Rice Lake WI – Week number four of the 2017 racing season was held Saturday night at the Rice Lake Speedway on a beautiful Spring evening, and five new winners graced victory lane for the first time this year. Scoring feature race wins on Saturday were Matt Leer, Eric Olson, Joe Chaplin Jr, Hunter VanGilder and George Richards. In the Modifieds, Super Stocks and Midwest Modifieds, it was the fourth different winner in four nights of racing while only the Street Stocks and Pure Stocks have seen repeat winners in Jay Kesan and Dustin Doughty with neither of them being able to reach victory lane again on Saturday.
Leer’s win in the Modified main event was a dominating one as he led all twenty laps of the nonstop feature race after starting on the outside pole. He used the high side of the track to get a run on Zack Drews and take the early lead. Drews kept him fairly close in the early going but Leer was eventually able to stretch his margin. While Drews maintained the runner up slot, behind him there was quite a bit of activity as Cory Mahder, Mike Anderson and Kevin Adams particularly were on the move.
Mahder caught Steve Hallquist for the third spot and they had an excellent race for position, running side by side for several laps before Mahder was able to secure the spot. Cory continued to advance, but without a yellow to help him, it took quite a few laps to close on Drews for second.
Leer continued to run easily on an open track and faced few challenges as he drove home for the win, maintaining a healthy advantage over the rest of the field. Mahder caught Drews for second and they raced hard for that position in the final five laps but it was Drews that held off Mahder for runner up honors. Anderson came home fourth while Adams advanced from twelfth to round out the top five.
Olson has been close so far this season and tonight he recorded his first Super Stock win of the season and twenty fifth of his racing career at Rice Lake. He started seventh on the grid but quickly moved into a challenging position. It was Don Cimfl Jr who led the opening laps as the field sorted itself out, with Jim Cimfl, Adam Soltis, Willie Johnsen Jr and Cory Davis all running in a tightly packed group.
Olson found an opening to move into second and just as he started to apply pressure to Cimfl Jr, Don slowed and pulled out of the racing groove with mechanical problems.
Olson took over the lead but he was receiving a strong challenge from Soltis and Johnsen Jr as the race reached its mid point. A spin triggered the yellow at the halfway point of the race and fifth running Davis dropped out with motor issues at this time.
On the green, Olson started to pull away and would continue to stretch his advantage as Soltis settled into second. Nick Traynor, who came from the back of the pack after a heat race fire caused him to pull off in that event, passed Johnsen Jr for third but Willie came right back and made a re pass to get the spot back. That’s how they finished with rookie Cooper Berlin completing the top five.
After a first lap yellow for a multi car spin and collision in turn three, the Midwest Modifieds went green to checkered in their main event. However, the first lap tangle did eliminate last week’s feature winner Shane Halopka from the race. The second try at a start saw George Dalbeck shoot into the early lead over Reid Tiegs and Chaplin Jr. Joe quickly took the second spot as he and Dalbeck became locked in a good battle for the lead. Karl Kolek edged past Denny Cutsforth for third as Austin Ellis and Grant Southworth both looked to move up in the field.
Chaplin Jr caught the leader and after looking for an opening for a couple of laps, he was able to get to the low groove down the back chute and edge past Dalbeck to take over the lead. Dalbeck fought back and the two leaders ran in close formation for a number of laps but Chaplin Jr continued to maintain the groove and did started to ease away from those chasing him as the race neared its conclusion.
Southworth was the driver on the move as he found a line on the track that allowed him to move up and he continued his charge, taking over the fourth spot and then closing on Kolek for that position.
With no yellow flags to alter his lead, Chaplin Jr continued to press on and he drove home for the win which was only his second ever feature win in the Midwest Modified class, with his first coming way back during the 2012 season. Dalbeck, in search of his first ever win at Rice Lake, had to settle for second over a strong running Kolek who held off Southworth for third with Cutsforth completing the top five.
The Street Stock feature was the nights wildest event, and while the list of non finishers was small, the action saw more than a few drivers come from the back to the front and others do just the opposite. The first couple of laps were breath taking as they pack came down the front stretch four wide on the opening circuit and there was still much three wide racing after that with drivers hunting for any kind of opening to muscle their way through.
Dustin White led for several laps and he fought to hold off a swarm of cars behind him. Jay Kesan and VanGilder were most fortunate at finding the holes as they moved up from the fourth and third rows respectively to race into challenging positions. When White slipped up the track, it was Kesan who drove under him to take over the lead as he searched for a track best third feature win.
After a couple of mid race yellows, the last half of the race went nonstop and as Kesan continued to lead, VanGilder started to track him down until Hunter was right on the rear bumper of Kesan. With less than two laps to go and the top two nose to tail, Kesan bobbled in turn one and VanGilder was right there to take advantage and he dove into the lead. Kesan gave it everything he had to take back the top spot, but the best he could do was ride the rear bumper of VanGilder as Hunter drove home for his first win of 2017. Cody Kummer, who was languishing near the back of the pack for much of the race, suddenly caught fire at the end of the event and raced his way all the way up to third at the finish. Shawn Amundson, who was involved in action all over the track, fought his way up to fourth at the end as Sam Fankhauser completed the top five.
The Pure Stock feature also went nonstop green to checkered and it was Rob Grabon who took the early lead when Tucker Quinn went high on the track and opened the door. Mike Blevins and Richards were quickly moving up with Richards finding all the openings to move into second and then drive past Grabon to take over the lead. Blevins moved past Grabon to take over second and then he tried to track down the leader.
Dustin Doughty was on the move also and took the third spot and continued to move up. As Richards moved away to a comfortable lead, the best battle of the race was for second with Blevins and Doughty fighting it out. Doughty was able to go to the outside and make the pass for second but Blevins continued to try and fight back. While George drove home for the win, the battle for second remained a good one with Doughty fighting off all challenges for second. Jason Havel drove a steady race to finish behind Blevins and Grabon rounded out the top five.
Next Saturday night, May 20th, the regular five division program of cars will be joined for the first time by the Mini Mods. The Mini Mods are smaller, open wheel cars powered by motorcycle engines and they are very quick cars. With most of their drivers coming from southern Minnesota, they will put on a complete program of heats and features along with the Pure Stocks, Street Stocks, Midwest Modifieds, Super Stocks and Modifieds. On Saturday, May 27th, the winged Sprint Cars and Traditional Sprints will both join the regular racing program.