Chisholm man racks up dirt-track titles
CHISHOLM -- Ryan Aho took home enough hardware for an entire racing career this season. But Aho, 33, of Chisholm, has never been overly interested in trophies. He's obsessed with winning. In one of the most dominating seasons by a Northland dirt-...
CHISHOLM -- Ryan Aho took home enough hardware for an entire racing career this season.
But Aho, 33, of Chisholm, has never been overly interested in trophies.
He's obsessed with winning.
In one of the most dominating seasons by a Northland dirt-track driver, Aho won 28 Super Stock feature races en route to season points titles at Hibbing Raceway, Proctor and Superior speedways and KRA Speedway in Willmar, Minn.
Aho also earned his fifth WISSOTA national Super Stock points championship, the Dirt Track Racing Association season title and Minnesota State Super Stock Points Championship. Last weekend, he won the most prestigious race of the year, the WISSOTA 100.
Other than Aho, no WISSOTA Super Stock driver has won more than two season points titles.
"It got to where if we didn't finish in the top two, we'd be sour as a crew," said Aho, who won his fourth straight WISSOTA season points crown. "We switched teams at the beginning of the year and began driving for Nations Trust Insurance. We were a little nervous about how things we were going to come together, and there were probably some people thinking that we wouldn't be able to do what we did last year, but we were pretty happy with the way it turned out."
Financial backing from Duluth businessman Frank Befera, a new Matrix chassis built by former Duluthian Jason Miller, and a switch to a Duluth-built PDQ Engine & Machine power plant propelled Aho through a season to remember.
In addition to 28 feature victories, Aho scored 25 second-place finishes.
At one point in the season, he rang up 47 straight top-three finishes.
On two straight weekends, he swept features races at Superior, Hibbing and Proctor.
"I don't know if there's anything left to win this year," said Befera, who also drives a Super Stock and sponsors Hibbing Late Model driver Jeff Provinzino. "I don't know of anybody who has ever been as dominating as Ryan."
Aho hasn't tallied up his winnings, but estimates that he won $40,000 to $50,000 in purse money.
He'll also earn $5,000 for the WISSOTA national points title, $2,500 for the DTRA championship and expects about $10,000 in point-fund money from the different tracks at which he competed.
But it wasn't all smooth from the get-go.
"The first night out at Princeton [Minn.] I hit the wall hard," Aho said. "The second night out I broke a shock while in second at Brainerd. The third night out at Bemidji we won, and from there it just got better. I could tell from that night on that the car was going to work good."
During the offseason, Aho attended a chassis school in Rochester, Minn.
That, and the use of a new shock absorber package featuring AFCO Racing Shocks, made his car even better, Aho said.
"I thought I knew a lot about chassis setup before going to the school, but I learned a lot more about shocks that made us more consistent this year," he said. "It's probably the best Super Stock [car] I've had. It's built a little stronger so it's not flexing and cracking."
Next season, Aho plans to drive a WISSOTA Modified or Late Model for Befera.
"I'm kind of torn between driving [Modifieds] or a Late Model," Aho said. "There are a lot more tracks where you can run Modifieds, but Late Models are pretty much the top class out there."
Befera, who two years ago became involved in racing, says the relationship he formed with Aho and with other racers is unlike any other sport.
"You meet people in life who are givers and people who are takers," Befera said. "Ryan is a giver. Ryan will do anything in the world for anybody. Look at [driver] Jeff Tardy [of Hibbing]. Jeff is in second place in national points, and Ryan has helped him set up his car. And the people in the sport are good people. I don't know what it is, but it's such a family. There are very few competitive environments in the world where you can call the people you compete against friends, and racing is one of them."
Befera says he and Aho haven't decided what class of car Aho will race next year, but it won't be a Super Stock.
"We officially have nothing to say about that right now," Befera said. "But Ryan has done everything he can in a Super Stock. He's gotta go somewhere."
LEE BLOOMQUIST can be reached weekdays at (800) 368-2506, (218) 744-2354 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org