Story by Kelly Ninas
Being the best of the West was the goal of many competitors that assembled at Lincoln County Raceway for the Wild West Challenge for dirt track racing’s version or Friday Night Lights in North Platte, Nebraska.
Earning the right to call themselves the Best of the West by winning the Wild West Challenge races were the group of Mike Densberger, Brett Berry, Jesse Taylor, Jesse Vanlaningham and Mitch Bolton.
The Magic Man, Mike Densberger of Lincoln is no stranger to Lincoln County Raceway and his familiarity with the oval paid off dearly in cruising to the win in the IMCA Modified Feature. Densberger started his night off right with a heat race runner-up finish and then went one more step up on the podium in the feature race after starting the contest on the outside of the third row. Densberger was able to dial up the pass for the lead on the ninth lap, where he passed pole sitter Jeremy Frenier of Ft. Morgan, Colorado. Densberger was able to hold off the late charges by many of the heavy hitters that made up the feature lineup for the modified’s. Making a late charge through the field in the second half of the feature event was Brandon Clough of Wallace. Clough started on the inside of the fifth row when the green flag dropped and he worked through traffic with patience to be in contention in the final laps. Running out of real estate as the checkered flag would fly, Clough was forced to settle with runner-up honors. Early leader Jeremy Frenier of Ft. Morgan, Colorado as mentioned, led the first eight laps and was able to stay up on the wheel to the tune of a third place finish. Rounding out the top five finishers was Brandon Spanjer of Crete and Jay Steffens of North Platte in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Leading from the beginning, pole sitter Brett Berry of LaHunta, Colorado tried his best to run away and hide to claim the win in the IMCA Northern Sport Modified Feature. Berry stated off his evening with a heat race win to put himself into the redraw for the feature and he was lucky enough to draw quite well to propel himself to a great starting position which he took full advantage of during the feature. Finishing second overall in the feature was Austin Svoboda of David City. Svoboda started the feature on the outside of the third row and was among the leaders from the onset to stay away from on-track incidents. Making his debut at his former home track, Dillon Schultz of Lincoln, formerly of North Platte jostled throughout the feature with the front runners to be in the mix when the checkered flag was waved after starting on the inside of the second row. Nick Hankins of Bennett, Colorado and Ryan Moser of Englewood, Colorado rounded out the top five finishers in fourth and fifth overall.
Competing for the top purse of the Wild West Challenge, Jesse Taylor was at the top of the heap when all the smoke cleared during the IMCA Stock Car Feature. Taylor of Ft. Morgan, Colorado won his second consecutive Wild West Challenge crown, in 2017 he was the IMCA Modified victor. Taylor started the feature on the outside of the second row and was among the leaders jostling for position throughout the feature. Jesse Taylor took the lead on the 16th lap with less than 10 laps to go and was able to weather the storm of late cautions to win the feature. Close behind Taylor was Kyle Vanover of Beatrice in second place overall. Vanover like Taylor was a heat race winner who was able to build on his early success while racing the feature. Vanover started the feature on the outside of the fifth row and worked his magic onto the podium in fine fashion. One of the early leaders, Jason Rogers of Selden, Kansas started on the outside of the front row and was able to take the lead from Mikey Dancer who led from the drop off the green flag on the fourth lap. Rogers looked to be on his way to another Wild West Challenge win until he was passed for the lead on the 16th lap. Rogers didn’t waver and recovered quite nicely to finish third overall. Casey Woken of Norton, Kansas and Norfolk’s Justin Addison were the fourth and fifth to cross the finish line during the feature.
