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Schmitz happy with speedway's season as racing wraps up

Don Shaw races in the Late Models feature on May 27. Shaw won a Late Model feature at the Fall Classic in Alexandria this past weekend and is in first place in the WISSOTA national point standings in the class this summer. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)1 / 2
Tim Johnson2 / 2

The Viking Speedway had a beautiful couple days of weather for its season-ending Fall Classic this past Friday and Saturday and drivers came out in full force to take advantage of that.

Ryan Schmitz, speedway president on the nine-member board of directors, said 171 cars came out for the main shows on Friday and Saturday.

"That was great," Schmitz said. "What we were shooting for was to get cars there, and we were very happy with the turnout. Not only the number of cars, but any time you have three, four national champions racing there, it's pretty good."

Tim Johnson of Brainerd is one of those WISSOTA national champions in the Super Stock and Street Stock classes. He has been a regular at the Viking Speedway in recent years, racking up point titles, including this year in those same Street Stock and Super Stock divisions.

Johnson was at it again this past weekend as he brought home three wins. He won the main feature in his Modified on Saturday and added a second win in the Street Stocks. That's after taking the Super Stocks feature on Friday.

"I think it's given us some recognition," Schmitz said of having drivers like Johnson at the speedway. "As far as in WISSOTA, the best of the best race here on a weekly basis. Tim won national points titles. Don Shaw, after this weekend it will shake out, but chances are he's going to be the national champion in the Late Models. I think for fans, if people come here on a weekly basis they know they're going to see some fast cars. A lot of other drivers that I've talked to feel like racing with those guys makes them better."

Shaw is sitting in first place in the WISSOTA national point standings in the Late Model division, two up on Chad Becker of Aberdeen, SD. Shaw got the job done in his Late Model on Friday as he took home the feature win in front of Saturday's winner, Ricky Weiss, who sits third in those national standings.

"Every driver is important to us," Schmitz said. "It don't matter if you're Tim Johnson or a guy starting out, but when guys beat Tim or Don or Brady Gerdes in the Mods, you have fast guys in every class, and when they beat those guys it's kind of a feather in their hat. I remember (Bryan) Crandall being able to beat Tim in the Street Stocks (on Aug. 12). That was only his second career win, and he was ecstatic. It's neat, and it's a fun group out there."

The Fall Classic marked the end of the 2017 season for the Viking Speedway, one that Schmitz felt went well overall for the local track.

"We have an awesome staff out there," Schmitz said. "Everyone from our track prep guys to concessions. Everybody just works so well together. I think we only had three rainouts. We got all of our specials in. All in all, it was a very good year as far as car counts and fans."

Schmitz said the track would love to see that fan base continue to build. Overall ticket sales were up from a year ago, but that was to be expected after rainouts wreaked havoc on the speedway last summer and forced plenty of cancellations.

"We'd love to have more fans come out on Saturday nights, whether it's a regular show or specials," Schmitz said. "There's a lot of competition in town as far as events every weekend. The amount we had this year was kind of on target for what we expected from where we were last year. With only having the three rainouts, our overall attendance was better than last year. That's always a positive and you just try to look for different things to get people interested going into next year."

One of the primary things a speedway can do is offer good racing. On that end, Schmitz feels the local track is providing that with the level of drivers on the track.

"I think the people who were out there saw we had some pretty good racing this year," Schmitz said. "That's what keeps people coming back and hopefully gets others interested."


SATURDAY FEATURE WINNERS - MODIFIEDS - A Feature - Tim Johnson; B Feature 1 - Jason Blascyk; B Feature 2 - Mark Esala; MIDWEST MODIFIEDS - A Feature - Justin Froemming; B Feature 1 - Shawn Olson; B Feature 2 - Mike Nichols; LATE MODELS - Ricky Weiss; PURE STOCKS - Scott Horn; STREET STOCKS - Tim Johnson; SUPER STOCKS - Dave Mass

FRIDAY FEATURE WINNERS - MODIFIEDS - A Feature - Dan Ebert; B Feature 1 - Jake Wildman; B Feature 2 - Cody Skytland; MIDWEST MODIFIEDS - A Feature 1 - Jamie Thorstad; B Feature 1 - Joseph Thomas; B Feature 2 - Mike Nichols; LATE MODELS - A Feature - Don Shaw; B Feature - Shawn Kirwin; SUPER LATE MODELS - Ben Wolden; STREET STOCKS - Justin Tammen; SUPER STOCKS - Tim Johnson

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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