller, Jensen, Gilbertson, Jones, Voigt, Good (DNF)
Heat 4 – Tourville, Stearns, Mathison, Glenz, Bob Broking, Travis Saurer
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
A Feature – Cory Crapser, Justin Oestreich, Jason VandeKamp, Joe Chaplin Jr., Denis Czech, Andy Jones, Mitch Weiss, Doug Toepper, Kyle Hallin, Tony Schill, Shane Gerwing, Tyler English, Jason Schill (DNF), Travis Saurer (DNF), John Remington (DNF), Jacob Toepper (DNF), Eric Gadach (DNF), Alan Bohlman (DNF), Jason Hall (DNS), Josh Bazey (DQ)
B Feature – Joe Chaplin Jr., Kyle Hallin, John Remington, Tyler English, Elizabeth Toepper, James Giossi, Kevin Marlett, Cory Bruggeman, Tim Baxter, David Mastell, Robert Ellsworth, Colbie Gallipo, Travis Taylor, Jared Gorka (DNF), Greg Arnt (DNS), Jesse Krause (DNS)
Heat 1 –Bazey, Crapser, VandeKamp, Gerwing, Elizabeth Toepper, Gallipo (DNF), Bruggeman (DNF), Krause (DNF)
Heat 2 – Weiss, Czech, Hall, Gadach, Hallin, Marlett, English, Gorka (DNF)
Heat 3 – Saurer, Tony Schill, Jones, Doug Toepper, Baxter, Mastell, Taylor, Ellsworth (DNF)
Heat 4 – Oestreich, Bohlman, Jason Schill, Jacob Toepper, Remington, Giossi, Arnt, Joe Chaplin Jr. (DNF)
UMSS Winged Sprints
Alpha Apparel & Promotions Ultimate Sprint Race #1 (7 laps): 20G Chris Graf, 28 John Sernett, 9 Jared Goerges, 10x Jennifer Eriksen, 7M Bob McVitty DNF, 7 Dave Becker DNF, 14 Brooke Tatnell DQ.
Meeks Video Ultimate Sprint Race #2 (7 laps): 27 Carlson McCarl, 63 Jerry Richert Jr, 199 Ryan Bowers, 34 Rick Kobs, 34TW Gunner Cummings, 3TK Tony Kaus, 37 Sye Anderson.
Track Rat Photos Ultimate Sprint Race #3 (6 laps): 5c Cam Schafer, 23 Cody Hahn, 15 Chad Patterson, 91 Davey Heskin, 03 Jamey Ogston, 5 Anna Kouba.
Driverwebsites.com Challenge Race #1 (10 laps): Cummings, Bowers, Heskin, McCarl, Sernett, Eriksen, Hahn, Anderson, Kouba, McVitty DNF.
Sprintsource Challenge Race #2 (10 laps): Kobs, Graf, Ogston, Tatnell, Schafer, Patterson, Richert, Goerges, Kaus, Becker.
Mastell Brother Trailer Service Feature (25 laps): Tatnell, McCarl, Bowers, Graf, Schafer, Heskin, Richert, Sernett, Goerges, Patterson, Hahn, Anderson, Cummings, Kouba, Kaus, Kobs DNF, Ogston DNF, Becker DNF, Eriksen DNF, McVitty DNS.
UMSS Traditional Sprints
Hoosier Racing Tire Heat #1 (10 laps): 69S Jon Lewerer, 55 Joseph Kouba, 78 Rob Caho Jr, 81 Alex Peper, 21 Jimmy Kouba, 23 Jake Hendrickson.
Driverwebsites Heat #2 (10 laps): 12 Johnny Parsons III, 50 Chase Viebrock, 27 Mike Walters, 95 Kevin Bradwell, 1 Jeff Pellersels, 17B Eric Becker.
