Better late than never

Jon Nowacki Duluth News Tribune The highly anticipated inaugural Great Lakes Border Battle auto race got off to a slow start on Friday night at AMSOIL Speedway in Superior. Just how slow? Try an-hour-and-a-half slow. After rain washed out the pra...

Modifieds fill a corner of AMSOIL Speedway in Superior at the start of a heat race Friday during the Great Lakes Border Battle. (Clint Austin /

Jon Nowacki

Duluth News Tribune


The highly anticipated inaugural Great Lakes Border Battle auto race got off to a slow start on Friday night at AMSOIL Speedway in Superior.

Just how slow?


Try an-hour-and-a-half slow. After rain washed out the practice session on Thursday night, practice was postponed until Friday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. That gave little time to turn the track over. It was in need of prepping, so every kind of a vehicle imaginable pitched in to turn laps on Friday afternoon to get the surface up to racing speed, causing Friday's start to be delayed 90 minutes. Racing didn't finish until 12:15 a.m.

It was worth the wait.

A near-capacity crowd was treated to hotly contested heats that looked more like features, with all the big local names competing, including Hermantown’s Darrell Nelson and Kelly Lake’s Kelly Estey, who lost a fingernail working on his car before the racing even started.

In the end, pole sitter Ashley Anderson of Elk Mound, Wis., held off Jake Hartung of Elmwood, Wis., to win the 25-lap Modified qualifying feature, setting the stage for today's main event.

“Everything felt really good. I hope it feels good (today),” Anderson said. “It was an awesome race track.”

Anderson was one of the Modified “ringers” in town for the big occasion. That group included stalwarts Mike Stearns of Hecla, S.D., and Scott Greer of East St. Paul, Manitoba.

The Modified qualifying feature will be used to determine the top 15 starters for tonight’s 60-lap, $10,500-to-win main event (it was $10,000 before a sponsor stepped up to add $500); an unprecedented payout for a Modified show in the Northland. The top 15 finishers on Friday will be the top 15 starters tonight, with 11 spots still up for grabs in what will be a 26-car field.

“I don’t know if we ever paid over $1,000,” former Proctor Speedway president Crash Carlson said of old Modified specials.


Andy Jones of Princeton, Minn., Bob Broking of Grand Rapids, J.B. Stortz of Big Lake, Minn., Kevin Eder of Ashland, Johnny Broking of Grand Rapids and Jake Hartung of Elmwood, Wis., were the Modified heat winners.

The two-day event also included two full shows for Midwest Modifieds and Pure Stocks. The Midwest Modifieds are paying $1,500 to win each night, and cars showed up from five states and two provinces.

There were 59 Modifieds, 53 Midwest Modifieds and 28 Pure Stocks competing.

There was a very large and vocal following of race fans from north of the border, who were celebrating Canada Day on Friday. Both “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” were played before the racing started, with a 1970s Chevy Nova SS taking the flags of both countries for a lap around the track.

Racing resumes at 6 p.m. today (Saturday). Pits and grandstands open at 3 p.m.

The cost for adults is $20 today and $26 Saturday. Cost for children ages 10-16 is $8 each day, and kids under 10 are free.

Pit passes are $35 today, $40 Saturday or $70 for a two-day pass.

The event is the product of FYE Motorsports Promotions and owner Chris Stepan of St. Cloud, Minn. Stepan is a former Superior track promoter.


More event details may be found at ESTEY HOLDS OFF VANDEKAMP

Christmas came early for Skeeter Estey of Kelly Lake as he won the 25-lap Midwest Modified feature, thanks to a nice gift midway through the race.

Estey was running near the front in a pack of four when race leader Kevin Monteith’s car got loose with 14 laps to go, causing him to slow, and causing the other two in the pack, Tyler Kintner and Michael Truscott, to have to check up.

Estey bolted into the lead along the high side and then held off hard-charging Jason VandeKamp of Scandia, Minn., in a very entertaining feature.


You think it would be hard not to cheer for the guy driving the station wagon, but Dustin Follett of Cloquet got some boos after taking the checkered flag in the 15-lap Pure Stock feature.

Some folks apparently get tired of Follett winning. It was clear he had the dominant car on Friday, and it was just a matter of time before he worked his way to the front.

Alex Smith of Solon Springs led most of the race and held off Follett as long as he could.


After the fifth caution with five laps to go, announcer Scott Tiefs told the crowd, “Right now Alex Smith is thinking, ‘This is the longest race of my life!’”

With three laps to go, Smith got high on Turn 2 and Follett went to the inside to pass him. Follett ran away with it after that, winning by nearly a half straightaway. Michael Blevins of Hibbing took second while Smith had handling issues and faded to finish seventh.


