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After exceptional race weekend, River Cities Speedway can think big

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NOSA driver Austin Pierce speeds through a straightaway at Grand Forks' River Cities Speedway during the time trials event on Friday, July 15, 2022.
Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Since 2007, the World of Outlaws have appeared every year at River Cities Speedway, providing area fans some of the best sprint car racing in the country.

Last weekend, the NOSA-IRA Challenge Series wrapped up at The Bullring. The two-day sprint event didn’t have the names associated with the Outlaws, but it was hard to argue it was any less entertaining.

Saturday night’s finale was just as entertaining as Kyle Larson’s thrilling WoO win at The Bullring in 2020, the one in which he stole a win from Logan Schuchart at the flagstand. Many of the 5,000 fans in attendance that night are still talking about Larson’s win.

The NOSA-IRA finale was won by Illinois’ driver Jake Blackhurst, who – from seemingly out of nowhere – passed NOSA drivers Jade Hastings and Thomas Kennedy out of Turn 4 on the final lap for the $5,000 win.

All eyes were on Kennedy and Hastings in the closing laps. Many fans – me included – missed Blackurst’s surge on the final lap.

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The race capped the NOSA-IRA weekend, one in which both features had great finishes.

“I have a 12-hour drive home but it’s worth it,” said Blackhurst in Victory Lane. He later tweeted, “This race track is bad ass. River Cities didn’t disappoint. NOSA is a tough group of guys and great to work with. Glad I could stand on top for the IRA sprints. Can’t wait until next time.”

It’s early, but another NOSA-IRA series next year certainly would be worth it.

It takes a lot of work and money from both sanctioning bodies to pull off such an event. The last time the two race organizations competed against each other was in 2003.

There were 15 IRA drivers who made the trip to Grand Forks. The IRA runs at tracks in Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois, where the sanctioning body is based. One driver made a 15-hour trip one way to race at a track that has become a destination trip for many drivers and fans.

Also, the racing at RCS the past three weeks or so has been some of the best it’s been in a number of years. The racing and track prep have been phenomenal, resulting in some of the closest finishes fans have seen in recent years.

Just spitballing here, but could there be more such events in The Bullring’s future?

Larson, who also is a NASCAR regular, has a passion for dirt racing, may provide an answer to that question.

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With his brother-in-law Brad Sweet, a past World of Outlaws champion, Larson is spearheading a new sprint series next summer.

The High Limit Sprint Car Series will run a 12-race schedule at dirt tracks across the country, with each race targeted for midweek so it won’t compete with similar dirt track series.

Two of the 12 High Limit races will pay $50,000 to win next season. The others will offer $23,000 to the winner.

“Our mission is to help sprint car racing become bigger and better,” said Larson in a statement released by the series. “The High Limit Sprint Car Series will not only create more opportunities for sprint car drivers to race mid-week shows for big money but also give dirt track fans more great racing to attend.”

The race series is expected to be streamed by FloRacing, which carried Saturday night’s final at RCS. The schedule has not yet been set.

It’s a longshot that Larson and Sweet will bring the series to Grand Forks. The payout is huge and it’s still a risk that drivers from outside the area will be willing to commit to midweek racing.

But the Bullring should be considered. It’s highly doubtful any sprint track in the country could top what local race fans have witnessed this season.

And Larson likes RCS.

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After his win in 2020 at RCS, he said this: “This definitely is a great race track. I've always wanted to get the chance to race here because I've heard so many good things about it. And the fans here are amazing. So it was finally nice to get the opportunity to come here."

Let’s hope he returns.

Related Topics: AUTO RACING
Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.


He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.



He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.



Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or wnelson@gfherald.com.
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