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Racing: Saurer grabs Mod Nationals

Travis Saurer of Elizabeth celebrated after winning the eighth annual Minnesota Mod Nationals Sunday at the Viking Speedway, pocketing $7,000 for the victory. (Shawn Swanstrom,

Elizabeth, MN driver Travis Saurer jumped to the lead early on in the 60-lap finale at the eighth annual Minnesota Mod Nationals and held on to collect his biggest Modified win of his career.

Saurer pocketed $7,000 for his win and became the eighth different winner of the event, which is held annually at the Viking Speedway in Alexandria.

Other drivers finding their way to victory lane in WISSOTA AMSOIL dirt track series action included: Dan Ebert and Jason Vandekamp in the WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds and Cody Lee in the WISSOTA Super Stocks.

Midwest Modified

National championship contenders Saurer and Brian Haben led the 24-car Midwest Modified field to the green for the make-up feature from Saturday night. At the drop of the green, Saurer jumped out to an early advantage, followed by Haben and Dan Ebert.

Near the midway point in the event, Saurer's car began to lose power, which eliminated him from contention and left Ebert and Haben to battle for the win.

Ebert would pull away in the late stages of the race and collected the $500 payday.

Modified Nationals B-Mains

With only 16 cars locked into the main event, two B-mains were run to determine eight of the final 10 starting spots in the Modified feature.

Local drivers Matt Smith and Dennis Bitzan sat on the front row of the first B-main, and at the drop of the green, Smith moved up to the high side of the speedway and blasted to the lead.

Dave Schroeder jumped up to challenge Smith as the two began to get away from the remaining cars in the field.

In the end, both Bayer and Jeff Broking were able to get by Dennis Bitzan and punch their tickets for the big dance.

Up front, Smith held on to win over Schroder, Bayer and Broking. The fifth through 12th finishes were entered into the Modified Last Chance race later on in the evening.

Rookie Brady Gerdes and former Mod Nationals champion Dave Cain led the 18-car field to the green in the second B-Main event. Gerdes blasted out to the high side of the track and worked his way out to an early advantage over Cain and fourth starter Kelly Estey.

The top three cars would remain the same throughout the event, but the car on the move was Steve Arpin. Arpin, using both the high and low sides of the speedway, worked his way up to grab the final transfer spot to the big show on the final lap.

Gerdes held on for the win, Estey was second, Cain was third and Arpin was fourth.

The last chance qualifier race for the Modifieds proved to be one of the better races of the evening as only the winner of the event would get into the A-main.

Austin Arneson jumped out to an early advantage over Bitzan and Scot Danzeisen.

With the laps ticking down, Danziesen made a charge on the bottom of the speedway and the lead duo would have contact. It was determined that Arneson was at fault for the yellow and he was sent to the rear of the pack. This allowed Danziesen to race unchallenged to the LCQ win and the 25th starting spot in the big show.

Super Stock

Heavy hitters, Shane Sabraski and Jeff Crouse shared the front row in the Super Stock feature. Crouse used his outside starting spot to his advantage and jumped to an early advantage as Sabraski settled into the second spot.

The duo would break away from the rest of the field and wage a nice battle for the first 10 laps of the 20-lap event. At that point, Crouse's car began to experience engine issues and he slowed, allowing, Sabraski to take the lead.

Sabraski would continue to lead for the next handful of laps until he lost a motor in the #7A machine, which caused him to retire pitside.

With the front two drivers out of contention, Cody Lee assumed the lead with Mike Peterson and Alan Johnson behind him. Lee would hold on and capture his second win of the season.

Modified Non-Qualifier

The next event on the night's busy schedule was the modified non-qualifier feature. The event paid $1,000 to win and featured drivers who did not qualify for the big dance.

Dennis Bitzan bolted out to an early lead in the 15-lap event.

Jamestown, ND driver Jason Grimes soon raced up to challenge Bitzan for the lead. The duo began to race away from the field until Mike Storck found the bite in his #75 machine and raced up to challenge the lead duo.

Storck would get by Grimes with a handful of laps remaining, but could not find his way around Bitzan, as he hung on to win.

Midwest Modified II

Jason Vandekamp and Jeremy Houle lined up side by side on row one of the night's scheduled Midwest Modified feature.

