Robertson Picks Up 1st IMCA Stock Car Win, Schow, Arneson Among Winners at Norman County Raceway
I made my first trip to the Norman County Raceway of 2019. It’s the first time I’ve been to the track in a few years, and it marks the seventh different track I’ve been too so far (all in my “coverage” area). It was Meet and Greet night with a nice crowd on hand.
Thanks to the Bitker family for the pit access.
Norman County Raceway and the community of Ada remind me so much of Madison Speedway in Madison, Minn. -- older fairgrounds facilities, small towns that are agriculture-driven - but have a lot of pride in racing. The track is not banked as high as Madison but has the dirt similar to the gumbo at Fiesta City Speedway (which some genius built in a slough). The grandstand at Ada is one of the most unique of all 50 tracks I have visited. It's all wood with a roof, and it has some character. Part of the charm.
I've heard from a few drivers that Norman County Raceway is one of the most friendly, welcoming tracks around and that is not a bad thing to be known for at all.
Onto the racing…
Travis Robertson of Moorhead (who was interviewed above) weathered early challenges from Rick Schulz and Rob VanMil and went on to take an impressive IMCA Stock Car win. Robertson won by about half a straightaway. It is Robertson’s first win in the IMCA Stock Car; his last win came in 2016 when he was driving the 10R Wissota Street Stock, a division which he won 47 features in three years. He will be a force to be reckoned with in that class. VanMil and Schulz rounded out the top three.
Alyssa White of West Fargo was aiming for her first IMCA Hobby Stock feature win; she dominated the heat race on Thursday and led early. However she hit a bump in turn two and slowed for a second, and that was the opening Brad Orvedal needed on his way to take the win. White finished a strong second ahead of Todd Gettel of Mahnomen.
Reese Stenberg of Argusville looked to be on his way to another feature win in the Wissota Midwest Modified. He led his brother-in-law Matt Schow of McIntosh for several laps; however his fan blade broke while he was leading, ending his night. Schow capitalized to pick up his second win of 2019 over Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls. Jeff Nelson of Perham was a solid third. Schow, interviewed above, also has a win at River Cities.
Andy Wagner of Ada figured to be tough from the pole in the IMCA Sport Mod feature, but Brandon Schmidt of Kindred had other ideas. Schmidt powered to the front and won in impressive fashion. Aaron Wetterlin of Moorhead finished second for a second straight week while Wagner was third.
Jesse Skalicky of Fargo led the first portion of the IMCA Modified feature. A caution changed the complexion of the race as Tyler Peterson of Hickson passed him shortly after the restart. But the car on the move was Austin Arneson of Fargo, who started 10th Arneson found speed on a higher lane and surged past Peterson for the lead, on his way to the win. Peterson, Dylan Goplen of Fargo and Skalicky rounded out the top four.
Former late model pilot Caley Emerson of Grand Rapids won the Northern Renegades Wingless Traditional Sprint Cars feature. Six cars competed in the feature in the series first-ever stop at Norman County Raceway.
I am familiar with Thursday night racing, having attended KRA Speedway in Willmar for several years. It's tough. Many people -- fans, drivers and crews alike -- are working til 5 or 6 and it is tough to get to racing when it starts at 7. Then again,you want fans on the road by 9:30 or 10 at the latest, so starting later isn't really an option.
So the Thursday night shows present their own set of challenges.
Car counts were ok on Thursday. I'd like to see a few more IMCA Mods than 11. The truth is, the track's average weekly mod car counts are down in that class since switching from Wissota. I don't think that is the sole reason, but I do know there are 5-6 pretty good Wissota cars who used to run Ada who don't since the move to IMCA.
It was good to see 10 IMCA Stock Cars on hand. Rob VanMil of Barnesville has dominated the class locally to start the year, and the question is who is going to challenge him. Rick Schulz and Travis Robertson are two of the guys who could do that. I talked to Robertson for a blog story, he still will run the 1R late model at Devils Lake and at some NLRA events, but moved to the stock car so he could race at NCR and RRVS again.
It was a short night for Kelly Jacobson of Fargo in his 51 IMCA Sport Mod. He pulled in with mechanical trouble shortly after the green in the heat and left on the wrecker. He went home at intermission, likely to get a head start on getting ready for Red River Valley Speedway on Friday.
The IMCA Mods were notable for who didn't finish the heats - Austin Arneson pulled in right after the green, while former track champ Tyler Hall of Fertile also did not finish. Dale Kraling of Mayville, making his season debut, also did not finsh. Three pretty quality cars there.
The Northern Renegades Wingless Traditional Sprint Cars made their first-ever trip to Norman County Raceway. That is a fairly new series, and one guy who I've seen race several times in a late model, Iron Range driving legend Harry Hanson of Eveleth, runs that series although he was not there on Thursday. The series is designed to be affordable and competitive.
One hope I'd have for the future is bringing more than six cars. I realize the series is new, but six cars isn't going to cut it long term.
It’s a busy Friday in the area - -I-94 Speedway is running a full show, Red River Valley Speedway is running fan appreciation night with $5 admission, and the World of Outlaw Sprint Cars and NLRA Late Models will race at River Cities Speedway.
Speaking of RRVS, Alyssa White’s racing team will be doing something cool after the races. Thanks to one of her sponsors, Spruce It Up Construction LLC, the White racing team will be grilling burgers and hot dogs for fans and drivers to enjoy. Chips, Cookies and cold drinks will be provided. What a great gesture.