It’s a milestone racing season for East Grand Forks late model driver Tom Corcoran. He is celebrating his 50th year behind the wheel of a race car.
To put that longevity in some perspective — Corcoran, who turns 65 in July, has been racing longer than some of his fellow late model competitors have been alive. That includes former Wissota late model national champion and NLRA champion Dustin Strand, local standout Joey Pederson and Shane Edginton of Winnipeg.
“Fifty years never sank in until a year or so ago,” Corcoran said. “Then I realized I had to stick around to make it to 50 years.”
Corcoran has spent all of two years of his career in the late model class. He currently races his T1 MB Customs machine at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks and at various NLRA Late Model events around the area. He is just shy of 240 feature wins and has more than 30 track championships in his storied career.
“I’ve still got a good competitive spirit for the most part,” Corcoran said. “If I don’t enjoy it, (racing) won’t be around long. If don’t feel I’m competitive, that’ll be the day I stop.”
Corcoran’s father, the late Red Corcoran, raced for several years. His uncle Jim ran the track in Grand Forks, and Tom Corcoran worked at the track as a teenager before deciding to build a street stock car in 1970.
He has spent all but two of his 50 years in the late model class. A 2013 River Cities Speedway Hall of Fame inductee, Corcoran was one of those involved in starting the Northern Late Model Racing Association (NLRA) which has provided a boost to late model racing in the region since its inception in 1998.
“The biggest issue we had, the late models were dying in Grand Forks,” Corcoran said. “Things had gotten brutal and some of the racing wasn’t good. We decided we had to do something.
The NLRA shows are based out of RCS but has stops at many tracks in the local region, including Devils Lake, Jamestown, Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, Norman County Raceway in Ada and Greenbush Race Park. The shows pay $1,200 to win (at least).
“In general we’ve done a pretty good job with it,” Corcoran said. “We do it so we’ve got to places to race and decent payoffs.”
Corcoran won the NLRA title in 2001 and has five wins on the tour.
He doesn’t have a particular win that stands out, but one season stands out — and that was 1985, when he said he won 75 percent of the events he entered driving a wedge-style late model. One of his top competitors in the 1980s was Kevin Jopp.
Today, there are several top competitors at River Cities, including Strand, Brad Seng, Pederson, veteran Mike Balcaen and Edginton, among others.
“The crop of drivers now is probably the best group, number-wise, that it has ever been,” Corcoran said.
His daughters used to come with his to racing when they were younger, and one of his daughters, Kasey, is married to Alexandria-area modified driver Shaun Peterson.
Corcoran, who recently retired in from his maintenance job after 29 years with the East Grand Forks school system, would love to add another feature win to his total in the next year or two. That would give him a feature win in a remarkable sixth decade.
He still loves the challenge behind the wheel as he begins his sixth decade of racing.
“For me, it’s the driving,” Corcoran said. “I love to drive these race cars…the fact they are so fast, the technology involved — everything changes over the course of the season.
“Racing is always something that stuck with me,” Corcoran said. “At this point, the biggest fear I’ve got what do I do when I don’t race.”
Age: 64 (will turn 65 in July)
Residence: East Grand Forks, Minn.
Division: Wissota/NLRA Late Model #T1
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