RaceChaser Top 10 Stories of 2020
A lot happened in the 2020 racing season in RaceChaser's coverage area. I narrowed it down to the top 10 newsworthy stories of the year -- totally my Opinion.
1. We Had a Racing Season
In April the prospects of a racing season in the region were looking bleak. Covid-19 was running rampant, government was issuing stay-at-home orders and many businesses were closed.
However, amidst the gloom and doom were signs of hope. Devils Lake Speedway was the first North Dakota track to open, and soon other tracks opened. Despite the Covid-19, the crowd restrictions and the uncertainty, I felt it was a very good season.
2. Turnbull Repeats as Seitz Champion
With the travel ban between Canada and the US as a result of Covid-19, there was some doubt if Aaron Turnbull of Estevan, Saskatchewan would be back to defend his John Seitz Memorial title at River Cities Speedway. Not only did he show up — he became the first driver to win the event in back-to-back years. Turnbull held off AJ Diemel , pictured above (Mike Spieker Photo) at the line to pick up the in on Sept. 12. Turnbull was outstanding all week, as he also won $920 for the pole dash on Friday, Sept. 11.
Brad Seng and AJ Diemel also are two-time winners of the Seitz, but neither was able to win in back to back years. Diemel, by the way, has finished in the top three an incredible nine straight years at the event.
3. Buffalo River Race Park Sits Idle in 2020
One of the area’s longest-running tracks — Buffalo River Race Park near Glyndon — announced in the spring it would not open in 2020 because of the Covid-19 restrictions. This was a disappointment for many local drivers and fans alike. There was originally a plan to hold the Corn Cob Nationals in September but that was also cancelled.
4. Dobmeier Injured in Cedar Lake Crash
Mark Dobmeier is the all-time sprint car wins leader at his hometown track, River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. He also has done quite a bit of racing at World of Outlaw events in the midwest. He was racing at an event at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wis., in early July when his Buffalo Wild Wings #13 flipped violently during a crash. He suffered a serious back injury that required a lengthy surgery to repair his L3 and L4 vertebrae, and ended his 2020 season prematurely. Dobmeier, in an interview with Mike Spieker in August, said his recovery was ahead of schedule and his goal was to return for the 2021 season.
5. Dakota Classic Mod Tour returns to Red River Valley Speedway
The popular Dakota Classic Mod Tour — featuring IMCA modifieds — made its return to the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo in July and the event was a rousing success. A great crowd was on hand to see 74 IMCA Mods and 43 Stock Cars. The tour was last at RRVS in 1991.
Fertile, Minn., driver Tyler Hall had a night to remember. He led the first 23 laps of the modified feature, and looked in position for the biggest win of his young career — before a caution came out. After the caution, modified standout Ricky Thornton Jr. — one of the top drivers in the nation — got by Hall to take the win. Hall finished second.
Austin Arneson of Fargo, by the way, won the Dakota Classic Mod Tour championship for the first time in his career.
6. Steffes Street Stock Tour a Big Hit
The inaugural year of the Steffes Street Stock Tour was a big-time success and a big-time boost for the Wissota Street Stock Class around the region. Jonny Carter of Lisbon won the finale at Sheyenne Speedway and won the tiebreaker over Eric Riley of Morris in the points. Both drivers had four wins on the season, but Carter had one more second place.
The tour featured 419 cars over 15 races with an average car count of 28. The highest was 36.
Carter and Riley led with four wins while Justin Vogel of Brooten, Minn., won two. Ryan Satter, Todd Carter, Zach Elward, Jimmy “Nitro” Williams and Maria Broksieck also claimed wins.
The tour is looking bigger and better in 2021! Stay tuned.
7. Dustin Strand Wins Fallen Linemen Thriller
A great 31-car field was on hand for the Fallen Lineman event at Viking Speedway on Sept. 5. Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks — who has not had a ton of success at the Alexandria 1/2-mile oval — led the first several laps before Dan Ebert of Lake Shore made the pass for the lead. Ebert looked to be well on his way to the win but lapped traffic proved to be his undoing. Strand found an opening with a late pass to winning a thrilling feature. Strand picked up $3,000 for the win.
8. Tye Wilke Wins Four Track Championships
One driver won track championships at four different tracks — Tye Wilke of Detroit Lakes. Driving the #72 INEX Legend Car, Wilke won track championships at Norman County Raceway in Ada, Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, Jamestown Speedway and Sheyenne Speedway in Lisbon. He accumulated 20 feature wins on the season and finished third in the INEX Pro National Points.
9. Brock Gronwold Wins Three Track Championships
No driver won more features in the RaceChaser area than Brock Gronwold of Fergus Falls. He won 22 main events on the season and won track championships at I-94 Sure Step Speedway, Norman County Raceway and Viking Speedway. Had there been a Wissota national points chase, Gronwold likely would have been in prime contention for the national title.
10. Wissota 100 Cancelled — but King of the Dirt Fills Its Place
The Wissota 100 was slated for I-94 Sure Step Speedway in September but Covid-19 caused the cancelation of the event. However, new I-94 owner Don Shaw and others went to work to put together an event — the Dick Johanneck Memorial King of the Dirt. And it went well with more than 240 cars on hand. Shane Sabraski (midwest modified and super stock) and Dan Ebert (late model and modified) each won two features during the Saturday main events while Ryan Satter (street stocks), Ryan Mikkelson (Limited Late Model) and Randy Thompson (Short Tracker) were also crowned kings.
Tom Corcoran of East Grand Forks picked up a feature win in the late models at River Cities Speedway on June 25. The 51-year veteran now has feature wins in six different decades.
It was a breakout season for Grand Forks sprint car driver Jade Hastings in his #8H NOSA Sprint Car. Hastings won the 2020 Buffalo Wild Wings NOSA Sprint championship for his first career NOSA title. Hastings won six features on the season and finished in the top five 14 times.
Kyle Larson, the NASCAR standout, won the World of Outlaw Sprint Car stops at River Cities Speedway and Red River Valley Speedway in August.
Darrell Lanigan and Brandon Sheppard won WOO Late Model events at the two tracks.
No Wissota Late Model Challenge Series or Advantage RV races were held, both series were called off from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Shane Sabraski won the Jerry Kluver Memorial super stock special at Viking Speedway in July.
Dan Ebert won the Wissota Modified special at Norman County Raceway in Ada in July.