By Mike Spieker
GRAND FORKS, ND (June 30) - The NLRA Late Models brought in a stout field of 25 cars as they geared up for twin 25-lap features, which included the June 16th make-up race.
For Dustin Strand, the night couldn’t have gone any better.
The driver out of Grand Forks swept both features in dominating fashion. In doing so, Strand has established a healthy points lead atop the NLRA standings.
“This is huge,” said Strand, the defending River Cities Speedway track champion. “To get a good start with the NLRA is everything. If you start out with a couple DNF’s, your chasing the whole season just to catch up. Granted, it could happen later on, but it’s always great to start out good that’s for sure.”
In the first Performance Auto feature, Strand took the lead from Joey Pederson on lap two before having to hold off Donny Schatz in the closing stages. Schatz came from 10th to second, but ran out of time to catch Strand.
Fourteenth place starter, Bill Mooney, rounded out the podium with an impressive drive through the field.
The race was marred by several multi-car incidents, including a seven car pile up on lap two. The red flag was also displayed in the first half of the event after Kevin Robertson barrel-rolled his No. 10 machine in turn one. Robertson was okay and had his machine repaired for the second feature.
With the lineup already determined for the second feature by the June 16th heat races, Dustin Strand and Joey Pederson led the field to the green once again.
Strand used the low groove to take the lead on lap one, as Zach Naastad and Pederson battled for second. As the field entered lapped traffic, Ricky Weiss and Schatz began moving their way forward, and found themselves running second and third at the halfway point.
Meanwhile, Strand had a full straightaway lead, but Schatz quickly reeled in the No. 71. A caution with three laps to go put the eight-time and defending World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series champion on the back bumper of Strand.
On the restart, Strand protected the bottom, which forced Schatz to run the less preferred high groove. Schatz remained within striking distance of Strand, but wasn’t able to mount a serious charge as Strand took his second checkered flag of the night. Schatz, Weiss, Brad Seng, and Mooney rounded out the top five.
“The track was really good tonight,” said Strand in RydellCars.com Victory Lane. “For this second feature, it was awesome. It was smooth and you could race top or bottom. It was really fun.”
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