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Race enthusiasts converge on Carpio

An experimental car show slated for Carpio on Saturday turned out to be one of the biggest events in recent years for the Badlands region of the Sports Car Club of America.

5/02/17 (Tue)

An experimental car show slated for Carpio on Saturday turned out to be one of the biggest events in recent years for the Badlands region of the Sports Car Club of America.

Fifty-eight sports car owners who race through an obstacle course turned out for a day of fun and competition. There were again as many fans scattered throughout the Farmers Union Oil Co., parking lot watching their favorite racer.

It included Kent Picard of Bismarck, the regional executive of the SCCA, who drove a 1964 Chevrolet pickup through the twisting and winding course.

“We had 58 vehicles sign up so it was a big event for us,” he said. “It was our first event of the year so people were excited to start the season and we haven’t had one close to Minot in a couple of years. Maybe the weather helped too. It was a perfect day for racing.”

Picard said he was expecting 25 or 30 racers because an event like this had never been done in a community smaller than Devils Lake in the past.

“We doubled it,” Picard said. “It was a great turnout.”

The 58 drivers were the equivalent of a similar event that is held in Great Falls, Mont. In that event, 60 drivers represent the cap.

Picard, and the rest of the SCCA executive council were so excited the plan is to have another event, perhaps a two-day event in Carpio in July. It’s not a definite, he said, but that’s the tentative plan.

“We’re looking at the calendar to schedule (Carpio) again,” Picard said. “At the end of the event, everyone was saying ‘when are we coming back?’”

Nick Helfrich of Berthold is one of the drivers and a member of SCCA. He and his father Steve talked to Farmers Union manager Andy Fjeldahl about the possibility of setting up the obstacle course on the Carpio parking lot.

“It’s a great facility. It was one of the best locations we’ve done it on,” Picard said. “And Andy was so welcoming to us. He seemed happy we were there. He was out there grilling hamburgers. We appreciated everything Andy did for us.”

Normally, the courses are set up in Bismarck, Devils Lake and at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. And most of the racers came from Bismarck, Minot, Williston, Moorhead, Minn., and Sidney, Mont.

One of the drivers was Nathan Witt, a young racer from southern Minnesota who is currently stationed at the Minot Air Force Base.

He said he’s an aircraft mechanic so he is using his skill to enjoy his weekend hobby.

“This is awesome,” Witt said. “This is a great course, we can get lunch and buy gas right on site. We have bathrooms and hospitality.”

There are several classes of cars that race through the obstacle course, that way it’s fair to everyone, according to Witt.

There were Corvettes and Mustangs, BMWs and Pontiacs, Volkswagons and Subarus. There was even a 1973 rusted out Toyota with an oxidized paint job.

Some cars didn’t have hoods, others were painted with primer only, a few had rear spoilers and still others were being polished as their heat was called to the starting line.

Witt said the races are for fun and if the driver was good at what he or she was doing, they could get through the course in about a minute.

Witt was driving a Honda S2000, a vehicle he called the “ketchup and mustard” car, because it was red with yellow wheels.

He said he has fun at these events and enjoys them, but is one of the more serious people on the circuit.

But then, he says winning an obstacle course race is 80 percent driver, 20 percent car.

He travels a lot to run the obstacle courses on weekends. He’s been to Helena and Great Falls, Mont., Wyoming, Wisconsin and South Dakota. He’s also raced in a small town outside of Des Moines, Iowa, so when he found out there was a race in Carpio, just 20 miles from the Minot AFB, he was ecstatic.

His brother joined him from Moorhead, Minn., and also raced his car.

Cars are grouped by letter with A being the fastest and H at the low end. Witt is a “B Street driver.”

“This is the best thing for 16-year-olds,” Witt said. “Their egos are up here and we crush them. It keeps them off the street, it’s easy and it’s cheap.”

SCCA members paid a $25 entry fee and non members paid $45 to run the Carpio course.

Prizes included medallions and bragging rights, according to Picard, but there’s also another award given at the end of each event.

“We call it the cone killer award,” Picard said. “We give the worst cone to the person who knocked over the most cones. We have a lot of fun with it.”

The rule book is intense, according to Witt, and safety is paramount. After drivers sign up, they walk through the course, then there is a parade of cars at a slow speed, then the races.

Drivers are given three heats to get their best time, then a playoff takes place to narrow it down to the top dog in each class.

One of the drivers, Thomas Waylett, was driving a Volkswagon Rabbit. Every time he turned a corner on the obstacle course, one of his rear wheels came off the ground. Waylett is often a top-five racer at the events he attends.

Everyone who had the muscle in their car, laid some rubber down at the start point as their wheels were spinning on take off.

SCCA is a nationwide car club, according to Picard, and the Badlands Region of the SCCA, sponsored Saturday’s Carpio event.

Picard said if drivers are serious about racing, they can race for points and attend a national tournament in Lincoln, Neb.

Picard, who helped organize the event, but blasted through the course in his ‘64 low rider pickup, was so surprised with the turn out and the success of the event, that perhaps Carpio could be a regular destination of these race enthusiasts.

“We appreciate everything Andy does for us,” he said. “There’s no doubt this is one of our best locations. The track was so smooth.” ... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!