HIBBING — Kyle Peterlin has been driving a stock car for 18 seasons.
In 16 of those seasons, he’s competed in the Labor Day Shootout, but he had never won the event, until 2018.
Peterlin picked up his first Labor Day Shootout title in his Late Model at the 40th annual event Saturday at the Hibbing Raceway.
The win was a long-time coming.
“It was a good feeling,” Peterlin said. “It was frustrating because this is my home track, and everybody wants to win the big show at your home track. For a long time, it gets into your head that it’s not going to happen. It finally happened.
“I don’t know how to describe the feeling.”
Peterlin has come close before, with a couple of second- and third-place finishes, but for most of those 16 seasons, he hasn’t had the best results at the Shootout.
“There were times where I was getting to the front, then I would get a flat tire or get caught up in an accident,” Peterlin said. “It’s one of those scenarios where I’ve been in the chase, but I finally got it 16 years later.”
It actually got to the point where Peterlin didn’t think it was ever going to happen.
“A part of me did, honestly,” Peterlin said. “I know to win this show takes a lot of luck, and I usually don’t have any. I finally had it Saturday.”
Peterlin did say that he had a good feeling that something positive was going to happen a week prior to the Shootout.
“I felt like something was going to go my way,” he said. “The bad luck had to break eventually, and it finally did.”
Of course, some of those demons almost came back to bite him.
In the feature race, Peterlin took the lead right away, and he was leading for 20-plus laps. All of a sudden, Jeff Provinzino passed him, and led for six or seven laps.
Peterlin didn’t panic. He got him back, then lead the rest of the way, but there was a time where Peterlin thought his dream of winning was gone.
“I thought it was over with because I got off of my line,” Peterlin said. “Everybody had to be at the bottom because that’s where it was fast. I messed up coming into corner one, and he passed me. I thought, ‘That was it,’ because he usually doesn’t make mistakes.
“He did the same thing a few laps later. I got a lucky break there. Yout take the breaks as they come.”
When Peterlin did retake the lead, the feeling was unbelievable.
“After I got it, I kept focusing on, ‘I have to do the same thing every lap. I can’t make another mistake because I’m not going to get another freebie here.’” Peterlin said. “All I had to do was keep doing the same the thing and not mess up again.”
Peterlin stayed on the same line, crossed the finish line and got the checkered flag.
“It was emotional,” he said. “I whipped some donuts off of the corner where our trailer is parked. I did a reverse victory lap, pulled into victory lane and jumped on the roof. I did the whole dance. It was fun.
“It was important to me. My whole family came running down to victory lane. My cousin, Trevor Ahrens, who is the president of the track, was down there. It was emotional. It was a big night for our whole family.”
On Sunday, Pat Doar of New Richmond, Wis., won the Late Model title.
Skeeter Estey is no stranger to winning Labor Day Shootout titles.
The Kelly Lake native has won five titles since the event was introduced into the Shootout in 2010.
Estey can now raise that count to six and seven.
Estey won the Midwest Modified title on both Saturday and Sunday at the Hibbing Raceway.
“They’re all nice when you can win your big invitational at home like that,” Estey said. “You have a lot of competition with all of the guys com-ing into town. It’s nice.”
Estey, who has been racing for 14 years, said he always has the goal of winning every time he shows up to the track.
“We’re always out there to win,” he said. “That’s the only reason we come here is to try to win. If we don’t have the car to do it, we aren’t going to put ourselves in a situation to wreck our stuff either.”
Obviously, Estey had a car that was ready to win, especially since he started ninth on the first day of the event.
“I thought it was going to be a struggle because there were some good cars in front of us,” Estey said. “It’s definitely tough to pass those cars, but we had all of the right breaks. The cars went one way, and we went the other way. It worked out.
“We were able to make it through there right away, then I hung on for the win at the end.”
Not even Kevin Burdick can believe the kind of season he’s having.
The Proctor resident and former Hibbing native had 23 feature wins coming into the Labor Day Shootout, and he’s leaving town with wins No. 24 and 25.
Burdick, like Estey above, won both Super Stock titles at the Labor Day Shootout.
He also collected his third and fourth career Shootout titles.
“This is pretty unbelievable,” Burdick said. “Everything is working together, and it’s working good.”
Burdick, who is leading in National points with his Super Stock, said everything seemed fine with the car heading into the weekend.
