MASON CITY — As if Sunday’s opening night wasn’t exciting enough for North Iowa race faces who made their way to the Mason City Motor Speedway, they were also gifted with a pair of thrilling finishes to kick off the 2017 season.
Josh Appel started the night off with a second-to-last-lap pass for the win in the B Modifieds feature and then Kevin Donlan drummed up a little drama off his own with a late-race pass to secure the Stock Cars feature victory.
“It feels great,” Appel said of his win to open the season in Mason City. “We’ve been struggling the last couple of nights fighting the car and we changed some things and it seems like it worked.”
Appel, who moved to Mason City from Dodge City, Kansas, last year, had plenty of space and time to figure out that out in Sunday’s feature as he was chasing Jim Chisholm for much of the race. He made progress on cutting that down prior to a caution with five laps to go, and then on the restart he slipped up a bit and dropped back to third.
With another caution flying a lap later, Appel got another chance and he didn’t let this one slip through his fingers.
On the second to last lap, Appel pulled up right behind Chisholm into the first corner, carried that momentum through the back straightaway and made his move in Turns 3 and 4. He made the pass stick out of 4 and the two cars made contact heading to the line, but Appel held on into 1 and cruised through the last lap into victory lane for his first time at MCMS.
“I could tell I was catching him in 3 and 4,” Appel said. “In 1 and 2 we were about even, but I knew when I got close coming out of 2 – I didn’t know how many laps were left – I figured he was up top and I was close enough that I could put it on the bottom and hope it was going to stick. Luckily, I got by him.”
Donlan, last year’s Stock Cars season champion, was in a similar situation, but the front pack was a lot tighter throughout.
Kyle Falck had held off the field for most of the race, even through a couple of restarts. Donlan and Luke Sathoff kept the pressure on directly behind just waiting for their chance but Falck remained steady until a caution with four laps to go gave Donlan the restart he needed.
“Oh man, I was just trying to be patient I guess and each caution it seemed like the top side was going way more because I think the cars were kind of all packing it down,” Donlan said. “I was kind of committed to the bottom just waiting for the chance.”
When he got that chance, he pulled right past Falck to dart to the lead in the back straightaway.
Sathoff and Lynn Panos kept the pressure on behind Donlan but he never slipped as he picked up another win at MCMS – he finished with three last season.
“Last year I ended up with the championship not expecting it at all,” Donlan said. “We just come over here to race and have fun, so I guess as long as we race clean I’m happy. I don’t set my goals too high other than to have fun.”
Josh Angst led wire-to-wire to win the Modifieds, holding his line to keep defending track champion Jason Cummins from stealing the victory.
Chanse Hollatz started on the pole and ran away with the Hobby Stocks feature and Devin Jones won the Tuners feature.