I-94 Sure Step Speedway in Fergus Falls was able to host the NLRA Late Models on Friday as they evaded the rain in the area, at least for much of the night. A nice 108-car field was on hand.
The late models ran second on the feature docket after the Wissota Street Stocks, and it proved to be very wise as rain fell later in the evening. Many of the NLRA cars are regulars at River Cities and getting them back for a makeup feature would be difficult.
Brad Seng of Grand Forks and Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls led the 29-car NLRA Late Model feature to the green.
Seng, who won the King of the Dirt at I-94 earlier this month, took the lead as Wolden was in second ahead of Don Shaw of Ham Lake, who was fourth in the NLRA race at Norman County on Thursday. Two-time NLRA champion Mike Greseth of Harwood settled into fifth.
The caution would wave with 21 to go when Shawn Meyer of Wahpeton slowed in turn two; he would go to the tail. He did recover to get back up to ninth by the checkered.
Wolden would push up the track hard in turn two on the restart as Shaw took over second. Shane Edginton of East St. Paul, Man., was third and Greseth.
Seng had a few car lengths on Shaw who had quite a bit of breathing room on Edginton.
The caution would wave when Terry Nelson’s #54 car slowed in turn two, he would pull in. Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria, who was running near the top five, also pulled in under that caution. I’ve not seen Mikkelson have much luck this year, hopefully that turns around.
On the restart there was hard contact between Shaw and Edginton in turns one and two (I caught the tail end, did not see the whole thing), and Edginton got the worst of that, sliding up turn two and slowing dramatically before pulling in. The caution did not wave as Edginton was able to get off the track. Edginton entered the night second in NLRA points so a DNF hurts.
Seng was masterful in lapped traffic, which I believe clinched the race for him; Shaw would close the gap several times and Seng would weather the challenge. Shaw would slide up high in turn two and Seng added to the lead.
Greseth, the NLRA point leader, was running solidly in third with five-time NLRA champion Dustin Strand of East Grand Forks in fourth. Strand had slipped back early but had recovered nicely to get back in the top five.
Seng encountered some more lapped traffic on the final lap, allowing Shaw to close the gap, but the Grand Forks veteran would weather the storm to pick up a win by .552 seconds. Shaw was second, Greseth third, Strand fourth and Cole Schill of Hawley was fifth to cap off a strong run. Greseth would go from ninth to third while Schill went from 11th to fifth. Shawn Kirwin of Morris ran well all night and was sixth. Josh Zimpel of Braham went from 16th to seventh and was the unofficial hard charger.
Seng, Greseth, Strand and Schill are all in the top five of NLRA points.
Tucker Pederson of East Grand Forks, armed with six wins this season, took the early lead of the Wissota Street Stock feature with defending I-94 champion Ryan Satter of Dent moving into second. Eric Riley of Morris moved past Nick Shumansky of Perham for third.
Cole Greseth of Harwood was battling with DArak Turner of Fargo for the fifth spot. Braden Brauer of Eyota, who has eight wins this season, was trying hard to work into the top five.
Satter and Riley were staying close to Pederson while four cars – Shumansky, Greseth, Brauer and Turner – fought hard for the fourth spot. Greseth would eventually
The top three had broken away from the pack. Satter was right there as Riley was on his bumper.
Shumansky got sideways in turn two for a brief moment and made contact with Brauer; the 34 machine would spin into the infield and stall outside of turn two to bring out the first caution with four laps to go. I believe the caution call was on Brauer, who would pull in. I disagreed with that call but it is what it is, and others might have seen it differently.
Brauer entered the night as the national point leader and was also the I-94 point leader coming into the evening.
Satter is very dangerous on restarts, and his familiarity with I-94 would come in handy as he got around Pederson with three to go by going to the outside. He would go on to pick up his fourth win of 2023. Pederson settled for second with Riley taking third. Greseth, who entered the night second in the points at I-94, had a good run in fourth with Turner surviving the battle for fifth. It was the second top five of the season for Turner.
Scott Zimmerman of Rothsay jumped out to the lead in the Gen X Late Model feature which had a pair of early cautions.
Zimmerman, looking for his first career win, had built a nice lead over multi-time track champion Ben Wolden of Fergus Falls. Zimmerman was looking good but slipped up in turn two, and Wolden took full advantage to surge into the lead. Zimmerman stayed in second as Derek Quinn of Brandon pressured him. Dave Mass of East Bethel, driving Scott Rachels’ #66 machine (formerly Sam Zender’s car), was making a late charge and closing in on second and third.
Wolden would open up some breathing room to cross the checkered first. Zimmerman held on for second while Mass edged Quinn for third. Brad Staples of Herman, a consistent runner in the Gen X Late Models, rounded out the top five. The race went pretty smooth after the early two cautions.
However in postrace tech Wolden was disqualified, giving Zimmerman the win. Mass was second, Quinn third, Staples fourth and Jarrett Huus was fifth.
As the Wissota Midwest Modified was about to begin, rain began to fall, and it looked like it might rain for a while so I-94 officials called it a night. The Wissota Midwest Modified, Wissota Modified and Short Tracker features will be made up at a later date, check the I-94 Facebook page in the days ahead to see the dates of that.
I-94/Friday Night Notes
--Tucker Pederson, by my count, has raced at nine different tracks this season. He has wins at Buffalo River, Devils Lake, Brown County in Aberdeen, Greenbush and River Cities. HE is third in the latest national points. Pederson is the son of East Grand Forks late model driver Joey Pederson and sister of lightning sprint driver Kelsi Pederson; they are a wonderful racing family.
--Former Wissota Modified national champion Blake Jegtvig of Hawley made his season debut in the mods on Friday.
--Laine Schwehr of Sanborn, N.D., made his debut in the Wissota Late Models after spending years in the Wissota Midwest Modified class.
--Chris Mensen of Carlos made his season appearance of the season in the Wissota Modified. Mensen has been recovering from back surgery. Last year he was limited to a handful of nights because of back issue. Mensen is an Iraq War Veteran, having served in the National Guard.
--Bryce Borgen of Perley is back in the Wissota Mods this season. Borgen raced in three IMCA Sport Mod shows in 2022 but did not race in 2020 or 2021. He had raced in an IMCA Modified for several years, including driving some for Bob Sagen, until 2019.
--I’m not sure what has happened to the Short Tracker numbers at I-94. They used to get 15-20 a night and have struggled to get to 10 in the past few years. Things are cyclical – I remember when the INEX Legends class was struggling 3-4 years ago and now is booming in the Red River Valley. It’s important to have an affordable, entry level class for people to jump into, and I believe riding it out another year or two would be a good idea.
--River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks and Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo both rained out.