Saturday, January 22, 2011

History of I-94 (part 1 of 4)

Reprinted from the I-94 Raceway track program in 2003.

I-94 History from my point of view

By Jason D Searcy

The dirt years (1991-1993)

The first promoter was Don Engebretson and racing was on Friday nights at 8pm.  I did a radio show on Saturday mornings from 9:30-10am which featured the track announcer Steve Domine and I recorded three interviews with drivers from the pits per week.  I kept the same format through all eight years of the show and it was broadcast on KMSR 94.3 FM.   My very first interview was with Sauk Centre native Terry Merten after the opening night of racing in 1991.  The best interview over those years was with #4f Late Model driver Jeff Hinkemeyer who finished 2nd place in the points in 1992.

The two most interesting characters at the track were Tyrone Swanson who won the 1993 Sportsman division championship.  He was known to have fallen asleep in his shop underneath the race car.  Flagman Doug Clark was flown up to the track by Dick Johanneck all the way from Knoxville IA every weekend to flag the races, he was always good for a story, did you know he was blind in one eye?

The best rivalry had to be Jamie Lemke vs Ron Jones in the Modifieds in 1993.  Lemke won the championship and two races that year but Jones won 8 races.  It was the most hard-nosed competitive racing you will ever see, those two duked it out every single night that summer.

The biggest event had to be the UMP Summer Nationals in 1993.  39 Late Models attempted to qualify for that race.  Fast time was set by Scott Bloomquist with a 15.44.  I remember the tailgate section was full of cars and the front grandstand was packed with fans all paying the $15 admission.  It was a great feature with a strong field of cars (it took 17 laps before even one car was lapped).

Bloomquist (pictured above) took the early lead after starting third, he never gave up the top spot.  Billy Moyer (pictured below with Jason) finished 2nd and Bob Pierce third.  Our local drivers had a tough time as Steve Fegers broke a front suspension, Rick Aukland and Jerry Leggat both bowed out with blown tires, Jimmy Mars rubbed the wall and Joel Criderman got a DNF.  This was the first major event scheduled at I-94 Speedway and it was a big success.

The Outlaw Sprint car event in 1993 was a Saturday night show, the same night as Viking Speedway, I was asked to announce at Viking that night so I didn't get to see the race at I-94.  They did two unlimited Sprint Car features and legendary racer Doug Wolfgang finished second in both events.  Craig Dollansky and Tim Monson were the two winners and Donny "the kid" Schatz got third place in the first feature.

The track surface proved to be quite the challenge...on calm nights the dust would hang in the air for an hour after the races were over.  Mud was flung up on the wall so the walls had to be scraped with shovels after every feature which caused lengthy delays, but the rocks caused most of the problems.  I was hit in the head by a gum-ball sized rock (some say that explains a lot) and it broke my glasses, unfortunately I wasn't the only one who had a problem with flying stones.  Promoter Mary Beth Cripe was quoted in a 1995 St Cloud Times article that 18 claims were filed with the insurance company in 1993 and that is what instigated Dick Johanneck to make a big change.... and that is the focus of I-94 History part two "New fast asphalt 1994-1996," keep checking back for the next installment of this four part series.

Its fun to remember the history of this great racing facility, I hope you enjoy it as well.

Jason D Searcy (I-94 announcer)

*Photos courtesy of

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