Grande Prairie's Kelly Sutherland was less than a second away from breaking a 36-year Stompede drought.
But reigning WPCA champion Kurt Bensmiller, of Dewberry, Alta, had other plans in Sunday's World Professional Chuckwagon Association Dash for Cash at the 39th annual Grande Prairie Stompede at Evergreen Park.
Bensmiller, who finished third in the aggregate with a time of 5:11.47, captured the Stompede title after a wagon-to-wagon battle down the home stretch against Sutherland.
Bensmiller clocked 1:21.61 - .11 seconds better than Sutherland's 1:21.72 - to capture the Stompede title, $50,000 and a new GMC pickup truck.
"It feels good. This one has kind of eluded me the last couple of years. I've been in the Dash here about four times, so to get it finally done - it was a bit closer than I liked, but it still feels great," said Bensmiller, who was also in last year's Stompede Dash for Cash.
"I was excited as soon as I crossed the line...I had a good feeling, My outriding crew has been really good the past few years; they've been very consistent.."
The Stompede title has been an elusive one for Sutherland.
Sutherland. a 12x WPCA champion, has only one Stompede title on his extensive chuckwagon résumé and that came in 1979. He finished second in the WPCA four-day aggregate with a run time of 5:11.26.
Sutherland had a strong start in the heat and then fell behind Bensmiller, as well as John Walters, of Delburne, Alta, who finished fourth in the four-day aggregate with a time of 5:12.01.
Headed into turn four, the final corner, Sutherland took his wagon to the outside and passed Walters to join up with Bensmiller down the final stretch to the finish line.
"I couldn't see (Kelly) coming. I knew he was getting outside on the hard stuff when we were going around (the final) turn, but I really didn't get to see him until he got by John (Walters). I just hoped for heck and see what happens," recalled Bensmiller, with a chuckle.
Last year, Bensmiller was the rangeland derby champ and aggregate winner at the Calgary Stampede and won the WPCA Clean Drive award.
Bensmiller's father Buddy won the GP Stompede in 1997.
Walters ended up third in Sunday's Dash for Cash with a time of 1:22.16.
Troy Dorchester, of Westerose, Alta, finished fourth with a run time of 1:27.05. Dorchester received the Ralph Vigen Memorial Award for having the best aggregate time (5:08.71).
The 2016 WPCA circuit shifts to Saskatoon June 9-12.
Aebly takes WCA Dash for Cash
Derek Aebly was crowned the Western Chuckwagon Dash for Cash champion with a time of 1:23.36.
In doing so, the GP product captured $15,000.
Aebly, who finished second in the four-day aggregate, edged Dean Dreger, Rick McRorie and Sean DeBolt in the Dash with 1:23.36.
DeBolt, of Spirit River, who has captured the past three consecutive WCA Tour titles and won the two previous WCA Stompede Dash for Cash races, was the aggregate winner with a four-day run time of 5:14.33. He finished fourth in the Dash with a time of 1:24.17.
"We didn't get the start we wanted. We sat there a little long, but we just had to be clean. I was going to pull out in the third corner and try and go wide, but then I thought 'I'll wait and see what happens'. Dean (Dreger) drifted a little bit in the third corner and I seen a hole and I took it. I couldn't be happier," said Aebly.
"We've been racing for a lot of years. I've went sleepless nights, days without eating, spending money we didn't have and this makes it all worth it."
"It's good to win at home."
Dreger, who finished third in the WCA aggregate (5:16.95), clocked 1:23.40.
Rounding out the four drivers in the heat was McRorie with a time of 1:24.25.
Next up for WCA drivers is Pomeroy Guitars and Wagons, June 16-19 at Evergreen Park.
All-Pro Dash for Cash
Keith Wood repeated as the All Pro champ in the Dash for Cash.
Sunday, Wood, who finished second in the aggregate with a time of 5:03.82, captured the $1,500 cheque in 1:19.75.
Wood edged Lee Adamson - the aggregate winner - as well as Louis Johner and Kevin Desjarlais in Sunday's final.
HIGH SCHOOL RODEO...
The Alberta High School Rodeo championships are being held June 3-5 at Evergreen Park.
More details on the event will be made available once they are known.