The field of A-Stock racers sweep through turn 2 Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

The field of A-Stock racers sweep through turn 2 Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Night racing gets wild at Twin City Raceway

When autumn in Alaska gets dark enough for bright lights to come on, race car drivers turn up the intensity.

Friday night exuded that wild-card feel at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, the unpredictable 3/8-mile dirt track that throws even the best of them for a loop. A-Stock, Legends and two full fields of Late Models and Sprint Cars took to the dirt under artificial lighting set up on the infield grass. Saturday night’s races and demolition derby were canceled due to rain.

The shine of the lights and intimate setting traditionally attracts additional racers from the Mat-Su valleys and Fairbanks areas, making for bigger fields for the two-night event.

Wasilla Late Model racer Jon Jensen explained that when the sun goes down, the track improves.

“This is always the fastest the track is all year,” Jensen said. “We all look forward to coming down for this.”

Among the challengers that travel down from up north are the McDonald family — John and son Liam and daughter Emma — all of whom piloted the mighty Sprint Cars on Friday night.

“We always come down for the night races,” Liam McDonald said. “We love racing down here, you guys have a nice, fast track.”

The Sprint Car races, however, were highlighted by two terrifying crashes by John Mellish and Emma McDonald. Mellish took the first big tumble of the evening in the first heat race while racing two other cars off turn four.

Mellish and Liam McDonald were racing three-wide with another driver when the two touched wheels, sending Mellish up the track and into the guardrail. Mellish’s car took a few cartwheels and eventually landed on its side with a crumpled wing covering the mangled machine.

Mellish said both he and McDonald aimed for a gap on the inside of a slower car and the two collided.

“The next thing I know, weeee!” Mellish said. “We just came together. Nobody’s fault. It was just racing.”

Mellish said as he was unbuckling to get out, a wisp of flames from leaking oil began to stir up and create a smoke cloud.

“The main thing is to not panic,” he said.

Liam McDonald said the collision was a result of hard racing as he was chasing his father, John, through traffic.

“(Mellish) was going around the outside, I was on the inside trying to catch him even more,” McDonald said. “All of a sudden, he had better traction and steered down, and I was sliding out into him and couldn’t stop in time.”

Later in the second heat race, Emma McDonald had her own big moment with a slide into turn one that resulted in her slapping the outside barrier, somersaulting her car once before landing on the wheels. Emma said she just drove it into the corner too hard.

“I was just a little upset about some calls being made on the track and I was being reckless,” McDonald said. “You can’t jump the start so the person in the front has to make it around turn four first, and they weren’t calling it when other people were doing it.”

John and Liam finished 1-2 in all three races, with Liam winning the second heat and John grabbing the checkers in his No. 78 racer in heat one and the 25-lap feature.

The Late Model class saw a triumphant return to Twin City after missing for much of the summer. Al Ulman drove his No. 74 machine to the win in the second heat, but Mike Braddock had the last laugh, winning the first heat and feature race in his No. 82 car.

Wasilla racers Damien LaMountain and Jon Jensen had wild nights, both running into mistakes that cost them victories. In the second heat, Jensen lost control while leading with two laps to go, giving the top spot to LaMountain.

However, LaMountain was on his way to victory on a two-lap dash before spinning out from the lead on the final lap, allowing Ulman by to take the win.

For LaMountain, it was the first time for him in a Late Model racer, and LaMountain blamed his inexperience on his spin.

“Just a rookie mistake, I overshot the corner a little,” LaMountain said. “I should’ve slowed down and walked it through the corner.”

In the Late Models feature, Ulman spun out while leading with eight laps remaining, allowing Jensen to inherit the lead, but it was short-lived. Out front with a comfortable margin, Jensen ended up spinning again with five to go, allowing Braddock to cash in as the winner.

Jensen said the track was tough to handle Friday night.

“It was a rough track, and I just got tired,” he said. “The track was fast, but it was just one of those things where I couldn’t hold a straight line and got into the corner too hard.”

David Kusmider dominated the Legends class with a clean sweep of all three races Friday.

