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WATCH: 'Just needed it'; Canadian drivers happy to be racing in Grand Forks again with border now open

Drivers from Canada reflect on two year hiatus from River Cities Speedway with Canadian border closed for pandemic

Ryan Kereluk's Car
The 29 car of Ryan Kereluk sits on pit row ahead of a race at River Cities Speedway
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GRAND FORKS — A night at the racetrack brings roaring engines, good food, and warm summer evenings, but what really makes the experience special is the people. For two years, Grand Forks was without some of its fan favorites.

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, River Cities Speedway didn’t miss a season in 2020 or 2021, but the track was missing some of its most tenured drivers.

“The border was shut down and (we) just had no choice,” said Alberta native Kelly Miller.

Canadian drivers from Winnipeg and the surrounding areas spent the last two summers watching from a distance.

“You just meet so many people and to have basically a wall just drop in front of you and say, 'you guys can’t go there,' it was a struggle," said Manitoba driver Ryan Kereluk.

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Many drivers from north of the border grew up spending weekends at the track in Grand Forks, but in 2020, they had to hit the brakes on their summer plans.

“It makes you appreciate, you know, how tight the Americans and Canadians are when it comes to racing," Miller said.

And for sprint car drivers, it didn’t just mean a break from racing on American tracks, it meant a break from racing altogether.

“You know, in Canada, the closest place to where I live is 1400 miles so that’s a long way to go," said Thomas Kennedy of Winnipeg.

When the green flag waved in the 2022 season, they were back in the lineup and they were welcomed with open arms.

“To see everyone again, it’s like big hugs and just happy and to sit back and tell stories and lie to each other again about how good of racers we are," Kereluk said. "Just needed it after two years.”

Related Topics: AUTO RACING
Cullen Holt is a sports anchor and reporter for WDAY News, while handling play-by-play duties for high school and select college sports.
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