Head flagman Mike Commerford dropped the green and the two lead drivers flexed their muscle up front as they raced out to a nice advantage over the rest of the field.

Houle would continue to work the low side of the speedway as Vandekamp blasted his car around the banking on the top side. A handful of cautions would stop racing action, but it was clear that it was a two car battle for the win. Vandekamp would hold off Houle in the late stages of the race and picked up the $500 check.

Modified Nationals

With all of the weekend's other activity in the books, the 26-car, star studded, WISSOTA Modified feature lined up on the front stretch.

Outside pole sitter Jason Thoennes bolted out to the early lead with fifth starting Travis Saurer making his way into second place.

The first caution of the feature waved on lap four and Thoennes continued to lead Saurer, Cody Skytland, Josh Thoennes and Shane Sabraski.

Order would be restored and at the drop of the green, Saurer made a power move to the low side of the speedway and took the lead from Thoennes on lap six.

The front pack would continue to be the same and caution would fly on the half mile speedway again on lap 12 when five-time WISSOTA National Champion Craig Thatcher's car slowed on the front stretch.

The field would be reset and once again Saurer jumped out to a nice advantage as the pack raced at a torrid pace.

The yellow would fly again on lap 21 for an incident involving Dave Schroeder and Steve Arpin. Arpin was able to continue and Schroeder retired pitside with heavy right front damage.

Before the field could complete another lap, the caution came out for third place running Cody Skytland as his #19b machine slowed on the front chute with engine troubles.

At that point, the car on the move was the #99w of USMTS star Ryan Ruter. Ruter found himself in the top five and poised to make a run at the front pack.

Scot Danziesen and Jeff Broking were making moves to the front and on lap 25, the duo came together on the speedway, bringing out the next yellow flag. Both cars were able to continue on in the event. As the field lined up, Ruter's car came to a stop in turn two and the push truck was forced to push the car into the infield.

The 99w pit crew went to work, as he was out of fuel and Ruter got back out to claim the tail of the field.

The field would fire once more and race to the lap 30 fuel stop. Saurer continued to lead at that point over Thoennes, Thoennes, Mark Trautner had cracked the top five and sat fourth, and number 20 starter Kelly Estey sat fifth in line.

One lap after the field was restarted, the yellow came back out when Danziesen and Jamie Davis came together in turn one. Both drivers suffered flat tires, but with the help of their pit crews were able to continue on.

Back out front, Saurer and Jason Thoennes continued their battle for the lead spot. Thoennes made a hard charge to the bottom of the track to briefly take the lead with 25 to go, only to see Saurer power by on the high side of the track. The final yellow of the event would fly with 19 laps remaining and Saurer continued to lead the Thoennes brothers, Estey, and 24th starter Steve Arpin.

Once the field came back to life, Saurer left no doubts as he put his #21x machine on the high cushion and cruised to victory.

Saturday night

Jason Thoennes held off a late charge by Estey and picked up the 25-lap qualifying feature win as night one of the Minnesota Modified Nationals came to a close.

Viking Speedway veteran, Larry Lund, was able to corral the WISSOTA Super Stock feature win during action earlier in the evening.

After all the qualifying events were complete, the 25-car WISSOTA Super Stock field lined up for their 15 lap main event.

Nineteen-time feature winner Shane Sabraski and local veteran Lund manned the front row as the field came to life. Lund jumped to the highside of the track and began to pull away as Sabraski settled into the second spot with Cory Tammen and Jeff Crouse in tow.

The running order would continue to be the same until lap three when Derrick Lemke lost the bite on his #31x machine and slipped off turn three.

The field would be reset and once again Lund bolted out to an advantage over Sabraski. Tammen and Crouse were locked in an epic battle for the third spot, as 10th starter Steve Weber raced up to join the lead pack.

Crouse was able to navigate his way around Tammen near the halfway point and began closing on Sabraski for second.

Crouse made a power move to the low side of the speedway in an effort to take the lead with five laps remaining, only to see his car slide over the banking in turn two.

Lund would continue to pull away and went on to claim the $500 payday for his efforts.

Due to time constraints, the WISSOTA Midwest Modified feature had to be postponed until the Sunday portion of the Mod Nationals.