By Mike Spieker
GLYNDON, Minn. (Aug. 21) – The stage was set for a fantastic Sanders Mod Tour finale Sunday night at Buffalo River Race Park and it did not disappoint. John Corell topped the 25-car Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Modified feature field after taking the lead in the closing laps.
The $2,000 checkers put the North Dakota veteran on the ballot for the 2017 Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational.
Austin Arneson, winner of the first two Sanders Mod Tour events, started on the pole for the 35-lap feature with Ryan Mikkelson to his outside. Arneson got the jump on Mikkelson as the green flag flew and grabbed the opening lead as Mikkelson, Michael Johnson, and Hunter Marriott fought for second.
Johnson had secured the second spot and was racing door to door with Arneson on lap five when the two made slight contact entering turn one. As a result, Johnson made heavy contact with an infield tire barrier and Arneson was charged with the caution. Johnson restarted as the race leader, but retired shortly after retaking the green due to extensive damage.
That left Mikkelson, Rob VanMil and Marriott to duke it out for the top spot. After momentarily racing three-wide for the lead, VanMil and Marriot banged wheels entering turn one. Marriott spun towards the bottom of the track as several other cars also spun to avoid the Sanders Mod Tour point leader.
Unfortunately for Marriott, he had to bring his car back to the trailer after the incident, ending his hopes at the win and overall point championship.
At midway, Mikkelson still led but had his hands were full with VanMil and Rich Pavlicek. The lead trio once again raced three wide for the lead. Mikkelson and Pavlicek both cleared VanMil as they continued to race side-by-side for the lead. After several laps, Pavilcek finally cleared to take command but was soon greeted by Corell, who was the fastest car on the track in the late stages.
Pavilcek continued to stay true to the low side of the speedway, while Corell tried to get a run through the middle of the racing surface. With three to go, Corell was finally able to make that maneuver work as he pulled even with Pavlicek down the back straightaway. From there, Corell took full advantage of the momentum he had built up and not only led at the line, but he cleared Pavilcek heading into turn one.
Pavlicek gave it everything he had to make one last charge on Corell on the final lap, but it wasn’t enough as Corell took the win.
“In the very beginning I was thinking that I had a piece of junk. As the race went on we kept getting better and better,” said Corell. “Pretty soon I was thinking I might have a shot at this. We got into second and were catching Pavlicek and I was like, ‘OK, either he’s slowing down or I’m getting faster.’ It was so much fun, that was awesome.”
VanMil, Bryce Bjorken and Out-Pace Racing Products hard charger Justin Jones rounded out the top five.
Marriot entered the night with an 11 point advantage over Pavlicek and Tyler Peterson in the point standings, but after being credited with a 24th place finish, dropped significantly in the standings. When it was all said and done, Pavlicek was on top by just five markers of Mikkelson. Peterson, Marriot and VanMil rounded out the top five in points.
Feature results – 1. John Corell; 2. Rich Pavilcek; 3. Rob VanMil; 4. Bryce Bjorken; 5. Justin Jones; 6. Tyler Peterson; 7. Ryan Mikkelson; 8. Cody Erickson; 9. Josh Beaulieu; 10. Billy Vogel; 11. Myles Tomlinson; 12. Tyler Hall; 13. Dev Malmlov; 14. Austin Arneson; 15. Rusty Kollman; 16. Cody Peterson; 17. Brennan Borg; 18. Jeff Odden; 19. Josh Rogotzke; 20. Craig Larson; 21. Jamie Trautner; 22. Brady Petermann; 23. Marcus Tomlinson; 24. Hunter Marriott; 25. Michael Johnson.