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31st Annual Dakota Classic Modified Tour Kicks Off Friday at Red River Valley Speedway

The 31st year of the Dakota Classic Modified Tour, sponsored by Moritz Sport & Marine kicks off this Friday at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo. IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Stock Cars are on the schedule for Friday.

Tour founder/director John Gartner was thrown a bit of a curveball this year with the Covid-19 Pandemic and the uncertainly surrounding racing schedules. However, he worked with tracks and North Dakota government officials on developing a Covid-19 plan that would allow racing this summer. One curveball was the travel ban between Canada and the United States — which meant that the annual tour stop in Estevan, Saskatchewan had to be cancelled.

“Luckily, we got started early working on a ‘Plan B’ with West Fargo and Minot,” Gartner said via an email interview. “I'm glad I did.”

The travel ban will also have some impact on nightly car and fan counts as several Canadian drivers have supported the tour for many years. However, as of July 5, more than 60 IMCA Modifieds and nearly 40 IMCA Stock Cars had pre-registered for the tour.

“The travel ban will hurt both Canadian drivers and fans as the ban is very strict,” Gartner said. “Car counts however, even without Canadian cars, are looking very good so far…our pre-entry numbers are solid as we have cars preregistered from 15 U.S. states already.”

Estevan was dropped for 2020, but West Fargo was added to the tour, which includes its traditional stops at Jamestown, Minot, Williston, Dickinson and Mandan.

With the Red River Valley Fair being cancelled this year because of Covid-19, a date opened for West Fargo to host. Ironically, it is the second time RRVS has hosted a tour race. The last time was way back in 1991 when the tour was in its second year.

“I’ve always liked the RRVS facility as I raced on it myself in the 70s and 80s when it was a big half mile,” Gartner said. “I think West Fargo will have a big car and fan count on opening night.”

Nodak Speedway in Minot was originally scheduled to be off the tour this year because of the North Dakota State fair being held during the tour; however, the ND State Fair was cancelled because of Covid-19 and allowed Minot to host a race.

Winners of the IMCA Modified feature each night will receive $2,400 while the IMCA Stock Car winner will receive $1,000. One change IMCA Modified drivers will notice is the increase in tow money for drivers not making the feature. In the past that was only $30; however, this year, if you take a green flag in a B feature, you will receive $100. Bob Kupper, the long-time tour sponsor, wanted to double the winning payout for 2020, but Gartner worked out a plan to increase the tow money for non-qualifying drivers.

“I worked real hard to improve the payout over the winter. Bob Kupper sold his Chevrolet dealership and he wanted to double the payout for the winners to try to entice more drivers to race. I went back to Bob and told him that my local Mod drivers told me they would come back to race in the Tour if there were a $100 tow fee for each race so they could afford to race more if they didn't make the feature,” Gartner said. “I explained to Bob that we already paid more than any Mod Tour and that doubling the feature race payout from $2400 to $4800 might get us a few more cars but it might have reverse affect on our local drivers that have always been the core of the Tour. Bob had enough faith in me so he approved my plan. I hope the drivers from our state respond as this is a national event right in their back yard. I wasn't anticipating a worldwide pandemic to throw a curve ball to everyone but racers are resilient. I still think its going to work.”

Now in its 31st year, the highly-popular tour remains a source of pride for Gartner, who has run it since the beginning.

“As for getting to year 31...if you would have asked me that back in 1990 when I came up with this idea and everybody thought I was crazy, I would have said no,” Gartner said. “Along the way the Tour grew and we've enjoyed some outstanding racing over the years. Many of the tracks now depend on the income the event provides as its the biggest race of the year for many of them. I am now 64 years old and want to one day hand this off to someone that will keep it going for many more years.”

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