Schott, Bahr, Kath, Becker feature winners on opening night at Mississippi Thunder Speedway
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April 29, 2016  |  by Dan Bailey

FOUNTAIN CITY, Wis.—After months of cold, wind, ice and snow... after months of torches, welding, fabricating and painting... after months of waiting, dreaming, anticipating and planning... the racing season is finally back.

And despite, or, perhaps, in spite of, a preceding week of rain and the return of cool, if not downright chilly, temperatures, racers and race fans were rewarded with actual green flag action at Mississippi Thunder Speedway Friday night, April 29.

As if to add to the spectacle of returning action, those green flag laps were filled to overflowing with side-by-side racing (actually five-wide on several occasions) back-and-forth battles for the lead, last-lap passes for feature wins and even a few spills and thrills.

Mid-week weather did not look promising as rains, clouds and cool temperatures blanketed the surrounding area. With over 110 tons of new clay layed on the racing surface of Mississippi Thunder Speedway during the off-season, owner Bob Timm was blessed with beautiful conditions the previous two weeks - allowing him the opportunity to work the track and whip it into pristine racing conditions. When Friday morning rolled around, those prior weeks of track prep paid priceless dividends as Timm was able to work with the recent moisture and lay down what turned out to be a very racy surface through the entire evening.

"I'll be honest, I was really worried with all the rain we'd gotten," said Timm. "I started working the track at the very earliest moment I could get on it, and it took me right up until about 2:30 this afternoon before I was actually sure that we were even going racing tonight."

Friday evening's eventual Rivercity Manufacturing USRA Modified feature winner, Lucas Schott, voiced what many drivers know: "All of us racers know what weather like what we've had can do to a race track, but also we know Bob is going to give us a great track. That's why we always like coming back to Mississippi Thunder."

That win of Schott's, by the way, was something to watch.

The two-time (2012 and 2014) track champion rocketed out of the pole position starting spot at the beginning of the evening's 25-lap season opener RiverCity Manufacturing USRA Modified feature and led the opening 10 laps of green flag racing. But behind his red and white No. 69 a challenge was brewing as New Richland, Minn.'s Jason Cummins found a fast groove in the wide turns and was busy racing his way to the front from his starting spot on the outside of the third row.

"I could see him coming, then he flew right by me," Schott said. Cummins grabbed the lead on lap 10 and held the top spot until Schott altered his line around the speedway and reclaimed the lead on lap 14.

Defending track champion Brad Waits spent the opening nine laps racing for second and third before slipping back and settling into his eventual finishing position of fourth.

2010 and 2013 track champion Josh Angst was also in the mix as he battle in the top five all feature long en-route to his second-place finish as the checkered flag waved.

Schott's feature win gave him a clean sweep of the evening after also winning the second heat race earlier in the program.

BAHR IS BACK

Tony Bahr made a statement Friday night: Despite his back, he is back.

"I've been out of the game a few years now," explained Bahr. "I had a broken back, neck surgery, and I just couldn't race. Sold my Modified. Then I heard about this division that Bob put together. I kept tabs on it last season, and when I knew that I could get back into racing, I knew that this was what I would be racing."

Bahr was still making minor adjustments to his new USRA Limited Late Model after unloading it at the track Friday afternoon, and those adjustments were apparently perfect as he was able to race his way to the front of the field during the evening's feature and start the season off with a trip to victory lane.

Bahr first had to work around the No. 88 of Late Model newcomer Troy Langowski before setting his sites on the No. 24 of race leader Justin Sass.

Sass led the first 13 laps of the 20-lap feature but didn't quite have the late-race handling necessary to stay ahead of Bahr.

"I could see that Justin's car was really getting tight as the laps wore on," explained Bahr. "That did open up the bottom for me over here in turn two also gave me a pretty good window here in turn four."

Bahr was able to take the lead on lap 14 and held onto the top spot all the way to the waving checkered flag.

Defending track champion Lance Hofer put on a strong charge late in the feature, but came up just a bit short and settled for a second-place finish just ahead of Sass.

The feature was halted for a scary moment when Bob Fort's No. 97 flipped wildly through turn three before tumbling back to earth and landing on all four tires. Despite the car being completely destroyed, Fort was able to climb out under his own power and walk away from the scary crash.

KATH CAPTURES CROWN

Kylie Kath will be the first to tell you that racing is always unpredictable.

Halfway through Friday night's Out-PAce USRA B-Mod feature, Kath was running second behind Jon Van Minsel and, well, it really didn't look like Van Minsel was catchable. Enjoying a lead that almost half a straight-away, it looked like the brand new No. 1 was going to be celebrating feature win number one at the end.

But racing is unpredicatable.

Kath's green No. 83 was fast, but Van Minsel was able to jump from his outside front row starting spot and open up a commanding lead over the first ten laps. Van Minsel was the first to catch the competitors at the tail of of the pack. Unfortunately for the Decorah, Iowa, racer, those at the tail end of the field were embroiled in their own battle for position.

As Van Minsel approached the traffic, his line around the track was impeeded which forced him to slow his lap times just enough to allow Kath to catch and eventually pass him for the lead.

"I could see that we were catching the other cars," explained Kath. "Jon went high and he kind of got blocked in there a bit at exactly the same time that my lane on the bottom opened up and I just kind of zipped past."

Van Minsel finished second—just a half second ahead of second heat race winner Parker Kessel.

BECKER ALSO WINS

Jordan Becker returned to victory lane with his No. 4J... This time, however, as a competitor in the all new Jailhouse Saloon USRA Hobby Stock division.

"We thought the Sportsman class would work last year." smiled Becker after the feature win. "Hopefully this new Hobby Stock division, with it's matching rules package, will help build up the number of cars and competitors in this class."

Jeremy Oakes finished second ahead of Bobby Fort Jr.

Racing resumes next Friday night, May 6, with another complete night of dirt track action presented by Winona County. Action on the big 1/3-mile dirt oval resumes immediately following the 7 p.m. opening ceremonies with on-track competition provided by the Rivercity Manufacturing USRA Modifieds, Centerville Welding & Repair USRA Limited Late Models presented by Big Toy Storage, Out-Pace USRA B-Mods, Coordinated Business Systems WISSOTA Super Stocks, REDBOX+ 600 Modifieds and Jailhouse Saloon USRA Hobby Stocks. The pit gate opens at 4 p.m.

Family-friendly general admission prices continue with all students ages 23 years and younger with a current valid i.d. and children 17 and under are admitted absolutely free.

The Mississippi Thunder Speedway is located 3.0 miles north of Fountain City on SR 35. For more information, call (608) 687-3282 or visit www.MississippiThunder.com on the World Wide Web.



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