Mickelson maneuvers his way to Enduro victory

Festus Mickelson would have been happy with simply finishing Monday’s race, but he did one better by besting a field of 82 drivers to win the North Dakota State Fair Enduro at Nodak Speedway.

Mickelson withstood an obstacle course of idle cars and five red flags to claim his second Enduro victory in four years at Nodak Speedway. The Colfax native dethroned defending champion Casey Stern of Hazen, who finished second.

Even after the checkered flag waved when the 150-lap race reached its 90-minute time limit, Mickelson wasn’t convinced he had won the race. It wasn’t until he was presented the first-place trophy that he knew for sure.

“Honestly, I didn’t think I did win,” Mickelson said. “I thought there were other drivers that were faster than me.”

For much of the race, Nodak Speedway looked more like a maze than a dirt track. Broken-down cars littered the track from turn one. Alan Bertsch of Minot didn’t get 50 feet before his No. 3B vehicle died.

Bertsch’s car was far from the only car that wouldn’t make it to the race’s final lap. Twenty of the 82 cars managed to survive to the end, but many were not so fortunate. Mohall’s Kevin Aho fought hard to remain in the race after getting stuck in the mud on the front straightaway. Aho tried for roughly five minutes to twist and turn his way out of trouble before finally getting free. The joy was short-lived as he spun out on the ensuing turn and slammed into Rugby’s Chase Demers.

“I finally got moving, but it happened to be under a red flag,” Aho said. “I think they penalized me 10 laps for it, but I figured it was a worth-while penalty being I was actually moving and able to get into the pits and get a tire.”

Aho’s No. 41 car stood out from the crowd with a cow figurine on the top of the roof. Aho said his parents owned a dairy farm that had a cutout of a cow on the barn door.

“We quit milking so I figured the tradition of the cow had to live on,” he said.

As the raced continued, more cars piled up on the track. A three-car crash among Brady Ganskop, Chris Meiers and Quentin Heller clogged up the middle of the front straightaway for the second half of the race.

Adding to the challenge was an overzealous amount of water applied to the track during the halfway point of the race. The wet track forced drivers to slow down, causing additional traffic to navigate through.

“I just tried to avoid the traffic,” Mickelson said. “Anytime you can avoid traffic, you’ll be all right. The track wasn’t that muddy. It was greasy, but it wasn’t muddy. If you can avoid the traffic, you can get through it. But if you have six, seven, eight cars that are hardly moving, you ain’t gonna get through them.”

Not everyone was happy about the track. Hazen’s Dustin Wiedrich – driving the 17H with the American flag waving from the back – wasn’t feeling patriotic after a successful night ended with him stuck in the mud near the pit area.

“They over-wet the track big time,” Wiedrich said. “One of the officials was the reason I didn’t get to finish the race. I was trying to get into the pits and he let the guys out of the pits. I was trying to come in and he knew I was trying to come in and they cut me off and I got stuck in the mud. I’m never coming up to Minot to race Enduro ever again.”

Wiedrich didn’t take solace in completing more laps than Levi Roen, who’s No. 999 car flew the Confederate flag.

Racing at Nodak Speedway continues at 7 p.m. tonight with International Motor Contest Association Stock Cars and Modifieds.

Mike Kraft covers racing at Nodak Speedway during the summer. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft23_MDN.