23 of the top WISSOTA Hornet race cars met at Granite City Motor Park on Sunday night for the First Annual WISSOTA Hornet Nationals. At the end of the night Justin Barsness of Grand Rapids, Minnesota claimed the trophy and $1,000 prize.
WISSOTA Hornets are four cylinder ‘stock’ cars designed as a low-cost entry level. Many young drivers get their start at this level including the event winner who is just 16-years old.
The event saw each car compete in two heat races (8 laps each) to determine race order for the feature. Granite City track champion Justin Schelitzche of Waconia, Minnesota easily won Heat 1 from the pole. Brandon Nyberg (Andover, MN) won Heat 2 while Nathan Kohl (Fort Ripley, MN) took Heat 3.
WISSOTA national points lead Schelitzche came into the night as one of the favorites, but issues with the car later dashed his hopes of a feature win.
“Night started out good winning the first round of my heat races,” commented Schelitzche.
Barsness, who finished second in Heat 3 started from position three and would go on to win Heat 4 besting Brandon Backstrom (Pillager, MN). Schelitzche would suffer a tire puncture in the heat and finished last.
“Heat 2 starting eighth was going pretty well,” added Schelitzche. “Moved up to fourth or so and closing in on the front cars until I cut down a front tire. Had my work cut out for me in the feature starting 13th. Made my way up to seventh. Coming to the green after a caution before something mechanical or electrical happened to the car. Not sure the issue yet.”
Heat 5 was won by Jenna Hagemann (Fort Ripley) before Kohl repeated his early performance by winning Heat 6.
With his two heat victories Kohl earned the pole for the 40 lap feature. Barsness started on the outside of row one while Hagemann and Joseph Wilber (Foreston, MN) made up row two.
A quick start by Barsness had him leading Lap 1. He continued in the front until Lap 24 when Wilber briefly took the lead.
Barsness reclaimed the top spot shortly after and again held the spot until a caution flag flew with five laps to go. A brilliant restart by Hagemann put her #26 in front where she stayed until the white flag.
Holding a half-car advantage on the backstretch Barsness went to the low side into turn three. The two cars banged into each other twice in the final turn where the 47J car powered past under the checkered flag.
The victory was the 11th (44 total events) of the season for Barsness who was track champion at Grand Rapids Speedway in 2022.
“I would like to thank all my sponsors for helping all year, especially tonight after my huge win,” commented Barsness. “The biggest race of my career!”
Although he did not finish the race Schelitzche was proud to compete in the event.
“Thanks Granite City Motor Park for hosting the event. We had a good turn out of cars. Always fun running against good competition.”