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Viking Speedway: Two drivers at different points in their careers highlight Saturday’s features

Bryan Hellerman of Parkers Prairie is all smiles as he takes a picture with his family after getting a feature win at the Viking Speedway in more than a decade on Saturday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 7
Landon Atkinson, a 20-year-old from Little Falls, pumps his fist to the crowd at the Viking Speedway after winning the Modified feature race. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)2 / 7
Travis Saurer of Elizabeth races his way to a win the Limited Late Models Feature at the Viking Speedway on Saturday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)3 / 7
Jamie Thorstad of Morris races his way to a win in the Midwest Modifieds feature at the Viking Speedway on Saturday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)4 / 7
Justin Vogel of Brooten celebrates after winning the Street Stocks feature at the Viking Speedway on July 28. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)5 / 7
Drivers in the Street Stocks feature move in front of the grandstands during the Jam the Stands Night at the Viking Speedway, where fans got in free on July 28. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)6 / 7
Osakis' Jesse Waldorf celebrates his Pure Stocks feature win on July 28 at the Viking Speedway. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)7 / 7

The final two races at the Viking Speedway on Saturday night saw a young talent dominate and a seasoned veteran get a long overdue victory.

Bryan Hellerman of Parkers Prairie has been racing since the early 1990s, but he couldn’t remember the last time he took the checkered flag.

“Probably in the late 90s, early 2000s. It’s been all of 15 years ago,” he said.

That’s why Hellerman couldn’t wipe the smile off his face as friends, family and fellow drivers came up to congratulate him after he took the Super Stock feature to wrap up the night’s races. Alexandria’s Jeff Crouse is leading that division this season, but it was Jon Crouse who started out front in the Super Stocks. Hellerman eventually passed him by and held off Brandon’s Jason Cook in second and Jeff Crouse in third.

“I’m probably one of the older guys in this class,” Hellerman, 52, said. “Like Jeff Crouse, I raced with his dad. A few of the other guys moved on, doing other things. My daughter races, and we all kind of get together as a family sport. That’s kind of what keeps the tradition going.”

That family bond over racing is what keeps Hellerman behind the wheel.

“If they didn’t want to put their heart in it, I would probably pull the pin,” he said.

Atkinson dominates 20-lap feature

Where Hellerman is more than 20 years into his racing career, Landon Atkinson of Little Falls is a young up-and-coming driver at only 20-years old.

Atkinson will be 21 a week from Sunday, and he put on quite a show in the 20-lap Modified feature as he led from start to finish.

“I think it helps starting out front. Clean air,” Atkinson said. “Our car’s been really good lately. We’ve kind of been trying some stuff and hit on something a couple weeks ago and won a few races. It just kind of fell into place tonight.”

No one came close to touching him as Atkinson led the pack at the start and pulled away through the first half of the race. A caution finally flew over the track with less than 10 laps left, but Atkinson held off Brady Gerdes of Villard down the stretch in front of a big crowd at the Viking Speedway on the Jam the Stands Night, where spectators get in free.

“That’s actually a big reason we came tonight, knowing there was going to be a lot of fans, and it’s always a good show when a lot of people show up,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s always good to win no matter what, but when you can do it in front of a lot of people, it’s always better.”

Atkinson races in Alexandria about four or five times a summer. He jumps around to different tracks with his dad, and his mom when she’s able to join them.

“That’s the beauty of not racing for points,” Atkinson said. “Just going out and seeing different places and traveling. It’s fun to just kind of move around.”

Atkinson was 12 years old when he started racing. He has been behind the wheel of go-karts, raced motocross for many years and has settled into a modified now.

“I picked it up and enjoyed it,” he said of getting his start behind the wheel of a Mod-4 at a young age. “I wasn’t the best at first but after a few years I was starting to win races, and it just sort of went from there.”

Atkinson is not sure where his racing career will take him. He’s simply enjoying the ride after experiencing some success early on.

“For me, it’s more of a hobby that kind of turned into a passion,” Atkinson said. “There’s really no plan. You just kind of go, and if you hit something big, you hit something big. You just keep racing. It’s definitely not my angle to find some big ride and get somewhere, but if it happens I would take it.”

Four more feature winners   

The July 28 races saw four other drivers also enter victory lane.

Osakis’ Jesse Waldorf started the feature races off by taking another win in the Pure Stocks. Justin Vogel of Brooten won the Street Stocks feature and Jamie Thorstad of Morris won the Midwest Modified race after leading from start to finish.

Casey Meyer of Wahpeton, ND looked like he would do the same in the Limited Late Models as he led much of the way. After a late caution, Elizabeth’s Travis Saurer was able to grab a lead off of a restart, and he held off Meyer to capture another win in Alexandria.

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

(320) 763-1229
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