A good day for racing
Sands Speedway puts on good show on Kids Day
On Friday night, racing at Norway Speedway was cut short due to severe thunderstorms, and the Upper Peninsula International Raceway in Escanaba was a washout on Saturday as well.
Luckily, the rain clouds that loomed over much of the U.P. cleared up by Sunday, and Week 6 at Sands Speedway was nothing short of action-packed.
Ryan Proctor and Tyler Hammond each won their respective feature races to help themselves climb the point standings, while Ross Olsen Sr., Victoria Hawley and Bob Goodwin earned feature wins to keep their cars atop the standings as the track held its annual Kids Day festivities.
Kids 12 and under were admitted free as they are every week, while Sands, along with several track sponsors, hosted a wide-array of activities for children to partake in. Those activities included the big-wheel tricycle races down the front straightaway, which is said to be at least a 35-year tradition at the track, a meet-and-greet and autograph session with drivers during intermission, bicycle raffles, a coloring contest, free ice cream donated by Jilbert Dairy and cake donated by Econo Foods.
First, second and third place prizes were given to the tricycle race winners, as well as trophies donated by American Nameplate.
Brett Wittler, rookie driver of the No. 64 in the Super Stock division, was more than happy to sign autographs as several children approached him during the intermission meet-and-greet session.
“It’s a lot of fun, it’s a good experience to be out here driving and doing what we love to do,” he said. “As stressful as it may be to (race), it’s a lot of fun and I’m glad we can share it with all of the fans.”
Even as a rookie, Wittler knows as well as anyone about the stresses of racing a stock car, after going for a wild ride last weekend where his car became airborne and rolled twice on the back straightaway, ending on its roof.
Wittler and fellow competitor Elliot Samppala, also involved in the scary accident, both climbed out of their cars unharmed.
“It was a little bit scary, but the adrenaline took over a lot of it,” Wittler said. “I’ve had two major wrecks, I rolled it last week and then three weeks ago, I sent it into the ditch off of (turn) three, so I’m having a pretty eventful year.”
It appears there’s still some work to do on Wittler’s No. 64 car after the scary accident as it didn’t have much speed on Sunday. Wittler finished seventh out of eight cars in the Super Stock and Fuel-Injected Experimental Class combined feature.
Victoria Hawley finished fourth overall and was the first of the Experimental cars to cross the line, keeping her lead atop the point standings safe over Samppala.
The overall feature winner was Olsen Sr., who’s season-long battle with Ray Keskimaki continued to give the crowd a great show.
Olsen won the first Super Stock heat, while Keskimaki claimed the second, making the 20-lap feature a rubber match between two friendly rivals.
Keskimaki started sixth in the feature while Olsen started seventh, and both worked their way to the front quickly.
The two raced each other closely until the halfway point when Olsen took the lead cleanly out of turn two. Olsen was forced to deal with late lap traffic, but managed to work his way around it for the win.
Going into Sunday, Olsen had 524 points in the Super Stock division to Keskimaki’s 444. Wittler was third in the standings with 365.
Olsen talked about his battle with Keskimaki and what he had to do to catch him and grab the lead.
“I think I start with lower tire pressures, so it takes a little while for my car to come in,” he said. “About the time mine comes in, his goes away. I usually pass him on the outside, because his car usually turns really good, but (today) it didn’t turn very good. It pushed out and gave me enough room to sneak in underneath him.
“He said I won’t have to worry about racing him next week, he’ll just get the hell out of my way.”
Jason Stanaway came home third in the Super Stock class in his first appearance at Sands in 2019. Samppala was eighth overall and fourth of the Experimental cars.
The Late Model’s also put on a good follow-up performance after last week’s photo finish between Charlie Bell and Rob Goodwin.
It was difficult to determine a winner last week, with various angles giving the edge to one driver over the other, but nonetheless, those two cars were back at it again this week.
It was Bob Goodwin driving the No. 46 in place of Rob this week however, who was out of town.
Bell raced his No. 18 just as hard as this week, using the bumper on Bob Goodwin throughout, but never able to get around him.
Goodwin took the lead from Doug Larson on lap eight, while Bell also got around Larson, making it a two-car race the rest of the way.
Bell and Goodwin were side-by-side on the final lap of the feature, with Bell trying to gain on the outside before slipping in turn four and giving Goodwin the edge in another narrow finish.
Larson was third while Derek Gauthier finished fourth.
The No. 46 led the Late Model standings going into Week 6 with 511 points, while Bell was second with 496.
The Four-Cylinder features were the most eventful with Proctor claiming the win in the Four-Cylinder Modifieds class.
Proctor started on the outside poll while Todd Maki came from the back of the pack to challenge for the win.
Maki had reached Proctor’s bumper with four to go before a caution on the next lap due to a spin from Reece Cavin in turns one and two, his second spin of the race.
Now being forced to hold the entire field off going back to green with three to go, Proctor did just that to earn the win.
Maki came home second, while Carter Adams finished third and Jeremy Yelle fourth.
Proctor was second in the Modifieds standings with 384 points going into the weekend, 32 points behind Maki.
Hammond will also gain some points in the Four-Cylinder Stock class after winning the feature. He was sitting fourth in the standings going into Sunday.
Hammond started the race third, and two cautions helped him work his way into the lead.
The first caution came on lap four with a multi-car pileup going into one. Later on with 14 laps to go, Tom Waselesky’s No. 21 car went up in smoke, dropping fluid onto the track and causing a lengthy red flag for cleanup.
Hammond restarted on the inside front row and got the lead out of turn two on the restart, he never looked back from there, pulling away and beating Anthony Karnack by just over three seconds. Kyle McMahon finished third.
The 50th season of racing continues at Sands Speedway this Sunday with the track officially celebrating its 50th anniversary with the Thunder Valley Legends 50-year Tribute. There will be fan appreciation activities, a pit party and vintage modified races.
General admission is $10. Seniors ages 60 and up are admitted for $7, teens ages 13-17 are $5 and a pit pass is $20. Children 12 and under are free.
Email Ryan Spitza at email@example.com.