THREE LAKES, Wis. — It was an emotional night for Argonne’s Todd Brass Saturday at Three Lakes TNT Speedway.Brass took home over $950 in cash and prizes as the winner of the third annual Jake Mullins Memorial WISSOTA AMSOIL Dirt Track Series Street Stock special, but the significance of the victory meant so much more.Brass was close friends with Mullins, also of Argonne, a well-liked racer at TNT Speedway who died in a passenger automobile accident in August 2010.“I almost starting crying,” Brass said of his emotions after taking the checkered flag in the 25-lap feature. “I wanted to win it for Jake and his family. If (Jake’s brother) Jeff (Mullins) couldn’t win it, I wanted to. Our families are so close, you know. I miss the little guy, as we all do.” The victory was even more poignant for Brass, who had his own brush with death earlier this year, surviving an passenger auto accident in Sugar Camp that led to an extended hospital stay.Brass was the class ofthe field, in just his second start at TNT Speedway since the accident, leading the final 20 laps.
He passed Jordan Kurtti of Bruce Crossing, Mich. on lap six and opened up a full straightaway lead on Tigerton’s Gary Kasperek and Sugar Camp’s Ben Pitlik by the time the race’s second and final caution flag flew on lap 19. Brass felt the heat over the final six-lap dash, but slowly edged away from Kasperek and Pitlik, who finished second and third.“I knew Kasperek was there. I knew Pitlik was there. I just ran my own line,” Brass said.After doing donuts on the front stretch, Brass got out of his car and climbed on top of it, to the delight of the packed house. But Brass was more reflective than jubilant after the race. He recalled how often he thought about Mullins while lying in the hospital bed earlier this year.
“A lot actually, because that could have been me too,” he said. “I was very fortunate, to be out here three months after crushing three vertebrae. You know, it’s very emotional.”Jeff Mullins, the points leader in the WADTS Street Stocks at TNT Speedway, was the sentimental favorite Saturday, but had to scramble to get his car put back together after a heat race accident between himself and Pitlik caused significant front suspension damage. Mullins was not much of a factor from his 13th starting spot and finished ninth. Still, he maintained a nine-point lead of Laona’s Jake Terry, who finished fifth Saturday, and a 13-point lead over Kurtti, who suffered mechanical problems in the feature for the second straight week and finished 13th. The Mullins Memorial was the highlight of a big night of racing that featured a season-high 58 automobiles. Duane Dunbar of Marenisco, Mich. won the WADTS Midwest Modified feature. Lac du Flambeau’s John Johnson Sr. won the TNT Pure Stock feature. Gleason’s Brandon Langbecker claimed victory in a wild finish in the TNT Stingers. Birnamwood’s Sean Thayer claimed his 10th feature win of the season in the TNT Trucks.There were a couple multi-car wrecks in the Midwest Modified feature, the most significant occurred on lap five and involved Eagle River’s Bruce Helland,who entered the race tied with Tomahawk’s Jeff Klopstein Jr. for the class points lead.
Klopstein and Rhinelander’s Dan Melton made contact in a battle for the third position, causing a chain reaction behind them in the tightly-packed field. Belland, running seventh at the time, was hit from behind as he slowed to avoid the potential wreck in front of him. Belland spun in front of the back half of the field and was slammed into by Guy Carley, Travis Friske and Stan Rychlock, none of whom could avoid the wreck. It knocked Belland out of the race in 13th position.
Dunbar picked his way through the field on the restart, taking second by lap six. The field bunched up again following a wreck on lap 12 involving Jack Henricks, Melton and Rychlock. Dunbar blew past Cory Dickman of Bruce Crossing, Mich. on lap 13 and cruised to his second win of the season at TNT. Rhinelander’s Dennis Mikkelson scored his best finish of the season, passing Dickman for second in the waning laps. Joe Kin and Klopstein rounded out the top five. Klopstein opened a six-point lead of Tomahawk’s C.J. Hedges Jr. and a seven-point lead over Belland with four races remaining toward the track championships.There’s a saying in racing, “it’s either checkers or wreckers,” meaning that a driver either wins the race or crashes trying. For Langbecker in the Stingers it was checkers and wreckers. Gleason’s Kasey Gross was well on his way to his third feature victory in a row, with a comfortable four-car length lead on the final lap, but Gross’s car pushed high off turn two and smacked the outside guard rail. As his car came back down the track, it sideswiped Langbecker, who was running second, sending Langbecker’s car momentarily airborne.
The incident brought out the red flag. Because the leader had taken the white, by rule, the race was over. Scoring reverted back to the last completed lap. Gross, who was deemed to be the cause of the accident, was put to the end of the lead lap and Langbecker was credited with the win. His car made it to victory lane, with help from the wrecker. Johnson passed Rhinelander’s Tyler Lundberg for the lead on lap three of the Pure Stock feature, but Lundberg stayed in close proximity most of the race. A caution at the back of the field with two laps remaining set up a green-white-checkered finish. Rhinelander’s Brit Bromann, who rallied from 14th following an early accident to third, passed Lundberg for second on the final restart and set his sights on Johnson. Bromann made a move to the inside on the final lap but ran out of time as Johnson won by less than a car length. Behind Johnson, it was a five-pack of Rhinelander racers — Bromann, Lundberg, Dan Schultz, Austin Henricks and Rick England.Thayer continued his domination in the Trucks, passing Larry Roper Jr. of Gleason for the lead on lap five. He cruised to his tenth win of the season.
Birnamwood’s Erik Kessen, Roper Jr., Birnamwood’s Sean Janssen and Deerbrook’s Ed Andraschko rounded out the top five. Thayer enjoys the largest points lead of any driver at TNT. He is 48 points ahead of Kessen. Thayer is also the first driver to hit the 600-point plateau this season, sitting at an even 600 points after 11 races.Races continue this Saturday at Three Lakes TNT Speedway. In addition to a full race program, there will be an autograph session at intermission where fans will have a chance to meet all their favorite local racers. Hot laps being at 6:45 p.m., with racing at 7:15 p.m.