Grabbing the lead in the early laps and avoiding trouble throughout the feature was the winning formula for Jesse Vanlaningham of Beatrice to win the IMCA Hobby Stock feature. Vanlaningham started the feature on the pole and was able to stay in the thick of things in the front of the field during the first six laps to final pass Brady Bencken of Oakley, Kansas who was the leader during the initial six laps. Vanlaningham was able to hold off all challenges during the waning laps to win the feature event. Starting in the third row, put Jeff Ware of Columbus in a good position to be in a position to strike when the iron was hot to earn a podium finish in second place overall. Ware applied pressure to Vanlaningham during the final laps, only to be forced to settle with runner-up accolades. Broken Bow’s Awesome Luke Wassom got involved in an early lap incident during the feature and saw his work cut out for him during the feature event. Wassom started on the outside of the fourth row and was able to drive with gumption to make a return trip to the podium by finishing third overall. Lincoln County Raceway regular’s Jeromy Wagner of Kensington, Kansas and Tanner Jones of North Platte crossed the finish line in fourth and fifth place, respectively.
Coming from the furthest to visit the winners circle was Mitch Bolton of Grand Junction, Colorado. Bolton was not only the winner of the longest tow but the victor in the IMCA Sport Compact feature. Bolton started the feature on the outside of the sixth row. He was able to lead laps 10 and 11 after working through traffic and then relinquished the lead to again grasp the point for good on the final two laps. Coming home in second place was Denny Berghahn Jr. of Plattsmouth after leading laps eight and nine and then being the leader of laps 12 and 13. Berghahn was among the leaders during the second half of the feature event and stayed in contention until the final flag was waved. Early leader, Shawn Hein of Beatrice started on the outside of the second row and used that to his advantage to grab the lead on the third lap and led until Berghahn Jr. passed him for the lead. Hein was able to keep his elbows up and his foot to the floor to continue to flourish on the North Platte oval to finish third overall in the feature. Richard Crow of Grand Island and Billy Turner of Colby, Kansas rounded out the top five in fourth and fifth, respectively.
–IMCA Modified Feature: 1. 81-Mike Densberger; 2. 20b-Brandon Clough; 3. 17j-Jeremy Frenier; 4. 19xx-Brandon Spanjer; 5. XII-Jay Steffens; 6. 0hp-Bryan Herrick; 7. 97m-David Murray Jr; 8. 50c-Colton Osborn; 9. 28-John Burrow Jr; 10. 4c-Charley Brown; 11. 34jw-Cole Hodges; 12. 78-Brian Cross; 13. 3rw-Ronnie Wallace; 14. 4p-Dave Pederson; 15. 93h-Klancey Honeycutt.
Heat Race Winners: 97m-Murrary Jr; XII-Steffens.
–IMCA Northern Sport Modified Feature: 1. 09-Brett Berry; 2. 16-Austin Svoboda; 3. 55d-Dillon Schultz; 4. 99h-Nick Hankins; 5. 18c-Ryan Moser; 6. 22w-Brady Weinman; 7. 55z-Zach Schultz; 8. 55m-Tony Schultz; 9. 88-Eric Kackmeister; 10. 16j-Justin Svoboda; 11. 999-Brian Osantowski; 12. 01-Jacob Wolsleben; 13. 511-Zach Buesing; 14. 3-Gary Long; 15. 20k-Cody DeWester.
Heat Race Winners: 09-Brett Berry; 55d-Schultz; 88-Kackmeister; 16-Austin Svoboda
–IMCA Stock Car Feature: 1. 05-Jesse Taylor; 2. 19-Kyle Vanover; 3. 37-Jason Rogers; 4. 35jw-Casey Woken; 5. 26j- Justin Addison; 6. 16w-Jeff Whiting; 7. 45-Mikey Dancer; 8. 5d-Travis Demilt; 9. 9j-Jason Anderson; 10. 03-Henry Henderson; 11. 75-Dan Eller; 12. 99x-Danny Concelman; 13. 8-Eric Kinderknecht; 14-11k-Kyle Clough; 15. 15r-Robbie Kosmacek.
Heat Race Winners: 05-Taylor; 45-Dancer; 67-Damon Richards; 19-Vanover.