On a night when season point titles were on the line at the Viking Speedway, there was one division that was particularly close among the five regular running classes this summer.
In fact, things could not have been any closer. Brady Gerdes of Villard and Dustin Bitzan of Brandon were tied atop the leaderboard in the Modified Division ahead of Saturday’s regular season championship night. In the end, it was Gerdes who wrapped up the title as he took second in the feature behind fellow Villard driver Brett Hoium. Bitzan made a late run to finish fifth in the feature and wrap up second place overall in his class.
“You try hard all year,” Gerdes said. “It’s always a nice treat at the end of the year when you can be the top guy.”
Even at just 25 years old, Gerdes had to think for a little bit when asked how many point titles this is now in his career. He runs at multiple tracks, and has already wrapped up the points title in Fergus Falls this summer.
Putting the finishing touches on things at his home track on Saturday makes it eight championships overall in his career, including three at the Viking Speedway.
“It’s keeping up on your maintenance and never stop trying to get the car faster,” Gerdes said.
Gerdes felt good about how his car was running coming into the night after winning in Fergus Falls on Friday. Things aligned well for him through the heat races, and he then flew to the front of the pack into second place early in the feature race after starting fifth.
Gerdes settled in behind Hoium, who kept his distance out in front for most of the 20-lap race. At that point, Gerdes was content with finishing second and riding home with the points title.
“I came into one (regular-season finale) four points behind Jason Thoennes for first. I ended up losing that one, so I know how it feels to lose a close one,” Gerdes said.
Gerdes called it a relief and a weight off his shoulders to win a close points race this time around. He held off a huge surge from Bitzan to get it down the stretch.
“Starting out the year, we were really good and they were still trying some stuff with their new car,” Gerdes said of Bitzan. “This last month and a half, they got something really working good and closed the gap fast. We had to go to work this week to figure out something on this to make it a little quicker.”
Bangsund gets title he didn’t see coming
Andrew Bangsund of Alexandria said after getting a win in the season opener in his Street Stock that he had no intentions of chasing a points title this summer.
Bangsund hadn’t gotten a championship since 2012 as family took precedence over racing on some Saturday nights. That was going to be the case again this year, but the points kept piling up.
Bangsund finished his season with two wins and 11 top-five finishes. He finished Saturday’s feature race in fourth place, and that was plenty good to hold off DeGraff’s Jim Williams by 36 points for the fourth points championship of Bangsund’s career.
“Basically, we just had to start the feature. We were far enough ahead, so get through the heat race and keep it in one piece,” Bangsund said. “Just kind of hung in there in the heat race. Had to finish top four just to get in the redraw and then start the feature. As soon as that was accomplished, then we just went as hard as we could to get the win.”
Bangsund found out mid-season that this was going to be the last season for his car owner, Jeremy Armstrong. Camping with his family has kept Bangsund away from the track in prior years, and he had a big trip planned to Cass Lake again this summer that would have kept him away from the speedway under normal circumstances.
“It was probably a couple weeks before that, our car owner decided this was his last year,” Bangsund said. “We were in the lead in points, so I told him we would go for it and try to get it for him. That Saturday, we drove three hours. I got the camper all set up, and I drove three hours back to race and then drove three hours back up there again and went camping for the week.”
It ended up being worth it in the end.
“We’ve given up a lot of point leads by missing nights, so it was fun,” Bangsund said. “It’s fun to do it again and get one.”
Gronwold, Saurer, Mikkelson secure titles
The five regular classes at the Viking Speedway all had champions crowned as Alexandria’s Ryan Mikkelson, Dalton’s Trevor Saurer and Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls all joined Gerdes and Bangsund in securing titles.
Mikkelson did it in the Limited Late Models class after taking fourth on Saturday. He was a model of consistency through much of the summer, taking five checkered flags in features and 10 top-five finishes overall.
Saurer took home the Super Stocks title after he finished second on Saturday. Saurer had three wins on the year and 11 top-five finishes to win the division by 50 points over Matt Miller of Glenwood.
Gronwold’s championship came in his Midwest Modified by a margin of 122 points over Nick Bruder of Long Prairie. Gronwold finished second in Saturday’s feature as he wrapped up a regular season at the Alexandria track with three wins and 12 top-five finishes.
The Viking Speedway also had five different drivers take home feature wins in the regular-season finale on Saturday.
Hoium wrapped up the night with his win in the 20-lap Modified feature. Sam Zender of Fergus Falls won the Midwest Modifieds feature. Ryan Satter of Dent won in his Street Stock, Ben Johnson of New London won the Super Stocks Division, and Bryce Sward of Nelson won in the Limited Late Models feature.
FINAL POINT STANDINGS TOP THREE FINISHERS - MODIFIEDS - Brady Gerdes - 1,314; Dustin Bitzan - 1,303; McKenzie Gerdes - 1,000
MIDWEST MODIFIEDS - Brock Gronwold - 1,336; Nick Bruder - 1,214; Shawn Olson - 1,208
STREET STOCKS - Andrew Bangsund - 1,224; Jim Williams - 1,188; Chuck Olson - 1,036
SUPER STOCKS - Trevor Saurer - 1,238; Matt Miller - 1,188; Jeff Crouse - 1,187
LIMITED LATE MODELS - Ryan Mikkelson - 1,139; Ben Wolden - 1,114; Dustin Johanneck - 1,045