By Jackson Braun
JAMESTOWN, N.D. (July 6) – Tom Berry Jr. has been on fire in North Dakota this season, grabbing five wins in June and seven total victories in weekly races and special events this year.
Berry’s eighth IMCA Modified victory of the season was by far the biggest, as the opening circuit of the 30th annual Kupper Chevrolet Dakota Classic Modified Tour at Jamestown Speedway ended up in his hands, along with a $2,400 check and Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot berth.
2014 tour champion Jeff Taylor and 2014 Jamestown winner Justin O’Brien led the 29-car field to green. Jeff Taylor’s car did not fire correctly following an early restart and he fell back and retired from the field.
This gave O’Brien the lead on a track where he has had past success. Misfortune struck a few more past tour champions as three-time and defending champion Hunter Marriott, dropped out early in the running. 2015 tour champion Ricky Thornton Jr. also found his way back to the pit area during a caution, paving way for a potential new face as champion in the Modifieds by the end of the week.
Local racers Matt Aukland and Jarrett Carter showed some muscle early on, battling for second as Berry lurked behind them. Berry drove in low and picked off Carter; Joel Rust was piloting his machine around the top side of the speedway around Berry for third when a caution reset the field.
Berry made the most of the restart, as his positioning in the outside lane gave him an opportunity to pull alongside O’Brien.
A pair of 12 machines battled for second after Berry cleared O’Brien. Aukland, son of famed late model pilot Rick Aukland, took his 12A machine around the high side behind Berry as O’Brien’s 12J stuck on the low line.
Racing was phenomenal throughout the pack as drivers settled into positions and jockeyed two and three wide to climb up the field. When the dust settled, Berry took the win in a convincing fashion over Aukland, O’Brien, Shawn Strand, and Mike Hansen.
Although unlucky in the Modified division, Ricky Thornton Jr. had more success in the IMCA Sunoco Stock Cars.
His first tour win in the Stock Cars came while he was substituting for Curt Lund up in Estevan two years ago, but this time Thornton had his own car and was able to hold off five-time tour champion Elijah Zevenbergen to claim the checkers.
2014 champion Dalton Flory finished third while Scott Gartner grabbed a solid fourth place finish and Matt Speckman rounded out the top five.
Fifteen U.S. states and two Canadian provinces were represented among the 75-car Modified field and 22-car Stock Car field.
Modifieds – 1. Tom Berry, Newburg; 2. Matt Aukland, Glyndon, Minn.; 3. Justin O’Brien, West Union, Iowa; 4. Shawn Strand, Mandan; 5. Mike Hansen, Dickinson; 6. Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.; 7. Tanner Black, Otis, Kan.; 8. Travis Hagen, McGregor; 9. Joel Rust, Grundy Center, Iowa; 10. Lucas Schott, Chatfield, Minn.; 11. Robert Hellebust, Minot; 12. Allen Kent, West Fargo; 13. Billy Kendall, Baxter, Minn.; 14. Casey Arneson, Fargo; 15. Kody Scholpp, Estevan, Sask.; 16. Brad Hartigan, Dickinson; 17. Jason Wolla, Ray; 18. Spencer Wilson, Minot; 19. Travis Olheiser, Dickinson; 20. Jarrett Carter, Lisbon; 21. Marcus Tomlinson, Turtle Lake; 22. Tyler Hall, Fertile, Minn.; 23. Jason Grimes, Jamestown; 24. Marlyn Seidler, Underwood; 25. Jacob Bleess, Chatfield, Minn.; 26. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 27. Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo.; 28. Jeff Taylor, Cave City, Ark.; 29. Dylan Goplen, Fargo.
Stock Cars – 1. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 2. Elijah Zevenbergen, Ocheyedan, Iowa; 3. Dalton Flory, Williston; 4. Scott Gartner, Jamestown; 5. Matt Speckman, Sleepy Eye, Minn.; 6. Joe Flory, Williston; 7. Austin Daae, Estevan, Sask.; 8. Keith Mattox, Ray; 9. Hunter Fears, Riverdale; 10. Aden Clark, Surrey; 11. Justin Bachmeier, Williston; 12. Tim Compson, Valley City; 13. Chase Davidson, Macoun, Sask.; 14. Joe Schrodt, Coleharbor; 15. Randy Schultz, Swift Current, Sask.; 16. Mike Hagen, Williston; 17. Jeremy Swanson, Estevan, Sask.; 18. Jordan Zillmer, Cleveland; 19. Michael Swallers, Minot; 20. A.J. Zimmerman, Cleveland, Minn.; 21. Chris Hortness, Estevan, Sask.