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Kenmare teenagers slipping and sliding around the race track

While most sports fans in the fall are thinking about football and volleyball in North Dakota, four young men from Kenmare have their minds on another sport, auto racing.

9/15/15 (Tue)

Flying down the straightaway... The North Dakota State Fairgrounds grandstands are a blur as Kenmare High School student Austin Nelson flies around the track at the Motor Magic Enduro race in Minot, Sept. 6. Nelson is one of four Kenmare teenagers racing Enduro this season.

By Marvin Baker

While most sports fans in the fall are thinking about football and volleyball in North Dakota, four young men from Kenmare have their minds on another sport, auto racing.

Having four people from a small community involved in Enduro auto racing is interesting enough, but what really makes it a game changer is that three of the four are Kenmare High School students, one graduated last spring and all four participated in the annual Motor Magic Enduro race in Minot over the Labor Day weekend.

Hunter Harris, who turns 19 Sept. 23, is actually in his second year of Enduro. He is the only one of the four who is out of high school. Dalton Petersen is a Kenmare High School senior. Austin Nelson and Cody St. Croix are juniors at KHS.

Petersen describes Enduro racing as a lot of slipping and sliding around with a goal of winning the race on a 3/8-mile or 1/4-mile track.

“Cody (St. Croix) got me involved,” Harris said. “I received a lot of help from the St. Croixs to make this happen.”

Harris, who drives a 1973 Chevrolet Chevelle, said he had a couple of buddies racing for a while, got a car last summer and gave it a try.

It must be going well for Harris because he completed 116 of 120 laps and turned in a 12th place finish out of 55 Motor Magic racers.

“I plan to keep doing it as long as my car hold up,” Harris said. “It’s just a hobby I started getting into.”

Harris admits his car, with a 350-cubic-inch small block engine, gets beat up a lot, but he’s going to beef it up over the winter. He plans to pull the motor and add some horsepower for next year’s circuit.

Harris, and St. Croix, who finished 13th in the same race, narrowly missed a prize, but Nelson was in the money, earning $325 for his sixth-place finish.

Nelson said he plans to stick with Enduro for a while, at least as long as he has time.

In fact, on Sunday, Nelson would have finished first in the Turtle Mountain Speedway Enduro race in Bottineau, but blew a tire with 10 laps remaining. He completed the race on one rim and still finished in second place.

Nelson doesn’t really have a magic plan for his success, rather he likes to tinker with cars all the time and the group of guys generally work on each others cars.

In addition, he said it is the “cheapest” auto racing to get into so it makes sense economically to be racing Enduro.

The dirt track is watered down and is sloppy and muddy when the race begins, but it gets better as the mud packs, according to Nelson.

His 1984, Chevrolet Caprice will run at speeds of 50 to 75 miles per hour, but he said the important thing is to complete the most laps rather than have the fastest time. The drivers who can stay out of pit road often finish at the top of the heap.

St. Croix, who finished 13th at Motor Magic, has been interested in racing a long time. He said his dad raced stock car and modified in the 1990s and he saw the excitement then.

St. Croix, who drives a 1978 Chevrolet Nova, said he will race Enduro one more year, then plans to move up to stock car racing.

“It’s a lot different watching it than racing,” St. Croix said. “Enduro racing takes a long time and you try to stay out of trouble.”

Like Harris and Nelson, St. Croix said the guys work on each others cars, in fact Harris works out of the St. Croix garage.

St. Croix has two more races this year, Sept. 26 in Underwood and Oct. 4 in Flaxton.

“A lot of time goes into these cars, so I want to thank my dad, Ron Jensen and Craig Ellsworth for sponsoring me,” St. Croix said. “Yes, and my mom for lap counting.”

Petersen is in his first year of racing. He said there have been a number of people from this area who have been involved in some sort of racing over the years and so he took an interest.

Petersen was literally thrown into a tank of sharks, as his first race was during the North Dakota State Fair in July.

“It’s probably not the one you want to start with,” he said. “But in the end it’s all worth it. It’s a different experience.”

Petersen noted that not all Enduro racers are young people. He said some are up to age 65, so it’s those who enjoy this type of racing that he called a mix of auto racing and demolition derby.

“The goal is to still win the race,” he said. “Ultimately, you want to win the race.”

Unlike the others, Petersen had a bit of tough luck at Motor Magic.

“I was 10 laps in and the engine started pouring smoke,” Petersen said. “I guess I’m going to need a new motor.”

Despite his misfortune, he finished 53rd of the 55 racers.

His car is a 1979 Pontiac Bonneville that has been banged up, but because of roll cages and a bar on the driver’s door, Petersen himself hasn’t taken any licks.

Otherwise, he said the racing authorities want the car to be as stock as possible.

“They want it to look stock, nothing that didn’t look factory,” Petersen said. “They don’t want us to use racing fuel, but Cenex has 91 octane and we use that.”

Petersen wants to keep racing, but it will depend on how his car holds up. He said the prep of the car is the majority of the work, which time, in itself, could become a factor.

But with the friendship of these four individuals, it’s likely the racing will go on for a while.

They work on each others cars and when one or more of them isn’t racing, the others are working as the pit crew.

Two more young Enduro racers coming up

Two additional Kenmare High School students have also become racing enthusiasts. Caden Mau, has raced one time. He and Patrick Harris will both be racing in Underwood later this month.

“We all work together,” Nelson said. “We’re always messing around with our vehicles.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!