Mickelson earns first Mods winA packed grandstand, fireworks, two distinct racing grooves and a driver’s first career feature win. It’s hard to imagine dirt track racing getting much better than Jamestown Speedway’s full-moon, Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular last Saturday night.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
A packed grandstand, fireworks, two distinct racing grooves and a driver’s first career feature win.
It’s hard to imagine dirt track racing getting much better than Jamestown Speedway’s full-moon, Fourth of July Fireworks Spectacular last Saturday night.
For Jamestown’s Ben Mickelson, it was certainly a night to remember. The WISSOTA Modified driver used the high way around to beat veteran driver Corky Thomas, of Fargo, notching his first ever feature win in his second year behind the wheel of a Mod.
Mickelson drew the outside pole for the main event and led the field of 17 WISSOTA Modifieds to the green, along with polesitter Eric Edwards, of Edgeley, N.D. But Edwards brought out the first of four cautions in the opening two laps of the 20-lap race, spinning out of turn two after the green.
Edwards’ misfortune brought Thomas, who drew the third starting position, up alongside Mickelson for the restart, and the pair stayed glued together from there on out.
On the fourth restart, with 18 laps still remaining, Thomas jumped out to a great restart on the bottom of the track. Mickelson was close behind the leader riding the rim, while Nate Heinrich, of Madison, Minn., fell into third and Mike Stearns, of Hecla, S.D. and Jamestown’s Corey Seckerson battled hard for the fourth spot.
Thomas and Mickelson ran door-to-door around the quarter-mile oval for the lead, with Thomas working the bottom and Mickelson sailing high through the turns. Both lines appeared to be working well, but Mickelson was getting a great run off the top out of turn four.
Mickelson took over the top spot with 12 laps left, but Thomas wasn’t going anywhere. Thomas was able to make ground on the Jamestown native in turns one and two, and reclaimed the lead out of turn two with five laps left.
Thomas, however, didn’t have an answer for Mickelson on the other side of the track. Another great run off of four put Mickelson just ahead of Thomas at the white flag, and Mickelson was able to hold off the veteran at the checkered.
“Corky had his line going and I had my line going,” Mickelson said. “The car was working awesome on the top in three and four. I knew I was quicker coming out of four and if I didn’t screw up in one and two I’d have a shot.”
Following Mickelson and Thomas at the line were Stearns, Heinrich and West Fargo’s Randal Hanson.
After the race, Mickelson pulled a Tony Stewart, stealing a chapter out of IndyCar’s Helio Castroneves’ book and climbed the grandstand fence in front of the full house of spectators. The first-time winner was later doused with a bucket of water by track officials in the pits.
“I was able to stay nice and smooth in one and two, and we raced clean,” Mickelson. “It means a lot to me to win my first race against Corky. He’s been racing a long time and I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
A little over-tweaking almost cost Grand Forks’ Dustin Strand from notching his fifth WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature at Jamestown Speedway this season.
But the savvy driver was able to compensate for the maladjustments on the track over the 20-lap event, earning yet another checkered flag at Jamestown. After falling back from his ninth starting spot early in the race, Strand somehow came from seventh to first in a matter of three laps to cruise on to victory.
Strand was running in seventh place when the race’s third and final caution flag flew with nine laps left. Jamestown’s Ryan Mikkelson was out front, followed by Jamestown’s Scott Bintz, Josh Eberhardt and Landon Becker.
Prior to the restart, Strand had been running the middle and high grooves of the track and decided he needed to make a switch.
“We were watching the track before the intermission and it looked slippery, so we tightened the car up,” Strand said. “Well, we tightened it up way too much. I got passed by two or three cars there at the beginning.
“Halfway through the race I decided to change lanes. I put the car down by the guardrail and made it work.”
Almost effortlessly, Strand shot through the front runners on the restart and was in a three-way race for the lead with Mikkelson and Bintz. Strand took the lead with six laps left, as Bintz worked the middle and Mikkelson worked the high side.
Waving to the fans with his hand out the window, Strand snatched up feature No. 5. Mikkelson took second, while Bintz, who started 10th, finished third.
