Racing: Thells double trouble
Let me introduce the flyin’ Thell Brothers: Driving the canary-yellow OO is Kyle, age 22 … and piloting the raven 00t, is Keith, age 19.
Kyle won the 2013 Wissota Mod-4 points race driving the black car which his little brother now pilots.
Thursday night at KRA Speedway, Kyle won his heat and finished second in the 12-car main event behind Matt Halls, also the Heat 1 winner.
It’s very early in the points race but KRA drivers are at the top of the regional standings. Leading into the four-day weekend of racing Dean Larson, from Pennock, leads with 961 points in 19 shows. He’s followed by Kyle (780), Keith (662) and Dustin Zeiske (648), last year’s Wissota Mod-4 division runner-up to Kyle.
Says Larson, 57, of the kid brothers: “They’re fast; they are fast.”
Track conditions allowing, the Thell duo races four consecutive nights: KRA, Princeton, Ogilvie and Granite City.
It’s family outing when the Thells show up. It starts with Grandpa Butch Thell. He raced a ’56 Ford and a ’57 Studebaker Hawk in Sixties. He maintains the cars yet in his personal “Hall-of-Fame” barn on the farm outside Foley.
Greg Thell, Butch’s son, began racing Hobby Stock right here at the KRA in 1999. The kids grew up pit rats. Greg later drove Midwest Mods through 2007. That’s when Kyle, then 14, jumped in a Hobby Stock and raced the KRA schedule. He wasn’t yet age-legal at the nearby track in Sauk Rapids. He’s already in his eighth racing season and works at Golden Plump.
Keith wrestled for the Foley Falcons and also played baseball. He is in his fifth year behind the wheel, his fourth in the buzzing four-cylinder Mods. He attends St. Cloud State and works part-time at Golden Plump. Like so many Mod-4s, the powerplant is a Halls Racing Engine. Andy Deters of Waite Park made the frames for each car.
Also in the Thell pit family Thursday night were youngest brother Kevin and Kyle’s girlfriend, Emily.
I asked them about Dean Larson, who drives the Silver Bullet No. 37.
“That guy loves to race,” the brothers agreed. “If there’s a night when he has an opening, he’ll be there racing.”
Good example: Wednesday. Larson raced at North County Raceway at Ada, a 200-mile round trip. Got less than three-hours sleep and was at work at Jennie-O’s Plant No. 4, where he does building maintenance, by 6 a.m., he said. KRA on Thursday evening starts his weekend schedule: Montevideo Friday night, Brainerd on Saturday and Bemidji on Sunday.
Larson pits with son Tyler, who drives No. 7 with the same skill set as his father. A stop is required every several years to update the father’s life and times. Dean is his own publicist and a good one.
There is no handout; it’s delivered machine-gun style with a twinkle and a smile: “71 feature wins, 156 heat wins, 8 track championships, total winnings $107,875 in 11 years on the Mod-4 circuit.”
Three things of note: Dean’s a competitive son-of-a-gun; last year I thought he and Tyler were going to come to blows after the father accused the son of cutting down on him in the corner and taking him out of a heat race;
Also, he’s an athlete. He pitched for Kerkhoven-Sunburg High School (Class of ’75) and played town team at Raymond and Sunburg for 25 seasons, plus 20-years of slowpitch.
He’s intense but good-natured and good-hearted. The father of four (he’s divorced) organized the annual giveaway of kid bikes at the track each June. He said the total over six years is 288 bikes paid for by sponsors, which he had to find. And each year he paid for and gave away a mini-bike; the last one cost $425.
It got to be too much with his 50-hour plus work week and racing, but the bike giveaway continued this month when someone else volunteered to take it over.
There’s no place he rather be than at a dirt track. He points to the Superman symbol, a small decal on the hood of the Silver Bullet. “That’s me,” he says with a cackle.
Hard to argue. Cape or no cape, he flies with the youngsters.