It was not the way that Dan Ebert of Lake Shore wanted to win a $1,500 payday at the Viking Speedway on Saturday night, but it made the nearly 100-mile drive worth it in the end.
Ebert and some of the other most talented Modified drivers in Minnesota were at the Viking Speedway for a stop on the Advantage RV’s Modified Tour schedule. That tour stop meant a bigger payday on the line in the 23-car, 30-lap Modified feature that wrapped up the night’s three classes after the Midwest Modifieds and Super Stocks also ran.
Fans left the grandstands thinking that local driver Dustin Bitzan of Brandon got a statement win in his Modified. Bitzan started second and led from nearly start to finish.
He celebrated in victory lane, but dealt with the disappointment of finding out that he was disqualified after his car did not pass inspection after the race.
“I hate it for Dusty because obviously he was the class of the field,” Ebert said. “You hate to win them that way. It’s unfortunate for him, but we’ll take it.”
Each of the top drivers have their cars inspected after the feature. There is a rule in place that the rear deck height from the ground to the center of the deck has to be 38 inches or less.
“I think the biggest thing is for getting down force on your rear spoiler. Because obviously the higher up you would get it would get more air to it,” Bitzan said of the reasoning behind the rule. “I don’t feel with the distance that I was up that I had any advantage. It was an honest mistake. It was nothing done that we thought was making us any better.”
Bitzan was told he was less than an inch over that 38-inch mark. A lot changes on these race cars during a longer feature. Bitzan had been running a lot of 15-lap features in recent weeks, and the 30-lap event uses up a lot more fuel.
“Throughout that race, we probably burned off roughly over 20 gallons of fuel,” Bitzan said. “We could have took anywhere from probably 100-130 pounds of fuel off the back of the car. An example would be if a 150-pound person stood on the back end of the bumper of the car. That makes it squat more and by the end of the race, you take that off, the back end is going to be higher. That being said, still no excuse. We have to take that into consideration, and we need to make sure we’re finishing the race at that.”
Bitzan did not hesitate to say that this would have been the biggest feature win of his career due to the $1,500 first-place prize and because of the talent running in the field.
“I still feel good about how we ran,” he said. “The car was fast. Had we had that deck down three-quarters of an inch, I don’t think that affected how that race was going to go. Going out there and beating those guys and running up front with them, it obviously was disappointing to be disqualified, but I do feel we were at no advantage really.”
Bitzan has been running this well most of the summer, especially at his home track. It would have been the third straight Modified feature win for him and fifth overall at Viking Speedway. He also has a win in Fergus Falls.
Bitzan’s work life as a dairy and beef farmer does not allow him to follow an entire tour schedule like the Advantage RV’s Modified Tour that has stops in Minnesota, Wisconsin, North Dakota and South Dakota. Just racing twice a week in Alexandria and Fergus Falls is tough enough.
But Bitzan got a good feel for what he’s capable of against some of the top Modified drivers by this tour coming through Fergus Falls on July 9 and Viking Speedway a night later. He moved up from the 22nd starting position in Fergus Falls to finish eighth on Friday.
Bitzan enjoyed every lap of racing against this kind of competition. The front drivers were already running into lap traffic after about five laps on Saturday in Alexandria. A caution came out with 10 laps to go, but the race ran relatively clean as guys like Bitzan, Ebert, Elizabeth’s Travis Sauer (second place), Villard’s Ryan Gierke (third) and Brady Gerdes (fourth) and Lowry’s Zach Johnson (fifth) worked their way through traffic.
The fact that Bitzan finished in front of such a fast field has him excited about the rest of this summer despite the disappointment of how things ended on Saturday.
“Just blow it off and keep doing what we’re doing,” he said. “We’ll move forward and go out there and keep trying to win races.”
Ebert reads a changing track to get the win
Ebert started fourth and stayed near the front of the pack all race. After that caution with 10 laps left, he found himself in the right spot on the track before feeling like he ran out of time.
“For myself for sure, and probably the rest of the competitors would agree, the track was kind of top dominant most of the night,” Ebert said. “The bottom started coming in toward the end of the race there, and Travis Saurer showed me that the bottom was coming in. I was able to clear him with a few laps to go and get down to the bottom and try it for like one lap. It would have been nice to get a few more laps to actually race Dusty for the win. I think we would have been able to at least give him a run for his money.”
Ebert likes the longer feature races because it allows the best drivers time to figure out the track and work their way to the front.
“Being the leader is always nerve racking, particularly when the track is changing a lot because you can be feeling good in a certain line,” Ebert said. “If you’re running second or third and you’re trying things, you can gauge your distance on the leader. The most nerve racking spot is leading because you just don’t know where you’re at.”
Ebert has won plenty of big races in his career. He took the overall points title in this Advantage RV’s Modified Tour in 2018 and has been runner-up a couple of times. This is the first time in four seasons that he hasn’t chased that tour schedule.
“It’s a really, really good series,” he said. “The payouts are good, the contingencies are good. If I wasn’t chasing the (United States Modified Touring Series), I would definitely be running this.”
Ebert is currently eighth in the point standings in the USMTS that has stops in multiple states across the country. With no races on that tour schedule for Saturday, he made a trip to Alexandria that proved to be worth it.
“It’s a huge payday considering most races are $500, $600, $700 to win on a weekly deal,” Ebert said. “There’s more laps and more wear and tear, but at the end of the day it’s still a net win. For sure for WISSOTA Modifieds, (the Advantage RV’s Modified Tour) is the best traveling series. It’s just a great series in general.”
Blascyk, Sabraski add feature wins
Brendan Blascyk of Kensington got his third feature win of the season at the Viking Speedway as he won the Midwest Modified feature on July 10.
Blascyk started fourth before grabbing an early lead in the 15-lap feature. He pulled away down the stretch as Jon Stepan of Brandon took second, and Alexandria’s Avery Anderson finished third.
Blascyk (787 points) is second in the Midwest Modified point standings at the track, with Alexandria’s Shawn Olson still leading comfortably at this point with 902 points. Olson finished sixth out of 14 Midwest Modifieds that started the night.
Shane Sabraski of Rice won the 17-car, 20-lap Super Stock feature.
Sabraski, who also finished 10th in the Modified feature at Viking Speedway and is currently leading the Advantage RV’s Modified Tour point standings, separated himself from the rest of the field in his Super Stock as Trevor Saurer of Dalton finished second. Parkers Prairie driver Bryan Hellerman finished third.