“I guess there’s no real secret. I’ve just been having a lot of luck,” Strand said. “There’s really a high class of cars that come here, and it’s been awesome to run that good here.
“(The track) was kind of different than normal. There were definitely spots where it was slippery and then you’d catch some traction. But there were two lanes to run on and it was fun once I figured it out.”
WISSOTA Street Stocks
In eight WISSOTA Street Stock feature races at Jamestown Speedway this season, Valley City’s Luke Nelson has three second-place finishes. In fact, the driver has never finished out of the top five.
Nelson’s consistency near the front finally paid off on Saturday, as he came from the sixth starting position to win his first feature this season in Jamestown. Nelson (428 points) also took over the WISSOTA Street Stock points lead at the track over Carrington’s Kelly Hagel (426).
The racy track conditions produced three- and four-wide racing early, which also helped contribute to three caution flags in the opening five laps. Sykeston’s Trent Grager moved into the lead, with Nelson to follow in second and Hagel in third with 15 laps to go.
Grager, however, would get held up by a lapped car, Lisbon’s Matthew Lesmeister, with 13 to go which handed the lead to Nelson. Lesmeister was black flagged, as Grager dropped to fourth.
Nelson was hugging the bottom of the track, trying to hold off a hard-charging Rusty Kollman, of Carrington, who was also trying to find real estate on the bottom to get by Nelson. Meanwhile, Grager got together with Hagel in a battle for third in turns three and four to bring out the fourth caution with 10 laps to go.
Hagel was awarded the third position back, as Grager retired to the pits.
“I figured if I could cover the bottom I wouldn’t have to worry too much,” Nelson said. “But I saw Rusty (Kollman) down there a couple of times.
“I saw on the lap bar that Rusty was running second and Hagel was in third. We race each other every week,” Nelson continued. “It’s fun racing with those two. They race clean and I knew I didn’t have to worry.”
Nelson may have been a little worried if he knew what was going on behind him after the restart. As Nelson and Kollman were both already running nose-to-tail down low, Hannaford’s Rory Opp decided to join the fray. Opp cannonballed to the bottom in one and two on the restart, ending up with his right front tire on the hood of Kollman’s car.
Opp was black flagged and Kollman somehow was able to continue after suffering just cosmetic damage to his car.
Nelson led the remaining nine laps, with Hagel claming third over Kollman.
“It was fun,” Nelson said. “We are so competitive. We’re probably the best class to watch race here.”
Carrington’s Chris Gussiaas picked his way through the field from the eighth spot on the starting grid to win his third Bomber feature at Jamestown Speedway this season.
Following three yellow flags in the opening laps, one for Spiritwood’s Leann Christensen who got together with Jamestown’s Ryan Widmer and slammed hard into the grandstand retaining wall, Gussiaas had moved all the way up to second four laps into the 15-lap feature.
Gussiaas attacked leader Josh Ganser, of Jamestown, on the low side, but with eight laps left Ganser handed the lead to Gussiaas as he retired to the pits with mechanical problems. Jamestown’s Bryan Wolf and Marion’s Jeff Vogel moved up to second and third, respectively, as Justin Kollman, of Aberdeen, held down the fourth position.
Vogel, however, all but spun out of turn four with six laps remaining, which dropped him all the way back to 10th.
Gussiaas motored to the victory, as Kollman passed Wolf out of turn two on the last lap for second. After starting the race in 18th position, New Rockford’s Brandon Gussiaas finished fourth.
The races will be held in conjunction with the Stutsman County Fair Saturday night, featuring the Midwest Mods special.
July 4 results
Feature: 1, Ben Mickelson, 2, Corky Thomas, 3, Mike Stearns, 5, Nate Heinrich, 6, Randal Hanson, 7, Mark Trautner, 8, Blake Jegtvig, 9, John Corell, 10, Corey Seckerson, 11, Jerry Lamb, 12, Eric Edwards, 13, Randy Tarno, 14, Dwight, 15, Wegner, 16, Jamie Trautner, 17, Tim Compson, 18, Jason Smith, 19, Bob Sagen.
Heat 1: 1, Lamb, 2, Heinrich, 3, Thomas, 4, Jegtvig, 5, M. Trautner, 6, Compson.
