Marriott and Flory see checkers in Mandan, Berry and Thornton are Dakota Tour champs

A feature win and consistency throughout made Tom Berry Jr. champion of the IMCA Modified portion of the 30th annual Kupper Chevrolet Dakota Classic Tour. (Photo by Byron Fichter)

By Jackson Braun 

MANDAN, N.D. (July 11) – A great week of racing for the 30th annual Kupper Chevrolet Dakota Classic Tour was wrapped up by a nail-biting finale at the Dacotah Speedway that included one of the closest finishes in recent memory. 

Jeff Taylor and Ricky Thornton Jr. led the IMCA Modified field to green for the final 30 laps on the tour. Coming into the night, Thornton had a 14-point deficit to make up. Three-peat champion Hunter Marriott did not come across his usual luck this season but heated up towards the end of the tour as the Brookfield, Mo., racer took advantage of a starting spot inside of row 2. 

Taylor got a jump off of the start as Marriott advanced into second. Marriott was able to set his car through the corners smoothly around the rim of the speedway and to pull alongside Taylor.

A good run off turn four gave Marriott the momentum to take the lead.

As Thornton faded, his hopes of sweeping the your championships came to a close as Tom Berry Jr. took his car from 12th around Thornton during the middle portion of the event. Once Marriott got out to the lead, it was smooth sailing until he reached lapped traffic.

A mishap up front helped Casey Arneson and Taylor gain ground but Marriott had a big enough gap that there was no real contention for the $2,400 win. Marriott was already on the Fast Shafts All-Star Invitational ballot. 

Arneson staved off Taylor to grab the runner-up spot while Jason Hughes made a run up to fourth and Berry completed the top five, winning the tour championship in the process. Arneson’s brother Austin ended up making a run from 19th starting to sixth.

The IMCA Sunoco Stock Car feature was looking to end up the same way that it has been for most of the tour: Thornton was up front and looked like he was going to take the checkers. 

A late-race caution made way for some close racing in the closing laps. Thornton had Matt Speck­man, the only guy who has beat him in Stock Car feature action up to that point, right on his bumper looking to make a move. However, Dalton Flory lurked behind them.

Flory put his car way down on the inside of the speedway and had a huge run coming out of turn four on the final lap. That huge boost off of the bottom of the speedway gave the 2014 tour cham­pion enough oomph to outlast Thornton to the line in an absolutely stunning turn of events and which paid Flory $800. 

Thornton ended up second, winning the tour championship with an unprecedented 198 out of a possible 200 points. Those two, along with third place finisher Speckman, finished in the top five every night on the tour. Austin Daae finished fourth and Flory’s father Joe rounded out the top five.

A total of 110 IMCA Modified racers and 35 IMCA Stock Car racers competed on the 30th edition of the tour. Next year promises to be huge as Bob Kupper, owner of Kupper Chevrolet, an­nounced in victory lane Thursday that he will double the purse for the 31st edition of the Kupper Chevrolet Dakota Classic Modified Tour.

Feature Results 

IMCA Modifieds – 1. Hunter Marriott, Brookfield, Mo.; 2. Casey Arneson, Fargo; 3. Jeff Taylor, Cave City, Ark.; 4. Jason Hughes, Watts, Okla.; 5. Tom Berry Jr., Newburg; 6. Austin Arneson, Fargo; 7. Jacob Bleess, Chatfield, Minn.; 8. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 9. Marlyn Seidler, Under­wood; 10. Tanner Black, Otis, Kan.; 11. Shawn Strand, Mandan; 12. Jason Wolla, Ray; 13. Alex Stanford, Chowchilla, Calif.; 14. Jesse Skalicky, Fargo; 15. Mark Dahl, Bismarck; 16. Justin O’Brien, West Union, Iowa; 17. Hank Berry, Sidney, Mont.; 18. Troy Cordes, Dunkerton, Iowa; 19. Travis Hagen, McGregor; 20. Lucas Schott, Chatfield, Minn.; 21. Billy Kendall, Baxter, Minn.; 22. John Corell, Jamestown; 23. Drew Christianson, Minot; 24. Kody Scholpp, Estevan, Sask.; 25. Brad Hartigan, Dickinson; 26. Jeremy Keller, Mandan; 27. Dylan Goplen, Fargo; 28. Robert Helle­bust, Minot; 29. Marcus Tomlinson, Turtle Lake.

IMCA Stock Cars – 1. Dalton Flory, Williston; 2. Ricky Thornton Jr., Adel, Iowa; 3. Matt Speck­man, Sleepy Eye, Minn.; 4. Austin Daae, Estevan, Sask.; 5. Joe Flory, Williston; 6. Michael Swallers, Minot; 7. Beau Deschamp, Bottineau; 8. Aden Clark, Surrey; 9. Keith Mattox, Ray; 10. Chase Davidson, Macoun, Sask.; 11. Justin Bachmeier, Williston; 12. A.J. Zimmerman, Cleve­land, Minn.; 13. Gary Goudy Sr., Stoughton, Sask.; 14. Gary Goudy Jr., Stoughton, Sask.; 15. Dustin Hoffert, Underwood; 16. Jace Iverson, Tioga; 17. Randy Schultz, Swift Current, Sask.; 18. Joe Schrodt, Coleharbor; 19. Aaron Aaseth, Washburn; 20. Scott Gartner, Jamestown; 21. Hunter Fears, Riverdale; 22. Elijah Zevenbergen, Ocheyedan, Iowa.