by Nick Gima
Superior, WI, August 10 — Superior’s Willie Johnsen Jr and George Dalbeck of Wakefield, MI, ended up on Gondik Law Speedway’s victory stage on Friday night after long dry spells, as Kivi Brothers Trucking presented the track’s “Meet the Drivers” night program.
The hot, muggy weather didn’t keep the crowd or the cars away, as 89 racers parked their rides on the front straight to welcome the large number of fans who visited on the track collecting souvenir photos, autographs and treats from their heroes.
Johnsen admitted to the fans from the stage after his WISSOTA Super Stock feature that he almost didn’t show up to race, confessing, “I’m not really into racing lately.” But starting from the pole with a lightning-fast race car just might be the cure for that.
After outrunning fellow front-row starter Matt Deragon through the first turn and fending off a determined Andy Grymala for the first four laps, Johnson restarted on the point after a stoppage for Jim Campbell’s spin. Scott Lawrence stole second from Grymala after the restart, but with the remaining 16 laps clicking off without further delay Johnson built a solid 12-car-length lead.
Track points leader Kevin Burdick had worked his way forward from a row 4 start to a top-five position on the restart, and by mid-race he was on the back bumper of Lawrence in a heated debate for second. But as that pair battled Johnsen maintained his advantage – so much so that by the time Burdick finally cleared Lawrence for second, the difference to the lead was too much to overcome in just the five remaining laps.
Dave Flynn, who started alongside Burdick in the fourth row, slipped by Lawrence in the final laps to take third, and Grymala came home in fifth.
Dalbeck was fast all night in WISSOTA Midwest Modified action, and from his outside-front-row start he led the entire 20 laps of the division’s A-main.
Behind the leader there were plenty of heated battles, including the one between Deven Van House and an impressive Andrew Inman for second. But even a brief case of “yellow fever” from laps 5 through 7 for an assortment of spins didn’t give anyone a chance to challenge Dalbeck for the lead on each of the four restarts.
Those restarts did give Skeeter Estey a chance to climb through the field from his fourth-row start, and on the last lap 7 re-do he snuck under Inman for third. Two laps later he worked a similar move to take second away from Van House and began to chip away at Dalbeck’s margin. By lap 12 Estey was on Dalbeck’s rear push-bar and threatening, and on lap 14 Estey used a strong inside move to pull alongside and edge ahead coming under the flag stand, but Nick Ziegler’s spin in turn 4 negated the move.
On the final restart Van House nosed ahead of Estey for second, allowing Dalbeck to ease away, and the visitor from the Upper Peninsula held on for his first win in several years here. Estey eventually won the battle for second over Van House, and Dan Kinglsey, who had several passes for position negated by the rash of caution flags earlier in the run, worked his way through for fourth ahead of Inman.
On a night packed with exciting races, one that will be remembered in these parts for quite a while was the WISSOTA Modified 20-lap main event. Bob Broking started on the outside of the front row and outran polesitter Steve Stuart into the first turn for the initial lead. Kevin Eder quickly followed Broking into second, while Kelly Estey held fourth ahead of a side-by-side battle for fifth between Al Uotinen and Neil Balduc.
The lead trio put on a great show for the fans over the first nine laps, until Eder completed an inside pass on Broking to take the lead, and Stuart grabbed second by sweeping around on the high side. Stuart maintained his momentum and got by Eder two laps later, but Eder stayed very close as the two Ashland drivers pulled away from the field.
The race’s only caution stop was for Estey’s spin on lap 13 after contact with Johnny Broking. Jody Bellefeuille, who had been mired in heavy traffic due to his sixth-row starting position, restarted seventh and began a high-side assault on the field over the final seven laps, while Bob Broking displaced Eder for second. With four laps left Estey grabbed second from Broking, and a lap later Bellefeuille took third, and that pair closed on Stuart quickly.
As the white flag waived over them, the leaders ran in tight formation, with Estey to Stuart’s left flank and Bellefeuille on Stuart’s tail. Although Stuart was running a high line, Bellefeuille ran right against the wall and pulled even with the leader down the back straight. Bellefeuille’s momentum off the final turn gave him the edge, and the Duluth, MN, veteran earned his second feature win here of the season by just a few feet over Stuart, with Estey less than a car-length back in third in a thrilling finish. Eder held off Bob Broking for fourth.
The 20-lap WISSOTA Late Model feature saw some new names at the front of the field, but once Travis Budisalovich of Minneapolis, MN, got to the front of the field he had clear sailing to his division-leading third A-main win of the year.
Front-row starters Kevin Carlson and Robbie Cooper battled early until Cooper bobbled in turn 2 on lap 2, allowing Aaron Lillo to slip by for second, with John Toppozini and Budisalovich in tow. A lap later Lillo went around Carlson and tried to run away with the lead, but Carlson stayed close.
On lap 6 Carlson challenged Lillo again, and by this time Budisalovich was in position to overtake both if the opportunity presented itself. On lap 9 Carlson finally cleared Lillo, and Dave Esse’s spin a lap later gave Budisalovich the opening he needed. On the restart Budisalovich went outside on Carlson, grabbed the lead a lap later, and ran away from the field.
In the waning laps tenth-starting Jeff Massingill made some noise, moving by Lillo for third with six to go and passing Carlson with five to go to finish a distant second. Carlson stayed close for an impressive third-place run, and Terry Lillo passed his son Aaron late for fourth.
