As I have stated I won’t be recapping many regular weekly shows the rest of the season for RaceChaser blog. The focus will be on the area tours or series (Rebel, Moonshine, DRC Street Stock, NLRA) or bigger special events. Norman County Raceway in Ada hosted the NLRA Late Models on Thursday, plus ran a 40-lap Sanders Sportmod Challenge makeup feature for the IMCA Sport Mods that I covered earlier in June that got wiped out by rain, so I was happy to be able to cover it.
It was also the Sanders Stock Car Challenge at NCR; the winner of the IMCA Stock Car feature would receive $800, with $120 being paid to start. The exact same purse will be paid Friday at Red River Valley Speedway, with a $200 bonus possible if a driver wins both features. While the 12-car field at NCR was very solid, I would like to see more stock cars there weekly, but Thursdays are tough for some folks to get off of work and go racing. That purse was very good – I you finished fifth you got $300.
Also, the sport mods did not run heat races – they did so in June during the Norman County Fair before the rain hit -- and were only there to complete the 40-lapper. Car counts were good at NCR except for having only five IMCA Hobby Stocks – 20 NLRA Late Models, 14 INEX Legends, 12 IMCA Stock Cars, and 11 IMCA RaceSaver sprints. A total of 15 IMCA Sport Mods were back to run in the 40-lapper. The Wissota Midwest Modifieds had the night off.
Ryan Restad of West Fargo, who entered the night with four feature wins jumped to the lead from the outside pole of the IMCA Sport Mod feature. Luke Johnson of Moorhead was second. Cars I was keeping an eye on were Rich Pavlicek of Casselton, who entered the night with seven wins, Justin Jones of Bemidji, Scott Jacobson of Fargo and Andy Wagner of Ada, who started at the back of the field.
The first caution would wave when Alex Tschakert’s 01 machine stalled in turns one and two on the second lap.
Johnson made a run on the bottom to cut into Restad’s lead and challenge for the top spot. The long-time veteran David Siercks of Princeton moved into third with Pavlicek in fourth and Jones in fifth with five laps down.
Kamey Leedom’s spin brought out the caution with 34 laps left. Moments later, Johnson went around with 33 to go, and the yellow/black came out then – with a long way to go in the feature. Jones was charged with the caution; I did not see what happened. Pavlicek had worked to second.
Frankly, this was not a good night for the sport mods in terms of cautions. Right after that incident on the very next restart, Greg Schilling and Dean Precht got together to bring out another caution; Schilling was charged with the yellow and his night was done.
Restad led Pavlicek by about a half-second with Johnson in third and Siercks in fourth. Drew Papke, doing double duty, moved up to fifth after starting dead last on the field. Papke was making up ground on the high side.
Restad led Pavlicek by 1.7 seconds, while Pavlicek had a comfortable advantage over Johnson. Jacobson was having a solid run in sixth and was chasing Papke for a spot in the top five. As the race approached halfway the lead grew to 2.832 seconds as Restad was closing in on lapped traffic.
The caution would wave with 23 left as Jacobson went around, and he was charged with the yellow and saw his potential top five come to an end.
Restad faced a big challenge from Pavlicek for the lead after the restart as the lead was just .168 seconds with 20. Jones recovered from the early caution to move into third while Andy Wagner had climbed to fourth in a restart that really shuffled positions.
Restad and Pavlicek fought hard for the top spot and put on a heck of a show and Pavlicek would inch ahead with 17 laps left. Jones was closing as well. Restad would retake the lead by a narrow margin on the next lap. Pavlicek, meanwhile, had Jones on his tail. Wagner was six seconds behind in fourth while Papke had passed Johnson for fifth.
Restad opened a bit of breathing room with 10 to go as the lead was a second as the bottom lane was clearly the place to be. Jones would work past Pavlicek for second with seven to go but faced a 1.5 second deficit for the lead. Jayden Pavlicek was working hard on Papke for fifth.
The advantage up front grew to almost two seconds for Restad over Jones. Lapped traffic was not an issue for the top three. Jayden Pavlicek, who picked up a $1,200 win at Buffalo River a few weeks ago, had moved into the top four.
Restad would go and pick up his fifth win of 2023 by 2.324 seconds – which was worth $1,000. Jones was second, Pavlicek third, and Jayden Pavlicek would edge Wagner for fourth. Ten cars finished the main event.
Next is the Sanders Sport Mod Challenge with 12 cars fighting for the $800 prize. Brennan Borg of Harwood and Aaron Olson of Mekinock were the front row starters with Olson leading the first lap.
Rob VanMil of Barnesville – who is on fire of late – started fifth but quickly worked to the front to challenge for the top spot, and three laps into the feature had it. VanMil entered the night with eight wins in 17 starts and had not finished worse than third in his 12 starts, dating back to a DNF on June 9 at Red River Valley.
Once out front, VanMil was gone, opening a 3.214 second lead on Olson with 12 laps left. Stock car rookie Dan Aberle of Finley was running a solid third ahead of Borg, with Todd Heinrich of Fargo, driving a new car, running fifth ahead of Brody Carlsrud of Fargo.
Aberle and Olson were locked in a good duel for second with Borg and Heinrich not far behind. The first caution would wave with nine to go, which wiped out a 5.212 advantage for VanMil who was crushing the field, frankly.
Olson took the outside lane on the restart as VanMil stormed ahead again. Olson would spin in turn four and that would collect Rick Schulz, Keaten Froemke of Dilworth and Mike Anderson of Walcott involved. Olson would leave on the hook; Schulz was also finished but Froemke and Anderson were able to continue.
