The final night of the inaugural Dirt Nationals at the Elko Speedway in Elko, Minnesota concluded on Saturday night with Zach VanderBeek in victory lane for the USMTS modifieds. Billy Balog, IRA sprint car points leader, also ended up in victory lane after their twenty-five lap finale.
The track was in better condition last night as more moisture was applied before the races. Fewer sprint cars were in attendance last night then Friday night, which meant fewer cars to do two-lap qualifying time trials. That provided both classes, along with the Legends division, a better track to race on later in the evening.
First to hit the track was the forty-lap feature for the USMTS. Chase Junghans drew the pole, but his car pushed up on the first set of corners and clipped the outside wall in turn two to bring out the first caution. With Junghans sidelined, the rest of the field criss-crossed with the missing car. That put Jacob Dahle and Zach VanderBeek on the front row. VanderBeek took the lead down the backstretch before Junghan's incident, and the restart prove to be no different as VanderBeek grabbed the lead from the get go. Starting right behind VanderBeek, Ryan Gustin followed him into the runner up spot as the two began to distance themselves from third-running Tim Donlinger, who had opened up significant track position on the rest of the field.
Another caution came out on lap nine, bunching the field back up for a double-file restart. Friday night's track conditions did not allow for a double-file restart, so last night's was definitely one to keep an eye on. VanderBeek maintained the lead as Gustin was able to keep ahead of Donlinger off the start. Deeper in the field, Jason Krohn was running a higher line then everybody else and he was making it work. He drove by Kelly Shryock to move into eighth place just passed the halfway point and would later get by Mark Noble for sixth, but had too much ground to make up by that time to advance further.
As the top three encountered lap traffic, Gustin and Donlinger closed up on the rear bumper of VanderBeek. VanderBeek was unable to get by the lapped car or Jake Neal, but was content just riding it out close behind him. Gustin and Donlinger were unable to make a move late in the race as Zach VanderBeek took home the win. Ryan Gustin finished second, Tim Donlinger was third, Tommy Myer fourth, and Corey Dripps rounded out the top five. VanderBeek pocked $3,000 with the win.
Steve Meyer used his pole starting position to grab the lead early on in the IRA sprint feature. That didn't last long, however, as series point leader Billy Balog used the cushion to power by Meyer on lap four. After a red flag incident, Travis Whitney would also get by Meyer to move into second place. Friday night's runner up Scott Winters was on the move again last night. He made his way by John Haeni for fourth and later got by Meyer to climb into the third spot at the halfway point. But in the end it was too much Billy Balog as he extended his point lead with the win. Travis Whitney finished second, Scott Winters third, and Steve Meyer fourth.
Earlier in the night, Travis Whitney shattered Terry McCarl's track record by more then a second in time trials. Whitney blistered a lap record in under thirteen seconds.
The USMTS heads to the Nobles County Speedway in Worthington, Minnesota tonight (Sunday) for their next stop on the tour before taking about a week off. Then it will be another full week or so of non-stop action as things will pick back up beginning Monday, August 3rd at the Mineral City Speedway in Fort Dodge, Iowa. That race was originally scheduled in mid-June but Mother Nature forced officials to pull the plug.
-Racing may be a hobby, but it's DEFINITELY addictive!!