Heat 2: 1, Stearns, 2, Tarno, 3, Mickelson, 4, Sagen, 5, Smith, Wegner.
Heat 3: 1, Edwards, 2, Hanson, 3, Seckerson, 4, Corell, 5, J. Trautner.
WISSOTA Street Stocks
Feature: 1, Luke Nelson, 2, Kelly Hagel, 3, Rusty Kollman, 4, Nic Klein, 5, Barrett Berg, 6, Casey Stangeland, 7, Dustin Erickson, 8, Randy Kollman, 9, Geoff Hellman, 10, Mike Mund, 11, Carrie Mundahl, 12, Bryce Kuska, 13, Rory Opp, 14, Trent Grager, 15, Matthew Lesmeister, 16, Royce Jawaski.
Heat 1: 1, Kollman, 2, Hagel, 3, Berg, 4, Erickson, 5, Jawaski, 6, Kuska, 7, Hellman, 8, Lesmeister.
Heat 2: 1, Nelson, 2, Grager, 3, Stangeland, 4, Mundahl, 5, Klein, 6, Opp, 7, Mund, 8, Randy Kollman.
WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds
Feature: 1, Dustin Strand, 2, Ryan Mikkelson, 3, Scott Bintz, 4, Josh Eberhardt, 5, Jeremy Forester, 6, Landon Becker, 7, Tim Compson, 8, Taylor Weight, 9, Brent Weight, 10, Dale Johnson, 11, Steve Ost, 12, Royce Jawaski, 13, Brent Perleberg, 14, Eric Edwards, 15, Corey Wegner, 16, Jordan Jangula, 17, John Clemens, 18, Travis Aljets, 19, Lance Schill, 20, Billie Christ.
Heat 1: 1, Forester, 2, Johnson, 3, Mickelson, 4, Bintz, 5, Becker, 6, B. Weight, 7, Wegner, 8, Ost, 9, Dave Peterson.
Heat 2: 1, Schill, 2, Eberhardt, 3, Compson, 4, Edwards, 5, Jangula, 6, Tyler Pfaff, 7, Christ, 8, Alex Wells.
Heat 3: 1, Strand, 2, Perleberg, 3, Jawaski, 4, Aljets, 5, T. Weight, 6, Jim Morlock, 7, Clemens, 8, Ryan Carr.
B-Main: 1, Christ, 2, Ost, 3, B. Weight, 4, Clemens, 5, Wegner, 6, Pfaff, 7, Wells, 8, Carr.
Feature: 1, Chris Gussiaas, 2, Justin Kollman, 3, Bryan Wolf, 4, Brandon Gussiaas, 5, Shawn Becker, 6, Tyler Michel, 7, Tyler Pfaff, 8, Jeff Vogel, 9, Joe Jacobson, 10, Donnie Martin, 11, Kyle Sand, 12, Lucas Rodin, 13, Marty Nitschke, 14, Levi Nenow, 15, Ryan Widmer, 16, John Lamb, 17, Josh Ganser, 18, Leann Christensen, 18, Cory Rodin, 19, Jake Emo.
Heat 1: 1, Ganser, 2, Emo, 3, Becker, 4, L. Rodin, 5, Michel, 6, B. Gussiaas, 7, Kelby Houchin, 8, Lamb, 9, Eric Crabb.
Heat 2: 1, Kollman, 2, Martin, 3, Vogel, 4, Nenow, 5, C. Rodin, 6, Nitschke, 7, Sand, 8, Ken Hochhalter.
Heat 3: 1, Wolf, 2, C. Gussiaas, 3, Pfaff, Widmer, 4, Christensen, 5, Jacobson, 6, Devon Christ, 7, Jason Thoms.
B-Main: 1, Nitschke, 2, Jacobson, 3, B. Gussiaas, 4, Sand, 5, Lamb, 6, Hochhalter, 7, Christ, 8, Sand, 9, Crabb.
Road Hogs: 1, Glenn Christianson and Cindy Christianson, 2, Justin Valenta and Cole Kinzler.
Sun Sports Writer Michael Savaloja can be reached by email at email@example.com or by phone at 952-8461