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By Dan Bailey
FOUNTAIN CITY, WI (September 07, 2013) – The IMCA Sport Mod, the WISSOTA Midwest Mod, the USRA B-Mod, whatever you call it, it's the dirt track equivalent of "the third wheel" on a high-school date. For years the division has been looked upon as either a starting place for up and coming drivers, or the resting place for under-funded race teams. It's a support division that's used to 'fill out the card' at any number of race tracks special events or even weekly programs.
Not any longer.
It took MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY owner Bob Timm, and division supporter Jack Baehman to shine the spot light on the class, bust the shackles off its competitors and introduce it to the crowd as a headline event. In 2012, the First Annual Baehman Law B-Mod Nationals had racers doing double-takes, asking "really?" and trying to shake the disbelief from their minds; it went on to bring drivers from 14 states to the high-speed 1/3 mile just north of little Fountain City, WI and packed the grandstands with people who wanted to see the 'Everyman' finally get a chance to compete for the big paycheck. For racers who normally compete for anywhere from $300 to $500 for a feature win . . . the announcement that the B-Mod Nationals winner would take home a check for $10,000 sounded like a lottery junkies dream come true!
The success of the inaugural edition of the B-Mod Nationals at MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY cemented the fact that there would be, at least, a second; and so, 2013 brought about the 2nd Annual $10,000-to-win Baehman B-Mod Nationals!
Again, drivers and fans came from all over the United States knowing that before the first green flag flew . . . every driver had the exact same opportunity . . . the opportunity to race their way to a $10,000 pay day.
But, it wouldn't be easy. Two nights of preliminary racing, and then a third evening of Last Chance Qualifiers would be needed to fill out the 30 car field which would line up and take the green flag three-wide at the start of the 60-lap Main evening Saturday night September 7th.
And the stories from those qualifying races ranged from heart-warming to heart-breaking, and everywhere else in between.
One racer, Nick Frion, who was amongst the very first batch of drivers to pre-register for the event broke the news via his Facebook account on Wednesday September 4th, the night before the first evening of the 2013 Nationals, that he was going to have to withdraw from the event! A broken motor and a lack of funds was forcing him out of the show. On Thursday night, there he was in the pits, "My friend Lonnie gave me an engine to use and a supporter who wishes to remain anonymous called me up and said, 'How much is it going to take to get you to the track and through the weekend?' He opened up his own personal wallet and financed my run here for the weekend!"
69 year old Steve Moore, traveled up from his home in Missouri and said, "Look, I'm not going to win the $10,000. I know that. But, my goal is to hit the track and have fun. If I can complete just one single lap . . . I will consider this a successful trip and I'll go home happy." He lined up his #67 in the fourth heat race Thursday night; the pack came out of turn four, took the green flag and before he'd even gotten to turn one, another car clipped his front end, drove up and over the hood (leaving a tell-tale skid mark inches from the air cleaner) and slammed him nose first into the outside wall; ending his evening. He hadn't even completed a single lap. Luckily a caravan of friends who'd come with from his home area went to work, fixed the car and got him back out for Friday's and Saturday's programs . . . consider it a successful trip.
And then there was Casey Arneson. The 19-year-old Fargo, ND native was ready for his second big win . . . you see, near the beginning of the 2013 season, he'd traveled down to West Plains, MO and won the $10,000-to-win "Reliable B-Mod Special". Could he buck the odds and win not one but two $10,000-to-win specials in the same year? He was up for the challenge, but it would take every possible event for him to make his dreams a reality.
Thursday night he started strong and won the third of 10 heat races . . . but since transferring into the evening's A-Main was based on 'passing points' and he'd started on the pole and several other drivers had come from the back of the field to just behind him at the finish, it was off to a B-Main.
Arneson won the first of six B-Mains, meaning that he'd made it to Thursday's Main event. All he needed to do was finish in the top 10 and he'd transfer directly to Saturday's Big Show.
Eleven laps into the 35-lap he was done for the night with a broken machine. So, the work began to get ready for evening number two . . . he'd have to transfer through Friday night's program.
Friday night: the first of ten heat races, he started his white #2 in fourth and finished second. But again, others in the same race collected more 'passing points' and Casey was off to the first of six "B-Mains" - which he won! In Friday night's 35-lap feature he lined up 14th, outside of the 7th row . . . the car was strong, the driver was smooth, and although he didn't win the feature, he finish third and was therefore locked into Saturday night's Main event (Whew).
Saturday's program was intense, five Last Chance Qualifiers, with 17 cars each from which only the top two finishers would transfer to the $10,000 to win program. Drivers pushed their cars, their competitors and themselves just as hard as possible (and in some cases harder) in a desperate last chance effort to get into the money. 10 drivers from the five LCQ's filled out the 30-car field, the third through 7th place finishers from each LCQ transferred to the $2,000-to-win Non Qualifier's feature while the rest loaded up and watched the rest of the evening's action from the already full grandstands.
Eau Claire, WI's Jake Smith held off the likes of 16-feature-winner Troy Hovey and 2013 NASCAR Division 4 National Champion Jason Vande Kamp to celebrate the $2,000 Non Qualifier's feature win. "I just want to thank my family, my sponsors and my fans for all of their support. Now I just hope that some of this winning momentum can move over to my brother Josh (who qualified for the $10,000 Main Event) and maybe help him win the big show."
The main event line up was comprised of 30-driver with expectant smiles which were visible even with their helmets on. Come what may, they were all ready to give it a shot and see how they'd do.
