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Locals a big part of Viking Speedway point champs

Kensington's Zach Johnson won his first Late Model point championship at the Viking Speedway this season after taking three feature wins in the division and finishing in the top five 14 times. (Eric Morken | Echo Press)1 / 4
Don Shaw2 / 4
Zach Johnson3 / 4
Tim Johnson4 / 4

The races at the Viking Speedway this past Saturday were supposed to come with track titles on the line during the final regular-season race night.

Instead, rain washed them out. That made for a bit of a anticlimactic finish to the official points season, but it didn't take away from the season-long accomplishments of a lot of these drivers. Local drivers in Josh Thoennes of Nelson (Modifieds), Shawn Olson of Alexandria (Midwest Modifieds), Zach Johnson of Kensington (Late Models) and Jesse Waldorf of Osakis (Pure Stocks) won season championships on their home track. None of them dominated their division in terms of a point spread like Johnson did as he took that Late Models class by 151 points over Alexandria's Rick Nelson, though he admits there is a specific reason behind that.

"We were the only guy that was there every week," Johnson said on Tuesday afternoon. "We had a good car. We got three wins out of the deal, and we were consistent but you couldn't touch Don Shaw whenever he was there."

A driver doesn't separate himself like that without running well most nights, and Johnson was a model of consistency in the Late Model Class. He ran in 15 features and finished in the top five in 14, winning three of them.

Johnson is also right about Shaw. The veteran driver from Ham Lake travels to a lot of the bigger shows around the Midwest, and he proved to be dominant at Viking Speedway when there. Shaw ran in 12 features and won seven of those.

"He's got something figured out with his chassis," Johnson said. "I don't know what it is, but hopefully I can figure it out soon. He's pretty hard to touch when he gets on a roll."

The same can be said for Brainerd driver Tim Johnson. He has become the most dominant force at the local track over the past few seasons, and he's done it in multiple classes. Tim wrapped up the Super Stocks point title by 48 points over Alexandria's Jeff Crouse.

He won the Street Stocks Division by 131 points, where no one could touch him. Of his 15 feature races, he won 13 of those and finished in the top five each night.

"Tim is doing it in every division he runs," Zach Johnson said. "Every car he's ever sat in, he wins a ton of races. Obviously, the guy can drive a racecar. It's tough to know what it is for sure, but Tim is pretty impressive."

Zach Johnson said all the other racers can do about that is look at how they can improve and be ready to pounce if an opportunity presents itself.

Zach said he believes this is his third track championship at the Viking Speedway. He started racing in the Midwest Modifieds Division in 2000 before moving to Late Models and Modifieds. He won championships in the Modifieds and Midwest Modifieds earlier in his career. His highlights in Late Models had included three national championships, but never a track championship at Viking until this season.

"I know for me personally, to win this one is cool," Zach said. "I'm proud of it, but it's kind of with a grain of salt because of the situation it is. In the other classes where you have eight or 10 guys who are there every week in a dogfight, then it's pretty cool."

Johnson says that's the case in a lot of these classes right now. He also drives in the Modifieds where he finished sixth in the final point standings. He had four wins there and has settled into being content with running predominantly at the local track.

Johnson used to travel all over for bigger shows. Today, he has four kids and is in the process of taking over more ownership of the nearly 2,500 acres that he farms with just him and his dad as the two full-time workers.

"We scaled it back and we're running a much more weekly deal now and just kind of back to having fun doing what we enjoy doing and not making a job out of it," Johnson said.

He's finding enjoyment out of that lifestyle, especially at a time when he says drivers in the area don't have to travel far to face great competition.

"You look at Tim Johnson, he wins everywhere he goes," Zach Johnson said. "There's no track I've ever gone to where Tim is not a force to be reckoned with. Modifieds, it seems like there's about 10 guys there every night who can win. Late Models, you have a smaller crowd there, but when you go on the road to the bigger shows, Don Shaw is winning those too right now. We really have some of the cream of the crop here at Viking Speedway."

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.

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