7/14/2017 7:24:00 AM Fireworks on and off track at Eagle River Speedway
Dylan Larson of Shiocton celebrates in victory lane after winning the Sprint 600 feature at Eagle River Speedway Friday, July 7.
Some might blame it on a full moon, others might attribute it to the fireworks show. Whatever the explanation, there was plenty of action on the track Friday night at Eagle River Speedway.
The WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature was slowed by caution four times before the 20-lap race concluded with a first-time winner.
Eagle River's Austin Zdroik opened the race by breaking out of the field to grab the lead. While Zdroik led the first four laps, Mercer's Steve Altman and Ashland's Tyler Vernon were in a tight battle, but following a caution, five-time defending track champion Jesse Aho threaded the needle through the pack to take the lead.
Earlier in the race an altercation between the Upper Peninsula's Aho and Jerry Grasse would end up having a major impact in the tight points race between the two.
Grasse, who trailed Aho by one point going into the night, never fully recovered from the incident and was knocked out of the race following an incident later in the race. Aho's car had only cosmetic damage, but with five laps remaining track officials decided the sheet metal hanging from Aho's car may come off and create a safety problem. Thus a caution came out, sheet metal pulled off, and Aho moved to the back in the final re-start. That bumped Zdroik back up to the pole, who held off Marcus Dunbar of Wakefield, Mich., for the win.
In the 43-year history of the track, it has been common for a Zdroik to go to the Auto Value Victory Lane. However, this was the first WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature win for Austin, the son of past track champion, Jim Zdroik.
"I talked to him (Jim) before the feature and told him I was starting on the pole. He said basically what he tells me every week, 'just be smooth and consistent and don't screw up,'" Austin Zdroik said. "Track started out where the best line was on the bottom, but as that line was going away, I had to adjust. If you can keep the car straight coming out of the hairpin, you can keep your speed up."
Aho recovered to finish third.
Another familiar name took the checkered flag on Friday night. Earlier, defending Pure Stock class champion, David Blackberg made his first start of the season and worked through the field to win the second of two heat races.
The feature was another bumper-to-bumper battle between Rhinelander's Jason Eisel and Eagle River's Jake Ison. Eisel got the better of the battle this time and his clean sweep of the night trimmed Ison's lead in the standings to only two points.
A former multi-time track champion in the WISSOTA Street Stock class, Jordan Kurtti of Bruce Crossing, Mich., dominated in that class Friday by winning both the heat and the feature. This is another class where a tight point battle is taking place, between the defending class champion, Rhinelander's Ryan Valeria, and Conover's Dustin White.
Going into the night, Valeria had a narrow 13-point lead over White. While Kurtti was running away from the field, the packed house of fans were watching the battle between Valeria and White for second place. Valeria held off White for second in both the heat and the feature, extending his point lead to 15 points.
Rhinelander's Brack Congelton got his first win of the year in the Speedway Truck heat race. In the feature it looked like Rhinelander's Cory Allen was finally going to dethrone Summit Lake's Herb Dettman, who has dominated the class this season. Allen jumped out to an early lead as Dettman lost control of his truck a couple times, yet he kept working his way back to the bumper of Allen.
But with five laps remaining Allen lost control exiting third turn. He spun out and ended up on the infield grass. When the traffic passed, he jumped back on the track to watch Dettman be on his way to another Speedway Truck feature win.
Defending Sprint 600 Champion, Eagle River's Ty Springer cruised to another win in the heat race and was leading in the feature until engine problems knocked him out of the race. With Springer's Honda going to the pits, it turned into a race between the Larson brothers of Shiocton.
Denver Larson finished second to Springer in the heat, but in the feature it was his younger brother, Dylan and his Suzuki, which held off Denver's Yamaha for the feature win.
Dustin Kangas of Phelps swept the heat and the feature in the Junior Sprint Class. First-year racer Cole Stella of Minocqua continues to hold a commanding point lead in the class.
Side-by-side off-road vehicles come to Eagle River Speedway tonight. The UTVs will race on a portion of the dirt track and race on the infield. The Speedway Trucks will also be back as will the regular weekly schedule of five classes. Hot laps begin at 7 with racing to begin at 7:30 p.m.