THREE LAKES Wis. — The Pitlik & Wick/Custom Collision Midwest Modified special at Three Lakes TNT Speedway lived up to the billing as one of the best races this season in northern Wisconsin.Rhinelander’s Dan Melton held off Tomahawk’s Jeff Klopstein Jr. in a thrilling side-by-side battle over the final five laps of Saturday’s main event for the WISSOTA AMSOIL Dirt Track Series Midwest Modifieds, claiming the $1,000 top prize. Other action Saturday saw Rhinelander’s Dustin Miller nearly knock down the turn three guardrail, but rally to win the feature in the WADTS Street Stocks. Lac du Flambeau’s John Johnson Sr. returned to victory lane in the TNT Pure Stocks. Kasey Gross of Gleason win a third consecutive TNT Stinger feature and Birnamwood’s Sean Thayer returned to his winning ways in the TNT Trucks.
Melton led all 25 laps of the Pitlik & Wick/Custom Collision special from the second starting spot. After a couple early cautions, the drivers settled in. Melton’s first big challenge came in the form of Eagle River’s Bruce Belland, the winner of the previous two features at TNT. But on lap eight, Belland spun trying to pull to the inside of Melton, bringing out the caution.Greenland’s Joe Kin held the runner-up spot during the middle portion of the race, but was passed by Klopstein with six laps to go. Klopstein immediately set his sights on Melton.Two distinct grooves formed in the corners by the end of the race as the cars struggled to find traction. Melton chose the high line right next to the cushion of loose clay that defined the outer limits of the groove. Klopstein chose the bottom line, almost clipping the tractor tires that lined the apron of the race track. They battled side by side for the lead over the final five laps. Twice Klopstein pulled ahead, including when the two came around for the white flag. Melton had more traction off turn two on the final lap and edged back into the lead. Klopstein tried one last push on the inside in turns three and four, setting up a drag race to the finish line.“I put the pedal down on the last corner,” Melton said after the race. “I saw him down below and gave her everything I had. At that point, I either hit the wall or I don’t. Klopstein ran me clean. That’s what racing’s all about.”Melton edged Klopstein by less than a foot at the finish line to claim his second feature of the season, and perhaps the biggest win of his career.“It’s unbelievable,” Melton said.
“Just being in the modified and running with these big guys. It’s the greatest thing ever. It’s hard to describe right now.”Klopstein did not win, but took the points lead in the class by one point over Belland, who recovered from his spin to finish fifth. Kin finished third and Tomahawk’s C.J. Hedges Jr. took fourth.Sugar Camp’s Ben Pitlik seemed to be in command of the WADTS Street Stock feature until 10 laps to go. His car pushed up the race track exiting turn two, causing him to slow in order to avoid the guardrail. That handed the lead to Chetek’s Steve Karshbaum, who was in control until four laps remaining, when his wife, Heidi, lost the right front wheel on her sixth place-running automobile, setting up a bizarre chain of events.On the restart, Miller’s car shot up the race track in turn three. Sparks flew as he slammed into the outside guardrail, bringing out the caution. What appeared to be a major mechanical failure turned out to be a temporally stuck throttle. Miller continued.When the race resumed, Pitlik moved into position to take the lead. He attempted to drive through a narrow opening on the inside in turn three, but Karshbaum did not give him much racing room. The two collided, spun and were both sent to the back for bringing out the caution. Osceola’s Kelly Knutson inherited the lead because of the incident, but ran into his own problems on the next restart. His car hit a bump in turn two. As he tried to gather the car, Steve Karshbaum dove to the inside. The two made contact, lifting the rear wheels of Karshbaum’s car off the ground for a moment. The contact eventually knocked both drivers out of the race.
Thanks to all the attrition, only three cars remained on track with three laps to go — Miller, Pitlik and Rhinelander’s Aaron Ehmann. Pitlik had a tough time getting past Ehmann on the final restart, allowing Miller to pull away for his first feature win of the season. Pitlik finally passed Ehmann for second on the final lap.
Argonne’s Jeff Mullins had mechanical problems in the middle of the race and finished seventh, but inherited the points lead as the two men ahead of him entering the night — Jordan Kurtti and Jason Jensen — missed the race.Rhinelander’s Dan Schultz had a commanding lead in the TNT Pure Stock feature with four laps to go when a flat tire caused him to spin out, ending his chances at victory. Johnson inherited the lead and took his third feature win of the season. Points leader Brit Bromann of Rhinelander finished second, followed by two more Rhinelander drivers — Jesse Dettman and Austin Henricks. Schultz recovered from his spin to finish fifth.Gross passed Merrill’s Zach Degner for the lead on the fifth lap of Saturday’s TNT Stinger feature, but Logan Lannet of Bruce Crossing, Mich. stayed in close contact. Lannet threatened on a couple occasions, but could not get around Gross. Gross pulled away over the course of the final three laps for the win. Lannet, Degner, Gleason’s Brandon Langbecker and Rhinelander’s Richard Barlowski rounded out the top five.After losing his first truck feature of the season last week, Thayer was not ready to begin a losing streak. A three-wide maneuver on the opening lap moved Thayer from his fourth starting spot to the lead. He went on to lead all 15 laps for his eighth feature win in nine races this season. Birnamwood’s Forrest Crandall, last week’s winner Jeff McDonald of Rhinelander and Birnamwood’s Erik Kessen were the other finishers.Four wheelers have run at Three Lakes TNT Speedway all season as an exhibition class. Saturday, 10 quads showed up, allowing the entire field to race for pay for the first time this season.
Kyle Stricklin claimed the eight-lap main event on his Honda, holding off a late push from the Suzuki driven by Dave Bower. Dave Clifford, John Johnson and Jessie Sutherland rounded out the top five.Fans are reminded to mark their calendars for Saturday, July 28 when Three Lakes TNT Speedway hosts the third annual Jake Mullins Memorial WISSOTA AMSOIL Dirt Track Series Street Stock Special. The 25-lap main event will feature an increased payout. Racing resumes this Saturday night at TNT with hot laps at 6:30 and racing at 7:15.