Perfect weather conditions and a wide, racy track greeted drivers and fans to St. Croix Valley Raceway on their Senior Night promotion, where all fans over 65 years of age were granted free admission. The night concluded with local racer Josh Bazey qualifying for the WISSOTA Midwest Modified Race of Champions at annual WISSOTA 100 in September.
For the first time in a month, a fellow Pure Stock driver managed to pass the red hot Jason Havel on the track. Havel, winner of the last four Pure Stock features, started at the back of the thirteen car field – courtesy of the track’s “two-in-a-row” rule. (Any Pure Stock or Future Four driver that wins two consecutive features must start last the following week). During heat racing action, Brandon Davis dueled with Havel, passing him on two separate occasions for the lead. But each time, Havel was able charge back – and eventually claim the win. For the feature, Davis started fourth and battled with Jake Silbernagel, Kyle Hallin and Jon Wigchers for the top spot. By the time the field was stopped for a lap five caution due to Greg Meidlinger’s extremely hard crash on the back stretch, Havel was part of the front group. After the crash, early reports were that Meidlinger was definitely “shaken up”, but otherwise alright. Back under green, Davis and Havel each managed to pass Wigchers – who was leading – and the two resumed their battle from the heat race. Just like in the qualifier, it would be Havel finding the most speed and nabbing an incredible fifth consecutive win. Davis gave chase, but had to settle for second in front of Wigchers, Justin Rick and Silbernagel. After the win, Havel continued to invent new ways to celebrate. This week he again had several treats for young fans. Three lucky youngsters posed on the car in Havel’s makeshift victory lane in front of the flag stand, and all three were awarded a trophy by Havel as well. While Havel’s speed swells his win count, his fan count is growing just as fast due to his penchant for including young race fans in his victory celebrations.
Speaking of popular wins with the fans, Greg Gunderson dominated for his third consecutive UMSS Micro sprint feature victory. Gunderson, a hearing impaired racer from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, parked his Purple.us number 22x in Victory Lane to a grandstand full of fans “waving” their applause. The elated Gunderson, repeating his generosity from last week, posed with a young fan and gave his trophy to her after the photographers completed their work. Joining “Silent Thunder” in the exhibition class were Ty Sampair, Dustin Berger and Chris Lanz.
In the North Branch Bullseye Shooting Range Future Four division, driver actions leading to fan appreciation were again on display. Opening night feature winner Damon Roberts and Nicki DuBois paced the eleven car field to Shaun Cimfl’s green flag with Roberts showing the fast way early. Last week’s winner Oliver Swanson, Kyle Dahlheimer and Kris Kaphing were duking it out for second while simultaneously chasing after Roberts. After a lap seven caution, Dahlheimer and Roberts tussled for the lead while Swanson and Kaphing were joined by Chris Rick in the battle for third. Dueling hot and heavy with Roberts, Dahlheimer’s right front wheel gave way in turn four, ending his night. Coming to the checkers, Roberts was still leading, but coming to turn four for the final time, there was contact between Roberts and Kaphing. With Roberts sideways, Kaphing had an opportunity to drive through Roberts for a potential win. However, Kaphing made the decision to slam on the brakes and avoid a wreck. The move cost him as Roberts recovered to win the race he led the entire distance. Swanson came home second ahead of Rick while Kaphing accelerated to fourth with Bob Carver Jr. rounding out the top five.
Easily the biggest thrill of the night came courtesy of the Sterling Bank UMSS Traditional Sprint cars. “Hurricane” Katrina Sautbine and Denny Stordahl started on the front row and battled all race long with Kevin Bradwell for the win. Just past halfway, Bradwell looped his sprinter, bringing out the caution. It didn’t take long for The Rocketman to work back to the front and stalk Stordahl and Sautbine, who were still locked in their spirited duel for the trophy. After the white flag waved, Bradwell continued his search for a path to the front and squeezed through a low-side opening on the final corner. The trio of Sautbine, who led every lap, Stordahl and Bradwell came to the double checkers in three-wide formation to the gasps and delight of the crowd. By mere inches, Bradwell edged to the exciting win over Sautbine and Stordahl. Tom Porter was the final runner as Jack Clark and Lucas Milz left with mechanical woes.
The drama continued right to the end with the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds, with a 21 car field on hand for the WISSOTA Race of Champions qualifier, as well as a final tune-up for next week’s big Open Wheel Nationals showdown. Multi-feature winner Josh Bazey and Ryan Viltz rumbled the fender-less hot rods to green. Viltz, making his first visit to The Valley in a number of years, dominated in winning his heat race and led for the first half of the race. Uncharacteristically, Viltz momentarily lost the handle on his #3 mount and the slip-up cost him dearly as he slid back to fifth place. He was able to recover, however, before bringing out a caution flag. That left Bazey to battle for the lead with Justin Oestreich while Grant Southworth, Jeremy Houle and Viltz vied for third. A late caution in turn two for Oestreich re-bunched the field, with a handful of cars receiving damage and Oestreich unable to continue. With just two laps to go, Bazey was at the front, but his left front was no longer holding air. Any other tire would have spelled certain doom for Bazey, but the Luck, Wisconsin chauffer muscled his three-shoed ride around the quarter mile twice more, barely nudging out Houle, Viltz, Southworth and Jimmy Randle, the longtime Street Stock pilot having a successful first night his Midwest Modified. The win qualifies Bazey for the Race of Champions event at the prestigious WISSOTA 100 this September in Huron, South Dakota.
This Friday, June 29, the wait is finally over! The highly anticipated Jack Links Open Wheel Nationals/Kouba Memorial Race arrives at The Valley. UMSS winged Sprint cars will headline the extravaganza and chase after a $2000 winner’s check. Three other fenderless classes will also be on hand, including open modifieds racing for $1500 to win, WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds vying for $750 and the UMSS Traditional Sprints are motoring after a $500 top prize. Additional details for these or any other future events at St. Croix Valley Raceway can be found on the track’s website, www.scvraceway.com.
Future Fours – feature: Damon Roberts, Oliver Swanson, Chris Rick, Kris Kaphing, Bob Carver Jr. Dylan Roberts, Derek Reding, Kyle Dahlheimer, Nicki DuBois, Nick Axelsen,
Pure Stocks – feature: Jason Havel, Brandon Davis, Jon Wigchers, Justin Rick, Jake Silbernagel, Kyle Hallin, Tony DuBois, Greg Hallin, Dennis Storhdahl, Brian Erickson, Greg Meidlinger, Mike Olson, Mason McEvers.
UMSS Micro Sprints – feature: Greg Gunderson, Ty Sampair, Dustin Berger and Chris Lanz
UMSS Traditional Sprints – feature: Kevin Bradwell, Katrina Sautbine, Denny Stordahl, Tom Porter, Jack Clark, Lucas Milz.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds – feature: Josh Bazey, Jeremy Houle, Ryan Viltz, Grant Southworth, Jim Randle, Tony Schill, Jason Schill, Corey Fogleson, Tyler English, Mike Haseltine, Frank Fabio, Doug Toepper, Jacob Toepper, Kevin Marlett, Justin Oestreich, Mike Halvorsen, Eric Gadach, Vince Corbin, Elizabeth Toepper, Greg Arnt, Corey Eystad.