Great Lakes Border Battle

At AMSOIL Speedway, Superior

Friday’s Day 1 Heat Results

Pure Stocks

Heat 1 - 1. Dustin Follett, Cloquet; 2. Jon Hammitt, Cloquet; 3. Michael Blevins, Hibbing; 4. Tim Carlson, Superior; 5. Shaina Rapp, Saginaw; 6. Matt Deragon, Ashland; 7. Dylan Shelton, Wrenshall; 8. Tyler Carlson, Cloquet; 9. Zene Anderson, Superior; 10. Travis Zembo, Superior.


Heat 2 - 1. Jason Havel, Rice Lake, Wis.; 2. Justin Madsen, Foxboro; 3. Derek Olson, Hibbing; 4. Justin Weinberger, Park Falls, Wis.; 5. Annika Hammitt, Cloquet; 6. Casey Hartshorn, Duluth; 7. Andy Poll, Two Harbors; 8. Matt Roux, Rice Lake, Wis. DNF - Andrew Hanson, Iron River.

Heat 3 - 1. Tucker Quinn, Ladysmith, Wis.; 2. Alex Smith, Solon Springs; 3. Don Livingston, Bayfield, Wis.; 4. Jeff Christman, South Range; 5. Ryan Savoy, Superior; 6. Carter Nelson, Hermantown; 7. Ryan Madsen, Foxboro. DNF - Chris Johnson, Superior; Cole Provinzino, Hibbing.

Feature - 1. Follett, 2. Blevins, 3. Hammitt, 4. Havel, 5. Deragon, 6. Weinberger, 7. Smith, 8. Hanson, 9. Olson, 10. Tim Carlson, 11. Zembo, 12. C. Johnson, 13. Poll, 14. Tyler Carlson, 15. Z. Anderson. DNF - Livingston, Hammitt, C. Nelson, J. Madsen, R. Madsen, Rapp, Quinn, Roux, Savoy, Christman, Hartshorn, Shelton.

Midwest Modifieds

Heat 1 - 1. Skeeter Estey, Kelly Lake; 2. Dave Flynn, Superior; 3. Jake Smith, Chippewa Falls, Wis.; 4. Michael Truscott, Chippewa Falls, Wis.; 5. Shane Kisling, Park Falls, Wis.; 6. Brad Hanson, Mountain Iron; 7. Jason Goldfine, Superior; 8. James Kannegiesser, Hayward; 9. Gunner Peterson, Cable, Wis.

Heat 2 - 1. Grant Southworth, Bloomer, Wis.; 2. Danny Vang, Deerwood, Minn.; 3. David Simpson, Thunder Bay; 4. Tanner Byholm, Glidden, Wis.; 5. Lance Solem, Duluth; 6. Rick Rivord, Superior; 7. David Kivi, Thunder Bay; 8. Wyatt Boyum, International Falls; 9. Nick Ayotte, St. Paul.

Heat 3 - 1. Dan Kingsley, Superior; 2. Deven VanHouse, Silver Bay; 3. Tyler Peterson, Hickson, N.D.; 4. Nick DaRonco, Mountain Iron; 5. Dan Wheeler, Savage, Minn.; 6. Justin Froemming, Garfield, Minn.; 7. Keith Niemi, Forest Lake, Minn.; 8. Mike Jacques, Thunder Bay. DNF - Dale Suomala Jr., Hermantown.

Heat 4 - 1. Tyler Kintner, Hibbing; 2. Kevin Monteith, Thunder Bay; 3. Mitch Weiss, Scandia, Minn.; 4. Shane Howell, Buffalo, Minn.; 5. Cole Spacek, Phillips, Wis.; 6. Jason Williamson, Fort Frances, Ontario; 7. Ross Siiter, Cloquet; 8. Jeremy Lindquist, Ashland; 9. Jordan Barningham, Bayfield, Wis.


Heat 5 - 1. Jason VandeKamp, Scandia, Minn.; 2. Kevin Eder, Ashland; 3. Brady Caul, Fort Frances, Ontario; 4. Brady Jokinen, Mellen, Wis.; 5. Carey LePage, Culver; 6. Andrew Inman, Hermantown; 7. Dan Wilson, Hibbing; 8. Dan Doran, Cloquet; 9. Murray Kozie, Headingley, Manitoba.

Heat 6 - 1. Cole Chernosky, Thunder Bay; 2. Jamie Smart, Kakabeka Falls, Ontario; 3. Mack Estey, Hibbing; 4. Don Craig, Thunder Bay; 5. Denny Cutsforth, Rice Lake, Wis.; 6. Tim Jackson, Bemidji, Minn.; 7. Josh Heavirland, Cloquet. DNS - Mike Dusek, Hoyt Lakes.

Last-chance qualifier #1 - 1. Froemming, 2. Kisling, 3. DaRonco, 4. LePage, 5. Ayotte, 6. Rivord, 7. Solem, 8. Niemi, 9. Smith, 10. Craig, 11. Doran, 12. Kannegiesser. DNF - Doran, Hanson, Goldfine, Wilson, Kozie. DNS - Dusek.

