When Joey Pederson was 15 years old, he won his first feature race -- that coming in Hallock, Minn.
“I’ll never forget that experience,” said Pederson.
Fast forward roughly 30 years and there was another 15-year-old Pederson who captured his first feature win -- a victory that was just as memorable as the one that came at the Kittson County Speedway three decades ago.
Tucker Pederson, Joey’s 15-year-old son, won the streets feature at River Cities Speedway last week.
And Tucker never will forget taking the checkered flag last weekend at The Bullring.
“It was very special,” said Tucker, “especially coming on my home track. All my fans were there. My great-grandma, who turned 90 last week, was there. It really did mean a lot to me.”
A father-son combination winning features years apart is not an anomaly in racing. It happens with regularity.
But the Pederson family may have bragging rights when it comes to local dirt track racing.
This season, Joey Pederson, son Tucker and daughter Kelsi all have won features at RCS -- a trifecta that certainly doesn’t happen very often -- if at all -- at dirt tracks across the country.
Joey -- one of the top drivers in the Upper Midwest -- won the late model feature on opening night at RCS. Kelsi captured a lightning sprints feature June 21 at RCS followed by Tucker’s win in the streets feature last week.
Maintaining three race car operations is time consuming and demanding. But Joey said the rewards are worth it, having success of his own and watching Kelsi and Tucker develop into contenders in their respective classes.
“Every year, we approach it the same way,” said Joey. “We regroup and try to get better equipment, evolve and win. It’s been a lot of fun for all three of us to get a win in Grand Forks and be competitive.
“Most nights, no matter where we’re at, it’s been a lot of fun. Probably, the most fun for me is watching the kids evolve as drivers and me kind of being in that mentorship role.
“Like any parent, no matter what sport it is -- basketball, football, whatever -- you’re kind of living your youth through your kids.
“And it’s even more special for me that I can kind of play both sides of that, not only living my youth through them and watching them develop but also still being active in the seat myself.”
Three different classes
Joey and Tucker race weekly at RCS, as the streets and late models comprise two of the four classes at The Bullring.
Kelsi, 17, drives in the lightning sprint class, which races occasionally at RCS and most weeks at the Greenbush Race Park..
Kelsi, who is in her fourth year of racing lightning sprints, has future aspirations.
“Eventually, I’d like to race a 410 sprint,” said said. “I’d do it tomorrow if it was an option but it’s a lot of money and you need a lot of support to do that.”
Winning at RCS was special for Kelsi.
“River Cities by far is my favorite track,” she said. “I grew up there, watching the races every week. So, to be successful there means a lot.”
It’s not as nerve-wracking for a 17-year-old to strap into a race car as one might think.
“I do get nervous to an extent,” she said. “But once I get strapped into the car, I just know that everything is OK. You just need to focus on what you’re doing and everything will be OK.”
Racing occupies the summer for Kesli and she hopes that will continue for years.
“Of course, I never want to stop but there comes a time when you’re going to have to stop, whether it’s financial or age. But I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.”
Youth vs. experience
It’s tough winning any feature -- regardless of division -- at RCS.
Tucker, who still doesn’t have a driver’s license, had to hold off a handful of experience drivers who have had their fair share of stops in Victory Lane.
“It definitely was very challenging,” said Tucker of last week’s win. “Every caution flag, I’d look at my dad and he was telling me where to run on the track.
“I knew those guys were right on my tail the entire time. I could see their shadows in Turns 3 and 4 and I knew they were there.
“I was super nervous during those caution flags. It’s hard to keep that mentality of hitting your lines and not messing up.”
Tucker’s main goal this season was to win a feature.
“For sure, that was my biggest goal,” he said. “And now that we’ve done that, I’m hoping to expand off of that.”
And his long-term goal resembles the one held by his dad years ago.
“I’d like to make it to the late models someday,” said Tucker. “But I guess we’ll have to see how that goes.”
Whether Joey is still racing when -- or if -- Tucker decides to move up to the late model division remains to be seen.
For now, racing remains a passion for the Pedersons as Julie Pederson, Kelsi’s and Tucker’s mom, also spent a few seasons racing stock cars.
Joey has been asked a lot how long he’ll continue to drive the familiar No. 7P late model.
“This is my 30th year and I’ve been asked a lot about how long I’ll continue to race,” said Joey. “I’ve probably been asked that even more now that the kids are coming up and being successful.
“But I continue to say, as I always have, that when I am no longer competitive or able to have a shot at winning every night, that probably will be it for me.
“I don’t feel I’m there yet. I think we’re still on track and still able to win.”
And that also holds true for Kelsi and Tucker.