Sprintsource.com Heat #3 (10 laps): 54 Cam Schafer, 2K Jake Kouba, 87 Mike Mueller, 7B Scott Brandt, 34 Denny Stordahl, 21J Jori Hughes.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service A Main (25 laps): Mueller, Lewerer, Walters, Joseph Kouba, Hughes, Pellersels DNF, Jake Kouba DNF, Caho DNF, Brandt DNF, Schafer DNF, Becker DNF, Viebrock DNF, Bradwell DNF, Parsons DNF, Jimmy Kouba DQ, Hendrickson DQ, Peper DQ, Stordahl DQ.
Open Wheel Nationals results, night two – July 12
Advantage RV Modified Tour
Feature – Jesse Glenz, Mike Stearns, Andy Jones, Jason Grimes, Dave Mass, Dale Mathison, Jason Voigt, Matt Gilbertson, Scott Splittstoesser, Matt Leer, Travis Saurer, Jason Haugerud, Scott Miller, Doug Gustafson, Chet Atkinson (DNF), Dave Cain (DNF), Jake Miller (DNF), Jayson Good (DNF), Keith Tourville (DNF)
Heat 1 – Glenz, Jones, Grimes, Stearns, Saurer, Good, Scott Miller (DNF)
Heat 2 – Mathison, Haugerud, Voigt, Atkinson, Leer, Tourville (DNF)
Heat 3 – Mass, Cain, Splittstoesser, Gilbertson, Jake Miller, Gustafson (DNF)
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature – Jason Vandekamp, Justin Oestreich, Jason Schill, Travis Saurer, Tony Schill, Josh Bazey, Joe Chaplin Jr., Mitch Weisst t Miller, Doug Gustafson, Chet Atkinson (DNF), Dave Cain (DNF), Jake Miller (DNF), Jayson Good (DNF), Keith Tourville (DNF) Heat 1 – Glenz, Jonesp,Grimes,Stearns, Saurer, Good, Scott Miller (DNF) Heat 2 – Mathison, Haugerd, Voigt, Atkinson, Leer, Tourville (DNF) Heat 3 – Mass, Cain, Splittstoesser, Gilbertson, Jake Miller, Gustafson (DNF)
UMSS Winged Sprints
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service Feature – Scotty Thiel, Chris Graf, Ryan Bowers, Cody Hahn, Chad Patterson, Jared Goerges, Gunner Cummings, Tony Kaus, Jerry Richert Jr. Rick Kobs, John Serenett, Anna Kouba (DNF), Cam Shafer (DNF), Sye Anderson(DNF)
Driverwebsites.com Challenge Race 1 – Scotty Thiel, Cam Shafer, Rick Kobs, Sye Anderson, Gunner Cummings, Chris Graf, Anna Kouba
Sprintsource.com Challenge Race 2 – Ryan Bowers, Jared Goerges, Tony Kaus, Chad Patterson, Cody Hahn, John Sernett, Jerry Richert Jr.
Heat 1 – Graf, Patterson, Cummings, Bowers, Schafer, Sernett, Kouba
Heat 2 – Richert Jr., Anderson, Kaus, Thiel, Goerges, Kobs, Hahn
UMSS Traditional Sprints
Hoosier Racing Tire Heat #1 (10 laps): 54 Cam Schafer, 78 Rob Caho Jr., 87 Mike Mueller, 50 Chase Viebrock, 5 mike Haseltine, 69s Jon Lewerer, 7B Scott Brandt DNF, 21J Jori Hughes DNF.
Track Rat Photos Heat #2 (10 laps): 21 Jimmy Kouba, 2K Jake Kouba, , 27 Mike Walters, 1 Jeff Pellersels, 81 Alex Peper, 12 Johnny Parsons III, 23 Josh Hendrickson, 95 Kevin Bradwell.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service A Main (25 laps): Caho, Walters, Schafer, Jimmy Kouba, Mueller, Jake Kouba, Peper, Viebrock, Hendrickson, Haseltine, Lewerer, Pellersels, Brandt, Hughes DNF, Bradwell DNF, Parsons DNF.