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Southwest Speedway opening night doesn't disappoint

Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Mandan's Travis Ulmer, who is originally from Dickinson, races between two competitors during the Wissota Street Stocks on Saturday at the Southwest Speedway. Ulmer won the Wissota Street Stocks finals.

Chances of rain and soggy conditions threatened the fate of the first race of the season at the Southwest Speedway all week.

Despite the high winds and unfavorable cool temperatures, the race went as expected Saturday night and it didn’t disappoint.

“We actually waited until the last minute to see what would happen,” Pure Stocks winner Jeremy Engelhardt said. “We weren’t sure if we were going to come out here or not but we figured if Mandan got cancelled last week, it would be a couple weeks before we would race so we decided to come at the last minute.”

It took awhile for the first feature — the Pure Stocks — to get underway after numerous cautions in the consolations delayed the start as well as several cautions within the feature. However, Deryk Voller kept the lead through 12 laps and began lapping several of his opponents.

But Engelhardt surpassed Voller right before the caution to take the lead and clinch the victory.

“In the heat race, our car didn’t run very good. It sat all winter and we didn’t do a lot to it,” Engelhardt said. “In the feature, it ran really really good. We got a little bit of lap traffic in the end, but I thought it went good.”

For the Thunder 4’s, it wasn’t just a win for Gary Barnett, it was his first win using his new car. After three years of racing, it was time for a change which served him well.

“Just retired it,” Barnett said of his old car. “It felt good, way better than the other one a lot newer, lot more updated. It felt pretty good.”

With five laps to go, Barnett surpassed two cars on the turn but was closely trailed until the end. For the past three years, Barnett has been improving little by little. Now a seasoned driver, he has his eyes on the big prize and hopes to be crowned the champion this season.

“Just do the best I can,” Barnett said. “The first year I raced I got fifth place, this last year I got third place. The goal this year is to get the championship.”

Travis Ulmer took first in the Wissota Street Stocks and as soon as he was cleared, he traded in his street stocks No. 3 for his IMCA Modifieds No. 3 for the next race. However, it took Ulmer and the rest of the Modified racers to get the race started because they were forced to restart twice before a full lap could be completed.

“It breaks your momentum and your train of thought, you start thinking about other things and nobody likes cautions,” Dickinson driver Eric Burwick said with a smile. Burwick went on to win the Modifieds after the 25-lap race was completed in over 30 minutes.

With the overload of cautions, spinouts and wrecks, the 18-year veteran said all he had to do was stay focus and calm in order to finish the lengthy race on top.

“Just try to keep the car under you and not get too anxious and try to do something stupid,” Burwick said.

During the Modifieds, the track started to become unstable and Ulmer exited the race in order to save his car. Although the Mandan driver, originally from Dickinson, is entering his 13th season driving, he is fairly new to Modifieds and still learning the ropes.

“I’ve only been in it, this is my fourth year, so still kind of learning,” Ulmer said. “Track got a little rough there in the end so I just pulled in and wanted to save my equipment.”

Normally, the next move up in classes would be sport mod, but since the Speedway doesn’t offer it here, Ulmer was forced to make the jump to Modifieds. The Wissota Street Stocks and Modified races are back-to-back which gives Ulmer little time to breathe in between.

“It gets frustrating here especially I’m rushed because there’s no class in between like you saw I had to get in, I had to get out,” he said. “It’s a lot different driving style, but I’m getting used to it.”

The next scheduled races at the Southwest Speedway are set for 7 p.m. May 17.

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.