The fortieth anniversary of off-road racing at Bark River International Off-Road Raceway saw competitors from all over North American taking part in two days of incredible short-course off-road racing. The Sportsman Off-Road Series supported by MORR and the TORC Series presented by AMSOIL put over 120 racers in front of an estimated 10,000 spectators that didn’t want to leave even after the racing was complete.
The biggest surprise of the first day of racings was the weather, the skies were cloudless practically all day as high humidity and temperatures in the 90s really taxed both the competitor and spectator alike. Regardless the crowds and the competitors did their best to stay hydrated, as day one was a huge success.
The weekend of racing began with six Classix racers and ten Stock Trucks competing for a seven-lap race. The Classix group was an early battle between Tyler Plamann and class points leader Dale Chestnut. On lap three Chestnut took the lead for good for the sixth team win of the season as Plamann finished second.
Meanwhile the Stock Truck saw a great race between Round 6 winner Nick Visser and reigning Points Champion Cory Marquardt. Eventually on lap six Marquardt made an outside–inside move to take the lead and the win. Visser didn’t give up and finished right on the winner’s bumper as Diesel Shanak finished third.
Next up were the twenty-one racers of the Light Buggy division. The starting line-up has the top twelve in points inverted on the starting grid. This put points leader Greg Stingle in the sixth row. When the green flag racing began Matt Mullen quickly took control of the race. Stingle drove like a man possessed as the orange single seater was able to get to second place just before the checkered flag waved with Tony Keepers taking third to complete the podium.
The combined Limited 4 and Formula 4×4 race saw each class start with five entries. The starting grid for each class seemed small, but both groups put on some very entertaining racing. Milan Mazenec led flag to flag in Limited 4, but he was constantly under pressure from Jerry Conrad throughout much of the race. The final lap saw Conrad loose the front drive and the hard charging Al Drews broke the front suspension flying 150 feet off the Cooper Tire Hill. At the finish it was Mazenec first, as a late charge from Gerrit Bancroft awarded the first time in the class driver second, as Conrad was able to hold on to third.
The Formula 4×4 had a two-truck battle between Ryan Rebman and Dave Miah. Rebman led practically the entire race, but with two turns to go Miah finally made the pass stick to take the win.
The 1600 Buggy class saw a great race as some of the top racers in the country lined up in Bark River. Bruce Fraley and Matt Gerald put on a great show as Gerald led his first race since a serious accident broke his back nearly five years ago. Ultimately Fraley edged by Gerald to take the win as points leader Mark Steinhardt finished a close third.
The ten-car Super Buggy field had Herman Barnum take the early lead, but by the second turn, greasy track conditions saw Barnum spin as the rest of the field raced by. The first half of the race had Ryan Schwalbe hold off Rodney VanEpren to the mandatory caution followed by Las Vegan Aaron Hawley. On the restart, Schwalbe and VanEpren tangled with Hawley also getting gathered up in the incident. This put Nebraska’s John Fitzgerald in the lead. Hawley returned to the fray quickly only to have a flat front tire slow his pace. Fitzgerald continued on to the win with Jaime Kliekamp taking second as Hawley pressed on to complete the podium.
The best Sportsman show on dirt, the Super Stock Truck class was next on the schedule. Jay Schafer got to the corner first and quickly opened up a sizeable lead. Then the field came back together for the mandatory caution and then the real race was on. The final four laps you could put a blanket over the first five trucks in the running order. The final lap began with Matt Siorek getting sideways over the finish line jump as Mitch Dorr seized one opportunity to pass the leader and the Illinois driver made it happen. Dorr takes the win with Jay Schafer finishing second and Nick Byng has very close behind in third.
The final Sportsman race of the day was a great duel between Jerry Edgerton and Eric Ruppel, but before their battle developed, Jimmy Ridderbush dominated the first three laps of the race. Then the transmission failed on Ridderbush, which left Edgerton and Ruppel to fight for the victory. Edgerton chased Ruppel all the way to the checkered flag, as the black Chevy even turned the fastest lap of the race, but it still wasn’t enough as Ruppel took the win with Edgerton right behind in second as Tim Nelson finished third.
The fourteen PRO-Light pilots were next as the pole sitter Cam Reimers grabbed the hole shot and early lead. By the second lap Doug Mittag made his way his into the lead. The battle for the final two spots on the podium had Travis Dinsmore, Kyle Hart and Luke Johnson go door-to-door right to the final lap. In the end Kyle Hart took the runner-up spot as Travis Dinsmore finished third.
The PRO-2WD battle saw Doug Mittag end his podium hopes with a first lap rollover. Marty Hart led the first two laps until CJ Greaves passed both Hart and Keegan Kincaid to take control of the race. Kincaid tried his best to challenge Greaves but when the checkered flag was waved CJ Greaves took the win followed by Kincaid and Hart.
The final race of the day saw CJ Greaves just totally dominant the race as the twenty-year old took home is second win of the day. Behind CJ, his dad Johnny finished second but there were plenty of fireworks behind the Greaves family. On the restart from the mandatory caution Scott Douglas made contact with a blocking Chad Hord. This sent Hord off the track and track officials gave Douglas a stop and go penalty. The result of the contact put AMA motorcycle road racer Larry Pegram, driving Mark Kvamme’s truck, in third place.
– Mike Reusche