Last-chance qualifier #2 - 1. T. Peterson, 2. Howell, 3. Wheeler, 4. Spacek, 5. Lindquist, 6. Jackson, 7. Kivi, 8. Siiter, 9. Jokinen, 10. Williamson, 11. G. Peterson, 12. Boyum, 13. Barningham. DNF - Inman, Cutsforth, Heavirland. DNS - Suomala Jr.

Feature - 1. S. Estey, 2. VandeKamp, 3. Truscott, 4. Froemming, 5. Kintner, 6. Kingsley, 7. Wheeler, 8. VanHouse, 9. M. Estey, 10. Flynn, 11. Howell, 12. Monteith, 13. T. Peterson, 14. Spacek, 15. LePage, 16. Caul, 17. Chernosky, 18. Smart. DNF - Southworth, Weiss, Byholm, Simpson, Eder, Kisling, DaRonco. DNS - Vang.


Heat 1 - 1. Andy Jones, Princeton, Minn., 2. Mike Anderson, Colfax, Wis.; 3. Steve Lavasseur, River Falls, Wis.; 4. Mike Stearns, Hecla, S.D.; 5. Chet Atkinson, Hugo, Minn.; 6. Paul Schultz, Grand Rapids, Minn.; 7. Jeff Broking, Grand Rapids; 8. Brody Strachan, Emo, Ontario; 9. Adam Ayotte, St. Paul. DNF - Paul Wrazidlo, Duluth.

Heat 2 - 1. Bob Broking, Grand Rapids; 2. Darrell Nelson, Hermantown; 3. Scott Greer, East St. Paul, Manitoba; 4. Rick Cannata, Hibbing; 5. Jody Bellefeuille, Duluth; 6. Cory Bruggeman, Stillwater, Minn.; 7. Jeff Tardy, Hibbing; 8. Brian Mikkonen, Iron River; 9. Rick Rivord, Superior. DNF - Joey Jensen, Harris, Minn.

Heat 3 - 1. J.B. Stortz, Big Lake, Minn.; 2. Ward Imrie, Winnipeg, Manitoba; 3. Tyler Peterson, Hickson, N.D.; 4. Tim Jackson, Bemidji, Minn.; 5. Ryan Aho, Chisholm; 6. Jeff Davis, International Falls; 7. Tyler Kintner, Hibbing. DNF - Jeffrey Lien Jr., Mora, Minn.; Jeff Spacek, Phillips, Wis.; Dave Cain, Corcoran, Minn.

Heat 4 - 1. Kevin Eder, Ashland; 2. Kevin Adams, Cameron, Wis.; 3. Ashley Anderson, Elk Mound, Wis.; 4. Seth Brede, Kandiyohi, Minn.; 5. Jay Richardson, Spring Valley, Minn.; 6. Brian Haben, Appleton, Minn.; 7. Jason Vandekamp, Scandia, Minn.; 8. Danny Staff, East St. Paul, Manitoba; 9. Sam Skalsky, Hibbing. DNF - Peter Loecken, Paynesville, Minn.

Heat 5 - 1. Johnny Broking, Grand Rapids; 2. Al Uotinen, Superior; 3. Danny Vang, Deerwood, Minn.; 4. Rick Niemi, Eveleth; 5. Steve Stuart, Ashland; 6. Bill Byholm, Glidden, Wis.; 7. Destin Lorimor, Superior; 8. Dan Ebert, Lake Shore, Minn.; 9. Cody Wolkowski, Thunder Bay. DNF - Jeff Wood, Chisholm.

Heat 6 - 1. Jake Hartung, Elmwood, Wis.; 2. Neil Balduc, Bessemer, Mich.; 3. Matt Leer, Bruce, Wis.; 4. Scot Danzeisen, Herman, Minn.; 5. Deven VanHouse, Silver Bay; 6. Jason Gross, Osceola, Wis.; 7. Cory Sersha, Eveleth; 8. Jerome Guyot, Fannystelle, Manitoba. DNF - Kelly Estey, Kelly Lake.

Qualifying feature (top 15 locked in for today’s 60-lap grand finale) - 1. A. Anderson, 2. Hartung, 3. M. Anderson, 4. J. Broking, 5. Nelson, 6. Jones, 7. Balduc, 8. Eder, 9. Uotinen, 10. Stortz, 11. Leer, 12. Imrie, 13. B. Broking, 14. Niemi, 15. VanHouse, 16. Adams, 17. Brede, 18. Bellefeuille, 19. Vang, 20. T. Peterson, 21. Stearns, 22. Lavasseur, 23. Jackson, 24. Greer. 

Bob Broking
Bob Broking of Grand Rapids leads during a modified heat race during the Great Lakes Border Battle Friday night at Amsoil Speedway in Superior. Broking won his heat race. (Clint Austin /

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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