With nine to go VanMil led with Aberle, who has not had great luck in his first season in a stock car in second. Borg would move into second with Heinrich following into third. Kalvin Kesselberg of Ada and Carlsrud were fighting for fifth.
Heinrich had worked into second past Borg. Kesselberg, who had been relatively quiet until the final restart, moved into third as Borg slid back.
VanMil’s lead was 2.295 seconds over Heinrich with two laps left. Borg and Aberle had the best battle going side-by-side for fourth with Carlsrud and Froemke battling for the sixth spot.
VanMil would pick up his ninth win of the year – in 18 starts – by 2.672 seconds over Heinrich. Kesselberg was third (after starting 10th) with Aberle edging Borg for fourth.
Two-time defending NLRA Late Model champion Mike Greseth of Harwood and Tyler Peterson of Hickson led the field to the green with Greseth taking the lead on lap one.
Shane Edginton of East St. Paul, Man., moved into third ahead of Brad Seng of Grand Forks.
Peterson got by Greseth three laps into the race. Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks was on the move quickly going from ninth to fourth. Peterson had about a one-second lead on Greseth with Edginton three seconds back from second-place with 16 laps left. Edginton now had to contend with Strand as they fought for the third spot.
Lapped traffic became a factor with 15 to go. Peterson worked through smoothly and opened the lead to 1.2 seconds over Greseth. Strand moved into third with 15 to go but was well behind Greseth.
Peterson’s lead grew as Strand was cutting the gap on Greseth for second as Peterson’s advantage grew to 1.4 seconds with six to go.
Greseth cut the lead to 1.024 seconds but Peterson was in control for his 10th late model feature win of the season. Unofficially he also took over the Wissota Late Model national point lead. Greseth, the NLRA point leader, ran a strong second with Strand in third. Edginton was fourth with Seng rounding out the top five in a caution-free main event.
Don Shaw of Ham Lake, who won Wednesday at Fiesta City Speedway, went from 16th to sixth at the checkered to cap off a nice run.
Tye Wilke of Detroit Lakes led Andy Pake by three points in the Superior Customs Red River Sprint Series going into the night. It was Pake who drew the pole for Thursday’s feature. Pake took the lead over Morgan Nyquist on the opening lap before the caution waved when a pair of cars slid off turn two.
Wilke moved past Nyquist into second as Pake opened about a one-second lead. Laela Eisenschenk of West Fargo was pressuring Nyquist for the third spot with Jeremy Snow running fifth.
Pake was steadily pulling away from Wilke, building a 2.516 second lead with five to go. Nyquist and Eisenschenk had the best battle on the track racing hard for the third spot. With about four to go Eisenschenk got past Nyquist for that position.
Pake got held up in lapped traffic and that allowed Wilke to close the gap, but it wasn’t enough as Pake prevailed by 1.358 seconds for win No. 5 on the season. Wilke settled for second and maintained a slim point lead in the Red River Sprint series. Eisenschenk, who started eighth, worked up to third by the checkered. Nyquist and Snow rounded out the top five. There was only one caution in the sprint feature.
Kody Machart of Moorhead took the lead from the front row in the INEX Legends main event while newcomer Jordan Miklas of Hartland, Wis., moved into second. Evan Hendrickson was fighting for the second spot with Miklas as both stayed close to Machart.
Ryan Braseth of Ulen, who had a good weekend with a pair of wins last weekend, was running fourth ahead of Michael Weber.
But it was a three-car fight up front as Machart led with Hendrickson pressuring up high and Miklas running down low. Braseth was starting to reel in the top three as well.
Hendrickson got a run on the high side and passed Machart for the lead, and Braseth was charging quickly on the top three as the caution waved for Noah Lewis, who spun off turn two, setting up a four-lap sprint to the checkered. Because the lineup went to the last completed lap, Machart would be out front.
Machart did not get a good restart at all – he had an issue and would later pull in -- and slid well back, allowing Miklas to take over the top spot and Hendrickson to be in second. Michael Weber, another newcomer from Marion, Iowa, had worked into third.
Miklas stuck the #44J machine to the low line as Weber, Hendrickson and Braseth ran up top. Weber made one last charge but Miklas held on for a .015 second win in a thrilling finish. Weber was second, Hendrickson third, Ryan Braseth fourth and Drew Papke of Bismarck taking fifth.
In his post-race victory lane interview with announcer Mark Askelson, MIklas said they made the trek north as their track was cancelled because of the extreme heat in Iowa. It sounded like they will race some shows in North Dakota this weekend. He was sure impressive in his first visit to NCR.
Brodee Eckerdt of Grand Forks entered the night undefeated (4-of-4) in the IMCA Hobby Stocks at NCR, so the other four drivers in the field were looking to end that streak. They did not.
Veteran Todd Gettel of Mahnomen led early with Tim Church of Moorhead running second. Eckerdt was patient and moved into third, but it did not take him long to get to the top spot about halfway through.
Tyler Hehn of Horace moved into third. Eckerdt, once in front, took control and pulled away to a 1.594 second win over Church. Hehn was third, Gettel fourth and Brad Orvedal of Fargo, whose 3XL was off the pace, finished fifth.
Eckerdt has nine feature wins in 11 starts this season, I do not know any driver with that batting average (winning 81.8 percent of his starts) in terms of wins this season. It might be time for a bounty.
--Amelia Eisenschenk picked up her first career NLRA heat win, and it came in arguably the toughest heat with Tyler Peterson, Dustin Strand and Don Shaw competing.
--Kamey Leedom is one of the youngest drivers in the sport mod class, and at this point in her career, getting seat time and laps are what matter. She finished 10th in the 40-lapper and finishing an event like that is worth something when you are getting started.