WEST FARGO — A tradition that dates back to the late 1960s continues Sunday at Red River Valley Speedway as the Buffalo Wild Wings Northern Outlaw Sprint Cars make their annual visit to the speedway as a part of the Red River Valley Fair.
Auto racing, featuring sprint cars, was a main attraction at the first Red River Valley Fair back in 1967. Drivers from across the country flocked to the speedway to take on what was then billed as the fastest half-mile track in the upper Midwest.
Sprint cars are still the most popular racing division at the state-of-the-art three-eighths mile oval. Sunday will mark the fourth consecutive year auto racing will wrap up the fair entertainment.
“Before we started working with Nick (Skalicky) and Jake (Bitker) with the speedway, we had brought in other entertainment and it really wasn’t meeting the needs. When we were able to incorporate racing again once they took over the speedway, it has been a huge hit for people attending the fair,” said Red River Valley Fair general manager Bryan Schulz.
Skalicky and the Bitkers, Jake and Sharnel, are in their fourth year operating the speedway, which once sat dormant for three seasons. Schulz says having the speedway running, and operating in a very strong state, is not only a benefit for the fairgrounds but the entire Fargo-Moorhead community.
“Racing has been a huge staple for the Red River Valley Fair and this entire area,” Schulz said. “When I started in 2008, we had other things we had to look at as far as how the fair was being run. By having a third party take it over and run it, it helps us out a lot. It adds a lot to our community, and it’s great we can put it into the hands of the experts, Jake and Nick, in this case, and have a very qualified and upscale racing program.”
Sunday’s races, which begin at 6 p.m., will feature locally grown talent in the sprint car division, who are now nationally recognized drivers. Drivers like Thomas Kennedy from Winnipeg, Manitoba, who won at the famed Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa, last year, or Harwood, N.D., driver Lee Grosz, who is fresh off a big win at Jackson Motorplex in Jackson, Minn. on Friday.
Fargo native and 10-time Northern Outlaw champion Wade Nygaard and Friday’s winner at River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, Austin Pierce, are also fan favorites.
However, a guy to keep an eye on is three-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car feature winner and Grand Forks native, Mark Dobmeier. Dobmeier has two wins with the Northern Outlaws in 2019, but hasn’t won since May 31st. He will be looking to change that Sunday.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to Red River Valley on Sunday,” Dobmeier said. “Last year we had a really strong run going. We were in second and were closing in on the leader and the driver made a little error and clipped the infield tire barrier and ended up tipping over. Hopefully, I can redeem myself on Sunday. It’s a fun little short track. Hopefully there is some moisture in the track so we can get some good speed and these Fargo fans can see some 100 mph sprint car racing.”
Dobmeier is the Northern Outlaws’ all-time wins leader, but has yet to visit victory lane at Red River Valley Speedway.
“It would mean a lot to get a win there. We’ve been on a winless streak here for a couple of weeks and this team is ready to change that here this weekend,” Dobmeier said.
Sunday races will also feature the IMCA sportmods — the largest division at the speedway in terms of car count — and the INEX legends.