NICK SCHWIEN • Hays Daily News Shannon Johnson battles Brian Knoell during a topless modified heat race Friday night at Salina Speedway.
Micah Wenger slides his mod lite through turns one and two during a heat race at Salina Speedway.
By NICK SCHWIEN
SALINA -- It almost slipped away from Brian Knoell.
Luckily, the modified driver was able to gain enough traction to stay out front and pilot his ride to the winner's circle Friday night at Salina Speedway's second annual topless challenge.
Knoell started sixth in the 20-car field and moved into third on lap four. Then, on lap 10, he got by Tyler Sutton and Jeff Welsh to take the lead.
That's when he had to hold on for the remaining laps in the 25-lap feature.
"We were knocking a lot of loose stuff out into the track, and I was getting into it and getting loose and trying to keep it underneath me and go in softer," Knoell said. "Then they reeled me in."
On lap 16, Darrick Klima, who was driving Geoff Jermark's modified, moved into the runner-up spot and actually tapped Knoell's driver side coming out of turn four when Knoell got into the loose dirt.
"It was slow going; the corners were so slick," said Klima, who was in a modified for the first time this season. "It takes a lot of concentration keeping the car hooked up. The straighter the car is, the faster it goes. If your rear end is all hung out, you can't get going. It was just a race of who could keep their car straighter off the corner."
The bump would turn out to be a wake-up call of sorts. Knoell slowly would distance himself the rest of the way to take the win.
"I ran up on him a couple times there, and when I got to him I thought I had something for him for a little bit," Klima said. "Then I got up beside him (in turn four), and I think he took a little different line and got back away from me and I couldn't catch him again."
The win was the second for Knoell this season and helped him correct a slow start.
"We struggled here all last year, and struggled the first part of the year," he said. "Now, this is our second win here. We're starting to get her going."
While Knoell settled into the front spot and Klima tried to stay on his bumper, Danny Morrison Jr. was making an impressive move through the field.
Morrison started eighth but dropped back a few spots on the start. He didn't crack the top five until lap 13 and didn't get into the top three until lap 20.
"I was a little snug at the beginning, which I intended for because I wanted it to be a little freer at the end," Morrison said. "I didn't want to be too free at the end, so I was kind of planning on that. If I wasn't quite so tight at the beginning, maybe I would have moved up the track and tried the high side. I should have went to the high side at the end of the race, but I didn't want to go backwards any."
Morrison would finish third, behind Knoell and Klima.
"We made some adjustments before the feature and let the car rotate on the bottom without drifting out," Knoell said. "That's what it was. We were able to keep it on the bottom."
Joe Cleveland made an impressive run of his own, starting 10th and finishing fourth.
"It was like a three-hour deal," Knoell said. "I was ready for it at halfway to be over."
* Brandon Gray took the lead in the mod lite feature after lap two when Dustin Forsberg's car came to a stop on the backstretch under caution. Gray would go on to lead the rest of the 12-lap feature to take the win. Chris Unruh was second, followed by Brian Davidson and Corbin Pickerill.
* Brian Dunsworth won a wild and crazy mini stock feature. With Dallas Dunn leading, Russell Roberg following closely and Stacy Fuller in pursuit, those top three drivers got tangled in a melee in turn four, ending the night for all three due to damage and a black flag to Dunn. That moved Dunsworth to the front on the restart, and he stayed there the final four laps to win. Brendon Thiessen was second, followed by Elliott May and Les Wright.
* G.W. Fuller used late heroics to take the hobby stock feature. Fuller, who started ninth, didn't move into the lead until lap 10, taking the spot from Duane McAnarney. Tony Slothower rallied to finish second, followed by Mike Traskowsky and McAnarney.
* Tyler Frye jumped to the lead at the start of the sport mod A-main, then led all 20 laps to take the checkered flag. But Frye was ruled light at the scales, disqualifying him and giving the victory to Dan Smith in the caution-filled race. Jesse Levin was second, followed by Chad Markley and Seth Schroer.
* Racing returns to Salina Speedway at 8 p.m. Friday with late models, stock cars, sport mods, mod lites and mini stocks competing.