By Mike Spieker
GRAND FORKS, N.D. (August 21, 2020) – Dustin Strand, driver of the No. 71 Keewatin Truck Service Millenium SRT, spent a majority of the race in the second spot, but led the final few feet of the 25-lap Performance Auto NLRA Late Model feature at River Cities Speedway in a thrilling battle to the checkers.
The win was Strand’s second consecutive NLRA feature win and the 24th of his career, tying Ricky Weiss for fourth all-time on the series wins list.
Dustin Bluhm and Lance Schill led the field to the drop of the green at the start of the feature, with Schill putting the No. 17 Schill Construction MB Custom up front through the first set of turns.
Strand moved past Corcoran and Hapala to move on to the podium, as he then began to chase down the led duo with five laps complete.
Strand then ducked to the bottom of the quarter-mile bullring to run down Bluhm for the second spot.
The first caution of the race came on the 10th lap of the race, bunching the field back up for a Delaware double-file restart.
The following restart was not to be, however, as a multi-car pileup caused another caution on the front stretch on the ensuing restart.
After the accident was cleaned up, the field came back to green, with Schill getting a great restart, re-building his advantage lost due to the pair of cautions.
For a majority of the remainder of the race, Strand was able to pull even to Schill's inside on the entrances of turns one and three, but was unable to take the lead, as Schill powered off the corners to remain the leader.
The lead duo caught up to the end of the field in the waning laps, allowing Strand a few final opportunities to steal the victory from Schill.
The pair switched lanes with three laps remaining, as Strand began to attack the cushion, with Schill using the bottom to his advantage.
Strand was able to get the run off of turn four on the final lap, nearly slapping the front stretch wall, using lapped traffic as a pick, to steal the victory from Schill by .033 seconds.
Tom Corcoran finished third, with Brad Seng finishing fourth in the No. 12S S&S Transport MB Custom, with Dustin Bluhm completing the top five.
"Before that last caution, I thought we had a pretty good run going," Strand said postrace."Then the yellow came out, and I thought "that's just what we need." But [Lance] was doing a good job the whole race, and the lapped car kind of played into my favor coming to the checkered there. Sometimes it's better to be in the second place driver’s seat than to be leading, cause you can kind of see where they’re going and where the lapped cars are. I knew my only prayer was to go to the top, and the car stuck. It was pretty awesome. It was tight at the line."
Not to be outdone, World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars put on another thriller as Kyle Larson had some last lap magic of his own. The Elk Grove, Calif. native ran second on the final circuit, but dove to the inside of Logan Schuchart coming off of turn four to steal the win coming to the checkers.
WISSOTA NLRA Late Models:
A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 71S-Dustin Strand; 2. 17-Lance Schill; 3. T1-Tom Corcoran; 4. 12S-Brad Seng; 5. 45-Dustin Bluhm; 6. 7P-Joey Pederson; 7. 16S-Jeff Hapala; 8. 10-Kevin Robertson; 9. F9-Brandon Fuller; 10. 9-Steve Anderson; 11. Z17-Zach Naastad; 12. 71-Steffen Snare; 13. 9R-Erik Robertson; 14. C4-Ryan Corbett; 15. 1M-Nicholas Minske; 16. 9A-Blake Anderson; 17. 21-Brady Pengilly; 18. (DNF) 14-Brody Troftgruben; 19. (DNF) 02-Dan Dowling; 20. (DNF) 11-Troy Schill; 21. (DNS) 47-Kreig Kasin
Heat 1 (10 Laps): 1. 45-Dustin Bluhm; 2. T1-Tom Corcoran; 3. 10-Kevin Robertson; 4. Z17-Zach Naastad; 5. 9-Steve Anderson; 6. F9-Brandon Fuller; 7. 9A-Blake Anderson
Heat 2 (10 Laps): 1. 12S-Brad Seng; 2. 71S-Dustin Strand; 3. 7P-Joey Pederson; 4. 14-Brody Troftgruben; 5. 21-Brady Pengilly; 6. 47-Kreig Kasin; 7. (DNF) 1M-Nicholas Minske
Heat 3 (10 Laps): 1. 17-Lance Schill; 2. 16S-Jeff Hapala; 3. C4-Ryan Corbett; 4. 02-Dan Dowling; 5. 9R-Erik Robertson; 6. (DNF) 11-Troy Schill; 7. (DNS) 71-Steffen Snare
River Cities Speedway
2300 Gateway Dr
Grand Forks ND 58203
216 4th St. NW
East Grand Forks, MN 56721