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Dakota Classic Modified Tour thrills fans at Estevan's speedway

Tom Berry Jr. won the modified race by several seconds.
Shawn Strand (99), Les McLenehan (29) and Steven Pfeifer (11) were among the modified drivers entered.

ESTEVAN - Drivers from throughout North America were at the Estevan Motor Speedway on Monday night for the Dakota Classic Modified Tour, bringing plenty of excitement to the large crowd that gathered to watch the action.

Forty-eight modified drivers and 29 stock car drivers were entered, with Tom Berry Jr. of Marshalltown, Iowa, taking the modified feature, and Shelby Williams of Bonham, Texas, winning the stock car feature.

Berry was the class of the modified feature from the start. He passed pole-sitter Tyson Turnbull for the lead before he reached the end of the front straightaway on the opening lap, and quickly built a lead of several seconds. When Berry encountered slower traffic midway through the race, he weaved his way through the drivers. There weren't any caution flags, either, to bring the field together.

Ethan Braaksma of Newton, Iowa, was second, Justin O'Brien of West Union, Iowa, was third, and Shawn Strand of Mandan, N.D., came in fourth. Turnbull was the top local driver in sixth place. The other Estevan driver in the feature was Kody Scholpp, who won the Estevan stop on the tour last year. He finished 10th.

The win was the ninth career victory for Berry on the tour. He tied Ricky Thornton Jr. for the most since 2006. He once swept the tour's stops, but that was one of the years in which Estevan was excluded due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.

"It was pretty cool to get a win here, and I have a win on every track in the mod tour," said Berry.

He was pleased to see the number of fans in attendance, and he was impressed with the track. While he was initially frustrated with the amount of water applied to the track before the modified feature, he believes it made for a better racing surface.

"I love the shaping of it [the track]; it fits my driving style," said Berry.

In the stock car feature, Williams held off Austin Brands of Boyden, Iowa, in a thrilling finish. Brands mounted a last-ditch challenge for the win entering turn 4 on the final lap, but drove over some of the small infield tires and had to settle for second. The two drivers dueled for the lead throughout the race.

He said it's always special to win on the tour. It was his first-ever win in Estevan.

"There are so many good cars here … and the amount of talent here … is just unbelievable," said Williams.

Cameron Starry of Corpus Christie, Texas, was third. Kyle Scholpp of Lampman was the top local driver in fourth. Gary Goudy Jr. of Stoughton won the hard-charger award, as he gained the most spots, 13, in the final standings. Goudy began the race last on the grid in 24th, and worked his way up to 11th.

Chase Davidson of Estevan moved up 12 spots from 19th to seventh. Eight drivers from southeast Saskatchewan started the stock car feature.

Due to the number of drivers, both classes needed qualifying heats and B mains to finalize the fields. Top finishers in the heats advanced directly to the features, while others had to punch their ticket through the B mains.

Among those who didn't make it to the modified feature were 2023 tour champion Tim Ward, Sunday night's feature winner Kollin Hibdon, and local favourite Aaron Turnbull, who nearly made it despite starting last for his B-main. 

During the third qualifying heat for the stock cars, several vehicles were involved in an incident that resulted in local racer Chris Hortness' car rolling several times. He walked away from the incident. 

Estevan is the lone Saskatchewan stop on the tour. The others are in North Dakota. The first program in Jamestown on Saturday was rained out. Other races are in Minot, Williston, Dickinson and Bismarck; the latter race is July 11.

The tour is one of the largest events for modified race cars in North America. 

The next programs at the Estevan Motor Speedway will be Riley Raynard Dirt Wars on July 20 and 21. The July 20 program will also be Kids' Night.