Finding his rhythm
All the success that Austin Daae has had on the ice this year has carried over to the dirt track.
The Estevan, Saskatchewan, native took the checkered flag in the International Motor Contest Association Stock Cars feature Saturday on the first day of Memorial Day Weekend at Nodak Speedway.
Daae, who led the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League in scoring during the regular season with 71 points (30 goals, 41 assists), won the race in a similar fashion seen on the ice: a grind-it-out, slug-it-out style. Daae held off Michael Vennes by 0.314 seconds for the wire-to-wire victory.
“After the heat race we changed a few things and it worked really good,” Daae said. “This was kind of the track I was hoping for. It had a little bit of bite. I just tried to find a rhythm, find a groove and stay in there.”
It was clear from the beginning that Daae had the fastest car among the field of 21. After each restart, he took a three or four car-length lead over the field. The only thing keeping him close to the rest of the pack were the five cautions. It wasn’t until the final restart on lap 16 when he got a challenge from Michael Vennes, who made his way from 11th to second.
“I know Mike’s fast,” Daae said. “I know those guys worked their way up from the back. Once I could hear after every caution the lineup, I knew I was going to have my hands full. I try not to think too much about that and instead just keep a clear mind and do my own thing.”
Vennes was right on Daae’s bumper down the stretch, but the leader was able to hug the inside of the track the way he wanted to give him a little bit of an advantage going into the straightaways.
“He definitely drove a better race than I did,” Vennes said. “I kept screwing up in the corners. He was definitely way smoother and that was the difference there.”
Vennes moved into the top five on the fourth lap and found himself running second two laps later. Bob Fuegmann took third in front of Dalton Flory and Dave Swallers, who finished fourth and fifth, respectively.
Travis Hagen capped off the night by winning the IMCA Modifieds by a healthy margin. Hagen crossed the finish line 2.657 seconds before Aaron Turnbull, who took second.
Shawn Strand carried over the momentum of winning the B-main event to grab third place. Shawn Anderson placed fourth and Steven Pfeifer finished fifth. Last weekend’s winner, Robert Hellebust, finished out of the top 10, 8.743 seconds behind Hagen.
No review will be needed this week to determine the winner of the INEX Legends feature. It turned into a four-car race with Donavin Wiest coming out on top over Tom Wagner, Steven Kuntz and Shane Williams. Wiest topped all three by less than a half-second, finishing in front of Wagner by just 0.123.
Wiest, who caused a caution on the final lap of last weekend’s race, ran clean Saturday. He started on the pole before surrendering the lead to Wagner on the third lap. Wiest recaptured the lead three laps later and withstood a charge from Williams, last weekend’s winner after review.
Williams grabbed the second position from Wagner on the eighth lap and briefly claimed the lead on the second-to-last lap. But Wiest came right back and retook the lead moments later and held on. Williams dropped to fourth after being caught by both Wagner and Kuntz on the final straightaway.
Jon Schumann finished fifth, 6.838 behind Wiest.
Jeff Hooker snuck by Justin Medler at the flag stand on the 17th lap and won the IMCA Sport Modifieds feature under caution. Hooker didn’t crack the top five until lap 15, but quickly moved to the front of the pack.
Medler took over the lead from Myles Tomlinson on the seventh lap and led the next 10. Medler appeared surprised when Hooker passed him in the late stages and spun out trying to gain lost ground. He was charged with the caution and did not finish.
Medler wasn’t the only one who spun out while racing in the top five. Erik Laudenschlager caused a caution while running second through 15 laps and was sent to the back, where he finished 10th.
Tomlinson finished second after starting the race third and spending time in the lead as well as in fourth. Nathan Burke also came from outside the top five to grab a third-place finish. Robby Rosselli was fourth and Mike Lemay took fifth.
The IMCA Hobby Stocks got off to a slow start in its feature as there were three cautions in the first four laps. The third caution, charged to Dana Brandt, ended five drivers’ night after a massive pileup in corner one. Among those collected in the wreck were Kadi Ruby, Cody Dignan, Nate Joern, Adam Goff and Brandt.
