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A picture-perfect opening night

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Only one question rippled through the crowd of more than 2,500 racing enthusiasts about new fair/track manager John Pitz during Friday nights season debut.

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What do you do for an encore?

A picture-perfect evening saw a solid fan base make their way to the track, and more than 140 cars participated in the six classes housed at the half-mile oval, as Friday night became Race Night once again at the Red River Valley Speedway.

You couldnt ask for much better, Pitz said of the season opener. It was perfect weather for April. We had a record number of cars with 144 drivers there, so that made for a really good opening night.

The track had been softened by rain throughout the middle of the week, but the third of an inch that fell between Tuesday night and Wednesday was about perfect for softening up the clay. Crews tilled the dirt early Friday, and by 7 p.m. on Friday night, the drivers were running laps around the track to pack it down.

What followed was about five hours of steady racing, with a couple of spinouts, rollovers and run-ins that slowed things down from time to time. But, as one driver said, Its our first night, too.

The entire event lasted about five hours, 90 minutes longer than Pitz and other track workers had hoped. However, much of the time trouble came before the racing even began, as many drivers used Fridays sign-up to get licensed for the Wissota season.

We had a lot of people getting their memberships, so next week well be able to just check them off as they check in, Pitz said. That should speed things up quite a bit.

It was also a premier night for the tracks new RACEceiver radio system, which is a scanner that allows drivers to hear instructions from the Speedways track manager or flag man. Pitz said the device worked well after a couple of spinouts and rollovers, making lining up after the incidents a little bit easier.

It was a breeze for them to get back into formation. They were able to line it up right away, he said. I thought it worked very well.

Friday night proved to be a debut for more than just the equipment and new manager. Several new drivers made their way to the Fastest Track in the Upper Midwest for their first go at a season title. That included some drivers in the five existing classes that returned to the Speedway, and drivers in the new Late Models category, which replaced the 360 Sprints this year.

Included in the new faces were Tim Anderson, Steve Pfeifer and Chris Tuchscherer, all formerly of Minot. Pfeifer, now of West Fargo and a longtime Wissota Modified driver, said he was looking forward to a season of stiff competition with the large number of cars signed up to compete in West Fargo.

Theres twice as much anticipation for me tonight, he said before racing Friday in his No. 11 car. Were competing on a new track, its our first night here, and its a totally new season. So its different. Its exciting.

Tuchscherer, who runs in the No. 73t Midwest Mod, said that though this was his fifth season of racing, it felt like his first night all over again.

You just dont know whats going to happen, he said. We were kind of used to our old crowd in Minot. Now, we have to learn about a whole new group of drivers. But its great to have a partner like Steve to get you going. Were just excited to compete on a track with this many drivers. Its a fast track, so were ready to go.

Pfeifer showed some signs of his previous success in western North Dakota, finishing second in Heat 2 for the Modifieds. He was running in the top five of the A Main Feature when he spun out and was tagged for the yellow flag, sending him to the back of the pack. The spinout left him with a damaged front tire, so he never really recovered.

Tuchscherer, meanwhile, had a decent night considering he battled steering problems. He qualified for the B-Main feature, and just missed finishing high enough to move his car into the A-Main.

If we can stick with the top cars, well be feeling all right, Anderson, who also lives in West Fargo now, said. This is the first track to get things started, so we havent had a lot of time to work on the cars and get things squared away. So the first couple of races are going to be a learning experience.

As for Friday nights big winners, Fargos Jeff Wildung edged Mike Balcaen of Winnipeg to take the first checkered flag in the Late Models return to the Red River Valley Speedway, capping off the racing action.

A familiar face took the first A-Main Feature, the Midwest Mods, as Hawleys Troy Burnside took first overall. Burnside finished 12th in the standings last year.

Robbie Jewett of Rogers, Minn., took first in the Street Stocks, holding off Horaces Royce Jawaski. Last years champ, Duffy Fromeke, finished fifth.

In the Mod-Fours, Blake Jegtvig of Hawley had the top car of the night, winning his heat and the Feature. He edged last years champ, Matt Greseth of Harwood.

The Super Stocks race went to Enderlins John Nord. He was strong enough to edge Fargos Barry Robertson and Wahpetons Bill Wadeson for the trophy. Nord finished fifth in last years points race. Last years points champion, Todd Carter, won the B-Main feature.

And in the Wissota Modifieds, Greg Pfaff of Fingal beat Blake Jegtvig to the line for first. Last years champ, Chad Ohnstad of Harwood, won his heat but had trouble in the feature, and finished the race with a deflated rear tire. Last years points runner-up, Dev Malmov, was third in the feature.

For complete official results and standings, visit the Red River Valley Speedway online at www.redrivervalleyspeedway.com.

Racing will continue this Friday with Extreme Racing set to start once again at 7:30 p.m. at the track.

We hope we have good weather and another good turnout, Pitz said. Wed like the crowd to tell their friends, and bring them out. Were making it a better show each week.

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