Wolla claims first win at Nodak Speedway
Nodak Speedway hasn’t been good to Minot’s Josh Wolla in previous years.
The International Motor Contest Association Modifieds driver hadn’t been in victory lane when participating at his hometown track.
But Wolla excorcised his demons by holding off Minot’s Kelly Henderson on the final straightaway to win his first feature race at Nodak Speedway on Sunday.
“Our team’s been working hard this year and we finally are getting some things put together,” Wolla said. “We have great people, great sponsors. I can’t thank everybody enough. We just got things rolling the last couple of weeks and it’s going good.”
Wolla took the checkered flag Saturday in Williston and rolled over the momentum to Sunday’s race.
Wolla overtook pole-sitter Jarad Bourassa of Radville, Sask., on the opening lap and didn’t surrender the lead despite heavy pressure from Henderson and Nathan Burke of Minot. All three drivers made contact on turn four of lap 11, but Wolla remained in front. Burke nearly went over the top of Henderson’s car along the inside, trying to grab sole possession of second.
“I lifted a little bit to not hit Josh and Nathan was right there,” Henderson said. “He got into me, but that’s just the racing deal.”
Henderson made sure Wolla knew he was closing in, tapping his bumper prior to the three-car collision.
“I knew they were right on me the whole time,” Wolla said. “I just had to do whatever I could to block the bottom. That was pretty much the only lane. I got out front and luckily I was able to hold on.”
Lap traffic came into play on lap 13, closing the gap between the three drivers even more. Henderson said that was his best chance to pass Wolla.
“When I caught that lap car I thought I had a pretty good shot on him, but he did a pretty good job of getting around lap traffic,” Henderson said.
Henderson settled for second and Burke finished third.
The IMCA Modifieds feature provided the most excitement as Bismarck’s Jeremy Keller and Minot’s Wayne Johnson jockeyed for the lead during the final 10 laps. Keller and Johnson swapped the first and second spots four times down the stretch, including three on the final three laps. Keller passed Johnson on the final lap and held on to take the checkered flag by 0.474 seconds.
Neck-and-neck through the latter portion of the race, each driver had a different strategy. Johnson hugged the inside of the track, attempting to save as many precious seconds as possible. Keller stuck to the high end of the track and used the straightaways to cut into Johnson’s lead before passing him for the first time with five laps remaining.
Coming into the final turn, Keller went low and blocked Johnson from taking the inside, sealing the victory for the No. 11K car. It was the second straight week Johnson finished second in the feature race. He was edged out by Minot’s Drew Christianson last Sunday.
Minot native and points leader Steven Pfeifer finished fifth.
Pole-sitter Zac Lutz of Burlington experienced car trouble prior to the start of the INEX Legends feature, opening the door for Bismarck’s Paul Huettl and Flasher’s Troy Hoff.
Hoff led the majority of the race, but the No. 41 of Huettl caught up to the Flasher native on the fourth turn of the second-to-last lap. Hoff opened a large lead with just a few laps remaining, but an untimely caution put Huettl within striking distance.
Huettl took advantage of his second chance and got by Hoff, taking the checkered flag by 0.452 seconds. Points leader Steven Kuntz of Bismarck finished third.
Minot’s Dana Brandt withstood a late charge from fellow Minot natives Brandon and Brock Beeter to win the IMCA Hobby Stock feature.
Brandt edged out Brandon Beeter by 0.292 seconds to take the checkered flag. Brandt started the race in fifth and quickly moved into second place five laps into the feature. He closed the gap on Brock Beeter – the leader at the time – and passed the No. 48 car heading into turn four on lap nine.
Brandt stretched his lead to a few car lengths over the Beeter brothers before the race’s first caution on lap 12 brought them back together. Brandon passed his brother on the restart but wasn’t able to catch Brandt down the stretch.
Racing returns to Nodak Speedway at 6 p.m. Thursday for a 4th of July special. All five classes will be in action.
Mike Kraft covers racing at Nodak Speedway during the summer. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.