Saturday, September 8, 2012
Looking back 10 years, The last race at the MN State Fair
By Dean Reller
It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 10 years since the last race was held at the Minnesota State Fair. Looking back to Monday September 2, 2002, the one thing that nobody really knew was that the race would be the last one on the historic half-mile race track. Like many people, I was one of many who looked forward to watching the stars of the ASA Racing Series in their annual visit to Minnesota.
Unique to the Fair was the one day format with an afternoon race. Practice time was minimal and the first 20 positions were determined by points with the remainder of the 33 car field determined by qualifying. All time money winner at the Minnesota State Fair Speedway and most popular driver Dick Trickle started 21st and although he wasn’t in contention for the win, anytime Dick Trickle raced there, the fans would go crazy and once again they made the most noise as he was introduced prior to the race. Point’s leader Joey Clanton led early on, but the race turned into a battle between Kevin Cywinski and Gary St. Amant. The two traded the lead a few times before St. Amant finally took the lead with 109 laps remaining as he captured his only Minnesota State Fair win and got the chance to ring the Victory Bell following the race. This would be final time for bell as a couple of months following the race the Fair Board announced exciting new plans to remodel the grandstand. Unfortunately, the plan to make the grandstand better meant the end of the race track, much to the disappointment of the fans. No final race celebration, nothing special noted, a quick and sudden end.
The ASA Racing Series and its national tour disappeared a few years following this race, with rebirth in the form of the ASA Midwest Tour. A surprising fact is more than one-third of the field of the final ASA Minnesota State Fair race has raced or has some affiliation with the ASA Midwest Tour. Runner up Kevin Cywinski would make a few Midwest Tour starts. Third finishing Dan Fredrickson would later win the ASA Midwest Tour Championship. A feat also accomplished by the last place finisher Steve Carlson, who broke after only 25 laps. Other ASA Midwest Tour connections were the 4th and 5th place finishers David Stremme and Kyle Busch along with Donny Reuvers, Paul Paine, Pat Kelly, Chris Wimmer, Johnny Sauter, Joey Miller, Doug Mahlik, Chad Wood and ASA Midwest Tour President Tim Olson.
I have a personal connection to the final race as well. At the time, I worked for I-94 Raceway , which was an ASA Member Track. This allowed me the opportunity to meet some of the ASA Officials and I kindly volunteered my services for the race. I wasn’t certain that I would get a chance to do anything, and then it happened, they needed someone for a very unique job. The setup at the Minnesota State Fair Speedway was unique from most race tracks. Race control was located inside the track on a scaffold that also held the announcers. My job was to be up there and control the track lights, because unlike most race tracks, the controls were not on the flag stand, they were in the infield. My job was relatively easy, watch the flagman, the late great, Tom Powell. When he waved the flag, I turned on the light. This was fun, but kind of nerve racking, because I kept thinking if I was too quick with the light, I could really mess up a restart. Fortunately that didn’t happen, but they did have a few more switches than just on and off, remember this track has been around for years and had some very low tech equipment. In fact it took two people to operate the scoreboard, that not only showed the leaders and the laps, but also the running time of the race, something you definitely don’t see these days. After Gary St. Amant and everyone else took the checkered flag I remember turning on the red lights to signal to the drivers that the race was over. Little did I know that I was the one who would do it for the final time in the history of the Minnesota State Fair Speedway.
Results from the "Miller Lite 300" ASA Racing Series race at the (St. Paul) Minnesota State Fair Speedway, showing finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, make of car, laps completed, and reason out (if any):
1. (2) Gary St. Amant, Chevrolet, 300.
2. (3) Kevin Cywinski, Chevrolet, 300.
3. (3) Dan Fredrickson, Chevrolet, 300.
4. (4) David Stremme, Chevrolet, 300.
5. (9) Kyle Busch, Ford, 300.
6. (16) Butch Miller, Chevrolet, 300.
7. (1) Joey Clanton, Chevrolet, 300.
8. (6) Robbie Pyle, Chevrolet, 300.
9. (23) Donny Reuvers, Chevrolet, 300.
10. (11) Russ Tuttle, Chevrolet, 300.
11. (7) Mike Garvey, Chevrolet, 300.
12. (31) Paul Paine, Chevrolet, 299.
13. (13) Pat Kelly, Chevrolet, 299.
14. (8) Todd Kluever, Chevrolet, 298.
15. (10) Rick Beebe, Ford, 298.
16. (15) Chris Wimmer, Chevrolet, 298.
17. (30) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 298.
18. (25) Joey Miller, Chevrolet, 297.
19. (24) Doug Mahlik, Chevrolet, 296.
20. (28) Tim Olson, Chevrolet, 294.
21. (22) David Klein, Chevrolet, 294.
22. (17) Chad Wood, Chevrolet, 293.
23. (18) John Silverthorne, Chevrolet, 292.
24. (21) Dick Trickle, Chevrolet, 291.
25. (27) Ed Brown, Chevrolet, 291.
26. (33) Troy Wangerin, Chevrolet, 290.
27. (29) Rich Gardner, Chevrolet, 289.
28. (20) Greg Williams, Chevrolet, 283.
29. (12) Jason Boyd, Chevrolet, 240.
30. (14) Greg Stewart, Pontiac, 236.
31. (32) Mark Cole, Pontiac, 189, overheating.
32. (19) J.C. Beattie Jr., Chevrolet, 88, oil pump.
33. (26) Steve Carlson, Ford, 25, suspension.
Time of Race: 2 hours, 18 minutes, 21 seconds.
Average Speed: 65.502 mph.
Margin of Victory: 1.092 seconds.
Lead Changes: 6 among 4 drivers.
Lap Leaders: Clanton 1-39, Cywinski 40-91, St. Amant 92-111, Cywinski 112-156, Garvey 157-178, Cywinski 179-191, St. Amant 192-300.
Cautions: 8 for 48 laps.
*photos on display at the MN State fair