Taylor takes title, O’Brien feature
Drivers from as far south as Springtown, Texas, and as far west as Battle Mountain, Nevada, and Imperial, California, flocked to Jamestown Speedway on Friday.
The mass migration of some of the top IMCA Modified drivers in the country was all due to championship night of the 25th annual Dakota Classic Modified Tour. The tour brought to Jamestown a total of 79 IMCA Modified race teams from 15 states and two Canadian provinces.
Friday’s night’s winner, Justin O’Brien, from West Union, Iowa, put the prestigious tour and the win into perspective. He pocketed $2,000 for wheeling to victory in the 30-lap A-main, but his win at Jamestown Speedway wasn’t about the money.
“This is my first win of the year, and probably the biggest modified win of my career,” O’Brien, a nine-year modified veteran, said. “The field on the whole tour is the best you’re going to find in IMCA. It’s unreal the competition that was here this year.”
One of those top competitors was crowned tour champion on Friday. Jeff Taylor, of Cave City, Arkansas, won his heat race and posted a solid third-place run in the feature to win the six-night tour by 26 points over Jordan Grabouski, of Beatrice, Nebraska.
Taylor, a former IMCA Super Nationals champion, started the tour with back-to-back wins at Minot and Estevan, Saskatchewan, last Sunday and Monday.
“It’s just awesome,” Taylor said. “I’m overwhelmed right now.”
Grabouski also notched victories in Williston on Tuesday and Mandan on Thursday, but he needed a provisional to get into the feature field Friday night in Jamestown. He started dead last in 26th position and was only able to manage a 12th-place finish.
“Jordan’s a helluva racer. We’re good friends and he’s very, very talented,” Taylor said, who started the feature 17 points ahead of Grabouski. “I knew he’d come through the field. I didn’t know how far, and I was just hoping I didn’t get took out or something.”
Taylor’s championship run was impressive, considering he was driving someone else’s car for the final night in Jamestown.
Taylor was clipped from behind on a restart while leading a B-main in Mandan on Thursday. The contact cut Taylor’s brake lines and he eventually crashed head-on into the guardrail in turn No. 1 at Dacotah Speedway.
Ironically, the contact came from his teammate, Mandan’s Shawn Strand, and Strand gave Taylor his backup No. 99 to drive to finish the tour.
“I wouldn’t be here right now if it wasn’t for Shawn Strand,” Taylor said. “He gave me the car to run tonight. We got together (Thursday) night and we’re good friends, it was just racing.”
O’Brien started the feature in Jamestown in fourth position, behind the outside pole sitter, Minot’s Steven Pfeifer. Pfeifer shot to the lead on the green flag and pulled O’Brien along with him on the outside.
Pfeifer and O’Brien ran 1-2 for the first 24 laps when a caution flag slowed the field with six laps remaining. O’Brien shot to the bottom under Pfeifer on the restart and was able to make the pass for the lead coming out of turn No. 4 with four laps to go.
Pfeifer’s right-rear tire had begun to go away, and it eventually went flat on the white-flag lap.
“I could tell when we were under caution (Pfeifer) was up there trying to either keep (the tire) warm or keep it cleaned off, or whatever, and I knew he was probably struggling with it,” O’Brien said. “But I knew mine probably wasn’t a whole lot better either, because I was pushing it pretty hard trying to catch back up to him in lapped traffic.
“I knew if he left me enough room I could stick it down there.”
Taylor was running sixth at the time of the caution after starting fifth.
“It got wild there at the end. I knew if we had a caution it was going to get exciting, because the race track had one groove and we could kind of see Pfeifer’s tire going down,” Taylor said. “Luckily they called it a lap early so we didn’t have any more melees.”
A crash in turn No. 2 on the white-flag lap ended the race under caution. Justin Yeager, of Green River, Wyoming, finished second, with Taylor in third and Pfeifer limping home in fourth.
“I love this place. We were here last year for the first time,” O’Brien said of Jamestown Speedway. “I told everybody that I talked to all week long that this is the best track on the tour. It lived up to it for me, so we’re happy about that.”
25th Annual IMCA Dakota Classic Modified Tour
At Jamestown Speedway, Friday
Feature: 1, Justin O’Brien; 2, Justin Yeager; 3, Jeff Taylor; 4, Steven Pfeiffer; 5, Ryan Ruter; 6, Mike Jergens; 7, Aaron Turnbull; 8, Darin Duffy; 9, Jason Strand; 10, John Hansen; 11, Adam Larson; 12, Jordan Grabouski; 13, Shawn Anderson; 14, Eric Burwick; 15, Hunter Marriott; 16, Brian Mullen; 17, Chris Bragg; 18, Mark Dahl; 19, Drew Christianson; 20, Darren Murray Jr. (DNF); 21, Tim Perkins (DNF); 22, Jason Wolla (DNF); 23, Scott Drake (DNF); 24, Thomas Silver (DNF); 25, Eric Sinness (DNF); 26, Spencer Wilson (DNF).
