It’s time for the Race Chaser highlights of 2018, at least from my own perspective. This is totally my OWN opinion.
Keep in mind the tracks I primarily cover in terms of writeups and driver profiles are Red River Valley Speedway, I-94 Speedway, Sheyenne Speedway, Buffalo River Race Park, River Cities Speedway, Jamestown Speedway and Norman County Raceway. I venture out of the area sometimes but these are the main tracks.
Here are highlights from 2018:
Most encouraging sign:
The amount of younger drivers who are climbing in the area ranks.
Tim Estenson, Brody Carlsrud and Tye Wilke are teenagers but have risen in the ranks in the INEX Legends. Estenson has piled up the wins the last few years and Wilke is usually towards the front. Carlsrud won the track title at Norman County Raceway and is the youngest to do so.
In the mods you have drivers like Tyler Peterson, Brady Gerdes and Jesse Skalicky who are loaded with talent. Gerdes already had a USMTS win to his credit.
Cole Schill (2-time I94 late model champ), Travis Robertson and Shawn and Casey Meyer are among the promising talent in the late model class around here.
There are many young good B mod drivers around this region as well. Same goes with the street stocks, hornets and hobby stocks.
Best Overall Season:
I am going to exclude the Wissota National Champions — obviously they had fantastic years and it’s hard to separate one from the other.
This one, I am going with Tyler Peterson of Hickson, N.D..
Peterson won 13 modified features this season and the track title at Red River Valley Speedway (despite a rough start at the track). He won features at six different tracks and two sanctioning bodies (IMCA and Wissota) and also won the IMCA bracket race at River Cities Speedway. His most impressive performance was the Advantage RV Tour win at Brown County Speedway in July. Not only was he driving a brand new car, he was also racing at BCS for the first time ever. He beat Dan Ebert — who won the RV tour title and was as fast as anyone in Wissota — for the win.
A sign of a driver’s greatness, at least partially, is being able to win at a lot of different tracks, and Peterson did that in his 1TPO machine.
Best single night event of the year:
I would go with the Wissota 100 if we are talking about a multi day event. But this is about one single event on a single night.
I am going to go with the Bob Gierke Memorial at Viking Speedway for this one. A purse of $10,000 was raised by the Gierke family — which meant Viking could charge normally admission prices and not charge entry fees. It was $2,600 to win and $260 to start. Ward Imrie of Winnipeg fended off Josh Thoennes for the win amid a good field of cars. Imrie went on to win the Wissota national title for a second straight year.
Credit to the Gierke family for raising money for this and also to all those businesses and individuals who have money towards the race. I hope it is an annual thing.
If you haven’t met the Gierke family you should stop down some night at I94 or Viking, they are a wonderful group of people.
There are two I want to mention. One is Kaitlyn Skalicky of Fargo, who picked up her first career feature win in the INEX Legends in June at Norman County Raceway in Ada. She had 15 top five finishes this season and was usually racing towards the front. It was a great year for Skalicky in the 8JR Car.
Eric Riley of Morris is the other. He won the track title at Madison Speedway for his first career season championship and won four Wissota Street Stock features on the season. He has improved each year — the seat time has made a huge difference — and was rewarded for his perseverance with a good year.
Best races of the year:
Late model: Wollak Construction Wissota LM Challenge Series race at I-94 Speedway in May between veterans John Kaanta and Darrell Nelson. Side by side for the win for the last six laps with Kaanta winning by a nose. It doesn’t get better than that.
Modified: This is one where the racing was so good that the lights went out — literally. Of course, it was Friday the 13th. It was the King of the Dirt feature at I-94. The first nine laps of the race were an epic battle between veterans Jason Thoennes of Garfield and Scot Danzeisen of Herman and a rising young star in Brady Gerdes of Villard. The three were running three wide most of the time — not near touching each other — before the dang lights went out. Jeremy Nelson scored the win and was very impressive but those first nine laps of that race were phenomenal. Imagine if the turn 1-2 lights hadn’t went out!
B mod: July 1 at Sheyenne Speedway the Wissota Midwest Mod main event was quite a battle between veterans Royce Jawaski of Adrian and Randy Klein of Lisbon. The race turned into a five-car breakaway for several laps including Randy Klein of Lisbon, Nate Reinke of Lisbon, Zach Reinke of Lisbon and Lance Schill. Eventually it turned into a three-car battle between Jawaski, Klein and Nate Reinke. Klein threw everything but the kitchen sink at Jawaski and pulled beside him several times in a heck of a battle. Jawaski survived the challenge for a thrilling win with Klein second, Zach Reinke third. A fantastic battle.
Wissota Street Stock: May 19 at Devils Lake turned into an intense three-car battle between Aaron Blackldance of Thief River Falls, Minn., Adam Burrows of West Fargo and Justin Vogel of Brooten. Burrows led much of the way, but was slowed by a lapped car, allowing Blacklance to take over the lead for a couple of laps. Burrows regained the lead, with Blacklance and Vogel both putting the heat on. Vogel and Blacklance waged a strong battle for the runner-up spot as Burrows maintained the lead. Vogel made a diving move in turns three and four to take a shot at the lead on the final lap, but had to settle for second as Burrows was too strong.
IMCA Stock Car: The IMCA Stock Cars put on a good show weekly at RRVS but the race on June 15 was unreal. It turned into an incredible four-car battle between Brandon Schmidt of Hillsboro, Rick Schulz of Horace, Rob VanMil of Barnesville and Tim Church of Hillsboro. Schmidt jumped into the lead but soon was chased down by Schulz. VanMil, who started ninth, soon joined the battle with Church not far behind. Schulz got beside Schmidt and it turned into a dogfight; VanMil was right there as the three cars put on a terrific show. Schmidt beat Schulz by .007 seconds in a thrilling finish, with VanMil third and Church fourth. Tim Compson of Valley City finished fifth after starting eighth.
Hornet/Mini Stock: The IMCA Sport Compact feature did have some drama at Buffalo River Race Park on June 24. Randy Thompson of Lake Park led much of the race; however as the leaders worked into lapped traffic, Thompson made contact with a lapped car, causing the 65 car to slide off the track. Because the yellow/black flags had been displayed, and the fact that Thompson was charged with the caution, he was sent to the pits. That opened the door for Tanner Engen of Detroit Lakes to pick up the win over Chase Golliet of Fargo. Levi Lease was third. Some crazy stuff there.
Biggest disappointment of the year:
This is a general disappointment but it is the length a regular weekly show is lasting. Shows that should be done in 3 hours are stretching to 3 1/2 or four. Intermissions seem to stretch a bit long (understandable if track work is being done) but there is too much time between heat races and it is taking too long to line up cars in feature races, even with transponders. Shouldn’t take five minutes to realign cars after a caution.
To me this is one thing tracks can improve on. I think it hurts fan counts frankly as fans don’t want to sit idly wasting time every week.
That isn’t to say that there won’t be delays for legit reasons — a bad crash that results in a red flag, power failure (I94 has this happen) or damage to a wall or fence (I94 and River Cities both had this happen). People get that. It’s the lack of urgency that fans get fed up with.
My Wish for 2019:
More fans in the stands and higher car counts at area tracks!