By Greg Parent, UMSS Media Director
Despite cool, windy weather conditions, the largest UMSS sprint car field of the season was on hand during the opening night of the Fall Dirt Nationals at the Elko Speedway on Friday October 14. A very strong group of 27 winged sprint cars signed into a packed pit area, and with track owner Tom Ryan deciding to start all cars in the feature, it set a record for the Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series event for the largest starting grid. Making his first appearance with the UMSS, Kaley Gharst from Decatur, Illinois thrilled the crowd with a last lap pass of Scott Broty to capture the $1,000 top prize at the conclusion of the 25 lap feature race. Only two cautions slowed the pace and 23 of the starters were still running at the end on what turned out to be a well-prepared temporary dirt surface at the popular 3/8 mile oval facility located on the southern fringe of the Twin City metro area.
Driving the Scadden Construction/CNS Homes #6 J&J sprinter with Brad Sparks turning the wrenches, Gharst was impressive in his run forward from his 12th starting position. “I saw a small opening on the bottom lane in turn one on the last lap, and I squeezed underneath Broty. There was a lot of traffic out there tonight, but it was a fun deal to race here,” commented Gharst following his victory in his first trip to Elko. Scott Broty shrugged his shoulders, smiled and said, “I sure wish it had been a 20 lap feature tonight. My car was real good. I had to make the openings to get through the lapped traffic and sometimes that holds you up a bit. Congrats to Kaley. I’ll see if I can improve by one spot tomorrow night.”
With the large field of cars and four divisions on the program, the UMSS did not utilize their typical double-round of qualifying races. Instead they ran three 10 lap heat races with passing and finishing points. When no B Feature was necessary after track owner Tom Ryan decided to allow all cars to start the feature, drivers and teams expressed some concern. As it turned out, the drivers did a great job and put on a very entertaining feature race for the fans. Heat race wins went to Davey Heskin, Scott Broty, and Cody Hahn. Sye Anderson was the high point driver following the heats and he drew a zero pill for a straight-up start. This put Brad Barickman to his outside on the front row.
At the drop of the green, 27 winged sprints roared to life with Anderson grabbing the early lead over third starter Broty. The race was eight laps old when Barickman made an incredible move from third to first, but the yellow flag waved for Cody Hahn negating the move. Hahn needed wrecker assistance following contact with another car. Anderson continued to lead Broty when the green replaced the yellow. On lap 10, Broty ducked under Anderson for the lead while Heskin moved up to third. One lap later, the final caution flew when Alan Gilbertson slowed and eventually came to a stop on the back stretch. With 14 laps to go, it was Broty, Anderson, Heskin, Barickman, Cam Schafer, Gharst, Tony Norem, Scott Winters and Chris Graf in the top ten. Several fine runs forward would take place during the final green flag run to the checkers.
As Broty worked heavy lapped traffic, Gharst, Norem, and Graf were making impressive gains. With just a few laps to go, Gharst and Norem closed in on Broty. Gharst took a quick look with two to go, but Broty held strong. At the white flag, Gharst set up his car for the winning move on the very bottom lane. With his left side tires scratching the infield grass in turns 1-2, Gharst thrilled the crowd with a clean pass underneath Broty for the lead and eventual win. Broty finished a close second followed by Norem just a few car lengths back. Graf came from 11th to finish fourth. Heskin held on to fifth with a broken right rear shock mount. Completing the top ten finishers were Anderson, Winters, 15th starter and UMSS point leader Jerry Richert Jr, Redwood Speedway track champion Cam Schafer, and Barickman.
In the battle for the GRP Motorsports/BP Trading Company Rookie of the Year, Anna Kouba and Chad Patterson were tied coming into the final weekend of racing. Neither driver was able to improve upon their lowest score, as the title is determined by their top twelve best point shows. Chad Patterson has one more opportunity to break the tie, but Anna Kouba could only race on Friday night due to a college soccer game on Saturday. Brooke Tatnell will jump into Anna’s #5 sprinter on Saturday night. In the championship point standings, Jerry Richert Jr. only needed to start each race and his impressive run forward to finish eighth pretty much assured the championship title for the veteran Forest Lake racer. Richert is driving the potent Nelson Motorsports #14 entry during the final weekend after destroying his car three weeks earlier at St. Croix Valley Raceway.
The final night of the Elko Fall Dirt Nationals will round out the 2011 UMSS racing season. The 2011 champion and rookie titles will be officially determined on the final night. If the racing is as good as it was on the opening night, sprint car fans are in store for another entertaining evening. You can follow the UMSS on their website at www.umsprints.com, become a friend of the UMSS on their Facebook page, or pick up a copy of the free UMSS Report newsletter available at most events. The UMSS continues to put on a show for the fans each and every night with exciting winged sprint car racing action. Be a part of this growing series!
UMSS Race Results – Elko Speedway Fall Dirt Nationals October 14, 2011 (Race #18):
Alpha Apparel & Promotions Ultimate Sprint Heat #1 (10 laps): Davey Heskin, Scott Winters, Jared Goerges, Johnny Parsons III, Andy Jones, Jerry Richert Jr, Alan Gilbertson, Robby Pribnow, Donovan Peterson.
Meeks Video & Driver Websites Ultimate Sprint Heat #2 (10 laps): Scott Broty, Sye Anderson, Brad Barickman, Joseph Kouba, Chad Patterson, Jordan Wilmes, Kevin Bradwell, Anna Kouba, Mike Stien DNF.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service Ultimate Sprint Heat #3 (10 laps): Cody Hahn, Tony Norem, Cam Schafer, Kaley Gharst, Chris Graf, David Craft, Rob Caho Jr, Mike Mueller, Dean Brown DNF.
GRP Motorsports A Main (25 laps): Gharst, Broty, Norem, Graf, Heskin, Anderson, Winters, Richert, Schafer, Barickman, Jones, Goerges, J Kouba, Parsons, Pribnow, Craft, Wilmes, Patterson, Caho, Bradwell, A Kouba, Peterson, Mueller, Stien DNF, Gilbertson DNF, Brown DNF, Hahn DNF.
Lap Leaders: Anderson 1-9, Broty 10-24, Gharst 25.