By Mike Spieker
WEST FARGO, N.D. (May 13) – After nearly four long years, Red River Valley Speedway was resurrected Friday night to the delight of hundreds of dedicated race fans, who braved wind chills that approached 30 degrees.
A stout field of 70 race teams were signed in to inaugurate a new era of racing at “The fastest track in the Upper Midwest” and winners of inaugural features for the sanctioned divisions were Rob VanMil in the Xtreme Motor Sports IMCA Modifieds and Erik Laudenschlager in the Karl Chevrolet Northern SportMods.
Coming into the night everybody was asking, “Can anybody stop Rob VanMil?”
The 2015 IMCA Modified national rookie of the year had picked up a convincing win the previous Sunday at Buffalo River Race Park and backed it up with a win Thursday at Norman County Raceway where he took the checkers with an advantage of 11.5 seconds.
If VanMil was going to make it three in a row, he had a long way to go as he was mired back in the 10th starting position for the 25-lap main event.
Dev Malmlov led the opening lap from outside the front row over Michael Greseth. By lap five, VanMil had charged through the field to make it a three-wide fight for second with Greseth and Mike Johnson. After the trio held their three wide formation for two complete circuits around the 3/8-mile oval, VanMil took over the runner-up position and set his sights on Malmlov.
With 10 to go, VanMil had erased Malmlov’s lead and looked to make it three wide once again in turn one with Malmlov and a lapped car. Malmlov drove to the high side and got stuck up in the marbles. As a result, Malmlov slid off the embankment and brought out the caution, bringing a frustrating end to the veteran driver’s hopes of capturing Red River Valley Speedway’s first IMCA Modified win.
VanMil then inherited the lead for the ensuing restart and ran the low side of the speedway to pick up the win. Johnson came home second as Dave Shipley came from 15th to round out the podium.
Laudenschlager and Jesse Skalicky led the field of 14 Northern SportMods to the green flag for their 18-lap feature. After a two lap battle for the point, Laudenschlager held the position over Skalicky as Tyler McDougall and Luke Johnson fought for third and fourth.
At the halfway point, Laudenschlager had a 10-car length lead over Skalicky, who had picked up Red River’s last pure stock track championship in 2012. Skalicky found his groove up on the high side of the track and began closing in on the leader.
With four to go, Laudenschlager’s lead was down to just three car lengths, but just as Skalicky was within striking distance, his machine began to fade. Laudenschlager was better off turn two and that’s all he needed to park it in KRJB 106.5FM Victory Lane.
The brand-new racing surface at West Fargo was in phenomenal condition. As the night advanced the tacky conditions transitioned to dry slick and smooth, which allowed for three and four-wide racing all night long.
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