Monday August 6, 2012
By Jeremy Mayo
With only a handful off nights remaining before Three Lakes TNT Speedway crowns its 2012 track champions, three drivers made a strong case that the titles are theirs to lose.
Tomahawk’s Jeff Klopstein Jr. won the WISSOTA AMSOIL Dirt Track Series Midwest Modified feature and Brandon Langbecker won the TNT Stinger feature Saturday as both drivers extended their leads in the respective classes. Jordan Kurtti of Bruce Crossing, Mich., moved back into the title fight with a clean sweep in the WADTS Street Stocks. Lac du Flambeau’s John Johnson Sr. claimed his second consecutive victory in the TNT Pure Stocks.
The threat of rain had a slight impact on the car count, but Mother Nature kept the soaking rains to the south and provided a clear, comfortable evening for racing.
Klopstein entered the night seven points ahead of fellow Tomahawk driver C.J. Hedges Jr, and eight points clear of Eagle River’s Bruce Belland. Belland won the heat race, trimming Klopstein’s lead to six, but Klopstein got the advantage early in the feature. He took the lead on lap five, passing Rhinelander’s Dennis Mikkelson while Belland had to pick his way though the field. Belland got to second on lap seven, but by that time Klopstein was in another zip code, opening up an eight-car length lead he would only extend over the final two-thirds of the race.
Klopstein won the race, opening the gap to eight points over Belland, who finished second and 15 over Hedges who fought back to a fourth place finish after an early pit stop under caution. Mikkelson finished third and Cory Dickman of Bruce Crossing, Mich. took fifth.
Kurtti started the night third in Street Stock points, 13 behind leader Jeff Mullins of Argonne, thanks to a recent string of bad luck. But the defending class champion returned to dominant form Saturday, leading all 10 laps of his heat and all 25 laps of the feature.
The lead was a safe place to be in the Street Stocks as cautions for almost every conceivable reason — a lost muffler (Jason Jensen), a spin (Jake Terry), a jumped restart (Brit Bromann) and even a temporary power failure — bogged down the middle stages of the race. Kurtti checked out once a long green-flag run was established. Sugar Camp’s Ben Pitlik passed Rhinelander’s Paul Sowinski for second on lap 16, but left the track with four laps remaining due to mechanical issues, leaving Sowinski and Bromann to battle for second.
Kurtti, Sowinski, Bromann, Mullins and Laona’s Jake Terry comprised the top five finishers in the class. With the win, Kurtti passed Terry for second in the points and now sits just six points behind Mullins with three nights remaining in the race for the track championships.
Last week Langbecker was the benefactor and the victim of circumstances at the same time when teammate Kasey Gross smacked the guardrail while leading on the final lap. It gave Langbecker the win, but also a trip to the pits on a wrecker after getting tangled up in Gross’ wreck.
The Gleason teammates sped to the front of the Stinger field again. Gross shot from fourth to the lead exiting turn two on the opening lap, but Langbecker remained glued to his back bumper. Langbecker moved along side Gross on lap seven, and completed the pass on lap nine. Moments later, Gross’ axle gave way, ejecting the right rear wheel from his automobile.
Langbecker’s primary rival in the points, Merrill’s Zach Degner, took the shortly after the restart thanks to an aggressive bump-and-run maneuver in turns three and four, drawing admonishment — but no penalty — from track officials. Two laps later, Langbecker retook the lead as Degner left an opening on the inside of the track. Langbecker led the final four laps to claim his second consecutive feature victory, opening a six-point lead over Degner in the process. Degner, Merrill’s Louis Malluege and Harshaw’s Robert Dalka rounded out the field of cars running at the end of the race.
Mike Bukovic held the lead in the TNT Pure Stock feature after a slew of early cautions. As he drove away from the field on lap 14, he lost a wheel, ending his night.
That handed the lead over to Johnson and set-up a green-white-checkered finish as the race exceeded its 20-minute time limit. Johnson got an excellent restart, which proved to be useful in the final two-lap dash. It gave him a two-car length advantage over Bromann, who reeled in Johnson by the final lap. Bromann made a move to the inside coming off turn four to the checkered flag, but ended up three feet short in his bid for a feature victory. Eagle River’s Kyle Schneider, 17, finished third in his Pure Stock debut. Alex Durand and Jesse Dettman, both of Rhinelander, rounded out the top five.
Despite the strong feature finish, Bromann had issues in the heat race and saw his points lead shrink to 19 over Rhinelander’s Dan Schultz and 23 over Johnson.
The TNT Trucks took the night off, but will return this coming Saturday at Three Lakes TNT Speedway. It is AMSOIL Race of Champions Qualifier night at the track as the winners of the WADTS Midwest Modified and Street Stock features will clinch a berth in the AMSOIL Race of Champions, held in conjunction with the WISSOTA 100 next month in South Dakota. In addition to a full race program, fans will be treated to an autograph session during intermission. Hot laps will begin shortly after 6:30 p.m., with racing at 7:15 p.m.
In other track news, Three Lakes TNT Speedway officials announced that the special race on Saturday, Sept. 1 has been canceled and that the 2012 Fall Special has been moved to Sept. 7 and 8. It had been originally scheduled for Sept. 8 and 9.
Three Lakes TNT Speedway
Saturday, Aug. 4
WISSOTA AMOSIL Dirt Track Series Midwest Modifies
*Feature:* 1, Jeff Klopstein Jr. 2, Bruce Belland. 3, Dennis Mikkelson. 4, C.J. Hedges Jr. 5, Cory Dickman. 6, Joe Kin. 7, Larry Gasperini. 8, Dan Melton.
*Heat:* 1, Belland. 2, Mikkelson. 3, Klopstein Jr. 4, Dickman. 5, Gasperini. 6, Kin. 7, Hedges Jr. 8, Melton.
WISSOTA AMSOIL Dirt Track Series Street Stocks
Feature: 1, Jordan Kurtti. 2, Paul Sowinski. 3, Brit Bromann. 4, Jeff Mullins. 5, Jake Terry. 6, Dustin Miller. 7, Ben Pitlik. 8, Jeff Walters. 9, Jason Jensen. DNS: Todd Brass.
*Heat 1:* 1, Pitlik. 2, Jensen. 3, Terry. 4, Brass. 5, Walters.
*Heat 2:* 1, Kurtti. 2, Bromann. 3, Sowinski. 4, Mullins. 5, Miller.
TNT Pure Stocks
*Feature:* 1, John Johnson Sr. 2, Brit Bromann. 3, Kyle Schneider. 4, Alex Durand. 5, Jesse Dettman. 6, Dan Schultz. 7, Mike Bukovic. 8, John Danielson. 9, Tyler Lundberg. 10. David Blackberg. 11, Herb Dettman. 12, Rick England. DNS: Joe Chaney, Dustin Grimm.
*Heat 1:* 1, Bukovic. 2, J. Dettman. 3, Lundberg. 4, Danielson. 5, Blackberg. 6, Grimm. 7, Chaney.
Heat 2: 1, Schultz. 2, Johnson St. 3, England. 4, Durand. 5, Schneider. 6, H. Dettman. DQ: Bromann.
*Feature:* 1, Brandon Langbecker. 2, Zach Degner. 3, Louis Malluege. 4, Robert Dalka. 5, Kasey Gross.
*Heat:* 1, Gross. 2, Degner. 3, Langbecker. 4, Malluege. 5, Dalka.
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