Catching Up With: Paul Engelstad, Norman County Raceway Hall of Famer
Paul Engelstad has seen dirt-track racing from different perspectives — as a racer himself and as a track promoter.
The Beltrami, Minn., area farmer raced Mod 4s, super stocks and modifieds in his career. He also was general manager for Norman County Raceway in Ada from 2004-10. Paul and Shelly Engelstad were inducted into the Norman County Raceway Hall of Fame in 2019.
“It was an honor to be a part of that,” Engelstad said. “It was nice to be involved with it.”
Engelstad raced in enduros and demolition derbies in the 1990s and early 2000s before buying a Mod 4 in 2003. He started racing at Buffalo River Speedway near Glyndon.
“We’d been racing dirt bikes, snowmobiles and things like that,” Engelstad “Some of my friends bought mini stocks. One thing led to another and next thing you know we bought a race car.”
His son, Alex, also hopped into a mini stock as soon as he was old enough, and soon after, the two were racing together in the Mod 4s.
The Engelstads then bought a super stock, and eventually worked their way into the modified class, where once again, they found themselves racing each other.
“That was a lot of fun. It was a blast, really,” Paul Engelstad said. “We had a few nights that went really well where we placed first or second.”
“It made a friendship between dad and I that turned us into best friends,” Alex Engelstad said. “He raced when I was young and of course that got me interested in it so I started racing snowmobiles with him around 10 years old and that started a chain reaction into dirt bikes in the summer and eventually cars. I’ve either been racing something with him or I have been farming with him since I can remember and that has turned us not only into father/son but best friends.”
Paul and Alex worked together on the set up of their modifieds.
“You learned a lot with both cars with the same setup,” Paul said. “We were at our best when we were both racing.”
Alex Engelstad stopped racing after 2016, running a handful of IMCA shows for Jake Bitker the next year. Paul stepped away from racing after the 2017 season.
“It just got busy, and it got hard to get cars ready,” Paul said. “You’re busy with farming, grandkids come along, you go to the lake — things like that. It just comes down to choices. There are only so many days and so many hours.”
Engelstad also saw racing from a different perspective, as the operator of Norman County Raceway. The track had held races during the county fair along with a few enduros and demo derbies but didn’t run weekly. So he approached the fair board about running
“They had enduros and demo derbies, and the rest of the year it sat idle. I started asking the question what would it take to get it going,” Paul said. “The fair board in Ada made it a lot easier for us. They were happy to see the racing, and we were happy to be able to do it.”
It became a family affair as Engelstad’s children helped in concessions and selling tickets.
“We had a lot of fun doing it. It’s a lot of work, but we also had good time,” Paul said. “The kids were young and it was a good experience for all of them.”
Jake and Sharnel Bitker of Halstad took over NCR at 2011 and have run the track ever since.
For Paul Engelstad, racing took on a different perspective when he operated a race track.
“It’s one thing to be in a race car, and see what you see in a race car,” Engelstad said. “When you’ve been on both sides of it, you want to put something out for fans want to watch, it’s a different perspective.”