It took 20 minutes, the allotted time limit, to complete seven laps. The fifth caution of the night forced a green-white-checkered finish, chopping off the final three laps of the 15-lap race. Brad King emerged through all the wreckage to win the Hobby Stocks feature.
King overtook Brad Beeter on the back straightaway of the final lap to deny Beeter his second straight Hobby Stocks feature victory. King got position on Beeter on the final turn and managed to shake off a little contact on the front straightaway to grab the checkered flag. Beeter had been the leader the previous seven laps before getting edged by King.
There were five cautions after completing three heats earlier in the day without seeing the yellow flag. Eleven of the 23 cars did not finish.
Memorial Day Weekend at Nodak Speedway concludes today with Military Appreciation Night. Racing begins at 6 p.m.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN
IMCA Hobby Stocks
Heat 1: 1. Brock Beeter, Minot; 2. Keith Mattox, Ray; 3. Nate Joern, Minot.
Heat 2: 1. Dana Brandt, Minot; 2. Jason Olsen, Minot; 3. Ben Zietz, Velva.
Heat 3: 1. Brad King, Fairbanks, Alaska; 2. Kadi Ruby, Minot; 3. Cody Dignan, Kenmare.
A-Main: 1. King; 2. Beeter; 3. Olsen; 4. Andrew Sebastian; 5. Phillip Keller.
IMCA Sport Modifieds
Heat 1: 1. Justin Medler, Minot; 2. Darren Medler, Minot; 3. Matt Lang, Turtle Lake.
Heat 2: 1. Jeff Hooker, Minot; 2. Myles Tomlinson, Turtle Lake; 3. Nathan Burke, Minot.
Heat 3: 1. Erik Laudenschlager, Surrey; 2. Dennis Chapman, Minot; 3. Brock Beeter, Minot.
B-Main: 1. Robby Rosselli, Minot; 2. Varion Hetle; 3. Stan Tomlinson; 4. Matt Lizotte; 5. Andrew Bertsch.
A-Main: 1. Hooker; 2. Tomlinson; 3. Burke; 4. Rosselli; 5. Mike Lemay.
Heat 1: 1. Donavin Wiest, Wishek; 2. Tom Wagner, Mercer; 3. Troy Hoff, Flasher.
A-Main: 1. Wiest; 2. Wagner; 3. Steven Kuntz; 4. Shane Williams; 5. Jon Schumann.
IMCA Stock Cars
Heat 1: 1. Scott Yale, Minot; 2. Austin Daae, Estevan, Sask.; 3. Brett Woznicki, Minot.
Heat 2: 1. Nathan Burke, Minot; 2. Bob Fuegmann, Minot; 3. Tyler Ashley, Bismarck.
Heat 3: 1. Justin Striefel, Minot; 2. Michael Vennes, Minot; 3. Cody Nelson, Kenmare.
A-Main: 1. Daae; 2. Vennes; 3. Fuegmann; 4. Dalton Fury; 5. Dave Swallers.
Heat 1: 1. Spencer Wilson, Minot; 2. Eric Sinness, Williston; 3. Donald Robinson.
Heat 2: 1. Joe Flory, Williston; 2. Jason Wolla; 3. Robert Hellebust, Kenmare.
Heat 3: 1. Travis Hagen, Williston; 2. Mike Hagen, Williston; 3. Shawn Anderson, Minot.
Heat 4: 1. Drew Christianson, Minot; 2. Aaron Turnbull, Estevan, Sask.; 3. Josh Wolla, Minot.
B-Main: 1. Shawn Strand; 2. Wayne Johnson; 3. Tyler Wagner; 4. Darin Wendt; 5. Jordan Huettl.
A-Main: 1. Hagen; 2. Turnbull; 3. Strand; 4. Anderson; 5. Steven Pfeifer.