VanMil, Wagner, Arneson, White Lead Victors at Norman County Raceway
RaceChaser was back at Norman County Raceway in Ada for Thursday night’s show. A total of 62 cars signed in for the Dakota Cat Mod Shootout.
NCR dodged a major thunderstorm that went just to the north and east, one that produced nickel-size hail according to the weather app. Frankly I don't know how the brunt of the storm missed NCR; it looked like a pretty imposing bunch of clouds with a few lightning strikes.
The IMCA Hobby Stock heat had one lap in before a rain delay came in. Fortunately it was a light shower, which kept the track workable. A heavy downpour like it looked like probably would have ended the night with three heat races in the books. Track officials were able to get things packed in and the hobby stock heat resumed after about a 10-15 minute delay.
Car counts were solid in some classes -- a great field of 17 IMCA Sport Mods were on hand, along with 12 INEX Legends and 11 IMCA Stock Cars.
I was disappointed that there were only nine IMCA Modifieds in attendance for a $700 to win, $100 to start show. That is a good purse; and as one driver told me earlier this year, if drivers don't support the higher-paying shows, they will just disappear. It's even more odd, considering Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo is off this week, because you'd think a few IMCA mods would be coming up for a little more cash since they were getting Friday off. Because $700 is a nice purse to win.
The race of the night turned out to be the IMCA Stock Cars. What an action packed main event it was and it seemed like five or six different drivers had a shot at it. Jordan Zillmer of Cleveland, N.D., led early with a ton of pressure from Travis Robertson of Moorhead. After a caution, Tim Church of Fargo joined the battle for the lead.
Todd Heinrich found speed on the lower line and soon took over the lead and appeared to be on his way to the win. Also on the move was Rob VanMil of Barnesville as the 40 car made its presence felt.
In a fact that came down to the finish, literally, VanMil picked up the win over Heinrich in dramatic fashion. Kalvin Kasselberg of Ada was third, Church fourth and Robertson fifth. It will go down as one of the best races in the area in any class this season.
Speaking of the Dakota Cat Shootout, Austin Arneson of Fargo laid a major whipping on the modified field. He started on the pole — which makes it tough for the rest of the field from the get-go — and ran away with the IMCA modified win. He had at least a straightaway lead on runner-up Dale Kraling of Mayville at the checkered. The top side was the preferred line for the mods, and unfortunately the field got a little spread out. Jesse Skalicky of Fargo was third, Dave Shipley of Argusville fourth and Brady Petermann of Hawley fifth.
Andy Wagner of Ada, interviewed above, was sure in a groove in the IMCA Sport Mods. After a restart he passed Kelly Jacobson of Fargo for the lead and steadily added to the advantage; he was never challenged the rest of the night. Wagner started ninth on the 18-car field but clearly was the class of the field on Thursday. Brandon Schmidt of Kindred was second after starting eighth for his second straight top two finish; Aaron Wetterlin of Moorhead was third, Luke Johnson of Moorhead fourth and Jacobson finished fifth. Wetterlin and Johnson each moved up seven spots from their starting position.
It has not been a particularly good summer for Jacobson, who is usually one of the contenders; since June 6 he has had four DNFs, one did-not-start, and no finish better than 10th. I am guessing he’ll take a top five finish.
Alex Braseth of Ulen, interviewed above, held off a furious charge from Tye Wilke to win his first INEX Legend feature of the year. Sean Johnson of Kindred led early but ended with a DNF. Braseth took over the lead with a ton of pressure from Wilke, who has been the fastest legend car in the area of late. Wilke made many attempts at the lead but Braseth didn’t flinch on his way to his first feature win of 2019 and his second of his career. Wilke was second ahead of Brody Carlsrud of Moorhead, who had another top three finish. Alex Kukowski of Edgeley, N.D., was fourth and Ryan Braseth of Ulen was fifth.
West Fargo driver Alyssa White, interviewed above, liked winning so much that she did it two weeks in a row. White picked up her first career feature win on July 18 at NCR, and made it two in a row with the IMCA Hobby Stock win on Thursday. Last week she won by a straightaway; this week was much more nerve-wracking, as veteran Tim Shiek of Fargo was in hot pursuit of the lead. Much like Braseth in the legends, White did not make a mistake and went on to the win. Brad Orvedal of Fargo passed Shiek for second on the final lap.
It’s about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Huron, S.D., to Ada, but Cole Searing made it worth it with the Wissota Midwest Modified feature win. Season point leader Reise Stenberg of Argusville ran a solid second, with Jeff Nelson of Perham passing Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls for third.
--I visited briefly with Cole Searing, the driver of the No. 10 Wissota Midwest Modified. he made the 4 1/2 hour trek from Huron, S.D, to run at NCR. Why? Because he is the national point leader in the division and is chasing the national title. Cole is also a very good Wissota super stock driver in South Dakota. Searing looked really good on Thursday.
--I chatted with Jeff Nelson of Perham a little before the racing program. He drives the #33 Wissota Midwest Modified car at NCR and I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls, and also does some traveling on Sunday nights. Nelson doesn't have a feature win yet, but is having a pretty good year -- he is in the top five in points at both tracks. Nelson runs at TRC car built on the Iron Range. Skeeter Estey, the 2018 Wissota 100 winner and national champion in the midwest modifieds, runs at TRC car.
--Aaron Blacklance of Thief River Falls was in his second night in his new SSR midwest modified chassis. He had been racing a 2008 Millenium Chassis (one that he won the Seitz Memorial with a year ago).
--The Wissota Midwest Modified car count is puzzling to me at NCR. There are some cars who race in Greenbush, Grand Forks or Bemidji that could easily make the trek over some night. A couple of regulars were missing but it surprises me to see only six. A few have switched classes -- Larry Samuelson is now in a limited late model, and Joseph Thomas is now in an A Mod. NCR pays pretty good in the class, by the way from the drivers I've talked to.
—NCR promoters Jake and Sharnel Bitker have two daughters racing in the INEX Legends — 16-year-old Lillian and 14-year-old Elzetta. Elzetta went for quite a ride in her debut last week, rolling her 16L machine. This week, the parents could breathe easier — no crashes or anything, and both finished the feature. For their second night in the car, that is pretty good.