June 5, 2021 - Elko, MN
By Jason D Searcy
The Bandit Big Rig series arrived in town just in time for a heatwave as a new Minnesota state record high temperature of 99 degrees was set on Saturday June 5th, not ideal race conditions at Elko (MN) Speedway a 3/8th mile banked asphalt oval, the smallest track on the circuit. The conditions were so hot in fact, that the track maintenance crew sprayed water in the corners to keep them cool three different times during the race night for fear that the 12,000 lb Iron Giants would damage the asphalt surface of the track. Truck drivers as a whole are known for their toughness and willingness to get things done no matter the obstacles. The same can be said for Bandit Big Rig series drivers and their fans who carried on as per normal with no changes to their regular race day schedule including a 90 minute on-track meet and greet where fans took sweat filled selfies with their favorite driver. Fans in the crowd were also soaked by water cannons during breaks in the racing action.
When the main event 30 lap feature began #88 Mike Morgan from Wartrace (TN) was coming off a thrilling victory in the Bandit Shootout one-on-one grudge match competition where he outgunned Salem Speedway winner #99 Brian Bayer, that win gave Morgan the opportunity to start the race outside of row number two. Video of Bandit Shootout final
As it turned out, that was the perfect location to witness some three wide craziness on the 3/8th mile oval at Elko Speedway. At the green flag #9 Jordan Cantrell took the lead after running #51 Luke Whitmire up the track on the first lap, then #66 Austin Hoppe dove down low to challenge for the top spot on lap two but on lap three Whitmire gathered up some momentum and passed both Hoppe and Cantrell making it three wide just inches apart coming out of turn two, not easy to do when each of these trucks are 8 1/2 foot wide so that is over 25 foot of wingspan squeezing out of the corner on the narrowest track on the circuit. After the pass Whitmire had the lead, but something was about to go wrong.
Whitmire qualified mid-pack and did not finish in the top 2 in his heat race, so he had to win the Bandit Challenge Race to earn his great starting position, with all those extra laps and the extra hot weather conditions his truck was starting to overheat and spewing water out the overflow, this was not unexpected, the same thing happened earlier in the night, his crew just barely had enough time to cool down his rig before the main event.
Meanwhile #88 Mike Morgan watched the three-wide chaos through his front windshield, let it all sort out and then he set his sites on the leader, Whitmire had trouble navigating some lapped traffic near the halfway mark of the race and Morgan got aggressive and seized the opportunity, the #88 truck driven by Morgan jumped up to the high side, used the slower trucks as a blocker and rocketed to the lead on lap 17 of 30. Morgan never looked back and took the checkers for his first win of the year in the Bandit series. "We got out there in front and kept pushing this thing as hard as I could go, I let this dog eat as much fuel as it wanted to eat!" said an enthusiastic Morgan after the race.
The race was cautionless, it went green the entire 30 laps, Whitmire held on for second place with his truck overheating, he just edged the 2021 winner from Five Flags Speedway #4 Scott Treadway who has now finished on the podium at all three races held this year.
Here is my victory lane interview with 88 Mike Morgan driving the truck they call MACK Vader
1- 88 Mike Morgan Wartrance TN
2- 51 Luke Whitmire Arden NC
3- 4 Scott Treadway Marshal NC
4- 3 Alan Boles Weaverville NC
5- 66 Austin Hoppe Fond du Lac WI
6- 99 Brian Bayer Birdseye IN
7- 16 Randy Briggs Kansas City KS
8- 63 Trevor Kruckeberg Blooming Prairie MN
9- 41 Marshal Davis Mars Hill NC
10-13 Bob Mitchell Waupun WI
This was the fourth time Elko Speedway has hosted the Bandit Big Rig series, the previous winners were: Ricky Rude Proffitt 8/25/2018, Mark Noble 10/13/2018, Darren Proffitt 7/27/2019 and now Mike Morgan on 5/6/2021.
It was a pleasure to work my first ever Bandit Big Rig series race as the PA Announcer, PT, Diesel and Little D were fun to work with and props to all the die-hard fans who suffered through a scorcher of a day with not a negative word to be heard.
For more information on the Bandit Big Rig series follow them on Facebook or YouTube.
For more information on Elko Speedway, go to ElkoSpeedway.com or follow them on social media.