Nodak HALL OF FAME
2017 marked the start of the 65th season for the Nodak Racing Club. The club is believed to be the longest running un-interrupted race club in the nation. After World War II came to an end, the United States was trying to get back to life as we knew it before the wars. In the 1950s Auto Racing started to grow all over the Country. The club was started by a handful of young racing enthusiasts that enjoyed tinkering on and racing their cars against each other. However doing so on city streets and state highways was frowned upon by the local law enforcement groups, so they started looking for a place where they could race. The group of guys found an open area of land and quickly made it into an impromptu race track, which today is the location of the Nash Finch warehouse on Burdick and 16th Street. Later that year in 1951, they headed east just a little bit, where Jim Hill and Magic City Campus are currently located. The two areas were used to get together and “hot rod” around; they were not under an organized race format on a designated race track at that time.
In 1952 some of the past years racers along with a few new drivers decided they wanted more direction and organization. They made the decision to create a club, The Nodak Racing Club. The Nodak Racing Club was chartered in a local house on Burdick Expressway, the current location of the M&H Gas parking lot. Doug Amundson, Don Berg, Jim Bergo, Bill Delong, Lehre Evenson, Dave Hammer, Claude Hanson, Al Hochsprung, Andy Nikitenko, Gary Olson and Bob Rittgers became the founding fathers and the Charter Members of the club.
With the help of one of its members, C. Morris Anderson, the race club had a place to race. He provided a spot on North Hill just west of the current North Hill Bowling Alley. The first real organized season of Auto Racing in Minot was ready in the summer of 1953 on the North Hill Track. The Markle and Thompson Construction Company helped build the track, and Lehre Evenson became the first President of the race club.
After their incorporation as a group they drew up the first rules of racing for the track, from car and engine specifications to the organized race format itself. The members used old coupes and cars from the 30’s and 40’s. Many of the race cars had oil barrels for seats, and some had wood for wheels and doors, and it was not a surprise to see ropes as seat belts. The club ran a Class A and a Class B division in the early years. The A class being the large 8 cylinder motors, and the Class B being 8 cylinder flat heads or 6 cylinder motors. The first four seasons there was even a C Class for new racers.
The club members decided that to grow the club, they needed a grandstand to put fans in instead of having them watch from the hood of their cars. Thus after one year on the North Hill Track, the club decided to strike a deal with the Fairgrounds for the 1954 season. They had a wood grandstand and horse race track already in existence, and had also held Auto racing at the track previously. Horse racing went away from the fairgrounds and track was then changed to two separate tracks for racing. They had a quarter mile track for regular shows, and a half mile track for large race events, such as the popular races during the State Fair. The State Fair was not designated the North Dakota State Fair until 1965. To this day the Nodak Speedway is still located at the fairgrounds.
This period of time was known as the Golden Years of racing at the speedway, when the auto racing was at its high point in the state. A new second-generation state of the art metal grandstand was built in 1958, and was packed to the rafters every week for the races.
In 1963, after years of coupe style cars, the club adopted the Super Modifieds and the Hobby Class as their two classes of cars. The club making the jump to open wheel race cars as one of the divisions was the largest changes to date for the Nodak Speedway. The Hobby Class consisted of 1950 model cars, and the Super Modified was what looked like a sprint car without wings. These classes remained steady until 1969, when a Super Sprint category was added to the show. The name tag of Super Modifieds went away the following year, leaving the Super Sprint class as the only open wheel class in the club format.
In 1971, the club went to a new generation of car bodies changing the Hobby Stocks to a Modified Stock class. Since that 1971 season, many more classes of race cars have come and gone to what the club runs now. A Late Model division appeared in 1972, which were cars that had been produced in the 60’s and 70’s. In 1978 the club made another huge change by changing to just one track, a 3/8 of a mile track that at the time was advertised as the “fastest track in America.”
As the club continued to grow to become one of the largest race clubs in the Midwest, a lot of different types of classes ran at the track, including Street Stocks, Super Stocks, Mini Stocks, Thunder Trucks, and the debut of the open wheel Modifieds in 1985. The club ran a Wissota Modified and Dakota Modified division, and now in 2015, the classes of Modifieds are IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds. Legend cars were added to the regular program in 2005, which was the last class of cars added to date at the track. The classes going into the season of 2017 are IMCA Modifieds, Sport Mods, Stock Cars, Hobby stocks, and Sport-Compacts.
To this day many drivers will still say that the Nodak Speedway still boasts the best competition level of all tracks in the state. Because of that it is one of the hardest places to win a championship at, or even one feature race. The Board of Directors of the club today are excited for the upcoming season and the continuing tradition of the Nodak Race Club. With car counts normally over 100 cars per night, the annual World of Outlaw sprint car show, and numerous special nights like the annual Dakota Classic Modified and Stock car tour, the club races into the future. A brand new third-generation state of the art grandstand is the new crown jewel of the fairgrounds. It has more available seating by far over the previous two grandstands, and is also a large bonus as the race club heads into the next 65 years of racing. – Larry McFall, Nodak Hall of Fame Inductee