Waving the green flag
Locals victorious on opening night at Nodak
Nodak Speedway ushered in 87 cars for the first race day of the 2018 racing season. At the end of the evening, only four cars found victory lane.
The main feature winners Sunday night were all hometown Minot natives: Robert Hellebust (IMCA Modifieds), Kelly Henderson (IMCA Sport Mods), Brock Beeter (IMCA Hobby Stocks) and Bob Feugmann (IMCA Stock Cars)
In the first heat race of the new season, Beeter started on the pole and drove away from his Hobby Stock competitors. Tyler Lucy and defending track champion Andrew Bertsch won the other Hobby Stock heat races rather convincingly as well.
Other highlights in the heat races included Taylor Stenvold getting rolled on his roof by Nathan Burke in the Stock Car class and Mike Hagen, supporting a new number, held off Wayne Johnson and Jason Wolla in the final heat race for the Modifieds.
The opening feature race brought out the Hobby Stocks and saw Max native Vance Thomlinson crash out in the first corner.
Beeter followed Glenburn’s Shawn Green to the front and eventually got around him for the lead three laps in.
Beeter, who only raced part-time last season at Nodak, started eighth in the feature and didn’t relinquish the lead once he got to the front. He kept Bertsch behind him long enough for the race to be called with three laps left because they had reached the time limit, being unable to complete 15 laps in 15 minutes.
Adam Goff, Dana Brandt and Lucy rounded out the Top 5.
A multi-car pileup a lap into Sports Mod main event ensured another lap shorten feature due to the time limit.
Henderson grabbed the lead in the opening corners and kept a hard charging Robby Rosselli at bay. They even crossed over each other in the battle for first with seven laps to go
Two laps prior to that, last season’s track points runner-up Erik Laudenschlager pulled off the dirt with his car smoking.
Williston’s Chris Anderson spun around twice to bring out two separate cautions with five laps remaining, ultimately giving the win to Henderson. Rosselli settled for second despite having a car that could hang with Henderson.
Heat 3 winner Chad Strachen, defending track champ Isaac Sondrol and Heat 2 winner Tory Mack made up the rest of the Top 5 for the Sport Mods.
The Stock Cars feature broke the precedent and went the full 20 laps.
Fuegmann got to the lead early and found himself in a head-to-head battle with Saskatchewan’s Brenden LaBatte, who is an offensive lineman in the Canadian Football League.
LaBatte got alongside Feugmann multiple times, but couldn’t complete the pass. That tight battle opened the door for Alan Bertsch and Nathan Burke to re-enter the picture.
Burke impressively worked his way to the front after starting dead last in 19th.
LaBatte bowed out of the running after his No. 57 car went up in smoke with four laps to go. Burke tried to track down Feugmann, but ran out of time.
Behind the two Minot natives were Williston’s Jake Nelson and Bismarck’s Eric Harpole.
Wrapping up the night was the top flight Modifieds in a thrilling main event.
A four-way fight between Wolla, Johnson, Hellebust and Williston’s Travis Hagen broke out in the first half of the race.
Hagen threaded the needle between Wolla and Hellebust to take second place with 14 laps to go. However, seven laps later, Hagen got into the back of leader Johnson to bring out a caution and ruined his chance for a victory.
With all eyes on Johnson and Hellebust fighting for the lead on the restart, Wolla flew by them on the outside coming out of Turn 4.
Johnson kept slipping down the field and pulled off the track a couple laps later to set up a Wolla versus Hellebust showdown.
Hellebust stunned the defending Modifieds national champion with a perfect run off a restart with three laps to go. He got under Wolla on the penultimate lap, stuck the exit to complete the pass and took the win.
Minot’s Jeff Hooker slotted into third place in a race where half of the field (10 out of 20 cars) didn’t finish.
Racing returns to Nodak Speedway on Mother’s Day (May 13) with all four weekly classes, plus the IMCA Sport Compacts.
Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.