Aaron Turnbull wins prestigious race in North Dakota

Aaron Turnbull says his latest win in late model racing is the biggest he has had in that class, “by several miles.”

Turnbull won the John Seitz Memorial Championship race Saturday night at Rivers City Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D. It was a 92-lap feature that carried a top prize of $9,200, and took 55 minutes and 43 seconds to complete.

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Turnbull finished a little more than a second ahead of A.J. Diemel of Elk Mound, Wisc. Don Shaw of Ham Lake, Minn., was third.

“I knew we could do it, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Turnbull told the Mercury. “There was some huge competition in there.”

Turnbull won his heat race on Friday night to punch his ticket for Saturday’s feature. The first place finish also put him into the pole dash, where he finished fifth, which determined where he would be on the starting grid.

Turnbull took the lead for the first time on the 18th lap.

“We had a restart, and I was actually in third, got a good run through the first corner, and got up to the lead, and led for 15 laps,” said Turnbull. “Then I got passed, so I was second at the break.”

The break came after 42 laps so that the drivers could refuel their vehicles for the remaining 50 laps. They couldn’t change tires or fix any damage on the vehicle, or else they would get shuffled to the back of the 26-car field.

“After the fuel stop, I tried to get the lead back, and it took a few laps, but I got back up there and held onto it after that.”

He said he had some good battles with Shane Edginton of Winnipeg early on; Edginton finished fourth. Turnbull is also happy to keep the championship in Canada, as it was won by Ricky Weiss of Headingly, Man., a year ago.

A couple of adjustments were made before the feature race that Turnbull said paid off. And he found a good line three or four laps into the feature that he said nobody else found.

“We ran that for three-quarters of the race, and then we had two cautions left with five laps to go, so it got everybody back on my back bumper, which I didn’t really like. I wasn’t sure exactly what lane to run, but my buddy … was giving me signals and telling me I should probably go high because the guy behind me was running high, and I did that and it felt better,” said Turnbull.

This was among the longest races he has been part of. He recalls being part of a 100-lap feature at the Estevan Motor Speedway in 2005 that was billed as a celebration of Saskatchewan’s 100th birthday. But most feature races are 30-40 laps, with a few 50-lap races in the mix.

The level of competition at the Seitz Memorial race was as good as it gets for Wissota Late Models, he said. The other drivers were the best of the best from Wisconsin, Minnesota and the Dakotas. The competitors who rounded out the top five have won the race before, and other big races as well.

Three years ago, Turnbull qualified for the feature of the Seitz Memorial, but suffered a flat tire late in the feature. Then last year he ran into fuel pump issues and couldn’t finish the race.

The John Seitz Memorial marked the end of three nights of racing for late models in Grand Forks. Turnbull encountered fuel issues again on Thursday night, and wound up 14th.

“We got it running good for Friday night, and fine-tuned it a little bit,” said Turnbull.

The $9,200 will be used to help cover a large bill for a motor that he sustained a few weeks ago, and to help get the car ready for next year.

© Copyright Estevan Mercury

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