Thursday nights feature winner Cory Crapser jumped out front of the field and led the first 24 circuits with his #07. The 3-time former WISSOTA National Champion was an early event favorite by many and through the first half of the 60-lap event, it looked like he and his car were strong enough to live up to those expectations. However, by the time the mid-point pit stop brought the competitors to a stop on the front straight, Cory himself was having doubts, "I don't know, I was really strong early," explained the Chippewa Falls, WI racer, now without a smile on his face, "but the track is changing and taking rubber. I don't know how I'll be through the second segment."
2012 USRA National Champion Scott Drake, who'd been fast, but had cut down a right front tire early in the first segment and used the resultant caution to change the tire and remain on the lead lap, was actually positive at the half-way pit stop, "We had that problem pretty early and we've made the changes we can; but, I think this track will be racey through the second segment and think I may have something for the field."
Local favorite Jon Van Minsel, who'd raced straight to the front from his 11th place starting spot and challenged Crapser for the lead throughout the entire first segment was still positive, the there was concern evident in his voice when he shouted, "It's Tight, Tight, Tight!"
Unlike many of the other drivers during the midpoint pit stop, young Casey Arneson, was smiling, "This car is just about perfect." With that, he put his helmet back on and prepared to take his future into this own hands.
As the field rocketed back to speed after the midway pit stop, Arneson pulled away from the field and aside from restarts after cautions, he was never seriously challenged for the lead.
As his #2 flashed across the finish line under the waiving double checkered flags of official MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY flag man Larry Dubois, Arneson put his left fist out the drivers-side window and pumped it victoriously! He'd just beaten the 30 best B-Mod racers, and the odds, and won $10,000 - for the second time this season!
Casey Arneson is the 2nd Annual Baehman B-Mod Nationals Champion, placing a USRA B-Mod in Victory Lane!
"I cannot believe the weekend I've had here, first everything it took just to get into tonight's event", said Arneson after celebrating in the MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY Victory Lane, "and then to actually win $10,000 for not only the first time, but now also the second time, wow, this is almost unbelievable!"
Arneson's family and crew were understandably excited as well with the win and swarmed into Victory Lane to enjoy the celebration with Casey; his father putting praise on Casey, the fans and MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY, "Bob (Timm) has created something pretty special here with this race track. And I'm not just saying that because we just won here tonight. I've raced for over 40 years, it seems like I've seen just about every race track throughout the upper Midwest, if not further; and what Bob has here is a jewel. I hope all the racers realize that - those who come here weekly, those who maybe only come for special events like this and also those who've never been here. What a joy this weekend has been. And the fans too, I hope they realize what they have right here in their own back yard."
Clear Lake, IA's Aaron Benson made the run of the evening, coming from his 21st starting position all the way up to a second place finish. "Congratulations to Casey, what a great win for him! I don't know if I really could have beaten him, he was so strong and smooth. I those last few restarts I tried giving it everything I had but I just couldn't quite get passed him for the lead."
Crapser, despite dropping as low as fourth at one point was able to take advantage of a late race tangle between Drake, who'd raced his way all the way back up to third, and Chad Clancy got together in turns three and four with just four laps remaining. Benson snuck passed on the restart to claim second, which placed Crapser in third.
"Really, I can't complain." Said Crapser, who was the first person to run to Arneson and congratulate him on the win with a huge bear hug, "After being so strong early I didn't have a winning car there at the end and I was able to take advantage of other's troubles right there near the finish. I'll take third."
In addition to his regular winnings, Jarred Boumeester picked up a $2,000 bonus as the highest finishing sanctioning body not to win (Baumeester competed under WISSOTA Rules); Watertown, WI's Jeff Steenbergen, who finished fourth, also won a $2,000 non-winning sanctioning body bonus - competing under IMCA Rules.
Three different sanctioning bodies finishing in the top-4; an almost picture perfect ending to a mixed sanctioning body special event.
Van Minsel had a broken battery take him out of his battle in the top-4 with just six laps remaining allowing Chris Gilbertson of Trempealeau, WI to finish fifth - the highest finishing weekly competitor from MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY.
And while much of the focus was put upon the B-Mod racers, the USRA A Modified racers took an uncharacteristic place in the shadows as the 'Support Division'! Brad Waits won Thursday night's $1,000 Feature, with former USMTS National Champion Jason Krohn picking up his first ever MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY Feature win on Friday night to claim that $1,000 pay check. On Saturday night, Brandon Davis raced his way to the $1,000 win.
MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY will wrap up its 2013 'FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SEASON' with the Fifth Annual Fall Festival October 4th and 5th. On-track action will be provided by River City Manufacturing USRA Modifieds, Coordinated Business Systems WISSOTA Super Stocks, Black Horse Bar & Grill USRA B-Mods, WISSOTA Midwest Modifieds, Jailhouse Saloon WISSOTA Street Stocks, redbox+ 600 Modifieds, and Elmer's Auto Salvage MTS Pure Stocks on The Big 1/3-Mile - while Sunshine Sanitation A & B Midwest Mini Mods will be competing on The Lightning Speedway!
MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY is located 3.0 miles north of Fountain City on Wisconsin Highway 35. For more information, call 608-687-3282 or visit www.mississippithunder.com on the World Wide Web.
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MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY is presenting its 2013 'FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SEASON' of top-notch dirt track action in Fountain City, WI. The high-banked 1/3 mile dark-clay oval is quickly becoming known as one of the best speedways in the upper Midwest presenting dirt track racing in a fan and family friendly atmosphere every Friday night throughout the racing season.
For all details, continue visiting the MISSISSIPPI THUNDER SPEEDWAY web site: www.MississippiThunder.com
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