Rice Lake WI,– Due to schedule quirks and rain, it’s been eighteen days since the last race at the Rice Lake Speedway. So, when racers pulled into the track on Saturday, it was almost like the opener again with a number of new cars and drivers on hand for the first time this year. It was also Kid’s night at the track with over sixty bicycles given away along with many door prized for the adults on hand too.
Making the most impact of any of the new drivers by far was Kori Richter. The veteran from Rice Lake, who ran a Super Stock one night this year at the track but hasn’t seriously raced since he retired in 2007, put together a Street Stock along with another veteran racer Mark Ewert and they debuted the car Saturday night. When the final checkered flag flew, Richter had left the strongest field of Street Stocks of the season in his dust as he drove to a feature win in his initial appearance of the year.
It was a good night for the Anderson brothers from Colfax too as both Mike, in the Modifieds and Travis in the Midwest Mods, won their second feature races of the season at the track. Other winners included Shawn Amundson, who had a special night of his own as he won his first ever feature race at the track and Tim Johnson who dominated the Super Stock feature.
Sixteen Street Stocks took the green flag for their main event in a field that included defending national champion Tim Johnson but it was Jay Kesan and Simon Wahlstrom who battled for the early lead. Hunter VanGilder looked to be part of the lead pack also with Richter quickly moving up after starting in the fourth row. Kesan Wahlstrom and VanGilder continued to battle for the lead but others like Cody Kummer were also on the move as a pack of about ten cars ran in the lead group, changing positions and trading lanes on the track on every lap.
Two yellows with five laps completed for spins bunched the field even further and Richter, who had worked his way up to third, took off like a rocket on the restart as he drove to the cushion and powered around Kesan to take over the lead. Richter, looking quite comfortable in the lead despite his lack of experience driving this car, started to edge away from the field as the field for second got more intense with Kummer and Sam Fankhauser challenging Kesan for second.
One more late yellow when Adam Soltis got turned set up a two lap sprint to the finish. Richter took off but nearly jumped the cushion as Kesan got beside him down the back chute. But using lots of speed, Richter was able to outrun Kesan on the high side and came home with a two car length win. Kummer came from the fifth row for third trailed by Fankhauser and Soltis. For Richter, it was his first Street Stock feature win since a lone triumph during the 1998 racing season and it first win at the track since 2007.
Also scoring a significant feature win was Shawn Amundson. The third generation racer from Rice Lake has been solid in his first full year of racing and Saturday everything fell into place as he recorded his initial checkered flag. Amundson started on the outside pole and quickly pulled away from Tucker Quinn to take the early lead. As Amundson added to his advantage, a big battle broke out for the second place with C. J. Wagner moving into that position where he was soon challenged by Jason Havel and Mike Knopps. Havel and Wagner were battling very hard for that spot when they bumped and Knopps took advantage of the situation to drive by both of them and take over second.
Meanwhile, Amundson was solid as a rock as he put distance on the rest of the field until a late race spin set up a three lap dash to the wire. Once again Amundson took off strong as we wasn’t about to allow the three car battle behind him affect his position. He put distance on the field and wasn’t truly challenged as he drove on for the significant win. A bumper banging duel for second saw Havel prevail over Knopps for second with Wagner and Nick Traynor next in line.
Travis Anderson was driving a rocket ship Saturday as he dominated the Midwest Modified field to record his second win of the year at Rice Lake. He started on the pole and quickly put distance on the field as Kent Baxter, Grant Southworth and Ryan Viltz battled for second. Viltz was the driver on the move as he dove low and moved past both Baxter and Southworth to take over second. While Anderson put distance on the field, Tito Viltz and Shane Halopka also joined the battle for second as four cars raced for the spot.
Spins on lap five and seven bunched the field and both times Ryan Viltz made a big dive low in turn one in an effort to get past Anderson but both times Travis fought off the challenge and then gradually put a little distance on the field. Ryan remained strong in second but the race for third saw Southworth and Tito Viltz continue to duel with Michael Truscott making a big charge after he had a bad opening lap and dropped to midpack.
As Anderson motored on to the win with Ryan Viltz chasing, Truscott continued his charge as he dove low and took over the third spot late in the race. Southworth held off Tito to complete the top five.
Johnson, chasing the absent Curt Myers in the national Super Stock point race, won a strange Super Stock feature. Spins and crashes dominated the early part of the event after the three previous feature races had been run off exceedingly smooth. Four yellows in the first two laps reduced the field by over 50% when they finally decided to settle down and start racing.
Johnson started on the outside pole and managed to stay in front of all the carnage early, and when nonstop racing finally broke out, he quickly moved away from the pack. Showing significant speed after a slow start to the season, Aaron Wilson moved into the second spot and was able to stay with Johnson once the racing broke out. The top two put distance on the rest of the field and for the last eighteen laps, Johnson continued to maintain about a three car length margin over Wilson, who refused to go away.
However, Johnson has not won multiple national championships by making mistakes and he continued to motor on for his first win of the year at Rice Lake in the Supers. Wilson finished a fine second with the promise of perhaps even better things in the near future. Mike Anderson passed a slowing Jason Forehand late in the contest to finish third with Bart Steffen completing the top five.
The biggest field of the night was in the Modified class and all nineteen cars on hand took the green flag for a race, that unfortunately, closely resembled the Super Stocks in terms of number of yellows and the high rate of retirees from the event.
Mark Hanson took the early lead in the race with Matt Leer and Mike Anderson challenging him. The top three were putting on a good race for the lead with both Dave Baxter and Tim McMann moving in to add to the lead pack.
The first yellow flew with six laps complete when current national point leader Kevin Adams rolled to a halt after contact. His night was done and on the restart, Anderson was able to get around Hanson to take over the lead. Leer, Hanson and Baxter then engaged in a good battle for second as the race remained under the green until past the halfway point when the yellow flag became a far to common occurrence.
As Anderson continued to lead, Leer challenged Hanson for second until mechanical issues sent him to the pits and later Hanson would spin while battling for second which ruined his night. Gradually, Tim Johnson, doing triple duty as usual, worked his way into contention after starting in the fourth row. Through the last five laps of the race, he became the main competition for Anderson as he looked to drive around Mike on the high side on the last few restarts.
Through things got close on the last couple laps, Anderson put off the challenges from Johnson to hold on through the long contest to record his second Rice Lake win of the year. Baxter finished a solid third with McMann and rookie Kerry Halopka completing the top five.
Racers will now make a quick turnaround as the biggest spectator drawing event of the year at the track takes place next Thursday, July 2nd when the speedway presents its annual Firecracker special. Trying to get off the holiday night when most communities have their fireworks displays, and with July 3rd being the legal holiday this year, the speedway will hold its annual Firecracker special on Thursday night. Spectators are urged to get to the track early to secure the best seats, as this event typically packs the facility to its limits. The draw for racers closes at 6:30 p.m and racers running late are encouraged to call to get a spot in the lineup. For the racers, the draw/redraw format will be used for this race with with hot laps and racing to follow the 6:30 p.m cutoff. All five classes will be in competition on Thursday. It will also be Relay at the Races night with many activities planned as a part of the American Cancer Society relay.
If the Thursday, July 2nd race gets rained out, the rain date for the fireworks will be on Saturday, July 4th. However, if racing is completed as scheduled on Thursday, there will be no racing at the track on July 4th.
Call Dave Adams at 715-205-2861 or Mitch Hansen at 715-205-1122 with any questions or check the speedway website at www.ricelakespeedway.net or the speedway facebook page.