By Greg Anderson
Hibbing, MN- With inclement weather leading to cancellations of the previous two nights' Advantage RV Modified tour events as part of the Minnesota Melee swing and questionable weather on Saturday, officials were forced to cancel the final leg of the swing but racing went on as scheduled at Hibbing Raceway presented by Broking Transport, Premier Insulation, Como Oil and Propane, W.A. Fisher Advertising, Jennifer Ivanca Insurance, and Domino's Pizza. Future dates to possibly reschedule the Minnesota Melee swing are currently being explored. With no Late Models on the the schedule and heavy rains pounding the Iron Range over recent days, the program and racing were both fast.
Coming into the evening, the Midwest Modifieds had not had a repeat winner and Skeeter Estey was hoping to continue that trend as he raced out to an early lead over the field. Lap by lap, Estey stretched his lead, leaving little doubt who the likely winner would be. Unlike the lead, second place was very much up for grabs as multiple cars raced closely together battling for the spot. Dan Wilson, Jesse Ogston, Matt Anderson, Charlie Castle, and Devin Vanhouse all worked for the spot and it was ultimately eighth starting Vanhouse that emerged from the group. Vanhouse was able to separate from the pack but with Estey's large lead, his only chance was a caution which did not come. Estey cruised through the back of the field to pick up the win with Vanhouse holding second and Ogston third some distance back.
The WISSOTA Super Stocks followed up the Midwest Modifieds and although they had some troubles with cautions, the race would prove to be much more competitive than the previous one. Andy Labarge jumped to the early lead in search of his first career feature win in the class at Hibbing. After some brief challenges and enduring a couple restarts over the first eight laps of the race, Labarge continued to lead but as the race went on Derek Vesel increased his pressure on the leader and after thwarting several advances, a lap 11 restart would prove to be Labarge's undoing. On the restart following the fourth caution of the race, Vesel used a high side move to power to the outside of Labarge and squeezed past for the lead. Shortly after Vesel took over the point, the previous week's winner Tyler Kintner moved into second. Kintner kept pace with Vesel as the two raced away. Vesel held his momentum up high and the two finished in the same formation. The win was Vesel's second of the season in Hibbing.
With no Late Models on the schedule, the WISSOTA Modifieds were the top class for the evening's action and Sam Skalsky led the 19 car field to green, jumping to the point over Rick Niemi, and the father/son tandem of Bob and Johnny Broking. Before long, the Broking tandem blazed around the outside of Skalsky and began to pull away from the rest of the pack. Johnny Broking set a blistering pace around the outside with his father in tow a few lengths back. Behind the lead duo, the rest of the field began to move up to the top side of the speedway as the groove became dominant with the heavy cushion used for traction. Up front, the Brokings continued to pull away and quickly closed on back of the field. As they approached lap traffic, the leader Johnny Broking and a lap car came together in turn one and both spun to bring out the caution. Under caution, officials deliberated and ultimately reinstated Broking's lead. After the tense moment, Broking was not about to give up his second chance and once again, he two Brokings blasted away from the field. Late in the race, Johnny Broking once again found the back of the field but was very cautious the second time around as he cleared the lap cars with space and went on to pick up his first career Modified victory in Hibbing. His jubilant father followed him closely to the line leading to an all Broking victory lane celebration.
The Pure Stocks brought the evening to a close with one of the more bizarre races in recent years. Normally one of the cleaner classes with limited cautions, the race became an absolute battle of attrition and only seven of the eighteen car starting field were still running at the finish. In the early going, pole sitter Stephen Erickson took the lead as a large cluster of cars scrapped and banged around for second. A lap one caution for outside front-row starting Jeremy Theisen brought some organization to the field for the restart but as the race resumed, so did the mayhem. After leading races in recent weeks, Gary Ruzich found himself out front again on the restart and was hoping this time it would hold. Three laps would click before another caution brought the race to a halt for a second time. When the race restarted, Ruzich suddenly had his hands full with Mike Blevins who was bidding to go four for four to start the season. Blevins slipped past Ruzich and pulled away briefly before Ruzich rallied to keep things close. As the top two separated from the field and remained the same order, pole-sitter Erickson lost a wheel in turn four leading to another race stoppage. Several cars departed at different times for different issues and only eleven cars remained for the restart. On the restart, Blevins led and Eric Anderson came to life briefly taking second from Ruzich before Ruzich took the position back. The battle enabled Blevins to slip away but another caution for issues in the back of the field, tightened things up once again. Anderson pulled off under caution handing third to Vic Westerlund. On the restart, Ruzich took the opportunity to challenge Blevins once again. As the duo approached came through turn four, the higher running Blevins appeared to break loose and as he worked to gather the car, the two made contact which ended with Blevins making hard contact into the front stretch barrier to end his three race winning streak. On the restart, Westerlund took a brief look inside of Ruzich but Ruzich fended him off and went on to pick up his first win of the year.
Hibbing Raceway will continue the heavily laden special event portion of the schedule hoping for better fortunes for the Mike Baumgardner Memorial on Saturday, June 29 featuring the NLRA Late Model tour. Top traveling WISSOTA Late Model teams are expected to be on hand vying for the $3500 top prize. Racing will be presented by Beltline Body Shop, J.M. Auto, Domino's Pizza, and ArcelorMittal. For more information on the Mike Baumgardner Memorial and other upcoming specials, visit www.hibbingraceway.com or call (218) 262-2324.
Heat 1- Hart, Aho, Jo.Broking, Wood, Estey, Schultz, Vanhouse, Cannata, Sersha
Heat 2- Skalsky, Hanson, B.Broking, Neimi, Tardy, Mosteller, Damjanovich, Broking, Roche
WISSOTA Super Stocks:
Heat 1- B.Carlson, Salin, Burdick, Arens, B.Kintner, Pierzina, Fink, Paolo
Heat 2- Kintner, A.Labarge, T.Labarge, Vesel, Zasadini, Oman, Carlson, Davey
WISSOTA MIdwest Modifieds:
Heat 1- S.Estey, Daronco, Kangas, Forseen, Castle Jr, Lawler, Davey
Heat 2- Wislon, M.Estey, Anderson, Thompson, Castle, Bolden, Matzdorf
Heat 1- Westerlund, Blevins, Anderson, Davey, Koski, Cappo, White, Cannata
Heat 2- Ruzich, Reini, Erickson, Theisen, Sorenson, Cimermancic, Ruzich, Butch, Ridlon, Schultze