Thoughts on First 2 Weekends
RaceChaser has been to three area tracks so far, and will be at two more this week, weather-permitting.
I don’t get too excited about crowds or car counts at this point in the season. Farming affects the early part of the racing season, especially with the dry spring we’ve had, and some cars just aren’t ready. Let’s get into June when we are in the swing of things before we jump to any conclusions there.
But, I have a few observations on the the first few nights I’ve been to tracks — so here it goes.
—Viking Speedway in Alexandria has added a Dash for Cash this year. Each of the four weekly classes are running a six-lap dash with $100 going to the winner. There is a sponsor for each class’s dash.
There is also a $200 Clean Sweep Bonus all year in the four classes. Win the heat, dash and feature on the same night, and a driver pockets an additional $200. Trevor Saurer of Dalton accomplished this in the Wissota Super Stocks on Saturday
That’s a nice incentive for drivers. I know Justin Vogel of Brooten was a bit bummed in the streets on Saturday — had he won the feature, he would have gotten the clean sweep bonus. However he was passed in turn three by Ryan Satter on the final lap to prevent that.
—Speaking of Vogel and Satter, I expect those two, along with Andrew Bangsund of Alexandria, to be consistently battling for wins at Viking Speedway. Vogel and Satter are both former track champions while Bangsund is a three-time street stock track champion.
—It’s early, but there have been some breakout wins already this season.
We will start with Brendan Mullen’s NOSA Sprint win at River Cities Speedway on Friday. Mullen, from Grand Forks, had two career NOSA wins going into the night — at Mandan and Jamestown last year — but had never won at his home track in Grand Forks. Well, he can cross that off of his list. What was more impressive was that he came back after slipping back to third to pass Nick Omdahl, a former NOSA series champion, who had moved ahead of him earlier.
Austin Pierce of Grand Forks may have been the fastest sprinter out there on Friday; but he slid off of turns three and four and had to go to the rear. But he made a big-time surge through the field to get back to third.
Chris Mensen’s Wissota Modified win — his first in seven years in the class — at I-94 Sure Step Speedway was a huge victory for him. A night later, Ryan Gierke of Villard won the modified feature for his first A mod win. Gierke has made tremendous strides over the past two seasons.
—Tyler Peterson of Hickson had a good weekend in his #1TPO Wissota Modified. He won Friday at I-94 and picked up the win on Sunday at Casino Speedway in Watertown, S.D.
—Of the 11 cars who finished the IMCA Hobby Stock feature at Red River Valley Speedway on Friday, three were female drivers (Alyssa White, Skyla Miller and Andrea Jacobson). I think that’s freaking awesome. Speaking of the Hobby Stocks, the driver that won the feature — Cory Probst of Brewster, Minn., — was the 2020 IMCA Hobby Stock National Champion.
—Former Red River Valley and Norman County Raceway IMCA Sport Mod track champion Luke Johnson of Moorhead has moved into the IMCA Modified division this season. Billy Vogel of Fargo, who a in a late model the past two years, is also in a modified this year.
—Ryan Mikkelson of Alexandria won the Wissota Lae Model feature Friday at I-94 Sure Step Speedway. In doing so, he became the first driver to win in an SSR late model chassis. Jake Hartung and SSR have built many modifieds, including for local drivers like Mensen, Gerdes and Gierke, and his venture into late models, which is dominated in Wissota mainly by MB Customs, will be interesting.
—Travis Saurer of Elizabeth is driving the No. 42x Wissota Midwest Modified, which is one of his dad’s cars. Not sure if he plans to run the whole season in the car, but if he does, he instantly becomes a contender at Viking and I-94. Saurer is a four-time Wissota Midwest Modified national champion. Brock Gronwold, who won three RaceChaser-area titles in 2020, won the 2007 national title. Throw in several other quality competitors and we could see some big-time midwest modified features at I-94 and Viking.
—I think the Wissota Late Model class will be highly competitive at River Cities Speedway. Shane Edginton, the 2019 Wissota Late Model track champion at RCS, is back. Lance Schill of Langdon is proving to be formidable in the late models, and of course, you have Dustin Strand, Brad Seng and Joey Pederson to contend with every week. Don’t count out the 52-year veteran, Tom Corcoran of East Grand Forks, either as a contender. The crafty vet is very rarely outside the top six when the checkered flies in the feature.
—Ryan Schow’s Wissota Midwest Modified feature win on Saturday at Devils Lake was his second career feature victory.
—Brady Gerdes of Villard has won four of the last five track Wissota Modified track championships at Viking Speedway. The only driver to break that streak is Josh Thoennes of Nelson in 2017.
—There are some new faces in the IMCA Stock Car class the year — Trent Grager of Carrington, Brody Carlsrud of Fargo and Tim Gonska of Brainerd among them — but making a return this year is Brandon Schmidt of Hillsboro. That should add to an already stacked class locally. There are 21 cars at Red River Valley on Friday, with Travis Robertson winning.
—There were four IMCA RaceSaver Sprints on hand at RRVS on Friday. I’m told there are some more being put together. As I mentioned right away, let’s not overreact to the car counts this early. Especially with a brand new class to the area. Remember, the stock cars started out with 6-8 cars and not have turned into a class that has produced some of the best racing locally.