Greg Parent,Vince Peterson photo
Although the weather was cold and windy, the racing action on the track in the Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series (UMSS) once again was hot during the opening night of the Fall Dirt Nationals at the Elko Speedway on Friday October 5. A record turnout of 31 UMSS sprint cars was the most at any UMSS event held during the first four years the series has been in existence and eclipsed the previous high mark established at Elko a few years ago. Just as Kaley Gharst had done last October, Brooke Tatnell waited until the final lap of the feature to make the winning pass in turns one and two when he drove around Plymouth, Wisconsin racer Ben Schmidt to provide yet another exciting finish at Elko. Tatnell earned the $1,000 top prize in his own #1AU sprint car for his eighth UMSS win of the season and seventeenth of his career.
Only two cautions slowed the pace with 19 of the 20 starters 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.
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 four Ultimate Sprint Heat races with passing and finishing points locking in the top sixteen cars. Tatnell, Schmidt, Cody Hahn and Scotty Thiel topped the heats. For the first time in series history, a B Feature was necessary. The top four cars transferring to the main event were Derrik Lusk, Jason Tostenson, Sye Anderson and Mike Stien. When high-point driver after the heats, Ben Schmidt, drew the zero pill, the feature race would see a straight-up start with no invert.
Ben Schmidt and Wade Nygaard brought the 20-car field to the green for what would be 20 very entertaining laps of racing. Nygaard, who was making his first-ever start with the UMSS, grabbed the early lead over Schmidt. Schmidt, who was also running with the UMSS for the first time, slipped under Nygaard on lap three for the top spot. The first caution blinked on with three laps completed when Tony Kaus stalled in turn four. Schmidt continued to lead Nygaard and Tatnell on the restart, as the race settled into a long green flag run.
A few laps after the race returned to green, Tatnell got by Nygaard for second and closed in on Schmidt. As the leaders worked lapped traffic, Tatnell tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to get by Schmidt. Meanwhile, 13th starter Kaley Gharst was working his way forward. Nygaard and Chris Graf battled for third while Scotty Thiel and Davey Heskin raced for fifth. With less than two laps remaining, the final yellow flag waved when Derrik Lusk did a 360 spin in turn four. Contact between Nygaard and Graf caused the 20G car of Graf to jump out of gear and stall in turn one. Graf had to tag the tail for the two lap dash to the checkers, ending what had been a very good run for the Glencoe racer.
With just two quick laps remaining, Schmidt knew he would have his hands full trying to keep the talented Aussie behind him. With Schmidt running the bottom lane, Tatnell moved out one lane and began to mount a challenge. On the final lap entering turn one, Tatnell worked the gas and brake pedals to perfection in order to lock his car down and move around Schmidt for the lead. Tatnell was able to hold off Schmidt for another thrilling Elko finish and victory. Kaley Gharst, Scotty Thiel and Davey Heskin rounded out the top five. Completing the top ten finishers were 12th starter Scott Broty, 2010 UMSS Champion Cody Hahn, Nygaard, Jared Goerges and Tommy Barber.
Commenting after the race, Tatnell smiled and said, “I’ve told many of these drivers there are two pedals in a sprint car. On some nights, the brake pedal can be nearly as valuable as the gas pedal. Tonight I was able to set my car up perfectly using the brakes in those final laps and find the grip I needed to drive around him for the win.”
Tatnell will be looking for his third Elko UMSS win and a $2,000 payday, but he will once again have to defeat a very talented field of UMSS sprint cars in order to accomplish that task on Saturday. Tatnell’s brother-in-law and defending UMSS Champion Jerry Richert, Jr. will be on hand Saturday, as Richert was unable to attend the Friday portion of the Fall Dirt Nationals due to a family commitment. Richert will be crowned the 2012 UMSS Champion, as he has earned enough points coming into the final event of the season so that nobody can overtake him in the standings. Chris Graf and Sye Anderson will battle for the runner-up spot in the standings behind Richert. Misfortune for Tony Kaus in the form of a blown motor on Friday means that Kaus likely will slip to fifth in the final rundown. Jason Tostenson sits sixth right now, and with Anna Kouba not competing this weekend, Tostenson should be able to move up two spots in the points to finish fourth.
The final night of the 2nd Annual Elko Fall Dirt Nationals will round out the 2012 UMSS racing season. If the racing is as good as it was on the opening night as well as both nights last year, sprint car fans are in store for another entertaining evening. You can follow the UMSS on their website at www.umsprints.com or become a friend of the UMSS on their Facebook page.
UMSS Race Results – Elko Speedway Fall Dirt Nationals October 5, 2012 (Race #19):
Alpha Apparel & Promotions Ultimate Sprint Heat #1 (8 laps): Brooke Tatnell 1AU, Rick Kobs 34, Tony Norem 45, Jordan Martens 13JM, Tony Kaus 3TK, Leigh Thomas 29, Donovan Peterson 11XS DNF, Dayln Cody 22W DNS.
Meeks Video Ultimate Sprint Heat #2 (8 laps): Ben Schmidt 35, Jared Goerges 9, Tommy Barber 75, Mike Stien 4S, Jason Tostenson 36, Derrik Lusk 93, Dan Grams 13, Tori Knutson 14K.
Driverwebsites.com Ultimate Sprint Heat #3 (8 laps): Cody Hahn 23, Wade Nygaard 9N, Scott Broty 33, Chris Graf 20G, Sye Anderson 37, Kevin Bradwell 95, Cam Schafer 54, Mike Sargent 4 DNF.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service Ultimate Sprint Heat #4 (7 laps): Scotty Thiel 64, Davey Heskin 91, Kaley Gharst 6, Jordan Wilmes 20, Jesse Smith 9x, Chad Patterson 15, Jennifer Eriksen 10x.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service B Main (14 laps): Lusk, Tostenson, Anderson, Stien, Patterson, Schafer, Eriksen, Bradwell, Grams, Thomas, Knutson, Peterson, Martens, Sargent DNF, Cody DNS.
GRP Motorsports A Main (20 laps): Tatnell, Schmidt, Gharst, Thiel, Heskin, Broty, Hahn, Nygaard, Goerges, Barber, Norem, Kobs, Tostenson, Lusk, Smith, Graf, Anderson, Wilmes, Stien, Kaus DNF.
Lap Leaders: Nygaard 1-2, Schmidt 3-19, Tatnell 20.