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Been there, done that

James SanGrait knew what to do seconds after his No. 52 late model rolled in front of the grandstand at River Cities Speedway last week. Unfortunately, he'd been there before. "I shut off all the switches and thought to myself, 'Here I am again,'...

James SanGrait knew what to do seconds after his No. 52 late model rolled in front of the grandstand at River Cities Speedway last week.

Unfortunately, he'd been there before.

"I shut off all the switches and thought to myself, 'Here I am again,' " SanGrait said as the Park River, N.D., driver waited for RCS rescue personnel to flip his overturned car.

Rollovers aren't common in late models or modifieds, two divisions SanGrait has competed in during his 15-year racing career.

But SanGrait has defied those odds by rolling cars three times -- including one last year that qualified as perhaps the nastiest wreck of the season at RCS.

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During a Midwest modifieds feature a year ago, SanGrait's car violently rolled coming out of Turn 2. He walked away from the wreck, but he felt the effects of it for a while.

"I had to roll out of bed for three weeks after that crash," SanGrait said. "There was something going on inside of me."

SanGrait hopes his bad luck finally is behind him as he'll break out another late model during tonight's RCS program, which will feature the track's annual Hall of Fame induction ceremonies.

SanGrait's latest wreck came during the 20-lap late model feature.

"It wasn't anyone's fault," SanGrait said. "This crash didn't feel like much. My neck was a little sore. The bad part of it was that I was really excited before the race because that car was fast for a change.

"Now, the car is worth almost nothing."

A crash can be physically hard on a driver. But all crashes hurt a driver's pocketbook.

SanGrait, an aggressive driver who won a feature last year, races on a small budget -- one that can't afford an expensive night at the track.

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If his latest car wrecks, SanGrait said it could be the end of his racing career.

"We're putting everything we possibly can into racing without squeezing our personal lives," SanGrait said. "And we're barely getting to the track. We have one spare tire. That's ridiculous. There is no room for guys like us anymore.

"The guys who are spending all the money and getting top-three finishes, they're just losing money on a larger scale than I am."

SanGrait's first wreck came in the late 1990s, a crash that was painful and costly.

"When I hit the wall, I broke my wrist," SanGrait said. "When I came back to the track, about a quarter of the drivers there all had the same kind of scar I had on my wrist."

With the help of friends and sponsors, SanGrait put together a car for the rest of the season.

How long he'll continue to race, however, is another question.

"We're going to give it our all," SanGrait said. "I'd like to close out my career with a couple of good runs. It's a hard game, especially for broke people."

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Three to be inducted

The RCS Hall of Fame will grow by three tonight.

The new inductees are Duaine Sanden, the late John Seitz and the late Rick Youngberg.

Sanden, who has been in radio broadcasting since the 1950s, spent many seasons helping promote races in Grand Forks.

Seitz raced late models and super stocks at RCS. The Bemidji driver had a big following and the track holds the John Seitz Memorial Late Model Invitational in early September, a two-day event at RCS that attracts the top drivers in the Upper Midwest.

Youngberg was a car owner for a number of years. One of his drivers was Donnie Spieker.

Nelson reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1268; (800) 477-6572, ext. 268; or send e-mail to wnelson@gfherald.com .

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