The A-Stock races saw Nikiski teenager Mady Stichal take two of three races, including an impressive feature victory. Stichal ran down race leader Jeremy Herr and passed him with four laps left to secure the win.

Herr finished second in all three A-Stock races, including heat one when he lost to Seward teenager Clay Peterson.

A-Stock racer Gracie Bass slides through turn 4 while Mady Stichal slips by on the outside Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

A-Stock racer Gracie Bass slides through turn 4 while Mady Stichal slips by on the outside Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

The engine in Gracie Bass’ A-Stock racer expires in spectacular fashion Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

The engine in Gracie Bass’ A-Stock racer expires in spectacular fashion Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

A crew of racers, mechanics and friends pore over the engine of Gracie Bass’ No. 16 A-Stock racer Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

A crew of racers, mechanics and friends pore over the engine of Gracie Bass’ No. 16 A-Stock racer Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

The field of Late Models slide through a turn Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

The field of Late Models slide through a turn Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Al Ulman (74) races Mike Braddock for the lead late in Friday’s night race feature, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Al Ulman (74) races Mike Braddock for the lead late in Friday’s night race feature, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Damien Ackerman spins into the mud during a Legends heat race Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Damien Ackerman spins into the mud during a Legends heat race Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

The crowd of race fans watch a tow truck pull the wrecked Sprint Car of John Mellish away Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. Mellish was unhurt in the incident. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

The crowd of race fans watch a tow truck pull the wrecked Sprint Car of John Mellish away Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. Mellish was unhurt in the incident. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

A field of 10 Sprint Cars prepare to take the green flag Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

A field of 10 Sprint Cars prepare to take the green flag Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Sprint Car racer John Mellish comes to a rest after a flipping crash Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. Mellish was unhurt in the incident. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

Sprint Car racer John Mellish comes to a rest after a flipping crash Friday, Sept. 6, 2019, at Twin City Raceway in Kenai, Alaska. Mellish was unhurt in the incident. (Photo by Joey Klecka/Peninsula Clarion)

More in Sports

Eagle River sweeps Alaska 20

Eagle River swept Alaska 20 on Tuesday at the Kenai Little League… Continue reading

Alaska 20 pitcher Mose Hayes throws the ball to teammate Tanner Ussing while Dimond player Logan Sweet dives back onto first base during a Saturday, July 4, 2020 Alliance Baseball League game at Karen Hornaday Park in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Megan Pacer/Homer News)
Alaska 20 splits doubleheader in Homer

In a rare appearance in Homer, Alaska 20 split an Independence Day… Continue reading

The view from Slaughter Gulch trail in Cooper Landing, Alaska, on June 20, 2020. (Photo by Brian Mazurek/Peninsula Clarion)
Out of the Office: Life on the Edge

Are you a planner? An organizer? A list-maker? I’m not. I love… Continue reading

Refuge Notebook: Rains, rocks and trail work on the Swanson River

Rain pounded against the windshield, encouraging a creeping melancholy as I drove… Continue reading

Alaska 20.
Alaska 20 splits with Eagle River

Alaska 20 picked up a league victory and took a nonleague loss… Continue reading

Chad Anderson of Kasilof and Allie Ostrander guide Everett Anderson, 3, to the finish line Wednesday, July 19, 2017, at the Salmon Run Series at Tsalteshi Trails. Getting the free ride on Chad’s shoulders is Ben Anderson, 2. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Salmon Run Series announces race details

The Salmon Run Series announced details for the 2020 event Wednesday. The… Continue reading

Alaska 20.
South sweeps Alaska 20

South notched a Sunday sweep of the Alaska 20, notching a 4-1… Continue reading

The view of Seward from the top of Mt. Marathon was a cloudy one on Thursday, June 18, 2020. (Photo by Kat Sorensen)
Tangled Up in Blue: Shifting clouds

Every cloudy day is different. On a bluebird day, from the window… Continue reading

Tales of a Federal Wildlife Officer: Brown bears at Russian River

The opening of this year’s sockeye fishery at the Kenai/Russian River confluence… Continue reading

Most Read