SPRING VALLEY — Dustin Sorensen rarely appears nervous, but he admitted to feeling that way — well, a little bit nervous — on Saturday night.
The recent Rochester Lourdes High School graduate continued his incredible summer by winning at Deer Creek Speedway for a third time in 2019. And Saturday's win may be the biggest of his young career. Sorensen earned $5,000 for capturing the USRA Modifieds A Main during the Gopher 50.
The nerves kicked in for the talented third-generation driver when, while driving with the lead, veteran Modified racer Zack Vanderbeek pulled alongside him as they weaved through lapped traffic.
"Yeah, of course I was nervous," Sorensen said. "Then I saw on the scoreboard that (Rodney) Sanders and (Brandon) Davis were coming. I knew they started deep.
"I didn't even know Sanders got to second at the end; I didn't look at the board after five laps left."
Sanders may have put on the most impressive display Saturday. He and Davis made the re-draw for the A Main, which meant they had a chance to start on the pole. But both passed up that opportunity for an even better one. Tralo Companies, out of Owatonna, offered both drivers a chance to move back to the 11th and 12th starting spots and, if they could win from one of those spots, they'd earn a $10,000 bonus.
Both Sanders and Davis moved back in the starting lineup. And both moved up in the feature. Sanders charged all the way to second place, and was cutting a half-second off Sorensen's lead in the waning laps, but Sanders ran out of time.
"Dustin gets around this place really good," Sanders said. "He was doing such a good job, it was going to take a lot for me to get by him."
A moment of silence was held prior to the start of Saturday's races to remember former standout stock car driver Karl Fenske. One of the greats from southeastern Minnesota in the 1970s and beyond, Fenske died last week after a short battle with cancer at the age of 63.
"He was a stalwart around here for more than 30 years," said Deer Creek track announcer Todd Narveson, who knew Fenske well. "With Karl, racing fans and drivers either loved him or hated him. He was one of a kind. There will never be another like him."
Fenske started in four Gopher 50 races and was a 7-time feature winner at Deer Creek Speedway.
• Jimmy Mars, one of the top Late Model drivers in the region, finished third in the Gopher 50. He didn't drop out of the top five, running as highly as second place. Mars made his 25th Gopher 50 start, tying him with Winona's Lance Matthees for the most starts by a driver. "I don't know if that's a good thing or not," Mars said with a laugh. "It means I'm getting old."
• Shane Clanton, the 2012 Gopher 50 winner, won the second Late Models heat race of the night. That was his 166th career World of Outlaws heat win, moving him into third place on the series' all-time list.
• Rochester's Jordan Yaggy missed the Gopher 50 for the first time since 2012. He was involved in an on-track crash approximately two months ago and is still recovering from a concussion. Yaggy's best finish at the Gopher came in 2016, when he placed 15th.