Brule’s Kyle Copp returned to Victory Lane for the first time in a while after Friday’s WISSOTA Pure Stock feature. Copp, who started on the outside of row 2, has overcome engine issues and a rollover earlier this season, but in this run the car looked as strong as it had all season as he worked his way to the front.
Aaron Bernick held off polestarter Jared Akervik early on, but Jeremy Cash worked low on both to take over the top spot after two laps. The lead pack was a close-knit seven cars deep as Copp slipped by Bernick for second on lap 4, and when Akervik and James Vendela bumped the field scrambled, allowing Cory Jorgensen and Dylan Shelton to move into the top five.
Cash’s bobble on lap 5 cost him the lead, and Copp capitalized, pulling away from the wild four-car battle for second. On lap 9 Akervik’s car broke loose, the right-rear wheel came off, and he bounced off the back-straight wall and nearly spun, with the balance of the field diving and dodging to avoid him.
From the ensuing restart on Copp had to fight off a determined Vendela for his second feature win of the season here. Shelton took advantage of other drivers’ ailing rides to take third, as Jorgensen finished the race with a flat left-front tire and Bernick’s car began smoking and never made it to the finish. Cash took fourth, and Trevor Treviranus came home fifth but failed to scale the car afterwards, costing him a career-best finish and giving the spot to Shaina Rapp.
On Friday, August 18, the track will host its Afco Shocks Race of Champions qualifying features for the Late Models, Modifieds, Super Stocks and Midwest Mods, with the Pure Stocks in action as well. Also on tap will be kids’ “big wheel” races; entrants can register this week on the Speedway’s Facebook page. Hot laps are at 6:30, and the first heat race of the night takes the green flag at 7 pm.
The final night of the regular season will be on Friday, August 24, and the 30th annual Northern Nationals are set for September 6-8. The Gondik Law Speedway is located at 4700 Tower Ave in Superior. For more information log onto the track’s website, www.gondiklawspeedway.com.
WISSOTA Late Models
Feature: 1-10: Travis Budisalovich; Jeff Massingill; Kevin Carlson; Terry Lillo; Aaron Lillo; Par Doar; Darrell Nelson; Tim McMann; Kyle Peterlin; Dave Flynn.
11-14: John Toppozini; Dave Esse; Chris Lillo; Robbie Cooper.
Heat 1: Nelson; Cooper; Toppozini; Carlson; T Lillo; Peterlin; C Lillo.
Heat 2: Doar; McMann; Budisalovich; A Lillo; Massingill; Flynn; Esse.
Feature: 1-10: Jody Bellefeuille; Steve Stuart; Kelly Estey; Kevin Eder; Bob Broking; Darrell Nelson; Al Uotinen; Cody Carlson; Johnny Broking; Todd Gehl.
11-17: Neil Balduc; Rick Rivord; Cody Wolkowski; Pat Cook; Dave Cain; Ryan Garson; Danny Vang.
Heat 1: B Broking; J Broking; Uotinen; Estey; Nelson; Bellefeuille; Carlson; Rivord; Cook.
Heat 2: Eder; Balduc; Cain; Stuart; Wolkowski; Gehl; Garson; Vang.
WISSOTA Super Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Willie Johnsen Jr; Kevin Burdick; Dave Flynn; Scott Lawrence; Andy Grymala; DJ Keeler; Jim Campbell; Matt Deragon; Nick Oreskovich; Doug Koski.
11-14: Rita Anderson; Jon Hammitt; Mike Bellefeuille; Annika Hammitt.
Heat 1: Lawrence; Burdick; Keeler; Deragon; J Hammitt; A Hammitt; Eder; Matt Hammitt.
Heat 2: Flynn; Oreskovich; Grymala; Johnsen; Bellefeuille; Campbell; Koski; Anderson.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1-10: George Dalbeck; Skeeter Estey; Deven Van House; Dan Kinglsey; Andrew Inman; Brandon Copp; Ryan Savoy; Shane Howell; Jeff Forseen; Justin Bassa.
11-20: Jack Rivord; Craig Lofdahl; Tanner Williamson; Colin Chaschuk; Nick Ziegler; David Simpson; Don Craig; Billy Milne; Dave Kivi; Mack Estey.
21-23: McLean Andrews; Cole Chernosky; Nick DaRonco; Wyatt Boyum.
Heat 1: S Estey; Inman; Andrews; Chernosky; Lofdahl; Kivi; Dave DeVente; Gunner Peterson.
Heat 2: Kingsley; Rivord; Craig; M Estey; DaRonco; Williamson; Boyum.
Heat 3: Simpson; Dalbeck; Forseen; Ziegler; Howell; Jimmy Latvala; Dalton Mains.
Heat 4: Copp; Van House; Bassa; Savoy; Milne; Darren Berhauer; Chaschuk.
Semi-Feature: Boyum; Kivi; Williamson; Chaschuk; DeVente; Bernauer.
WISSOTA Pure Stocks
Feature: 1-10: Kyle Copp; James Vendela; Dylan Shelton; Jeremy Cash; Shaina Rapp; Travis Zembo; Josh Miller; Cory Jorgensen; Jason Simonson; Darrin Lowney.
11-13: Aaron Bernick; Jared Akervik; Trevor Treviranus.
Heat 1: Copp; Shelton; Vendela; Zembo; Miller; Simonson; Lowney.
Heat 2: Jorgensen; Bernick; Cash; Akervik; Treviranus; Rapp.