Wilke Breaks Through for Win at Red River Valley; I-94 and River Cities Hold Openers
I was hoping to get to my regular Friday night stop at I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls but parenting duties and some work commitments prevented me from making it there. I was able to catch the features at the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo.
Promoters are in a tough spot on days like Friday — it looked like rain, didn’t aside from a few sprinkles, and the weather was cool and windy. So in theory you’d think of cancelling just because you won’t get much of a crowd — which I wouldn’t blame tracks for doing honestly — but since it didn’t rain, you feel an obligation to race. I give all three area tracks that raced on Friday — RRVS, I-94 and River Cities Speedway — credit for getting their shows in.
More on RRVS…
—Car counts were solid again with 78 cars signing in. The only class that saw a slight drop was the IMCA Modifieds.
—IMCA Stock Cars had 14 cars on hand, encouraging for a relatively new class in this area
—The IMCA Sport Mod feature, despite some cautions, saw some excellent racing towards the front. Same with the INEX Legends.
The Not-So Good…
—The weather. In the 50s, cloudy and windy which isn’t good weather for fans in the stands.
—The inaccurate rainy weather forecast which no doubt impacts crowds and car counts.
—Cautions. Too many in the features.
Young Tye Wilke of Detroit Lakes won a hard-fought battle over Glyndon driver Andrew Jochim to win a caution-filled INEX Legend feature. The two put on a great show battling for the lead.
It was Wilke’s first-ever win at Red River Valley Speedway and I will venture to say it won’t be the last. Sean Johnson of Kindred was third, Josh Julsrud of Barnesville was fourth and Brody Carlsrud of Moorhead was fifth after starting 11th. Jochim already has two wins at Dacotah Speedway in Mandan and one at Southwest Speedway in Dickinson.
Fargo driver Kaitlyn Skalicky hasn’t had the best week in the 8JR car. After a hard crash at Jamestown last week she was caught up in another pileup in turn four that ended her night on Friday. I have no doubt she will bounce back.
Doug Gardner of Glyndon is looking very good to start off the season in the IMCA Sport Mods. A week after spinning with two laps left while battling for the lead, Gardner took command in his 41 machine on Friday and picked up the win over Fargo driver Kelly Jackson. Luke Johnson of Moorhead was third. Austin Veralrud of Barnesville was fourth and Kenneth Bye of Moorhead fifth.
Barnesville driver Rob VanMil is 2-for-2 in the IMCA Stock Cars this season, prevailing in a caution filled main event. I felt bad for Moorhead driver Travis Robertson; he started seventh and took the lead and was running well but was spun not once, but twice. The first time he got his place back in first, the second time ended his night. VanMil took control for the win with Mike Anderson of Walcott second and Brennan Borg of Harwood third.
The question in the stock cars, with Brandon Schmidt moving into the sport mods, is who will challenge VanMil. It seems Robertson is going to be one of the challengers, and I think Brennan Borg has a shot to be in that category. One 2018 contender who was off the pace Friday was Rick Schulz of Horace. I suspect that once things get ironed out for him he will be back running towards the front.
Matt Aukland of Glyndon found victory lane in his 12A IMCA Modified for the first time, passing Dave Shipley of Argusville for a pretty convincing win. Jesse Skalicky of Fargo was third in one of his best runs at the track, Week 1 Austin Arneson of Fargo fourth and Billy Kendall of Baxter, Minn, was fifth. The IMCA mods were down a bit in numbers from Week 1 with 16 — but it seems like the class will be competitive. It was good win for Aukland in his second night out this season.
Mathew Olson of Morton, Minn. — who said in a postrace interview he is moving to this area — won the IMCA Hobby Stock for a second straight week. Tim Shiek of Fargo, Brad Orvedal of Fargo, Tanner Engen of Detroit Lakes and Alyssa White of West Fargo rounded out the top five. White has had some rotten luck to start the season but had a solid run on Friday.
Overall, it was a decent show despite a not-so-great crowd, the cautions ran the show a little long. Hopefully the weather straightens up and helps not only track prep but crowds.
Feature winners at I-94 Speedway included Dan Ebert of Lake Shore, Minn., in the Wissota Mods, Don Shaw of Ham Lake in the Wissota Late Models, Dustin Bluhm of Herman in the Limited Late Models, Justin Froemming of Alexandria in the Wissota Midwest Modifieds, Shawn Koranda of Bluffton in the Wissota Street Stocks and Jason Reinke of Moorhead in the Short Trackers.
One notable thing about I-94 is the amount of drivers who’ve moved into the A mod class — that includes Corey Jones of Zimmernan, Bill Yonke of Thief River Falls, McKenzie Gerdes of Alexandria, Blake Boelens of Alexandria and Joseph Thomas of Glyndon. Good to see that class growing there.
There were good runs for the Langland brothers, Kyle and Alex, in the Wissota Midwest Modified. Kyle finished sixth after starting 13th while Alex finished seventh after starting eighth.
It was good to see Ashley Mehrwerth of St. Stephen back on the track in her Wissota Midwest Modified. She won a feature at I-94 a couple of years ago and is a good competitor in the class.
Cole Schill of Horace had a nice run in the Wissota Lates, finishing second after starting seventh. He is the two-time defending Wissota Late Model champ at I-94.
A field of 94 cars signed in at I-94 which I’d say is a good opener.
River Cities Speedway
Feature winners at River Cities Speedway included Mark Dobmeier in the NOSA Sprints, Joey Pederson in the Wissota Late Models, Reise Stenberg in the Wissota Midwest Modified and Bryce Reimer in the Wissota Street Stocks.
Sixty-nine cars competed at the RCS opener in four classes.
—Let’s not overreact to car counts and crowds at this point in the season. The snowy late winter and lack of spring seem to have gotten the year off to a slow start. Let’s let the weather straighten out and then evaluate those things. Keep in mind several racers work in agriculture and that has been pushed back because of weather.
—Visited with Sheyenne Speedway co-promoter Hunter Carter for a while on Friday in the pit area. They are taking a wait-and-see approach about their opener on Sunday, depending on how much rain falls today (Saturday). The newly-improved surface received some good reviews at the Test and Tune and I think there is a good excitement building for the 1/4-mile track in Lisbon.
--Viking Speedway, Buffalo River Race Park and Jamestown Speedway have each cancelled their show for today (Saturday) because of the rain and cool weather.