By Greg Parent, UMSS Media Director,Naomi Winters
Scott Winters topped the 26 car starting grid in what turned out to be another incredible feature race at the Elko Fall Dirt Nationals to wind up the Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series (UMSS) season. Although the 2011 campaign was extended a while longer due to a rain delay, the track was fantastic for the 20 lap sprint car feature. Winters led the first 15 laps before Friday night victor Kaley Gharst got by, but Gharst and Davey Heskin made contact in turn four on their way to the white flag and crashed to bring out the only red flag of the weekend. Winters raced ahead of Brooke Tatnell during the final two lap dash to the checkers for the victory to end his season on a winning note.
The largest turnout of the season for the UMSS sprints saw 28 cars sign into the pits on Saturday October 15 for the final night of the Fall Dirt Nationals at the Elko Speedway. As the skies turned overcast in the late afternoon hours and light rain was on the radar, the program moved along quickly. The UMSS ran three ten lap qualifying heat races with passing and finishing points. Scott Broty ended up being the top pointer earner and redrew the #4 pill for the feature race invert. The front row was stout with Winters and Heskin followed by Gharst and Broty in the row two. Several other heavy hitters were scattered throughout the next several rows.
Following the rain delay prior to the final four features of the evening, the Elko track crew worked their magic on the 3/8 mile temporary dirt surface to make sure the program could get in. With the legends cars up first after the rain, the track was in great shape for the UMSS main event which followed. Winters immediately blasted into the early lead on the fast racing surface with Heskin and Gharst close behind. It did not take long to encounter lapped traffic, as the leaders began the task of working through the tail end of the field just four laps into the race. An incredible race unfolded at this point under the green, as the top five cars were running fairly close together. At the halfway mark, 8th starter Brooke Tatnell in the Kouba #5 sprinter suddenly edged into the mix in third place. Gharst, Tatnell and Heskin waged an exciting battle just behind Winters.
The race remained clean and green past the halfway mark and the battle for the top spot really got interesting. With Winters, Gharst, Heskin and Tatnell working lapped traffic and racing hard, Gharst worked his way to the front on lap 16 in traffic. One lap later, Heskin got by Winters for second and set his sights on Gharst immediately in front of him. Winters tried to regain the lost positions, as the top three thrilled the crowd with Tatnell in the battle and Scott Broty close behind. Racing three wide for the lead in turn four on lap 19 in close quarters, contact and an eventual crash between the two lead cars of Gharst and Heskin brought the race under red. Both cars were towed to the pits and out of the race in a dramatic turn of events up front. This set up a green-white-checker run to finish the race.
Winters drove a final quick two circuits to the checkers to earn his second career UMSS feature win. Tatnell finished second ahead of Broty with 2011 UMSS Champion Jerry Richert, Jr. riding home in fourth and Tony Norem completing the top five. Rounding out the top ten finishers were Sye Anderson, Brad Barickman, Jared Goerges, Cam Schafer and 21st starter Chris Graf. Nineteen of the 26 starters finished the race with the top nine cars on the lead lap in a race that certainly had some dramatic and exciting moments. The race was reduced to 20 laps from the original 25 lap scheduled distance due to the weather delay.
Commenting in Elko Speedway Victory Lane following his win, Winters stated “I’m glad I was on the bottom, as it got real tight out there with three cars racing for the win. There was a lot of lapped traffic and things got interesting several times for sure. We were a bit off last night, but the car was great tonight and the track was perfect for us. Thanks to everybody for sticking with the show and getting the races in. The crowd should have enjoyed that one.” Indeed, the UMSS sprint cars put a two very entertaining racing programs at the inaugural Fall Dirt Nationals.
Jerry Richert, Jr. was crowned the 2011 UMSS Champion on Saturday night at Elko, as the veteran Forest Lake driver had clinched the GRP Motorsports High Five title the previous night. Richert closed out his championship season with a couple of strong runs in the Nelson Motorsports #14 sprinter at Elko. For Richert, it was a well-deserved championship title, as he defeated the “super sophomore” Andy Jones in their season long battle for top honors. Another incredible story unfolded during the feature race, as Scott Broty turned in yet another impressive performance to move past 2010 UMSS Champion Cody Hahn to finish third in the championship point standings. Broty proved his underfunded team with a strong Broty Racing Engines power plant under the hood was a force to be reckoned with during the season, and at Elko the veteran Prior Lake driver raced to a second and third place finish on the final weekend. A great job for Broty and his team after sitting out the past five seasons and jumping back into the sport in 2011. Last year’s GRP Sweet Sixteen bonus award winner Brad Barickman rounded out the top five in the point standings, as the Richfield hot shoe suffered through several tough nights during the 2011 season.
The drama also played out for the GRP Motorsports/BP Trading Company Rookie of the Year title on Saturday night at Elko. With Anna Kouba and Chad Patterson tied for the top spot coming into the final race of the season, it was up to Chad to break the tie as Anna had a previous college soccer game commitment and could not race. Chad needed to finish 13th or better in the feature in order to take sole possession of top rookie honors. Following a power steering line blow out and DNF in his heat race, the young Burnsville racer and former midwest mod driver started 25th and drove up to 16th at the finish. By virtue of still being tied after the final race, both Chad Patterson and Anna Kouba will be recognized as UMSS co-rookies of the year and both will share equally in the prize money for the top two spots at the banquet. Kevin Bradwell finished third in the rookie point standings after competing in 17 out of the 19 UMSS races held in 2011.
The Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series wishes to thank all of the drivers, car owners, crew members, families, fans, series helpers, track promoters, and sponsors for a great third season in series history. The UMSS continues to gain fans and generate interest in the local area sprint car racing scene. The UMSS closed out the season with two incredible races at Elko and will work hard to continue to improve, grow and expand this great sport. Details on the upcoming November 19 meeting will be highlighted in a separate press release. Fans are encouraged to keep tabs on the series throughout the off-season on the UMSS website at www.umsprints.com or follow along on the UMSS Facebook page and message boards. We’ll see you at the races next spring!
UMSS Race Results – Elko Speedway Fall Dirt Nationals October 15, 2011 (Race #19):
Alpha Apparel & Promotions Ultimate Sprint Heat #1 (10 laps): Brad Barickman, Scott Broty, Andy Jones, Johnny Parsons III, Mike Stien, Tori Knutson, Kevin Bradwell, Jordan Wilmes, Mike Mueller, Chad Patterson DNF.
Meeks Video & Driver Websites Ultimate Sprint Heat #2 (10 laps): Kaley Gharst, Scott Winters, Jared Goerges, Rob Caho Jr, Cody Hahn, Joseph Kouba, Donovan Peterson, Dean Brown DNF, Alan Gilbertson DNF.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service Ultimate Sprint Heat #3 (10 laps): Davey Heskin, Sye Anderson, Jerry Richert Jr, Brooke Tatnell, David Craft, Tony Norem, Chris Graf, Cam Schaefer, Chad Cummings.
GRP Motorsports A Main (20 laps): Winters, Tatnell, Broty, Richert, Norem, Anderson, Barickman, Goerges, Schafer, Graf, Jones, Peterson, Kouba, Craft, Cummings, Patterson, Knutson, Stien, Wilmes, Caho DNF, Gharst DNF, Heskin DNF, Mueller DNF, Hahn DNF, Parsons DNF, Bradwell DNF, Brown DNS, Gilbertson DNS.
Lap Leaders: Winters 1-15, Gharst 16-18, Winters 19-20.