Jason Wolla and Chris Welk Jr. found different ways to pick up their first wins of the season at Dacotah Speedway -- the first ever for Welk -- Friday during the Governors Cup races in Mandan.
Wolla survived a dust-up with lapped traffic while leading the IMCA Modified feature with six laps left and cruised to a big win on night one of the two-night special.
Welk, on the other hand, didn’t get to take the checkered flag for his first win. Instead Welk took the lead with one lap left in the Dacotah Speedway Hobby Stocks feature and a half lap later he was the winner courtesy of a caution on the final lap.
Welk had just taken the lead after chasing Brent Vetter and John Gartner Jr. through much of the race. He started the night in third place.
“It was a one-lane track around the top in the front,” Welk said. “Vetter and Gartner got together on the last lap and I shot down to the bottom and came out ahead of them.”
Drew Papke started the feature third in the INEX Legends feature and raced to a win and Ken Sandberg raced from 10th to win the IMCA Sport Compacts feature in the early session.
With more than 160 cars in the field, the show was divided in two programs with Dacotah Speedway Hobby Stocks, INEX Legends and IMCA Sport Compacts running the first half of the program. It will be the same tonight on the three-eighth-mile oval.
Cup winners will be determined by lowest total placement over two night. NOSA 410 Sprints, IMCA Modifieds and WISSOTA Street Stocks are running the late program. Former NASCAR driver Kenny Wallace was driving one of Jeremy Keller’s cars in the IMCA class and he put on a show in the B Main.
After starting the feature qualifier fifth, Wallace found a real low line and started eating up the leaders. With three turns left, Wallace passed Drew Christianson of Minot to win the race.
That was the highlight of Wallace’s night as he started the feature 16th and finished eighth, well behind Wolla, who dominated the night.
“It’s tough for him,” Wolla said. “He’s not in his own car and he hasn’t raced here and we have excellent local talent. The deck is stacked against him.”
Wolla drove from eighth to second in his heat and started the feature on the pole. He was running away from the field when Andrew Bargmann spun with 15 laps left.
Then, with six laps left, Wolla and Bargmann made contact on the front stretch leaving Wolla setting backwards near turn one. It was determined Bargmann caused the crash and as his second caution, he was sent to the pits.
Wolla got his spot back with little damage, obviously, as he didn’t have much trouble the rest of the way.
“You try to race those lapped cars and be smart about it,” Wolla said. “He made a last-second change and turn and it almost hurt us real bad.
“The line was on top from the race before. I saw that and went up there and waited for somebody to show a nose and they never did.”
Wolla winning Friday does not change any strategy for Saturday’s final races.
“The only thing it does is let us know we’ve got a competitive car for another show,” Wolla said.
Hunter Domagala also put himself in good position with a feature win in WISSOTA Street Stocks. Domagala started second and held off Jonny Carter. He also won his heat race wire to wire.
“The car has been really good all year. I knew if we kept the car straight we’d have a chance,” Domagala said. “I have to thank A.J. Davenport. I was going on the low line and he told me to go high and we did and never looked back.”
Earlier in the evening, Papke made it two straight feature wins in Legends after his IMCA Modified was wrecked a few weeks ago.
The top four starters in Legends -- Donavin Wiest, Papke, Nate Keena and Casey Martin -- ran away early as a group. But it was Papke’s race after a restart with 14 laps remaining.
“The Governor's Cup is one of those weekends that I’ve always had tough luck. Things seem to happen, things don’t fall my way usually but we’re really happy to finally pull one off,” Papke said.
In Sport Compacts, Sandberg worked his way from near the back of the pack to first place, thanks to Paul Schuh’s bad luck. With three laps left, Sandberg was running second when a piece of Schuh’s car came off causing a caution.
Sandberg went to the lead and Schuh to the tail end. From there, it was all Sandberg, who took the checkered flag.
“I didn’t think I’d get past Schuh but he lost an exhaust,” Sandberg said.
Sandberg wasn’t alone in making things happen from deep in the started grid. Gartner and Welk had won heat races from the eighth spot; Papke from the seventh spot; and Karlie Hoerner from the sixth spot in Hobby Stocks B Main.
The Governor's Cup champion will be determined by placement in feature races over two nights. The lowest placing divers will be crowned champions.
Brendan Mullen owned sprint cars, earning his second straight feature win. The Grand Forks driver needed two laps to move from eighth to first to win his heat then dominated the feature, racing from eighth again to an easy win.
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