“We felt good about it,” he said. “The car has been really good everywhere I go.”
On Saturday, Burdick felt the track was a little slippery in turns one and two.
“The track wasn’t quite packed in at entry there, and it took three or four laps for it to dry out, to not be so slick,” Burdick said “After that, the car felt pretty good.”
Burdick didn’t grab the lead right away, but when he did, with that car, he wasn’t about to let it slip away.
“It was tough (trying to get the lead),” Burdick said. “(Tyler) Kintner was running the top, and I was trying to run the bottom to get by him. As soon as I got by him at the bottom, I went to the top.
“I knew the top was fast. I stayed up there until I got into lapped traffic. I bobbed-and-weaved throughout the lapped traffic. It gets interesting. You never know what’s going to happen.
“It felt awesome to win.”
The last time Bob Broking won a Labor Day Shootout title was 2001.
The Grand Rapids native wanted that dry spell to end, and it finally happened Saturday at the Hibbing Raceway.
Broking picked up title No. 1 winning the Modified feature at the 40th annual event.
As exciting as this win was, Broking has vivid memories of that first title 17 years ago.
“I’ll never forget that one for as long as I live, but we finally got another one so that’s good,” Broking said.
The competition is a good reason why Broking hadn’t won for so long, but there were other reasons, too.
“Over the years, I’ve scored quite a few seconds and thirds, but we usually run good at this show all of the time,” Broking said. “This whole weekend I’ve been lucky.”
In what way?
“I have a lucky streak going here,” Broking said. “You need to have everything together, and you need to have some luck on top of it. I got a good draw, and I got a good starting spot in the feature (sixth).
“They prepped the track right before we went out, and gave us a good couple of laps. I did some good hard-charging right away, and I made my way to the front. Things worked out.”
When Broking got to the front of the pack, he tried to keep himself as calm as he could.
“I had to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes,” Broking said. “I had to hit my marks, but I felt good in the car this weekend. The car has been working great.”
Broking said it felt good to break that dry spell.
“It always feels good to win a race, no matter if it’s a big one or regular show,” Broking said. “I do favor these big ones. I like big events all of the time. There’s a lot of good vibe in the air, a lot of cars, a lot of competition.
“It’s good to come out on top of them, that’s for sure.”
So will 2001 be a distant memory?
Not at all.
“That first time we won it all, I’ll never forget it,” Broking said. “We worked hard for it. I had raced 13 times in this Labor Day Shootout, two times a year, before I actually made a feature. That’s how tough the competition was.
“On my 15th attempt, I won it. It was something.”
On Sunday, Jody Bellefeuille of Duluth won the Modified title.
After getting rained out in 2015, then not running in either 2016 and 2017, the Pure Stocks finally got their chance to compete in the Labor Day Shootout, and Michael Blevins has the honor of being the first champion in that class.
Blevins, who is from Hibbing, had to outrace Kevin Baumgarner, Ben Heinle and TJ Heinle to the checkered flag to take home the win.
“It feels great to have the honor of doing that,” Blevins said.
Blevins qualified for the feature by winning his heat race on Saturday in a car he thought was perfect for the track conditions.
“When they redid the track, it had a lot of grip, and my car stuck,” Blevins said. “I found the groove early and didn’t come off of it the whole race.”
After bringing the car home Saturday night, Blevins and his crew did some regular maintenance, got the tires prepared, made sure it was fueled and they charged up the batteries.
In the feature, Blevins started on the outside front. He battled Ben Heinle for three laps, then took the lead.
“I was able to get around him, then seven laps in, we had a caution,” Blevins said. “He was still on my tail for the restart, and from what I was told, we went from the green flag from checkered to there.
“I just had to drive into the corners as hard as I could, and be as straight as possible.”
Even with one lap to go, Blevins wasn’t about to let up on the gas pedal.
“It’s a good feeling when you get out in front, but it’s still a challenge,” he said. “You have to push yourself because there’s a lot of good cars out there. If you hold back, they will get you.
“I had to make sure I hit all of my marks because that’s what gets it done for you. I did have a moment of fear, but that passes as you come off of turn four.”
Once that checkered flag flew, it was time for the celebration.
“I’m really proud of it,” Blevins said. “I’m not from here, but it is my hometown now. I couldn’t be prouder to win a race like this at my home track. It’s an historic track. Not many can say they’ve won a Labor Day Shootout in any class.”