One on One with 2019 SportMod Champion Gunnar Pikeeagle
by Greg Soukup
It’s been over 4 months since the Nebraska Cup closed out the 2019 season at Eagle Raceway and the banquet was 2 weeks ago. We’re still digging out from the last snow and freezing drizzle storm and it’s 14 degrees to boot! So, I’m sure it isn’t just me that is ready to at least TALK about racing! To try and ease the pain of waiting another 3 months to see cars hit the high banks, I’ll bring you a few interviews with last year’s champions and maybe a few others to keep you from jonesing too much!!
I reached 22-year old Gunnar Pike while he was in Tulsa attending the Chili Bowl, so obviously he was among the few who were getting their race fix.
2019 was Pike’s fifth year competing in the Coors Light IMCA SportMod class after starting out in go-karts. “I’ve been racing since I was 5. I started out in flat karts and raced them for what seems like forever” he said.
Gunnar grabbed the 2019 Coors Light IMCA SportMod championship at Eagle in what turned out to be an extremely spectacular last race of the season. With over 50 sport mods in the house Pike was forced to start in the C Feature, which he won. Starting at the rear of the field in the B Feature he charged his way to the front yet again, transferring to the A Main. The job ahead of him was a daunting task to say the least. To win the season championship he would need to finish 7 spots ahead of then points leader Shawn Harker to achieve a tie with the tiebreaker going to Pike. The laps were winding down and Harker was still leading the race when suddenly his engine started to billow white smoke with 2 laps to go. Unfortunately for Harker his ailing engine would not allow him to stay with the field as he ended up falling to eighth handing the crown to Pike.
I asked Gunnar what went through his mind when he saw Harker’s troubles and he replied “To be honest, I never ever expected it! But, when it happened I was really surprised. I’ve thought about it and thought about it. I was happy, but I was almost sad about his tough luck. It’s part of racing though, so I was pretty darned excited!!”. That marked Pike’s 5th win on the season but obviously it was THE most important one.
When I inquired about his plans for the 2020 season he stated that he was going to move up to the Duros Dent Works Racesaver Sprint Car class. “That’s the plan.
That was actually what we had planned when I was first going to start racing the full-sized cars. I always loved sprint cars, but at the time they were the 360 sprints and they were pretty expensive. We looked at the SportMod class and figured that would be a good learning class. So, it was kind of a no-brainer to go SportMod racing for a few years. I wanted to conquer something in them before making the transition up to a different class”.
When I inquired how he felt about leaving the sport mods and moving into a new class he stated “I actually feel pretty good! I’ve surrounded myself with some really good people and I’m sure that they are going to make this happen. Of course my parents, my girlfriend Nicholle and Keith Hightshoe are going to be a big part of it. People like Larson Motors, Interim Health Care, Sardeson Racing, Taylored Computers, Afco, Driveway Saloon, Grass Assassins, Custom Gun Solutions and Tri-County Rolloffs are behind me and I’m really looking forward to it and think that we can have a really good year”.
I’m sure we all wish Gunnar the best of luck in this new adventure. If the effort and talent he’s shown in the sport modifieds is any indication, he’s got a good chance of conquering sprint cars next!!!