After being delayed for three weeks, due to a brutal spring, Mother Nature finally relented and brought enough good weather to the area to allow Shawano Speedway to get its 2011 race season underway on Saturday, May 7. Once again there was a rumble in the air, the ground shook, and the dirt flew at Shawano Speedway.
The weather was a little cool, but the die-hard race fans were out in force. There were 94 cars on hand for the opener, which was down from the 120 cars that were on hand for the opener in 2010. One must remember that in 2010, there were no other dirt tracks in the area open the same weekend as Shawano Speedway’s opener. This year, both ThunderHill Raceway in Sturgeon Bay and 141 Speedway in Francis Creek were also racing on Saturday night.
At Shawano Speedway there were 20 WISSOTA Late Models, 17 IMCA Modifieds, 25 IMCA Stock Cars, 10 FASTRAK Late Models and 22 IMCA Northern SportMods. The IMCA Modified car count was a bit disappointing but not unexpected since Modifieds headline both ThunderHill Raceway and 141 Speedway. The FASTRAK Late Model car count was disappointing. We’ll have to monitor that car count throughout the year.
Feature winners included: Nick Anvelink (WISSOTA Late Model), Eric Scribner (IMCA Modified), Justin Jacobsen (IMCA Stock Car), Brett Swedberg (FASTRAK Late Model) and Travis Van Straten (IMCA Northern SportMod).
There were rumors circulating during the winter that Dave Fieber, last year’s FASTRAK Late Model track champion at Shawano Speedway, was going to jump up to the WISSOTA Late Model division. I asked Fieber if he was racing in the FASTRAK division again in 2011 and he responded, “For now.” He said there is a chance he could be in the WISSOTA Late Model division before the end of the year.
Brett Swedberg was doing double duty Saturday night, racing in both the WISSOTA and FASTRAK Late Model divisions. He finished seventh in the WISSOTA feature and took home the victory in the FASTRAK feature.
Aaron Holiday was the only rookie driver in the FASTRAK division, after racing the last several years in the IMCA Northern SportMod division. Holiday had a solid night finishing third in his heat race and fifth in the feature.
As most local race fans already know, M.J. McBride retired during the offseason. One of McBride’s biggest rivals might also be done racing. Terry Anvelink was at the Speedway but did not have a race car there. I asked Terry what his plans were for 2011 and he said he needs a sponsor and doesn’t have the funds to race, so he isn’t sure how much racing he will be doing in 2011.
There were three WISSOTA Late Model drivers on hand at the practice session on Friday night who stayed to race on Saturday night. Dustin Virkus, Danny Young and Harry Hanson each bought a Rocket chassis from A.J. Diemel and made the trek to Shawano Speedway to get some setup help from Diemel.
For those who follow WISSOTA Late Model racing, Hanson is the most well-known drivers of the three, as he has won several big races during his career. Hanson, from Evelth, Minn. said this was his second trip to Shawano Speedway, but he didn’t race much his first time there because he hit one of the infield tires early in the evening so he didn’t get many laps that time. Hanson finished second in his heat race and fifth in the feature.
It was Virkus’ first trip to Shawano Speedway. He said he made the eight hour drive from Minnesota to the Speedway to get setup help from Diemel. Virkus said he was impressed with the Speedway. Virkus finished fifth in his heat race and 15th in the feature.
Young hails from Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada which is almost a nine hour drive to Shawano Speedway. He said Shawano Speedway was one of the nicest race facilities he has been at and it was bigger than any track he has raced at so far. Young finished sixth in his heat race and 13th in the feature.
Since clay was added to the race track after the 2010 season, there was concern as to whether the track would get rough. The track prep crew did a great job of preparing the track, as the track was smooth and fast during the Friday night practice.
“I was really impressed with the number of cars, I didn’t realize we had 60 cars here,” said Dale Hodkiewicz, race director of Shawano Speedway, after Friday night’s practice session. “They all got plenty of laps in and they all had a good time shaking their cars down.”
Hodkiewicz went on to say that he was glad he decided to wait the extra three weeks to try and race because the track remained smooth at the practice, as well as the following night. He said the last thing he wanted was a rough track that would tear up cars.
With one week in the books, it’s just the start to hopefully an exciting race season.
See you at the track.