RaceChaser Notebook Recap from Weekend
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
RaceChaser blog didn’t cover any tracks locally in person after Norman County Raceway in Ada on Thursday, so here is a notebook on the weekend:
—Brody Troftgruben of Grand Forks picked up his first career victory on Saturday night at Devils Lake Speedway. Troftgruben won the NLRA Late Model show over the driver who’s been dominating the class locally, Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks.
By RaceChaser’s unofficial tally, that is 10 drivers who have earned their first career wins in 2020:
Brodee Eckerdt — June 5, IMCA Hobby Stock, Red River Valley Speedway
Bryce Haugeberg, June 19, Minn-Kota Lightning Sprint, River Cities Speedway
Justin Hainline - June 21, Mini Stock, Sheyenne Speedway
Seth Klostreich, - June 27, Wissota Street Stock, River Cities Speedway
Nick Ranten- July 3, NOSA Sprints, River Cities Speedway
Kalvin Kesselberg - July 9, IMCA Stock Car, Norman County Raceway
Ryan Gierke - July 9, Wissota Midwest Modified, KRA Speedway
Levi Lease - July 10, Short Trackers, I-94 Sure Step Speedway
Jack Koranda, July 17, Wissota Street Stock, I-94 Sure Step Speedway
Brody Troftgruben, Aug. 1, Wissota/NLRA Late Model, Devils Lake Speedway
—Dylan Steele of Jamestown told me early in the year that Sheyenne Speedway was his favorite track, and he really wanted a Pure Stock win there. Well he got one, edging Bo Gregor on Sunday night for the win. Steele is one of the most improved pure stock/bomber drivers around. Other Sheyenne winners on Sunday included Jonny Carter (Wissota Street Stociks), Brennon Weight (Wissota Midwest Modified), Cole Bogart (Mini Stock) and Sean Johnson (INEX Legends). Johnson has run well this season but Sunday was his first feature win of the year.
—The INEX Legend car counts have been down at Red River Valley Speedway and Norman County Raceway this summer. Some of it is drivers have moved out of the class (for example, Andrew Jochim moving to the stock cars), or some have retired. I hope the numbers rebound for 2021.
Another driver is leaving the class — that is Brody Carlsrud of Fargo. The Carlsrud team has purchased an IMCA Stock Car which they plan to run regularly in 2021. The Carlsruds have sold both their legend cars already to the Curtis family out of Rothsay, Brody told me on Sunday. But he will finish the legend season at RRVS and NCR he said. There is a chance Carlsrud may run the stock car at Corn Cob Nationals at Buffalo River Race Park in September.
—Brendan Mullen of Grand Forks was looking for his first NOSA Sprint win in 2020. He won at Jamestown Speedway on July 25 to pick up his first win, and then added his second win less than a week later at Night 1 of the Governor’s Cup at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan on Friday. Including a win at Devils Lake in 2019 (which was not a NOSA race), Mullen now has three wins. He bested a field of 26 cars to win on Friday.
Mullen added a third a night later at Night 2 as veteran Bob Martin of East Grand Forks won the NOSA Sprint feature over Nick Omdahl of East Grand Forks. A quote from Mullen’s mentor, Wade Nygaard, in a feature story I wrote a while back, said once Mullen starts winning — the victories may pile up. Watch out for the 11M.
Jade Hastings of Grand Forks leads the NOSA Sprint points by 24 over fellow Grand Forks driver Wade Nygaard.
—Matt Baker of St. Joseph and Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls are having quite a duel in the Wissota Midwest Modified class at I-94 Sure Step Speedway. Baker won the makeup Bob Gierke Memorial race last Friday. Baker has five wins at I-94 while Gronwold has three. Baker leads by 17 points in the overall standings. They are the only two midwest modified drivers to win at I-94 this season.
Gronwold has been the hottest midwest modified locally this season with 14 wins (including two down south). He leads the points at I-94, Viking and Norman County.
