AUTO RACING: Wild night of racing produces near-record speeds

Mike Balcaen was sitting in a lawn chair by his hauler after his late model feature race Friday night at River Cities Speedway. He had a bag of ice on his ankle.

(Photo by Wayne Nelson)

Mike Balcaen was sitting in a lawn chair by his hauler after his late model feature race Friday night at River Cities Speedway. He had a bag of ice on his ankle.

Paramedics and his crew members surrounded him, making sure he was OK after one of the more violent wrecks in recent RCS history.

“I’m all right,” he kept saying.

But it was obvious he was shaken up after the crash, which saw the driver of the familiar No. 10 late model barrel roll four times in Turn 1 before coming to rest on its wheels. The car was demolished.

The scariest moment of the crash occurred when Balcaen’s helmet went flying out of the car.


It took RCS fire and rescue personnel a couple of minutes to get him out of his car and to the track ambulance.

“Worst ever,” said Balcaen of his crash. And the Winnipeg driver has raced late models and sprints for more than 25 years.

He said his vision was affected moments after the crash.

“My vision was bad at first,” he said. “It was like it was 4 in the morning watching channel 13; nothing but snow.”

The crash came on an extremely fast racing surface, one that saw near-record times posted in both the late model and sprint classes.

Balcaen crashed on Lap 7 of the 20-lap event. On Lap 6, he posted his fastest time of 12.074 seconds (89.448 mph).

Bill Mooney, who finished second to Dustin Strand, had the fastest lap time of the night -- 11.774 seconds (91.728 mph). By comparison, most nights the fastest lap during the late model feature is approximately 13 seconds.

Speeds in the sprint class were up, too.


In the first heat, the top five finishers all recorded top speeds of more than 100 mph. Cory Mack posted a time of 9.880 seconds (109.312 mph). That came on the final lap of the heat.

The RCS track record for speed was set during World of Outlaws time trials in 2009 when Jason Meyer posted a time of 9.269 seconds (116.517 mph).

One record did fall Friday night.

That came in the sprint feature, won by Mark Dobmeier. The caution-free race was run in 4 minutes, 57.998 seconds, meaning the average lap time during the feature was 11.919 seconds.

The old 25-lap feature record was set in 2010 when it took 6:00.586 to complete the event, again won by Dobmeier.

The 25-lap record dates back to 2006, when RCS began electronic scoring. The track records since 2006 are courtesy of RCS official Steven Young.

Speeds at RCS likely will be up again Friday as the track prepares for the first of two World of Outlaws shows this season.

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
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