Seitz Memorial Weekend Kicks Off with Seng Winning Prelude to the Johnny
There are few weekends racers in this area look forward to more than the Seitz Memorial at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks. Thursday was the Prelude to the Johnny, which brought in a whopping 155 cars in four classes (see, you don’t need to run 8-9 classes to have good car counts).
Thursday was the NLRA finale as Mike Greseth of Harwood wrapped up a second straight title. 49 late models, an excellent field, were on hand.
One of the big worries I have with that many cars — especially with several who don’t normally race against each other — is wrecks that tear up a lot of equipment. The years I’ve attended the Seitz event I’ve seen some badly tore up race cars, which can happen on a fast bullring track.
National points leader Kyle Dykhoff of Starbuck picked up the win in the Wissota Street Stock feature over Tucker Pederson of East Grand Forks, who has been very fast this summer.
He started eighth on the 26-car field and Thursday’s win is big towards his national title hopes. One of the drivers fighting for the national points title is Justin Vogel of Brooten, who finished third; he led the first several laps.
Jory Berg of Grand Forks won the Wissota Midwest Modified feature by .590 seconds over Lance Schill. There were a lot of cautions in the midwest modified main event. Jory was thrilled to take the victory lap until he saw the tractor on the track!
The Wissota Modified feature came down to a great battle between Zach Johnson of Lowry and Tyler Peterson of Horace, the national point leader. But it was young Ryan Gierke of Villard who would steal the show, winning in thrilling fashion by .057 seconds over Peterson, who is brutally tough to beat at River Cities. Johnson was third. It was a great race, and I can imagine what Friday will be like with more money on the line.
Brad Seng of Grand Forks ran away with the NLRA feature, winning by more than 2.5 seconds over former Seitz winner Don Shaw. Scott Ward of Watertown was third, Cole Searing of Huron was fourth.
I got the sense watching many late model drivers used Thursday as a test run to get familiar with the track as several were trying different lines, and I also got the sense some weren’t going to do anything crazy to wreck equipment. I’m guessing that were going to start towards the back of the B main decided to sit out and save their machines for the weekend when the big money was on the line.
So let’s talk about the $9,200 to win Seitz Memorial which is set for Saturday. It is very difficult for me not to consider AJ Diemel the favorite on Saturday. He’s the only three-time winner of the event — last year he destroyed the field — and seems to have figured out the 3/10-mile oval.
In fact, since 2012, here are Diemel’s finishes at the Seitz Memorial:
That is an incredible stretch of consistency — never finishing outside of the top five since 2012.
It’s interesting, based on Thursday’s attendance, past champions that were on hand were Diemel, Don Shaw of Ham Lake, Brad Seng of Grand Forks and Mitch Johnson of Hickson. Two-time winner Aaron Turnbull is racing IMCA modifieds at the Super Nationals in Boone. It’s possible others could arrive on Friday I suppose.
Who else can contend for Saturday’s feature? Shaw and Seng are usually really good at this event. Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks has won a lot of features at RCS but hasn’t fared well at the Seitz; his best finish is eighth twice. 2022 River Cities champion Joey Pederson of East Grand Forks is another local contender; he nearly rallied for the win in 2014 before settling for second behind Diemel.
Mike Greseth of Harwood, who wrapped up his second straight NLRA title, will be very formidable this weekend.
Cole Searing of Huron, the defending Wissota Late Model National Champion and the 2022 Challenge Series champion, is a driver I expect to be in the hunt on Saturday. He’s Impressed me since he’s moved into the class. Bryce Sward of Nelson, who won the $10,000 Dacotah Rumble at Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen in July, is another driver to keep an eye on. Other drivers I see as contenders are Shane Edginton, Cole Schill, Scott Ward and Jake Redetzke. Again, there could be others who show up on Friday who weren’t competing during Thursday’s prelude.
The Big Al Delaine Memorial is part of the Seitz shows this Weeknd, with $3,092 going to the winner of the Wissota Modified feature on Friday night. My favorites in the mods are Tyler Peterson of Horace, Zach Johnson of Lowry, Winnipeg driver Ward Imrie, Matt Gilbertson of Montevideo and Mike Stearns of Hecla, and now you need to add Ryan Gierke to the list. But you never know, the draw is pretty vital at these events.
—Good to see Chase Boen of Drayton in attendance in the Wissota Street Stocks. He has raced four times at Greenbush this season but this was his first trip to River Cities.
—Several Canadians were in attendance — they were missing during the Covid restrictions — including Victoria Stutsky in the Wissota Midwest Modified class. She picked up her first career win earlier this summer at Victory Lane Speedway. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen her race in the states.
—South Dakota cars usually support this weekend well, and on Thursday 17 were in attendance. There were 24 Canadian drivers on hand as well. Keep in mind more could show up for Friday as the Seitz Memorial late model show kicks off with qualifying races that night. Thursday was a separate complete show for all four classes.
—One driver who I haven’t seen race before is Logan Dowson of Glendive, Mont. He’s raced only a handful of times this season with a best finish of third at Electric City Speedway.
—I’ll be curious how the midwest modified and street stock shows go this weekend as sometimes those races can get a bit demo-derby like. The qualifiers are on Friday while B mains (if necessary) and features are Saturday.
--Another late model tidbit. Morgan Ward Grosz became the first female driver to win an NLRA heat race. Her dad, Scott, finished third in the late model main event.