By Mike Spieker
West Fargo, ND (July 10, 2020) – Red River Valley Speedway hosted the opening night of the 31st annual Dakota Classic Modified and Stock Car tour on Friday night. Record car counts were seen in both divisions with 74 IMCA modifieds and 43 IMCA stock cars checked in.
The speedway’s regulars did not back down from the national talent in attendance as no less than 10 local drivers claimed checkered flags in preliminary action.
In the second IMCA stock car heat, one of the most bizarre events happened in the 50-plus year history of the speedway. Matt Speckman of Sleepy Eye, Minn. was leading the heat race and took the white flag when he suddenly pulled off the speedway. Speckman thought he had seen the checkered flag and exited the speedway to pull onto the scales in the pit area. The entire field followed him off the speedway until the race director informed the drivers via the one-way radio that they had in fact taken the white flag, not the checkered flag. It then became a mad dash for the drivers to safely turn around in the tech area and re-enter the speedway. Mike Anderson of Walcott, N.D. was the beneficiary of the mishap. Anderson was running up front early on in the heat race until he clipped the infield implement tire and spun out. Anderson was running last when all of the drivers pulled off of the speedway but was the first to re-enter. As he rounded turn four, he received a standing ovation from the large crowd on hand who were in disbelief of what they were seeing. Stock car rookie Keaton Froemke of Glyndon, Minn. and Ernest Giest of West Fargo, N.D. rounded out the top three.
After winning his heat race, Tyler Hall of Fertile, Minn. redrew the pole position for the 30-lap IMCA modified main event. With some of the nation’s top talent behind him, Hall took the lead on the opening lap as the green flag waved. Early on Hall found his groove on the low side of the speedway and opened up a comfortable lead. Despite a couple of cautions in the second half of the feature, Hall withstood a couple of intense restarts to maintain the point. The final caution flew with six to go which lined up arguably the best modified driver in all of IMCA, Ricky Thornton Jr. of Chandler, Ariz., and national front-runner Alex Stanford of Chowchilla, Calif.
As the race resumed Thornton launched off of turn four and stole the lead from the local fan favorite going into turn one. Hall tried to battle back, but Thornton was too fast as he cruised to the win. Hall would finish in second, in front of Austin Arneson of Fargo, N.D., Stanford, and Jake O’Neil of Tucson, Ariz.
“To win a heat race and lead 26 laps at our home track against the competition that we had to go up against tonight feels incredible,” said Hall after the race. “I got beat by a guy who pays his bills off racing. To place at the Dakota Mod Tour where 74 other guys could have won it just as easy, [I’m] just happy to be out there.”
Hall’s run capped off a very strong night for the Red River Valley Speedway regulars.
“It just shows what North Dakota and Minnesota produce. We get some real bad months in the winter and we don’t get to do much, but we all hit it pretty hard in the summer and I think this is a testament to how serious we take it around here,” said Hall.
Former IMCA stock car national champion and Dakota Classic Tour champion, Elijah Zevenbergen, dominated the stock car main event. Rick Schulz of Horace, N.D. moved up from the 17th starting position to become a threat for the lead later on only to have an untimely caution relegate him back to sixth. Rob VanMil of Barnesville, Minn. was the highest finishing local as he rounded out the podium.
Two weeks after being involved in a big crash at the speedway, Tyler McDougall of Hawley, Minn. had his No. 1 machine back on the track. McDougall picked up a heat race win and was running sixth in the feature until he was clipped in the right rear by a spinning car, which sent him into a series of barrel rolls in turn number two.
McDougall came to rest upside down but was quickly helped out of his mangled car and walked away under his own power.
A Feature (30 Laps): 1. 20RT-Ricky Thornton Jr, Chandler Ariz.; 2. 60-Tyler Hall, Fertile, Minn.; 3. 10-Austin Arneson, Fargo, N.D.; 4. 98-Alex Stanford, Chowchilla, Calif.; 5. 0X-Jake O’Neil, Tucson, Ariz.
IMCA Stock Car
A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 66Z-Elijah Zevenbergen, Ocheyedan, Iowa.; 2. 9-Eric Mahlik, Green Bay, Wis.; 3. 40-Rob VanMil, Barnesville, Minn.; 4. 20-Joe Flory, Willison, N.D.; 5. 3-Travis Ulmer, Mandan, N.D.