Veteran Driver Don Shaw Takes Over as Owner at I-94 Speedway
Don Shaw is known by most dirt-racing fans in the region as the driver of the No. 42S Wissota Late Model. But this summer, he’s taken on a new role at the track — ownership.
Shaw, from Ham Lake, Minn., has purchased I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls from Karla Kadelbach. A purchase agreement was signed in March and Shaw has taken over as owner.
“What I see there is a good facility. Dick and Karla have ran a business there for years and built that from the ground up,” Shaw said. “I know Dick wanted that thing to stay alive as a racetrack…and racing-wise, I’m ready for a new challenge and to slow down racing myself and get into the other end of it.”
Shaw won the 2017 Wissota Late Model national championship and also is a former late model champion at I-94. His business, Shaw Trucking, is a past sponsor of the Wissota Late Model Challenge Series and also has sponsored events at tracks in the state including at I-94 and Viking Speedways.
Shaw says he doesn’t plan to race at I-94 weekly aside from the Sept. Wissota 100 and a few specials.
One big change is the track now a new name and title sponsor — the track is now called I-94 Sure Step Speedway (See logo to right). Dustin Hapka, a former late model driver out of the Grand Forks area, runs Sure Step Flooring and has sponsored Shaw’s late models in the past.
“It’s important, it puts a new image on the track,” Shaw said. “Sure Step was very enthused about doing it. If you can get the right company to come in and sponsor, you are foolish not to do it.”
While the track’s season opener is on hold, pending the easing of state restrictions on gatherings at larger venues, much work is being done at the facility. Shaw said to check the track’s website and Facebook page for updates on a potential practice night and when the season opener will take place.
He said the track would be ready to race as soon as this week if the state permitted it and that some of the projects will get done, such as the painting of the bleachers, as the summer goes on.
Some of the changes will be instantly visible to fans at I-94. There will be huge sponsor billboards in turn three, similar to what Deer Creek Speedway near Spring Valley, Minn, has set up. This will not only highlight the sponsors but also will help shield the drivers from sunlight that comes from the west during some of the heat races. Some of the sponsors are new while some have been with the track for several years.
“There’s a lot of different purposes with that,” Shaw said. “We’ve come up with a lot of good sponsors.”
The sponsor suites in the main building on the front stretch have all been renovated and updated.
“Every one had a total facelift,” Shaw said.
The concession kitchen also has been redone.
“We’re trying to take the kitchen area to the next level, with the type of food we can prep and serve,” Shaw said. “There’s a lot to it. We’re updating a lot of things.”
Shaw said he appreciates the many hours spent by individuals working at the track this spring, and that includes long-time employees Scott and Deb Engfer, who have spent countless hours working at the track. That includes local drivers Brock Gronwold, Larry Samuelson and Zach Tysdahl; Rodney at Lakes Concrete Pumping and Stenerson Lumber.
“We’re working our butts off, trying to finish,” Shaw said. “We tore a lot of stuff apart. We’re so close.”
As far as the racing goes, the six classes will remain the same — Wissota-sanctioned Late Models, Modifieds, Midwest Modifieds and Street Stocks, plus unsanctioned Short Trackers and Limited Late Models.
“Everything is going to stay the same. Pretty much all the same people are in the same positions,” Shaw said.
Right now, it’s a wait-and-see as far when the season opener happens. Governor Tim Walz indicated on Wednesday that plans to allow bigger social gatherings to reopen would likely come later in the summer which has frustrated some racing promoters, fans and drivers.
“I’m a business guy,” Shaw said. “Once he’s got the stay at home order lifted, he shouldn’t have a whole lot to say about if businesses can or can’t be open. They should be back to being opening with guidelines…and protecting the ones that are most susceptible (to the virus).”
Shaw still plans to race his late model on nights that I-94 isn’t running. But his focus on Fridays will be on operating I-94.
“It is going to take some time,” Shaw said. “I’m going to screw up, trust me; but it will be good after we get it going for a while.”