Nelson is the sports editor of the Herald
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Since the World of Outlaws began racing at River Cities Speedway in 2007, rain had never washed out a night of competition by the country's best sprint car drivers. That streak was on the line late Friday night, however. Rain fell after four laps of the WoO 40-lap feature had been completed. However, RCS and WoO officials were still hoping the feature would be completed as this edition of the Herald went to press. RCS and WoO officials pushed the show along as fast as they could to beat the rain. They almost made it.
Donny Schatz has won the past four World of Outlaws features at River Cities Speedway. Streaks like that in any type of racing are hard to achieve. But Schatz has managed to dominate RCS like no other WoO driver since the country's top sprint car circuit first game to The Bullring in 2007. Can Schatz make it five in a row tonight when the Outlaws return to The Bullring? "The deck will be stacked against us," said Schatz. "You know that streak will come to a halt. But we have great guys who give me a great race car every night. And we've had luck go our way.
The World of Outlaws have raced at River Cities Speedway for the past 10 years. In that time, Donny Schatz has established himself as the driver to beat on the high-banked, quarter-mile track where lap times have dipped as low as 9.269 seconds. But he's the driver to beat on the WoO circuit as well, having won eight championships. And the Fargo driver is the defending champion.
Zach Naastad has raced buses at River Cities Speedway since the track began featuring the novelty a few years ago. He finished second to Craig Hauser on Friday night. "I think I've finished second about the last six years," he said. But his night changed in a hurry. A few minutes later, Naastad was in Victory Lane, enjoying his first late model feature win at The Bullring. Naastad led from start to finish in winning the 20-lap event Friday night. He was in command most of the race until Brad Seng moved to within striking distance during the final few laps.
EUGENE, Ore.—Molli Detloff's first outdoor track and field meet of the season went well. The UND junior threw a personal best at the time—202 feet—at a meet in Wilmington, N.C. "That was a good start to the season," said Detloff. And she's hoping she'll have a great ending to the season this week at the NCAA Division I Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Eugene, Ore. Detloff is the first UND track and field athlete to qualify for the national meet in the program's Division I era.
No matter who is in the field, Chris Ranten said it's simply tough to win a sprint feature at River Cities Speedway. But Ranten was tough enough Friday, winning the 25-lap feature at The Bullring—his first career win in Grand Forks. Ranten passed Casey Mack for the lead on a restart with 13 laps to go and then maneuvered through lapped traffic during the final 8 laps for the win. It was Ranten's second career win, the first coming in West Fargo in 2012.
The key to winning sprint features at River Cities Speedway is the ability to handle lapped traffic. And that gets harder when few caution flags are waved. Only one caution was waved Friday night at The Bullring, meaning Austin Pierce had more than the usual amount of lapped traffic to handle. But the Grand Forks driver successfully handled the lapped traffic and picked up the 25-lap win, his first of the season and the third different driver to win a feature in four nights of racing this season at RCS.
Don Mack, one of the River Cities Speedway managing partners, hates to miss a night of racing at The Bullring. However, he has a good excuse for not making tonight's regular show. He's in Anderson, Ind., where he'll be inducted into the Little 500 Hall of Fame, an event that runs in conjunction each year with the Indianapolis 500. "I'd rather be at the races but it's hard not to come down here," said Mack. "It's a big honor for me."
Molli Detloff had no preconceived track and field notions when she came to UND as she wasn't heavily recruited out of Elk River, Minn. "I just wanted to throw far," said the UND junior. "I was a chance (recruit)."
Last week, Thomas Kennedy won the sprint feature at River Cities Speedway. And a win at The Bullring is special, but his triumph came without Mark Dobmeier—the track's top driver—in the field. On Friday night, Kennedy had another chance for a win—with Dobmeier in the field. As expected, the two put on a good show. Kennedy made it two straight wins as he beat Dobmeier in the 25-lap feature. Kennedy and Dobmeier started on the front row, and at the end, the Winnipeg driver edged the driver of the familiar No. 13 sprint by 0.379 seconds.