BOONE, Iowa — Things could have ended very differently for Daniel Gottschalk.
And they nearly did.
But the Northern sport mod driver from Ellis rebounded from an early hole and rallied to finish third Tuesday night in the second A-main qualifier at IMCA Super Nationals XXXIII in Boone, Iowa. The placing put Gottschalk into Saturday’s big dance with some of the nation’s top drivers.
“I guess luck was on our side a little bit,” Gottschalk said. “I can’t complain. It’s tough to make it to Saturday. There was something like 170 cars last year, and there was 160-some this year last I heard.”
The spot in Saturday’s big finale is the second straight one for Gottschalk. He also made the big show out of the last-chance qualifier in 2014, starting that race deep in the field.
This year, Gottschalk will have a much better starting spot — 9th, which equates to outside the third row.
“There’s a lot of good cars here,” Gottschalk said. “We’ll just go for it and see what happens.”
Gottschalk’s ride back to the big dance nearly ended quickly Tuesday night. He started near the front of the pack but hit a hole that developed. That same hole caused hobby stock driver Adam Armstrong to roll his car a night earlier.
“That first lap, I hit that hole in (turns) one and two and dropped back to eighth,” Gottschalk said. “It was the same hole Adam Armstrong hit and rolled from the night before.
“I thought it was over. It felt like the whole car was off the ground. I figured something was broken. I just hit the gas and went.”
Gottschalk, who won the 20th and final heat to make one of the two qualifiers, worked his way to the bottom of the track, then found a fast line in the middle. That helped him rebound to the front of the pack of 30 cars.
He even was side-by-side with the second-place car until one of the several cautions flew late in the race.
Lucas Lamberies of Clintonville, Wis., and Nick Meyer of Whittemore, Iowa, took the top two spots in the feature, while Gottschalk finished third.
He joins Jake Krone, Beloit, in Saturday’s big dance. Krone qualified during the opening night Monday.
Josh Appel, Dodge City, Brenden Damon, Great Bend, and Kurtis Pihl, Falun, all made the first sport mod A-main Tuesday night. Appel led the way by finishing 15th, while Pihl was 24th and Damon 25th.
Appel did make Saturday’s sport mod Race of Champions, where he’ll start ninth in the 10-car field.
In hobby stock action, Salina’s Eric Cross made Saturday’s big dance by finishing seventh in the A-main qualifier Tuesday night. He was the only area driver who made the A-main Tuesday.
Duane Wahrman, Pratt, Tommy Fose, Salina, Shay Simoneau, Damar, and Tyrel Smith, Goodland, all were forced to race in B-mains for points.
Stock cars and modifieds headline today’s racing action at Super Nationals, along with last-chance qualifiers for sport mods and hobby stocks.
Nick Schwien is managing editor at The Hays Daily News.