Rice Lake WI, – The historic sixtieth consecutive season of dirt track racing at the Rice Lake Speedway began in record breaking fashion Saturday night. With one of the largest crowds in recent years on hand for the opener, the track broke another record with its earliest opening night of racing in the sixty years of its operation.
One hundred and two cars from three states signed in for the opening race program, and when the final checkered flag had been waved, opening night winners included Kevin Adams, Ben Hillman, Tito Viltz, Eric Olson and Joel Hinrichs.
Mike Anderson sat on the pole for the Modified feature race but it was Tim McMann who edged in front of Anderson to take the early lead. However, Anderson fought back and they were running nearly side by side for the lead with Curt Myers and Rich Lofthus battling right behind them. Things went badly away for Anderson when he clipped a corner tire in turn two and spun, ending his evening and triggering the first yellow flag of the event.
On the restart, McMann continued to hold the lead but Kevin Adams quickly moved up from the third row and after sweeping past Myers on the high side on the restart, he matched that move within two laps to drive past McMann and take over the lead.
Once in front, he started to stretch his advantage while Lofthus battled with McMann and Paul Brust moved up quickly from the fifth row.
Adams continued to run unchallenged up front until a late race yellow set up a three lap sprint to the finish. Adams pulled away again while McMann had his hands full with both Brust and Lofthus. Adams continued on for the win and McMann was able to fight off Brust and Lofthus while Kevin Eder’s late charge saw him crack the top five.
The Super Stock feature saw a wild finish to the event as the leaders slugged it out for the win. Shawn Rivord was the early leader of the race but Andy Grymala pulled up beside him to challenge for the top spot. Ben Hillman was able to find an opening and he ducked between the two leaders and then got under Rivord to take over the top spot. Eric Olson was also able to fight through the congestion and he took the second spot and set out after Hillman.
Hillman continued to hold the lead over a long, green flag run as Olson gradually caught up to him and did make a couple of attempts to edge by on the low side. Meanwhile, as Grymala continued to hold third, Shane Kisling, Scott Lawrence and Jason Forehand were three drivers making a concerted effort to charge up from the middle of the pack.
As the laps ran down, Olson was again making hard attempts to get past Hillman. Eric almost got his nose under Hillman a couple more times, and the leaders made slight contact. As they raced down to the white flag, Olson made another hard charge and the leaders made contact and both drivers lost control and spun, triggering the yellow. Olson was asked to leave the track and Hillman was restored to the lead for a two lap dash to the finish.
Hillman pulled away on the start but Kisling made a strong move on the high side to pass Grymala for second. Hillman had a comfortable lead that Kisling wasn’t able to close in the small amount of time left, and Grymala was able to hold off a late charge by Lawrence for third. Forehand was also able to crack the top five at the conclusion of the event.
While things didn’t work out for Olson in his Super Stock, his first run in a number of years behind the wheel of a Street Stock was a winning one, as he topped a strong field to take the win in that class. He got the jump on Josh Wahlstrom to take the early lead and basically ran unchallenged for the win.
While Olson had a healthy sized lead most of the race, the battle was behind him as Mike Knudtson was having a strong run in second while the chargers were Jimmy Randall and Ran Hanestad. Both came from middle of the pack starts to race into challenging positions.
When a late race collision set up a two lap dash to the finish, they made their move. Olson continued to run up front by himself with Knudtson continuing for a solid second place finish but the late runs by Hanestad and Randall saw them move into third and fourth at the checkered with Adam Soltis completing the top five.
A full field of Midwest Modifieds ran a smooth event with only two yellow flags to slow the progress. For Tito Viltz, it was a great recovery to a shaky start for the night. Tito was involved in a crash in hot laps but he was able to make repairs and things went much smoother for him from that point. He started on the pole for the feature race and checked out on the field for the win. He ran up front the whole race and Grant Southworth controlled second for the fifteen laps also, but behind them there was a lot of scrambling for position.
Joe Chaplin Jr held second for much of the race with Nick Koehler in third but Ryan Viltz made a determined run to the front. Late in the contest he passed Chaplin Jr for third and nearly caught Southworth for second while his brother continued on for the win. Travis Anderson ran a steady race to claim the fifth spot.
The Pure Stock feature saw the closest finish of the night as the leaders raced three wide to the checkered flag. For Joel Hinrichs, his decision to drop down from the Street Stocks to the Pure Stocks proved to be a good one as he held off Bob Thompson and George Richards to take the win.
Kolby Kiehl and Chad Eastman battled in the early going for the lead but Hinrichs moved up from the second row to take the top spot. Richards moved into second and began to cut into Hinrichs’ lead. Several times George tried to get inside Joel, but Hinrichs was always able to hold him off. As the leaders got into traffic near the end of the event, things got even tighter as Thompson moved to the high side and began to rapidly reel in the leaders.
On the final circuit, Thompson went high and Richards cut low as Hinrichs raced the middle of the track and at the line, Hinrichs nipped Thompson by half a car length with Richards another half length behind both. Eastman and Kiehl held on to complete the top five.
The second race of the 2012 season will be held next Saturday night with the first green flag to drop at 6:30 p.m. The Best Appearing car in each class will be awarded plaques Saturday, after they were judged tonight. Fans are reminded that the first special event of the racing season is coming up quickly, when the USMTS Modified series visits the Rice Lake Speedway on Thursday, April 26th. Drivers from throughout the country will match up against the best area drivers in an event that will pay the highest Modified purse in the history of the track with the winner going home with $4,000. Also on the card that night will be the Pure Stocks and WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds.