By Greg Parent, Stan Meissner photo
Chris Graf came up one spot short on the opening night of the Mighty Axe Nationals, but on Sunday evening September 5 he laid claim to one of the unique axe trophies when he bested young Eric Schulz to grab his fourth Upper Midwest Sprintcar Series victory of the season. Graf and Schulz traded the lead in the early laps before Graf took command of the Precision Tool/Crosslake Sheetmetal 20 lap feature event. Graf had to withstand a final two lap dash to the checkers following the only caution on a much-improved racing surface over the previous night. Graf was quite pleased to earn a $1,000 payday and the axe trophy. Following the race, Graf explained that his trip to watch the outlaws race at North Central Speedway in early July actually helped him. “I watched the lines the outlaw drivers used that night. I was a bit surprised there was as much bite up top as there was tonight, so I decided to put the knowledge I gained that night to use here tonight. It worked.” Indeed it did, as Graf recorded his fourth UMSS win of the season.
Graf and Schulz discussed their race battle afterwards. It was easy to see the enthusiasm and respect they had for each other, as they talked about their close battle in the early laps and the race in lapped traffic. Schulz and Graf paced the twenty car starting field to the green. Schulz just barely edged by Graf to lead the opening lap, but Graf returned the favor on lap two and three. Once again, Schulz regained the top spot on lap four. Graf fought back on the outside and returned to the lead on lap five. Graf slowly pulled away from Schulz over the course of the next several laps, as the leaders began working lapped traffic at the halfway mark.
With fourteen laps in, Graf closed in on two cars running near the back of the pack. As Graf worked to lap those two cars, Schulz closed in quickly. One lap later, Schulz was right behind Graf looking for a way around. Graf worked around the two cars and cleared them on lap 16. This allowed Graf to put a short distance on Schulz for some breathing room. His lead would evaporate when the only caution flew for a Brandon Allen spin in turn two. Allen actually did a complete 360 degree spin and kept going, but the caution light blinked on to set up a two lap dash to the checkers. Graf was close to being collected in the incident himself, as Allen was just in front of the leader. Graf had to shoot down low towards the infield to avoid the spinning car.
The final two lap sprint to the checkers saw Chris Graf record a well-earned victory. Sioux Falls, South Dakota driver Eric Schulz, making his first appearance of the season with the UMSS for the Mighty Axe weekend, turned in an impressive performance in the runner-up position behind the race winner. Saturday night feature winner Cody Hahn raced from sixth to finish third, as he ducked under Jerry Richert Jr in the late stages of the race. Richert finished fourth in front of local Brainerd driver Tim Johnson. Brainerd drivers also finished sixth and seventh, as Sye Anderson bested rookie Jared Goerges. Rounding out the top ten finishers were Alan Gilbertson, Shannon Eriksen, and Brad Barickman. Eriksen ran strong after being upside down the previous night. Only two cars failed to finish the race while one car, rookie contender Ronnie Erickson, was unable to start the feature race.
In Ultimate Sprint heat race action, Australian driver David Craft captured the win in the Midwest Racing Talk first heat. Tim Johnson defeated fellow Brainerd racer Sye Anderson in the Driverwebsites.com second heat. Brad Barickman bested Cody Hahn in the Sprintsource.com third heat. Chris Graf grabbed the win in the Bryant Heating and Cooling Systems first Challenge race while Cody Hahn passed Brett Allen at the halfway mark of the Mastell Brothers Trailer Service second Challenge race to record the win. Hahn was the high point driver after the double round of qualifying used by the UMSS, and the current UMSS point leader pulled the six pill for the feature race inversion.
The 2010 UMSS racing season continues on Saturday night September 11 at the Cedar Lake Speedway for the prestigious Jerry Richert Memorial. Running with the IRA 410 outlaw sprint cars for the second year in a row, the UMSS 360 sprints will round out the two racing divisions in an all sprint car show. The NVRA vintage cars will also be on hand to entertain the fans. The Jerry Richert Memorial is one of the marque events in sprint car racing around the Twin Cities area, so sprint car fans will certainly want be in attendance at CLS on September 11. Following the Jerry Richert Memorial, the UMSS will take the following weekend off and return to action at the Arlington Raceway on September 25 for their fourth and final appearance of the season. The 2010 campaign concludes at the Ogilvie Raceway on October 2, as we find out who will be the 2010 UMSS Champion as well as the GRP Motorsports/BP Trading Company Rookie of the Year. The GRP Motorsports Sweet Sixteen Bonus will also likley come down to the final night at Ogilvie. For more information, check out the UMSS website at www.umsprints.com or follow along on the UMSS Facebook page. Stan Meissner’s Midwest Racing Talk and Minnesota Dirt Track Racing website has news and results along with the free copy of The UMSS Report distributed each night at tracks where the UMSS is racing.
UMSS Race Results – North Central Speedway September 5, 2010 (Race #16) Mighty Axe Nationals:
Midwest Racing Talk Ultimate Sprint Heat #1 (7 laps): David Craft, Shannon Eriksen, Brandon Allen, Eric Schulz, Chris Graf, Jennifer Eriksen, Jack Zweber.
Driverwebsites.com Ultimate Sprint Heat #2 (7 laps): Tim Johnson, Sye Anderson, Dan Grams, Jerry Richert Jr, Mike Luks, Ronnie Erickson, Kevin Nickel.
Sprintsource.com Ultimate Sprint Heat #3 (7 laps): Brad Barickman, Cody Hahn, Jared Goerges, Brett Allen, Alan Gilbertson, Justin Giddings, Bruce Allen.
Bryant Heating & Cooling Systems Challenge Race #1 (10 laps): Graf, Gilbertson, Richert, Goerges, Brandon Allen, Anderson, Zweber, Barickman, Craft, Erickson DNF, Bruce Allen DNS.
Mastell Brothers Trailer Service Challenge Race #2 (10 laps): Hahn, Brett Allen, Schulz, Grams, Johnson, S Eriksen, Luks, Giddings, Nickel, J Eriksen DNF.
Precision Tool/Crosslake Sheetmetal Mighty Axe A Main (20 laps): Graf, Schulz, Hahn, Richert, Johnson, Anderson, Goerges, Gilbertson, S Eriksen, Barickman, Craft, Grams, Brandon Allen, Zweber, J. Eriksen, Luks, Giddings, Nickel, Brett Allen DNF, Bruce Allen DNF, Erickson DNS.
Lap Leaders: Schulz 1, Graf 2-3, Schulz 4, Graf 5-20.