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Thunder from Down Under - St. Croix Speedway - St. Croix Falls, WI
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Thunder from Down Under

Thunder from Down Under

What a difference a week makes. Seven days after opening to unseasonably warm weather, St. Croix Valley Raceway hurried their race program along Friday night under threatening skies with a slight chill in the night air. The season’s second week included the first installment of the summer long “Thunder in the Valley” series featuring the UMSS winged sprint cars. In honor of the recent passing of long time sprint car fan, owner and fabricator, Davey Tabor, Friday’s contest was presented as the first annual Davey Tabor Memorial.

Monsoon-like rains during the week left the clay surface heavily saturated, challenging the track preparation crew. Considering the conditions – which included standing water in the normally dry infield – the track proved to be fast and racy. The first class to test the track in feature racing action was the Bullseye Shooting Range Future Fours. Heat race winner Kyle Dahlheimer and Damon Roberts drew the front row for their eight car main event, and that duo would duke it out for the duration. Dahlheimer grabbed the advantage early but by lap two, Roberts had gained the upper hand. Just past halfway, Dahlheimer again nudged out front but then had to head pit side one lap later with a crippled ride, with Roberts reclaiming the front. At the checkers, it was Roberts winning for the second week in a row in front of newcomer Oliver Swanson, Chris Rick, Hope Tucker and Chris Arnett.

Next on the track were the Pure Stocks for their 15 lap feature paced by Jason Havel and Jake Silbernagel. After picking up a heat win earlier in the night, Silbernagel pursued Havel throughout but never was able to muster a serious challenge. Behind Havel and Silbernagel, Brandon Davis, Justin Rick, Ben Kaphing, Tony DuBois and Jon Wigchers all jockeyed for positions three on back. At the stripe, Havel won comfortably ahead of Silbernagel, Rick, Davis and DuBois.

After several attempts during the past month to complete a race program, the Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series (UMSS) was finally able to get their second show of the season in the books. Veteran racer Brooke Tatnell drew upon his experience to navigate a heavy track and record his second UMSS win of the season in the 1st Annual Davey Tabor Memorial. Tatnell drove by early leader Sye Anderson on lap four and pulled away for the $1,034 victory. Commenting after the race Tatnell stated, "I like heavy tracks that are a bit rough. Turns one and two were pretty good, but you had to make sure you picked the right line through turns three and four. It's an honor to win the first Tabor Memorial." A field of 18 UMSS winged sprint cars were on hand for their first of four appearances at the St. Croix Valley Raceway this season.
Ultimate Sprint Heat race wins went to Andy Jones, Tatnell and Jerry Richert, Jr. With Jones the high point earner following the heats, Jones redrew a six for the feature race invert. This put Kurt Davis and Sye Anderson on the front row of the scheduled 25 lap Davey Tabor Memorial feature race presented by GRP Motorsports. Jones was racing with a heavy heart, as friend and crew member Ron Fleischer had passed away earlier in the week following a short battle with cancer. Jones is dedicating the remainder of his season in memory of Ron Fleischer.
The feature race had some problems in the early going, as two reds and two yellows waved in the first four laps. The distance was reduced to 20 laps following the final red, and the race then went sixteen laps nonstop to the finish. Anderson grabbed the early lead on the opening lap, but the yellow blinked on when Andy Jones slowed on lap two. A safety call by track officials to check Jones' car kept the running order intact and the race was under green again. Tatnell moved by Davis on lap two for second. The first red flew on lap three when 2010 UMSS Champion Cody Hahn hooked a rut in turn four and tipped over. Hahn was okay, but his car was done for the night.
With Anderson still in front of Tatnell, rookie driver James Broty brushed the wall on the restart and exited the track in turn one. Broty remained upright, but his sprinter had a flat tire and bent rim sending him to the pits. Tatnell took command on lap four when the race returned to green flag action. The final stoppage came on lap five when Austin Johnson flipped in turn three and ended up on top of the concrete wall nosed into the catch fence. Johnson was okay, but his car was badly bent and out of action. During the red flag, Andy Jones dropped out of the race while running fifth with a broken rocker arm in his engine. On the restart, Tatnell pulled away from the field during the remaining sixteen lap sprint to the checkers.
A late race pass in lapped traffic netted defending UMSS Champion Jerry Richert, Jr. the runner-up position. When Margaret Tabor's #34TW sprinter was unable to start the feature race on account of engine woes, Richert donned the 34TW top wing in honor and memory of Davey Tabor for the feature race. Sye Anderson turned in a strong effort to finish third, racing on this Memorial Day Weekend in memory of Raleigh Sandberg. Chris Graf had a tremendous charge forward from his 11th starting position to ride home in fourth. Rounding out the top five was eastern Wisconsin MSA driver Kurt Davis.
Doubling their car count from two to four over the last week, the UMSS Micro sprints were topped Hayward, Wisconsin youngster George Knudsen. Following Knudsen were last week’s winner, Tony Duran, Ty Sampeir and Allison Berger. Knudsen also won the heat race.

In the UMSS Traditional Sprints presented by Sterling Bank, reigning champion Kevin Bradwell started alongside of Johnny Parsons III on the outside of the front row. At the drop of the green, Parsons snared the point but was feeling heaving pressure from Bradwell. While the two man battle ensued up front, Jack Clark had his hands full of Jeff Pellersels in the battle for third, all while Rick Kobs sampled myriad lines searching for speed on his march to the front. Parsons would not be denied as he held on to the point for the duration, parking his #12 wing-less sprinter in Victory Lane, while Kobs eventually finished runner-up in front of Pellersels, Bradwell and rookie Ryan Olson.

In what most fans agreed was the best contest of the night, the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds capped the evening with a true nail-biter. Tony Schill and Mitch Weiss paced the seventeen car field for the nightcap with Weiss scored the early leader. Schill took over the top spot on the second circuit, but fifth starting Jason VandeKamp was charging hard and made it up to second by lap five. With the race half completed, VandeKamp had worked around Schill to take over the lead and he immediately began stretching his advantage. Meanwhile, VandeKamp’s third row starting mate, Josh Bazey had sliced his way from sixth to third. On lap thirteen, Bazey found himself in second, but staring at a sizable deficit to the strong running VandeKamp. The Luck, Wisconsin hot shoe immediately set out on a search for speed, and eventually found a groove to his liking – running high in turns one and two, low through turns three and four. In the waning laps, the once large advantage for VandeKamp had dwindled to nothing with two laps to go. With the end of the race quite literally in sight, Bazey made one last charge, diving under VandeKamp entering turn three. The cars made brief contact entering turn four but both drivers remained hard on the throttle. As the pair dueled the final 100 yards, it was Bazy edging by VandeKamp for the win, his first of the season. Schill came home third in front of John Remington and Gabe Kennedy.

Action returns to the quarter-mile bullring with Kids’ Night this Friday, June 1, when kids can ride in the race cars! The Friday Night Live action will include all five of the raceway’s regular classes, UMSS Traditional and Micro sprints, Pure Stocks, Future Fours, and WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds. Gates open at 5:00 p.m. with racing set to commence at 7:05.

Article Credit: Terry Lehnertz & Greg Parent

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