Schatz pulls of dramatic win to cap Nodak’s opening night

It took two rainouts and nearly six hours of racing for the first real drama of 2013 at Nodak Speedway.

For those in attendance Sunday, it was worth the wait.

Minot native Donny Schatz closed a huge gap on Bismarck’s Jeremy Keller in the Late Models feature race, finally passing Keller on the final turn as the leading driver hesitated behind lapped traffic. Schatz’s win was the final of six feature races on Nodak’s opening night.

“I was hoping lap traffic would come in,” said Schatz, the five-time points champion of the World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series. “You have to have that. Guys don’t make mistakes on their own.

“He had the opportunity to go around ’em and he didn’t, he stayed on the bottom. I just went around them. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Keller quickly took the lead and easily outpaced the field for much of the race. Schatz moved into second place on the ninth lap of the 20-lap race, but Keller led by more than half of a straightaway.

Schatz shaved a bit off the lead heading into the final few laps and maneuvered better around the lapped cars to earn the victory.

“There’s nothing better than being able to come home and race and have a good time and do some things for fun,” said Schatz, who travels to Lawrenceburg, Ind., to rejoin the WOO Series today. “You take it for granted every day. Everything gets pretty serious when you do it for a living, but to come out here and have fun means a lot.”

Minot natives Steven Pfeifer, Wayne Johnson and Allen Kent finished third through fifth, respectively, in the Late Models event.

Although Pfeifer was locked in a battle with Johnson for third, he appreciated the opportunity to share the track with Schatz and Keller – an experienced Late Models driver.

“Of course you wanna race with them guys,” Pfeifer said. “That’s something to put on your mantle.”

Pfeifer and Marlyn Seidler battled throughout the first half of the IMCA Modifieds feature, with Pfeifer overtaking Seidler on the 13th lap.

“The first time I tried to sneak down there (Seidler) kind of edged down and cut off my line a little bit,” Pfeifer said. “I just had to not get overexcited and pick my spot. There were laps left.”

Pfeifer maintained his lead for the rest of the 25-lap race, but received a challenge from Williston’s John Flory. Flory used a quick restart with 10 laps remaining to overtake Seidler for second place and then held that position the rest of the way. Bismarck’s Jerad Thelen finished third, followed by Travis Hagen and Seidler.

After five yellow flags mucked up the beginning of the IMCA Stock Cars feature, Kelly Henderson held off a late push from fellow Minot native Nathan Burke to earn the win. Henderson led wire to wire but failed to put space between his car and Burke’s.

Burke attempted one final pass on the high side of the final turn, but settled for second. Bob Fuegmann finished third and Randy Conway took fourth.

Minot’s Robby Rosselli led for the opening six laps of the IMCA Sport Modifieds feature, but wrecked and couldn’t continue. Fellow Minoter Jordan Huettl took the lead on the restart and wasn’t challenged the rest of the way.

Burke and Henderson finished second and third, respectively, well ahead of the rest of the field.

With fresh Relay for Life logos painted on their cars, Brandon and Brock Beeter dominated the IMCA Hobby Stocks feature.

The brothers from Minot – who added the insignias after their mother, Bonnie, passed away from cancer this winter – occupied the top two spots for nearly the entire race.

Brock started in the pole position and briefly lost his lead in the first lap to Keith Mattox, but regained the top spot on the third lap.

Brandon stayed attached to Brock’s fender through the first half of the race and executed an inside pass on turn one of the seventh lap to take the lead. Brandon took the checkered flag after a solid restart with five laps remaining. Brock Beeter finished second and Minot’s Dana Brandt took third.

Bismarck’s Paul Huettl won the INEX Legends feature by edging out Drew Papke. The two drivers were part of a tight pack of four that pulled away after a restart with five laps remaining. Papke finished second and Donavin Wiest took third.