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Joey Jensen (V2) of Forest Lake, followed by Danny Bayer (36) of Elrosa, take aim at pole-sitter Rick Jacobson (7J) of Wilton at the start of the fourth Modified heat Wednesday night at the KRA Speedway in Willmar. Jensen finished first and Bayer second. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

A ride down memory lane

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WILLMAR -- The drivers of powerful stock cars, like the rest of us, had a first set of wheels, too. It allowed us to cruise town, get to the senior high school and maybe go roadin'.

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It wasn't a show car but it was your car -- long gone but never forgotten.

In the pits Wednesday at the KRA Speedway, on opening night of the county fair, the reporter asked four top-ranked drivers in the Wissota Modified division what they first drove on the street?

Danny Bayer started out with a 1995 GMC Sonoma. "It was just a truck lying around (the yard). It was a Super Cab, the little version of the Chevy S10. I was 15 and had a Farmer Permit. Me and my buddy cut the exhaust off and put on a dual exhaust. The big thing was to be loud. It wasn't that loud 'cuz it was a small engine -- but it was loud enough. My junior year I got Dodge Durango."

Bayer finished second to Joey Jensen of Forest Lake in the fourth and final heat of the Modified Special. Twenty-three racers were chasing a $1,500 first-place prize in the feature. Bayer is seventh in track points and ninth in the Wissota National Points Standings.

Don Eischens got into a green '76 Pinto station wagon in about 1980 while attending Rocori High School in Cold Spring. "It was a hot car back in the day," he said. "I'm joking. I got it from mom and dad. Dad was a mechanic. Good mileage? We didn't worry about that. Gas was 50 cents a gallon. The second car came out of my pocket. It was a '76 Monte Carlo, a rust bucket that Dad and I painted. I didn't have money to buy a nice car; all my money went into racing when I started in 1987."

Eischens is among Wissota's most consistent drivers, in both Modified and Super Stock. He's the KRA leader in Supers, driving H20, and third in the Mods.

Shane Sabraski is making a run for national titles in both Modifieds (he's third) and Midwest Mods (he's second). He's first in both classes at KRA.

He grew up outside Sauk Rapids. "I had a Pontiac 6000, baby blue, a four cylinder. Probably got it for my birthday. It didn't last long. We were leaving Val's Rapid Serve and I reached down for a French fry I'd dropped on the floor board and I rear ended a guy that was turning.

"Then my grandparents helped me buy a (Chevy) S10 Blazer. We lived on this back road and myself and a buddy, who also had a S10, would race from town to my parent's place. I got to the last turn and rolled it. I wasn't hurt and went and got my dad. I was crying when he righted it out of the ditch. I thought he'd be real mad but it was OK. I got another S10 and took better care of it, since I'd paid for it, and haven't had any more accidents."

Ryan Canon followed his dad Roger onto the race track. He got his starter car from a dealer in Sunburg. It was a 1972 Datsun pickup from California with red flames and aluminum mag wheels. A 1980 Pontiac followed and later a Chevy S10.

But the Datsun stood out. "There weren't many around like that,'" said Ryan, who graduated from Willmar High School in 1992. We put Corvette side pipes on it, though it was just a four cylinder."

Even as a teenager, his money went into restoring a '68 SS Camero, which he still has and is now a showpiece.

The younger Canon started in go-karts at age 10, went to Mod-4s at age 18 and has been in Modifieds since 2002.

He's second in track points and 13th nationally.

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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