There may have been a time several years ago when Bob Wallin’s success could be chalked up to beginner’s luck, but that’s certainly not the case anymore.
Wallin has been drag racing in the Real Street Natural class in Brainerd International Raceway’s Muscle Car Series for only four years now and just completed a three-peat by winning his third series championship in a row. He took second place his first year, in 2016. And drag racers won’t want to hear this, but he had never drag raced competitively before then.
“I used to run test days in Rock Falls (Wisconsin),” said Wallin, from Superior, Wis. “I just raced for fun but I knew the Orr brothers (Dennis and Chris, also from Superior) who raced up here and they talked me into it.”
Wallin drives a 1972 Chevy Nova that runs a consistent 9.3 seconds at 143 mph. He raced his way into the finals twice last season, winning once. “It’s not as easy as it may look,” he said. “There’s a lot of work involved to get down the track. And the competition (in Real Street Natural) is getting pretty stiff. I go in thinking I’m not going to win, but then I do.”
Wallin was one of 13 drag racers crowned series champion in the three-race Muscle Car Series last season. They were honored recently at BIR’s annual Racer Banquet and are putting the final tweaks on their cars for the 2020 season. The series includes the Street Car Showdown on Memorial Day weekend, the PleasureLand RV Show & Go on the Fourth of July weekend and the GSTA Muscle Car Shootout on Labor Day weekend.
Another newcomer to the series is Dave Feders, who, like Wallin, didn’t waste any time making a splash. Racing in the King Street class, the Isanti racer just completed his third season of racing and is on a four-race winning streak. He won the 2018 GSTA Muscle Car Shootout and then ran the table last year to win his first series championship. But it wasn’t easy, he admitted.
He blew up his motor at the 2018 Street Car Showdown and then used a street car at the Show & Go to get some points. “I got the motor back in for the Labor Day race and the car really came alive.”
Feders knows that you can’t take winning for granted in the King Street class because of the level of competition. “I just pull up to the line and basically race myself and hope for a clean pass,” he said. “There are no guarantees that you can just show up and win it. (Going into last season) I figured as long as the car and motor held together, I thought we had a good shot at being a contender, but you never know.”
Todd Mueller joined the ranks as one of the new kids on the block and may have had one of the most unusual journeys to a series championship, which was won in the Outlaw class. Last season, the Ham Lake racer had a win, a runner-up finish and a semifinal loss, which was enough to finish the season at the top of the point standings.
Mueller had his 1966 Chevy Chevelle running 7.8 seconds and 175 mph, which is typically not the fastest times in the field, but Mueller benefitted from a class that was missing the big horsepower cars that have dominated the class in the past, like defending champ Bubba Romanyshyn, who only competed in one race last season, and former champs Greg Schmidt and Jake Delmonico, who are both rebuilding their motors and cars.
“I can’t hang with those guys on a horsepower level but we took advantage of some bad luck by others,” Mueller said. “We’re kind of rookies at this but some of the other racers like Wade Deslauriers and Mark Freeman really helped us out.”
Getting this far has been a real adventure for Mueller. He got hooked after driving a 13-second dragster and started looking for a car that would allow him to get into the sport. After three years of searching, he found the Chevelle, a 7-second car. He’s still learning how to drive it four seasons later and can’t thank his crew chief John Onuschko enough for keeping it running.
He admits that the first couple years were a comedy of errors on the starting line and in the burnout box, but everything came together for him last season year, and he was rewarded with hardware.
The Outlaw class is typically the second-fastest class in the series. The fastest – Outlaw Pro Mod – has been dominated by RicK Schmidt, who repeated as series champ this year with a dazzling display of speed in his 2011 Mustang. He’s on a four-race winning streak, flirting with 5-second runs and closing in on 240 mph. Schmidt’s from Dickinson, N.D.
The father-son combo of Gary and Nathan Olson accounted for the most rounds won last year, and both took home series championships for their efforts. Gary Olson won the Strip Eliminator 1 class, where he competed against about 70 other drivers each event. He only won the Show & Go but he won enough rounds each race to finish first. Nathan won the Strip Eliminator 2 class, which had just as many drivers each race. He won two of the events last season.
Most of this year’s series champs were first-time winners and either finished second or third in 2018. Jason Rolow won the Real Street Unlimited class after finishing second the previous year. The same was true for Jason King, who won the True Street title, Steve Engberg, who won the Strip Eliminator 3 crown, and Dan Hyttsten, who won the Truck Eliminator title. Mike Hed finished in third in the Manual Transmission class but took home the championship last year.
Below are the top three winners in each class.
Outlaw Pro Mod
1. Rick Schmidt, Dickinson, N.D.
2. Lee Loew, Darwin
3. Chris Willemssen, Stewart
1. Todd Mueller, Ham Lake
2. Troy Bednarz, Nowthen
3. Keith Kastonek, Hinkley
1. Dave Feders, Isanti
2. Dick Fulton, Crystal
3. Mike Sterling, Oak Grove
Real Street Unlimited
1. Jason Rolow, Anoka
2. Jesse Nelson, Mountain Iron
3. Jacob Cooney, Cedar
Real Street Natural
1. Bob Wallin, Superior, Wis.
2. Bill Meyer, Andover
3. Shawn Halverson, Orr
1. Jason King, Saginaw
2. Graham Boyd, White Bear Lake
660 Outlaw Street
1. Dan Gefre, Ramsey
2. Zach Novak, Sauk Rapids
3. Chris Gullickson, North Branch
Strip Eliminator 1
1. Gary Olson, Sartell
2. Joe Marudas, Milaca
3. Jake Lesnick, Maplewood
Strip Eliminator 2
1. Nathan Olson, Sartell
2. Paul Baillif, Brainerd
3. Brian Schottenbauer, Clear Lake
Strip Eliminator 3
1. Steve Enberg, Big Lake
2. Dan Reisinger, Albany
3. Dan Hyttsten, Becker
1. Dan Hyttsten, Becker
2. Jerry Jablonski, Duluth
3. Tyler Novak, Rice
1. Mike Hed, Menahga
2. Jeremy Reitmeier, Crookston
3. Kyle Lendt, Faribault
Index Class Champion
1. Jim Lane, Brainerd
2. Cole Carpenter, Forest Lake
3. Nathan Olson, Sartell