Rosselli wins emotional race at Nodak Speedway’s Opening Night

Justin Martinez/MDN Brad King (43) leads the pack during Heat 1 of the IMCA Hobby class on Sunday at Nodak Speedway’s Opening Night. Full results are on B-2.

With a heavy heart and some ground to make up, Robby Rosselli found a way.

Sunday’s Opening Night at Nodak Speedway began on a somber note, as a lone car cruised around the track before the usual playing of the national anthem. Behind the wheel was Rosselli, who waved a checkered flag outside the driver’s window the whole ride.

The gesture was in memory of his father, Robert Rosselli, who was a staple in the local racing community before passing away on March 5 at the age of 73. This was Robby’s way of giving him one last lap.

“We had that lap before the day started, and it was pretty emotional,” Robby said. “My dad meant the world to me. He really did.”

Now, it was time to go out and race. After a second-place finish in the Sport Mod’s second heat, Robby earned himself a spot in the main feature.

The Williston native didn’t get off to the start he intended, though, as he drifted to the back of the pack in the first six laps of the 20-lap race. But nothing was going to get in Robby’s way.

Over the course of the next 10 laps, Robby gradually worked his way to the front of the pack. Once he got there, he had no intentions of relinquishing the lead.

Robby cruised to the finish line to secure the victory. Fighting back tears, he accepted his trophy and drove off the track, overwhelmed with emotions.

“This one is for (my dad),” Robby said afterwards. “I just wish he was here tonight to enjoy it.”

The victory was one of five on Sunday as all classes (Sport Mods, A Mods, Hobby Stocks, Stock Cars and Sport Compacts) kicked off the 2019 season.

The first person to claim top honors on the day was Christopher Zenz in Sport Compacts.

After a first-place finish in the only heat, the Max native now found himself in the middle of the main-feature pack. Zenz had missed the shift on the start of the first two laps, and his competitors took advantage.

Desperate to gain some ground, the young racer made a split-second adjustment. Zenz got down low on the track and found a strip of moisture, which gave him some better grip and allowed for sharper turns on the corners.

Sure enough, the change helped Zenz move to the front of the pack, and he stayed there the rest of the way en route to the win.

“I just set sail and didn’t look back,” Zenz said. “I blew up at the end of last year and earlier this year in Mandan, so having the engine last and be just as fast as before just completes it.”

Next to claim top honors was Brad King in Hobby Stocks, who earned his win in nail-biting fashion. Neck and neck with Minot native Caden Appelt on the home stretch with the checkered flag in sight, King went to the outside and hit the gas.

The Alaska, North Dakota, native passed Appelt just in time, claiming first place by a few feet. King enjoyed every second of his trophy presentation, waving the checkered flag around and even jokingly thanking the “Swedish national bikini team” for their help on his car.

After Robby won first in Sport Mods, Austin Daae also got into the winner’s circle in Stock Cars. The Estevan, Saskatchewan, native bested Williston’s Mike Hagen for top honors.

Finally, Newburg native Tom Berry Jr. earned first place in the main feature of A Mods to close out Opening Night. With Sunday’s action in the books, Nodak Speedway continues its season next Sunday with the Magic City Dirt Series at 6 p.m.

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.