When Estevan’s Aaron Turnbull won the John Seitz Memorial Race at Rivers Cities Speedway in Grand Forks, N.D., in 2019, he said it was his biggest win while driving a late model race car, by a mile.
Not only did he win the race again this year, he’s the first to do it in back to back years.
Turnbull captured the prestigious 92-lap race on Saturday night, and pocketed US$9,200 for his efforts.
“This seems like a dream. I can’t believe it actually happened,” he told the Mercury. “It was one thing to win it once. I can’t believe we did it twice.”
There are other drivers who have won the Seitz twice, but nobody has gone back to back.
“If anybody thought last year was a fluke, I guess we backed it up now, so that was pretty sweet,” he said.
About 50 late model drivers were vying to get into the 92-lap feature. They came from throughout the northern mid-west U.S. Normally there would be a healthy contingent of Canadian drivers, but due to the closure of the Canada-U.S. border to non-essential traffic, Turnbull was the only racer from Canada.
He finished ahead of two Wisconsin drivers: A.J. Diemel of Elk Mound and Jesse Glenz of Cadott.
The 92-lap feature was the culmination of three days of racing. Thursday was the prelude, in which he finished second in his qualifying race, and then second in the feature.
Friday was the qualifying night for the memorial race. Turnbull finished second in his qualifying heat again, so he advanced to Saturday’s final, and didn’t have to tempt fate with the last chance races.
But he still had some racing before the feature. He won the pole dash Friday night, making a pass coming out of the final turn to take the lead, and claim the inside front row position for Saturday’s feature.
And then he was entered in Saturday’s past champions race, where he finished fourth.
“It was a good little tune-up just to feel things out and just to make sure everything’s running well. I didn’t really get too concerned about it. Once I fell into line there in fourth, I wasn’t about to make too many passes with the way the track was,” said Turnbull.
As for the 92-lap feature, Turnbull started on the pole and had zero intention of taking the lead right away. He fell back into third and bided his time.
A break 32 laps into the race allowed him and the rest of the field to refuel. He moved into second a couple of laps later, and remained there for about 30 more laps.
“We had a caution on around lap 62, and just before that, I found a really good line, which is pretty much the line that won me the race in 2019. So I started to run that, and I was thinking in my head I need to get ahead of AJ before he finds this line, and then it gets really tough to get by him.”
Turnbull took the lead on the restart, and while the challengers came close, they never passed him for the lead.
“When I took the lead, it was a little earlier than I wanted to. I’d rather stay in second a little longer, because you can see what’s going on a little better and move around and gage off the guy in front of you,” he said.
Turnbull had crossed the Canada-U.S. border for a commercial trip and had things he had to do for his business. Then he went to Grand Forks for the racing weekend and returned to Canada.
Since returning from North Dakota, he’s been self-isolating, which he’ll continue to do for the next week and a half. He can still run his business, Future Signs, and he can delegate tasks to his employees.