Drivers were eager to get the racing season underway at Off Road Speedway on Saturday night — so eager that three of the five feature races didn’t complete a lap before needing a restart.
Other evidence included a total of 90 cars on hand to participate in the action in front of a large crowd.
The racing didn’t disappoint — with several late lead changes determining opening night winners.
The best race of the night may have been the IMCA SportMods feature where Norfolk’s Colby Langenberg overcame a starting assignment on the inside of the fourth row in the 15-car field and a significant lead by race leaders Jeremy Gnat of Battle Creek and Robbie Thome of Spalding before securing the win on the final lap of the 20-lap event.
“I kind of got caught up with a couple guys that were running side by side, so I couldn’t go anywhere,” Langenberg said. “Finally, they separated, and I was able to shoot through. I got to third, but the leaders were a long ways out there, so I knew I was going to need a caution.”
That caution — the only one that occurred other than an initial restart — gave Langenberg the chance he needed with just three laps left.
“With about five to go, I could tell I was faster than those guys and was starting to reel them in, but I wasn’t going to have enough time to catch them. Then I got the caution,” he said. “They were protecting the bottom not to get passed, so my only chance was to go around them on the top — and it worked.”
As Langenberg passed Gnat on the outside of the final lap for the win, Thome tried unsuccessfully to pass on the inside. Seizing an opportunity, Norfolk’s Kyle Prauner — who had started in the back row and steadily worked his way through the field behind Langenberg — squeezed through the group to grab second place ahead of Gnat, who finished third.
“We went to Columbus on Thursday and fought a few bugs with this new car; we got fifth, but it wasn’t great,” Langenberg said. “Tonight, with all the flood waters, we found out we had a fuel jug that had some water in it, so we had to drain all 22 gallons out of the car’s tank just before the heat race.”
Langenberg said the early-season win makes all the work, including the offseason work, worthwhile.
“You work on your car and try to get it ready, then hopefully everything you’ve done and everything you’ve learned over the offseason works,” he said. “It’s just a good way to start the year off.”
In the IMCA Stock Cars feature, Travis Barker of Sioux City pulled alongside race leader Ron Pettitt of Norfolk coming out of turn two. Then, coming out of the backstretch, he took the lead entering turn three and held off challenges by both Pettitt and Shawn Primrose of Norfolk during the final six laps to win the feature.
Primrose finished in second place, with Pettitt taking third.
In the IMCA Late Models feature, Wakefield’s Travis Birkley went wire-to-wire for the win, with Chase Osborne of Norfolk and Jim Johnson of Plainview taking second and third place, respectively.
Neligh’s Cameron Wilkinson pursued Columbus driver Sal Hernandez for 10 laps of the IMCA Hobby Stocks feature before taking the lead and holding it. But along the way, there were two cautions that forced restarts, which kept not only Hernandez but also Norfolk’s Wyatt Lehman close during the race’s final five laps.
Lehman ultimately pulled ahead of Hernandez with two laps remaining in the battle for second place behind Wilkinson.
Pierce’s Ramsey Meyer — the defending National Champion in the IMCA Sport Compacts division — won the Sport Compacts feature, with Terry Tritt of York taking second and Parker Vollbrecht of Stanton finishing third.
Off Road Speedway will host the Tri-State Late Models on Saturday, and will also unveil the first Cruiser Class event, along with a regular schedule of racing.