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Kesselberg, Blacklance, Shipley, Haugeberg and Wagner Win at Norman County Raceway

RaceChaser made it back to Norman County Raceway in Ada for the second time in 2021.

The head races were done in less than 40 minutes, which worked out good for Meet and Greet Night. IF you run your show quick, you can afford to take a little longer intermission. The final checkered flew at 9:52 p.m. Car counts were solid although I was a little bummed only seven IMCA Sport Mods were on hand. But all in all I left pretty satisified with the entire show as a whole and things ran nice and efficiently.

I’ll tell you this, the racing for the lead in the Wissota Midwest Modifieds and IMCA Stock Cars was outstanding. The track was dry but racy on a sunny June evening.

It’s not often Austin Arneson of Fargo starts on the outside pole of a feature race and doesn’t win. But that happened on Thursday night for the Dakota Cat Modified Shootout.

The race turned into a battle between Dave Shipley of Argusville and Casey Arneson of Fargo instead. Shipley started third while Casey Arneson started fourth. Shipley assumed the top spot with Casey Arneson giving a persistent chase til the checkered flag. Shipley needed to be flawless and was, fending off all challenges to pick up the win, his first of 2021. Appropriately, he is sponsored by Dakota Cat, which sponsored the Shootout.

Kollin Hibdon of Pahump, Nev. was third. Matt Aukland of Glyndon made some headway through the field, taking fourth after starting seventh. Aaron Johnson of Brainerd was fifth.

It’s also not often that Fergus Falls driver Brock Gronwold gets passed once he takes the lead. But that happened on Thursday night as Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls made a late pass to pick up another win. Gronwold and Blacklance have been two of the fastest Wissota Midwest Modifieds in the RaceChaser area. I’d include Lucas Rodin in that group as well.

Reise Stenberg of Argusville led the feature early before being overtaken by Gronwold. A hard crash happened on the front stretch in turn four as Brady Jawaski’s #406 machine smacked the wall hard. His car had to be removed on two wreckers. Jawaski, from Kindred, was OK after being checked over by safety personnel but the right side of the car was a big mess.

When the race resume Gronwold took over the lead with Blacklance closing. It turned into a great battle up front; Blacklance made the pass but a caution came out nullifying that, giving Gronwold the lead back. Blacklance resumed his charge on the restart and running a lower line than Gronwold, made the pass on the final lap to earn a hard-fought win. Gronwold was second. Jeff Nelson of Perham made a nice run through the field, taking third after starting eighth. Chris Mack of Jamestown was fourth after starting 10th while Stenberg recovered from a spin to take fifth.

Blacklance, driving an SSR Chassis like Rodin, now has four wins in the midwest modifieds this year. His street stock, which will be at River Cities Speedway for the Steffes Street Stock Tour on Friday, is also plenty fast too.

It’s also not often that Rob VanMil of Barnesville gets passed once he’s out in front of the IMCA Stock Car feature — but that’s what happened in what was a terrific race. VanMil started fifth on the field but didn’t waste time getting to the front in his #40 machine. But soon, closing the gap were Kalvin Kesselberg of Ada, interviewed above, and Todd Heinrich of Fargo, last week’s winner.

Kesselberg was running a lower line, much like Blacklance earlier. And he’d close the gap, only to see VanMil’s momentum to take the lead. But as the laps waned, Kesselberg made the pass and won by just .399 seconds over VanMil. Todd Heinrich ran a solid third with his teammate Rick Schulz of Horace running fourth. Tim Gonska of Brainerd, who dominated the IMCA Hobby Stock class at NCR last year, was fifth.

Kesselberg now has three career wins, but this one might be his most satisfying -- having to pass one of the fastest cars over the past few years, VanMil, for the win.

Bryce Haugeberg of West Fargo, interviewed above, wasn’t going to be denied in the POWRi Minn-Kota Lightning Sprint main event, even by a late caution that erased his lead. Haugeberg started third and put his #22 to the front quickly, opening a commanding advantage on the field. Jason Berg of West Fargo was battling Dexter Dvergsten of Greenbush for second. However, a caution came out with a few laps left that brought Berg and Dvergsten into contention.

Haugeberg was smooth in the closing laps to pick up the win, his first of 2021. Dvergsten, who has been the fastest lightning sprint in the area this season, was second. Weston Olson of Warren looked good all night, taking third over Alex Truscinski of Greenbush. Alan Truscinski of Greenbush was fifth.

Torey Fischer of West Fargo and Vince Jegtvig of Dilworth led the seven car IMCA Sport Mod feature onto the track. Fischer, looking for her first feature win in a sport mod, jumped out to the early lead. Andy Wagner of Ada, interviewed above, moved into second and Rich Pavlicek of Casselton settled into third.

Wagner pressured Fischer for a while, but Fischer was able to open up some breathing room and the #9 car looked on its way to the win. However, a caution for Brady Moore’s spin in turns three and four changed the complexion of the race, as it brought Wagner and Pavlicek to Fischer’s bumper.

Wagner made his move on the low line on the restart and passed Fischer for the top spot. Pavlicek also moved into second a few laps later, but by then, Wagner had opened up a nice lead.

Wagner picked up his first win of 2021 as Pavlicek, who won last week at NCR, was second. Fischer capped off a very good race in third with Jegtvig and Paul Colvin of Horace rounding out the top five. I can’t believe there were only seven cars in attendance, especially with the first night of the IMCA Sport Mod Tour with Red River Valley.

Honestly, if that caution hadn’t waved, Fischer probably would have won the race, but she has to be encouraged with Thursday’s run nonetheless.

NCR Notes

—Promoter Jake Bitker mentioned at the pit meeting about Norman County Raceway’s payout, looking for more cars to come on Thursday nights. Thursday nights are a tough sell — hard for some to travel with work being a big factor. Another factor is some people aren’t racing as often this year; some drivers that used to run three nights a week have cut down to two, or even one. I’ll have a blog in the weeks ahead on car counts as they are pretty much down at every track around.

I checked out NCR’s website which has the payout listed, and the truth is the night payout is pretty dang good; $600 to win and $120 to start IMCA Mods; It’s $325 to win the IMCA Stock Cars, and $300 to win the IMCA Sport Mods. Heck in the stock cars and sport mods you get $100 for finishing seventh, which I think is pretty good.

NCR has some bigger events coming up — NLRA shows, the Advantage RV Mod Tour, Sanders Stock Car Challenge — and I expect good car counts for those events.

—Brody Carlsrud of Fargo made the jump into the IMCA Stock Cars this year and is learning on the fly against tough competition. He finished a season-best seventh on Thursday and ran a solid race. Much like teenager Cole Greseth of Harwood is doing in the Wissota Street Stocks, Carlsbad is making a big adjustment in terms of racing a completely different car than he’s used to. As I’ve said, every lap of experience is valuable.

Vogel Wins Big Special at KRA Speedway

Justin Vogel of Brooten won the big Jeff Isdal Memorial Wissota Street Stock special Thursday night at KRA Speedway in Willmar. Vogel took home more than $3,100 for the win among a stellar field of 36 street stocks.

Tim Johnson of Brainerd, driving Bryan Crandall's #69 machine, was second. Parker Anderson of Phillips, Wis., started 21st but worked up to third at the finish. Eric Riley of Morris was a solid fourth while Kyle Dykhoff of Starbuck was fifth.

Thanks to several donations, the purse for the 24-car feature was more than $16,000. It was $418 to start the main event.

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