Rice Lake WI, May 12 – Taking over the lead on lap ten when early leader John Kaanta pulled off the track under the yellow flag, Steve Laursen led the last thirty one laps to win the Trackside Collectibles 40 for WISSOTA Late Models Saturday night at the Rice Lake Speedway.
Laursen started on the outside of row two and battled with Pat Doar and Rick Hanestad for second in the early going as Kaanta assumed the early lead. Making some strong moves, Laursen was able to grab second while Kaanta continued to show the way.
Terry Lillo, challenging for a top five position, suddenly rolled to a halt on lap ten, triggering the first yellow flag of the event. Suddenly, without warning, leader Kaanta stopped in turn one, had a track official check out his car and then he turned and pulled into the pits. The report was that a suspension part had broken and Kaanta called it a night.
This surprising turn of events elevated Laursen into the lead and he took off on the green with Hanestad and Doar chasing. Doar went to the top side of the track to take over second and he appeared to be on the move temporarily but then he slide back a couple of spots. The yellow waved again on lap twelve when Ben Hanke spun and Denny Cutsforth got into the front stretch wall trying to avoid him.
Laursen continued to lead but the driver on the move was Jimmy Mars who started twelfth on the grid but was quickly slicing his way to the front. When the third and final yellow waved on lap nineteen for a Greg Nippoldt stall, Mars was all the way up to third and continuing to challenge.
The last twenty two laps ran nonstop with Mars quickly shooting past Hanestad for second on the green and nearly getting past Laursen in a banzai turn one move before Laursen fought him off down the back chute.
The race then settled in with Mars stalking Laursen and looking for an opening to get past. On lap twenty six Laursen slid off the bottom and Mars was nearly able to squeeze past but the Cumberland Wisconsin veteran fought off Mars in turn four and continued to hold the lead.
The last few laps moved by quickly and after Mars made one last attempt with four to go, Laursen stabilized his lead and as he crossed the checkered flag, he had Mars one car length behind as he took the victory. Hanestad ran a solid race to finish third with Darrell Nelson fourth and Marshall Fegers came from fourteenth to round out the top five.
For Laursen, the long time veteran who got his start racing at the Rice Lake Speedway many years ago, it was his twenty first career Late Model win at the track but first since the 2005 racing season. It was also the first for Laursen in his new #T18 ride that he co-owns with T.J. Adams.
The Late Models will return on July 28th for a Wollak Construction WISSOTA Late Model Challenge Series event.