Jason Berg of West Fargo took an unusual path to his racing career.
After serving as the head flagman at several tracks in the region, including Red River Valley Speedway, Buffalo River Race Park, I-94 Speedway and Greenbush Race Park, he decided to begin his driving career at age 46.
It started by driving a buddy’s lightning sprint car at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. The next year, he got a chance to drive the car at Buffalo River Race Park.
“I told (BRRP promoter) Kevin Nathe if he added this class full-time, I would buy one,” Berg said. “Two weeks later he said Lightning Sprints were full time next year.”
After BRRP added the class, Berg — who also hosts Track Talk on WDAY radio every Monday night — hopped into a Lightning Sprint in 2017 and has been in the class ever since. His first car was purchased from Joey and Kelsi Pederson of East Grand Forks.
“The speed is exhilarating and the people we run with are a lot of fun,” Berg said. “They’re extremely fun.”
The POWRi Minn-Kota Lightning Sprints are relatively new to the Red River Valley and will race at Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo this Friday, which is Berg’s hometown track.
They run 1000cc motorcycle engines, and those engines have to be at least three years out of production to race. Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki and Suzuki motorcycle engines are often run. Plus, the cars only weigh 950 pounds with the driver, meaning they can go around area tracks with plenty of speed.
“Most tracks, we’re a second and a half faster than the modifieds,” Berg said. “There’s nights that we are just as fast as the late models…the power to weight ratio is amazing, The speed is a lot of fun with these things.”
Berg won the first four features of his career in 2019.
“It was a good year,” Berg said.
This season, with most tracks slow to open because of Covid-19 restrictions, the Minn-Kota Lightning Sprint schedule has been limited. The original schedule was to have Buffalo River Race Park and Greenbush Race Park alternate Saturday nights on the class; however BRRP cancelled almost all of its season and Greenbush Race Park has yet to open. Devils Lake Speedway near Crary, ND, has offered several dates for the class to race in 2020.
Another change this year is joining the POWRi series, which gives drivers a chance to race for national points and run at national events, Berg said.
The lower cost of the class is one of the appeals, he added.
“These are affordable. I can buy an engine off of eBay and just throw it in for $2,500,” Berg said. “It’s basically stock and runs on pump gas.”
The class seems to appeal to all different ages — Lawrence Veralrud of Oslo is 79 years old while rookie Kate Taves of Fargo is just 13. Taves is a former go-kart racer.
“It’s all about being smooth. You’ll see kart kids that come into this are very successful because they are smooth,” Berg said. “The (age range) of people racing is huge, but it’s a lot of fun.”
POWRi Minn-Kota Lightning Sprint #100
Hometown: West Fargo, N.D.
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