Sunday, February 13, 2011

I-94 History (part 2 of 4)

I-94 Track History (part 2 of 4).  In my opinion.

Jason D Searcy

New Fast Asphalt 1994-1996
Mary Beth Cripe (photo above) was the track promoter during these years, racing was Friday nights at 8pm.

April 21st of 1994 Dick Johanneck announced at a press conference, at the Hayloft in Sauk Centre that he was starting a $120,000 project to pave the I-94 race track.  That was when the "new style" of racing began, Dick was quoted as saying that tar racing "is the future of racing."  I taped that press conference and replayed it back on KMSR radio.

Track announcer Steve Domine started off the 1994 season back at the track by playing a song over the loud speaker, "The boys are back in town," by Thin Lizzy.  Initially the thinking was to run dirt cars on the tar track... now its evolved into so dirt cars are not legal or not competitive in many of the classes.  When the tar was new it was fast but, one groove and hard to pass, quickly many dirt fans went away.  Eugene Dick was the first late Model feature winner as well as the first point Champion.

The most exciting divison:
The Mod 4 cars had the most consistent car counts, had great racing, and brought up some nice talent.  Some of the top divers in the Mod 4 divison were:  Dave Stork, Loyal Skuza, John Notch, Jason Voight, Quin Schreiber, Scott Atkinson, Dave Schaeffer, Shannon Johanneck, Frog Norenberg, Frank Gabrelcik, Dave Ostendorf, Kevin Woeste, Dave Shirmers and Jodi Clark.

Best newspaper reporter:  (other than Dean of course)
Robin Cook at the St Cloud times did numerous articles and features about drivers and issues surrounding the I-94 Speedway.

Best Rivalry:
1996 Superstocks Wade Tschida and Bryan Roach .. intense and fun to watch!

Best Interview:
Late Model runner up in 1995 and 1996 Jesse "the Kid" Klug.

Best Point battle:
1996 Larry Rossell edged Steve Johanneck by 1 point and it went down to the last lap of the last feature.

1996 was the first year for the UCARS that came down from Fergus Falls, and the Great North Legends that came up from the Twin Cities.  The Winged 360 Sprint cars ran on some Wednesday nights and burned off a right rear tire every race, they also lifted their left front tire off the ground exiting corners two and four.

Two big events took place during this time.  The inaugural Governors Cup on Sep 11 1994.  It was a $2500 to win 100 lap race.  Michael Waltrip (photo below) was brought in to be a celebrity driver to get added publicity, he crashed on the first lap of racing when his throttle stuck going into corner number three.  Michael later told me that when he tried to hit the brakes his knee hit the steering wheel because he didnt fit into the car (he is 6 foot 5 inches tall).  He and his wife Buffy stayed and signed autographs for at least an hour after he was done racing.  Steve Carlson won the race, Matt Kenseth, Kevin Cywinski and future I-94 owner Tim Olson also raced in that event.


The Missing Kids Indy Car 200 with the American Indy Car series on Sunday Aug 4 1996.  Patty Wetterling threw the green flag to start this 150 lap race.  It rained hard in the morning and that scared some of the crowd but, the track dried off and 11 Indy cars raced.  Greg Gordon won and MN Sprint car driver Travis Whitney finished third in only his second day in an Indy Car.  Future CART series winner Jacques Lazier finished fourth, he is the brother of INDY 500 winner Buddy Lazier.

1994-1996 was an exciting time at I-94, everything was new and alot of effort was put into promoting the "Newest asphalt tracks in MN."  Kyle Petty's Mello Yellow car was on display one week at the track and Mary Beth Cripe began a long tradition of kids "Box Car racing," during intermission.

*reprinted from track program in 2002
*photo courtesy of http://www.cricketprints.com/

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