—Landon Atkinson of Little Falls is the only driver to win more than one Wissota Modified feature at I-94 this season. Six drivers have one win each.
—Jack Koranda of Bluffton won his first career Wissota Street Stock feature at I-94 on July 17. The 15-year-old is quickly becoming a force in the street division. He now has three wins this season, all since July 17, and also has two runner-up finishes during that time.
—Brad Seng of Grand Forks won the $300 bonus bounty that was put on Dustin Strand in the late models at River Cities on Friday. Strand had been on fire at local tracks, including a win at Norman County on Thursday. Seng leads the points by nine.
—The Steffes Street Stock Tour — which has had rave reviews in its first season because of its car counts and quality of racing — wraps up on Aug. 8-9. On Aug. 8 the tour goes to Jamestown where Eric Riley of Morris won earlier this season, and the championship night will be Aug. 9 at Sheyenne Speedway, where Justin Vogel won earlier in the year. Riley, the tour points leader, has four tour wins, Vogel and Jonny Carter two each, while Nitro Williams, Ryan Satter, Maria Broksieck and Todd Carter have won apiece.
--Speaking of tours, the Fast Lane Super Stock tour in eastern MN and western Wisconsin is a hit, too. The tour had a record 43 cars on hand at Ogilvie on Saturday, including some pretty heavy hitters. But not matched the performance of Shane Sabraski of Rice. He took the go-to-the-back challenge -- which meant an extra $1,800 if he won from the 26th spot -- and answered the challenge in big way with a flawless win. He benefited from some early cautions, no doubt, but he also was smooth and picked off cars almost instantly. Sabraski put on a clinic to the delight of the crowd.
—I was at Gondik Law Speedway in Superior on Friday for the Twin 25 Late Model features. A great field of 41 cars was on hand. The track features the red clay native to that part of the country, but the track is also known for being smooth and slick. Very slick. It’s a different kind of slick than what we are used to in the western MN/eastern ND region.
—Ogilvie Raceway near Ogilvie, Minn., is one of the nicest venues I’ve been to in terms of racing. I’d have to put it up there with Deer Creek Speedway by Spring Valley, I-80 Speedway near Lincoln, Neb., and Dacotah Speedway in Mandan. It is a professionally run track, too. Everything is clean, the track is well prepped and the concessions are affordable. Nice work by the Wagamons and the folks running that 3/8-mile track.
—Jeff Crouse of Alexandria now has two Wissota Super Stock feature wins this season after winning at Viking Speedway in Alexandria on Saturday. Dusty Bitzan of Brandon won for the second week in a row in the mods; by the way he is running a Lethal Chassis, which is also raced by Shane Sabraski, Landon Atkinson, Dan Ebert and Johnny Broking, among others — and that group has a lot of wins between them.
—Speaking of super stocks, I-94 Sure Step Speedway hosts a Super Stock special this Friday. They will also run Wissota Lates, Wissota Midwest Modifieds and Super Stocks and Short Trackers. The Wissota Mods and Street Stocks have the night off. Another I-94 date to keep on your calendar is Aug. 14 which is the second annual Dick Johanneck Late Model Memorial Special, which attracted more than 40 lates last season.
—Austin Arneson of Fargo is having a monster season in his #10 IMCA Modified. He won all three nights of the Sanders Mod Challenge (two were run in one night at Red River Valley Speedway) last weekend. He has seven wins on the year. He also won the Dakota Classic Mod Tour point title. And, the Harris Clash, which he is the defending champion of, is coming up.
—We have several candidates for Most Improved Driver in 2020 — Brendan Mullen, Ryan Gierke, Jack Koranda, Kyle Anderson all come to mind. Another driver making significant strides this season — Bryce Sward of Nelson, Minn., in the 1-dash-2 Late Model. He scored two top fives at NLRA races at River Cities and Devils Lake this past weekend, and now has three on the season, including a second at I-94 on July 3. It’s a matter of time before he gets that first late model win.