Consi 1: 1, Ruter; 2, Jergens; 3, Duffy; 4, Marriott; 5, Masen Big Eagle; 6, Rusty Kollman; 7, Travis Hagen; 8, Tommy Lee; 9, Jordan Grabouski; 10, Mike Nelson; 11, Reese Artz; 12, Chris Clark; 13, Rusty Corneliusen; 14, Kirk Wojahn; 15, Les McLenehan; 16, Jordan Huettl (DNF); 17, Lenny Makowski (DNF); 18, Jeffrey Larson (DNS).
Consi 2: 1, Turnbull; 2, S. Anderson; 3, Burwick; 4, Mullen; 5, Tracy Domagala; 6, Scott Drake; 7, Nick Fuchs; 8, Randy Artz; 9, Josh Wolla; 10, Brent Schlafmann; 11, Tylor Velo; 12, Jett Big Eagle; 13, Mark Elliott; 14, Bob Heffer; 15, Paul Jones; 16, Chris Welk; 17, Tanner Matthewson (DNF); 18, Bland Bohannon (DNS).
Consi 3: 1, Christianson; 2, Murray; 3, Bragg; 4, Wilson; 5, Curt Lund; 6, Tim Ward; 7, Mike Hanson; 8, Lance Mari; 9, Bert Beech; 10, Jeremy Keller; 11, Donovon Sorneson; 12, Pete Bradley; 13, Jason Beaulieu; 14, Travis Olheiser; 15, Allan Fetzer; 16, Eric Fetzer; 17, Allen Kent (DNF); 18, Brian Swenson (DNF).
Consi 4: 1, J. Hansen; 2, A. Larson; 3, Jason Wolla; 4, Silver; 5, Dallas Rice; 6, Jerad Thelen; 7, Josh Rogotzek; 8, Scott Bintz; 9, Kyle Scholpp; 10, Lonny Magstadt; 11, Greg Feuring; 12, David Berry; 13, Robert Hellebust (DNF); 14, Hank Berry (DNF); 15, Donald Robinson (DNF); 16, Brandon Blochlinger (DNF); 17, Brian Brennan (DNF); 18, Shawn Olheiser (DNF).
Heat 1: 1, S. Pfeiffer; 2, D. Duffy; 3, R. Ruter; 4, M. Jergens; 5, M. Big Eagle; 6, R. Kollman; 7, T. Hagen; 8, L. Makowski; 9, J. Grabouski (DNF); 10, R. Corneliusen (DNF).
Heat 2: 1, M. Dahl; 2, A. Turnbull; 3, N. Fuchs; 4, S. Drake; 5, B. Mullen; 6, J. Big Eagle; 7, M. Elliott; 8, B. Heffer; 9, T. Domagala; 10, B. Bohannon (DNF).
Heat 3: 1, T. Perkins; 2, C. Bragg; 3, D. Murray; 4, B. Swenson; 5, A. Kent; 6, J. Keller; 7, T. Ward; 8, M. Hanson; 9, B. Beech; 10, J. Beaulieu.
Heat 4: 1, J. Yeager; 2, J. Hansen; 3, A. Larson; 4, T. Silver; 5, R. Hellebust; 6, B. Blochlinger; 7, B. Brennan; 8, G. Feuring; 9, S. Olheiser (DNF); 10, D. Berry (DNF).
Heat 5: 1, J. Taylor; 2, H. Marriott; 3, M. Nelson; 4, T. Lee; 5, R. Artz; 6, L. McLenehan; 7, J. Huettl; 8, J. Larson; 9, C. Clark; 10, K. Wojahn.
Heat 6: 1, J. O’Brien; 2, E. Burwick; 3, S. Anderson; 4, R. Artz; 5, T. Velo; 6, Josh Wolla; 7, B. Schlafmann; 8, T. Matthewson; 9, C. Welk; 10, P. Jones (DNF).
Heat 7: 1, E. Sinness; 2, D. Christianson; 3, C. Lund; 4, S. Wilson; 5, L. Mari; 6, D. Sorenson; 7, T. Olheiser; 8, P. Bradley; 9, A. Fetzer; 10, E. Fetzer.
Heat 8: 1, J. Strand; 2, Jason Wolla; 3, D. Robinson; 4, D. Rice; 5, J. Rogotzke; 6, H. Berry; 7, J. Thelen; 8, S. Bintz; 9, K. Scholpp; 10, L. Magstadt.
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at email@example.com