Dustin Strand, driver of the No. 71 Q&Z Plumbing & Heating Millenium SRT, won his first NLRA feature of the season Sunday evening at the River Cities Speedway during the waning hours of the Greater Grand Forks Fair. The win is Strand's 19th with the series, as the three-time and defending series champion is now one win away from becoming the fifth member of the series twenty win club.
Strand and Mike Balcaen, and his No. 10 Enns Brothers Black Diamond, shared the front row at the start of the race.
Strand used his outside starting position to his advantage, as he sailed around the cushion of the Bullring to lead at the drop of the green.
Two circuits were completed before the events first caution for Nick Minske, as he spun the Viking Track Services No. 1M off turn one.
This was a sign of things to come as the race was plaged with caution periods, a rarety in recent history, as there had not been a caution at River Cities in a late model feature since May 31st.
On each restart in the first half of the 25 lap affair, fourth place starting, and current series point leader, Shane Edginton, was able to show Strand the nose of his No. 4 Performance Auto victory.
Strand, however, would pull away down the backstretch, and into turns three and four.
Some early casualties during the first half of the race included a returning Steffen Snare, as his No. 71S Sportsman's Lodge Bloomquist made heavy contact with the front stretch wall.
Rookie Blake Anderson's night ended after contact in turn three damaged the nose of the No. 9 Spicer Trucking MB Custom. Dan Dowling looked to have a mechanical failure in his No. 2D Knickerbocker Liquor Locker GRT, as he was making his first start with the club since 2012.
After Dowling's exit, Balcaen, Cole Schill, and Brad Seng diced back and forth for the final spot on the podium, as they went three wide on several occasions during the mid point of the race.
The event's sixth caution eventually turned into a red due to a pileup in turns one and two that blocked the track.
Brandon Fuller's Brokern Drum No. F9, Troy Schill's No. 11 Todd's Electric Black Diamond, Shane Holden's No. 11JR JMS Motorsports Rocket, and Jesse Teunis's No. 70 Houde's Excavating MasterSbilt, all came away with a decent amount of damage, while Bryce Reimer in his No. 345, and Jeff Hapala in his No. 16S City Parcel Delivery MasterSbilt, were able to avoid inclusion in the wreck by driving over the banking. All but Teunis were able to continue the race.
After the clean up was completed, the longest green flag period of the race commenced, as Strand and Edginton remained one and two, while Seng, Cole Schill, and Mike Balcaen continued to battle for third.
As Strand began to see the back of the field, one final caution saved him from having to work traffic, as he lead the final four laps to secure the victory.
After the race Strand said, "I knew Shane [Edginton,] Brad [Seng,] and [Mike] Balcaen were right behind me there, and I didn't want to see all those yellows. We got to about five to go, and I was kinda hoping we were gonna finish the deal off, but, then we caught lapped cars with three to go, then I was thinking, yeah, we might need a yellow, so I was kinda thankful for that one."
About his restarts, Strand said, "The track was kinda tricky, it was really hard and slippery in places, and then there was a lot of traction in other places, so if you missed it just a little bit, you'd really lose a lot of speed, but if you hit it just right, you could really carry your momentum. I had my car maybe just a tick snug in the center, so if I missed it, it was shoving the nose a little, but, all in all, it was a good night."
Strand was followed by Shane Edginton in second, while Brad Seng got the best of the battle with Mike Balcaen and Cole Schill, as he crossed the line in third in the No. 12S S&S Transport MB Custom.
Cole Schill was fourth in the No. 44 Mid Ag Dispatch MB Custom, with Balcaen rounding out the top five.
Tom Corcoran was sixth in the No. T1 Greg's Lawn Care MB Custom, with Brody Troftgruben seventh in the No. 14 K&E Construction Rocket, and Ryan Kereluk eight in the No. 29K Dirty Bodies by RJK Victory.
Rookie Cole Babcock came home ninth in the No. 2* Casselton Lumber Pierce, while also taking home hard charger honors after starting 16th in just his fourth race with the series. Troy Schill battled back from the pileup to round out the top ten.
NLRA series report.
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