Saturday, February 18, 2012

I-94 History 1997-1999

In my opinion from my view ... I-94 Track history (part 3 of 4) "Building blocks" 1997-1999

By Jason Dale Searcy, track announcer

*Reprinted from the track program in 2003

Racing Friday nights at 8pm... Promoter: Mary Beth Cripe/Chanda Lofquist

The real characters of this period had to be #3 Modified Rick (photo below) and Karla Burns.  Rick was the consistent "old school" driver who was one of the toughest guys to pass, he would always run you side-by-side for 6-8 laps before giving up any position.  Karla was the organized, take care of "the issues" crew chief.  If you wanted to know any racing gossip or needed any help,  just ask Karla, to find her just listen in the pits for that distinctive laugh and look for the poofy blond hair.

The two biggest races were the MN Vikings childrens charity fun races.  Craig Pommeranke and Patrick Leopold helped bring many former Vikings to the track to raise money and sign autographs.  The players also raced Legends cars: 

In 1997 Scott Studwell and Steve Jordan crossed the finish line together to tie for the win.  "Benchwarmer" Bob Lurtsema, Darrin Nelson, Carl Eller, Bill "boom boom" Brown, Tommy Kraemer, Joe Senser and Jim Marshall all were in attendance.

In 1998 Jim Marshall backed Gary Meuller's car into the front stretch wall in the heat race.  The Vikings mascot Ragnar won the feature race followed by Carl Eller, Bill Brown, Scott Studwell, Ted Brown, Greg Coleman and Doug Southerland.  These were great events with big crowds and, might I say, the former Vikings could not have been more gracious to the fans.

After a few years of WISSOTA Sanctioning the track switched to NASCAR in 1998 & 1999.  The NASCAR Remax challenge series made a stop at I-94 on Friday June 26th 1998. The race night was rained out and so the cars raced on Saturday afternoon because the staff had to be up at Fergus Falls on Saturday night, Brian Hoppe won.

The best interview of this time was Scott "the iceman" Brandt, he was the Great North Legends champion from 1997-1999.

The trucks raced at I-94 and put on a great show from 1997-1999 even though only 4-6 trucks raced on a weekly basis.  They were all evenly matched and it seemed like they took turns winning exciting features.  Jim Dehann, Greg Meyer and Eugene Dick are the champions.

In 1996 Larry Rossell (photo above) won a close points battle with Steve Johanneck to gain his first point title.  It was tight again in 1997, Larry Button was his closest rival.  Coming into the final feature event and just a few points out of the lead Rossell had to finish ahead of Button for a chance to win the championship.  Button came up big and won the feature event with Rossell on his tail at the checkered flag.  During the post race inspection it was discovered that Buttons muffler fell off during the race resulting in an automatic DQ.   That means Rossell wins the point championship.  Not so fast... Larry Rossell witnessed the whole spectacle and didn't feel right about the situation and volunteered to be DQ'd for a safety violation, so the points would remain the same as before the race and Button would win the point title.  Rossell not only gave up the championship but also had to forfeit the $400 prize money for the night, a very classy move for the #5 Modified driver.  I don't know of too many guys who would've given up a point title to show respect for another competitor.  This should go down as one of the best stories in I-94 History.

After a seven year run the "Speedway Show" on KMSR radio ended in 1997.  I was the announcer at the I-94 track in Fergus Falls and due to a work conflict was not able to attend every race night at Sauk Centre during this period but, with the help of Rick Burns, Jim Fischer and Mark Blom we built a four cyl race car.  I raced in the new UCAR division part-time for three years, finishing 11th in points twice and won a heat race with Nick Binsfeld on my rear bumper the last couple laps.  Those are years I will never forget.

1997-1999 was a "building block" time at I-94, some very big changes were on the horizon.

*Thanks to Tim Olson for #5 photo

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