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Catching Up With: River Cities Speedway Hall of Famer Kevin Pappenfuss

For a driver that won more than 140 features, it’s a plaque Kevin Pappenfuss received in 2018 that means the most. That plaque signified his induction into the River Cities Speedway Hall of Fame in Grand Forks. “That was better than any trophy I ever won,” Pappenfuss said. “A guy reads that (Hall of Fame) wall with all the different drivers, guys you looked up to and raced against…to be in there, that’s your peers telling you that you did a good job.” Pappenfuss raced for 25 years, retiring at the age of 45 in 2003. He raced in the street stock, hobby stock, modified, late model and super stock divisions during that timespan, winning 10 track points championships in his career. The Park River, N.D., resident developed his interest in racing as his father, Louis, was a diehard fan. His brother Keith also became involved in racing and ran in the late model class. “My dad was a race freak; he never raced in his life but it was the only thing he talked about,” Pappenfuss said. “We went everywhere. If there was a race going on, we would go. He got us into it.” Kevin started in the street stock class in 1978. He eventually converted one of Keith’s late models into a hobby stock. He ran in the late models and modifieds and concluded his career in the super stocks. The hobby stock class is where he made his name in local racing. “They had good power. We ran pure alcohol and 10-inch tires,” Pappenfuss said. “The motors, they were kind of like a limited late model. The supers were a blast, too.” The 1988 season was memorable for Pappenfuss. He got a late start to the season, missing three nights, but ended up in a tight points battle with Dale Skytland for the hobby stock championship as both drivers had seven feature wins. Pappenfuss made the pass of Skytland on lap 13 of the feature and went on to take the win. “We battled all year long,” Pappenfuss said. “It was the best year ever.” His move to the super stocks in the 1990s came at a time when many up-and-coming drivers were in the class. That included Brad Seng of Grand Forks and the late John Seitz of Bemidji — both of whom won Wissota Super Stock national championships in the late 1990s. Seng, Seitz and Joey Pederson of East Grand Forks were among the top competitors in the class. “It was a tough class,” Pappenfuss said. “There were so many guys out of Bemidji and Canada…there were 25 cars every night at least.” Pappenfuss also won a super stock title at the defunct Kittson County Speedway in Hallock, Minn., late in his career, although he wasn’t focused on points racing as he got older. His number that he used for many years — 101 — also had a story behind it. A friend of his owned the radio station in Grafton (101 FM) and offered to sponsor Pappenfuss’s car in 1986. He decided to put 101 FM on the side of his car and leave the quarter panel for other sponsors. “Everyone knew me from 101, so I stayed with it,” Pappenfuss said. “I had my best years with the 101.” He retired after 2003, saying “I had my fun.” “I just loved doing it,” Pappenfuss said. “It’s the only thing I knew. It’s like a drug; it’s addiction. There’s time you want to quit and the next week it goes better. And it’s fun winning.” Still living in Park River, Pappenfuss has done some painting and also works for a farmer in the area. Even though he gave up driving 17 years ago, he still loves racing. “It’s so fun watching these guys,” Pappenfuss said. “The racing is so amazing. Every class is so good.”

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