Four area racers will sit behind the wheel of a Wissota Super Stocker for the first time this season when the one-third-mile North Central Speedway opens its season Saturday in Barrows.
Included in the quartet is 44-year-old Pat O'Brien, who returns to the dirt track oval after a 10-year absence. The other three are Steve Eide, George Mattson and Mike Flannigan.
Pat said ever since he stopped racing he and his late father, Con, watched his older brother Tim race every Saturday from the speedway's back stretch. Pat and Tim also assumed ownership of their father's trucking business, TCBX Inc. of Brainerd, after Con's death last winter.
"So I have to have something to do on a Saturday night, right?" Pat O'Brien said. "And then the rivalry with my brother and all. We have a little thing going here."
Pat has even made something special for Tim. On the back of his car is painted, 'Here, Timmy, Timmy, Timmy.' (His former car had 'Hey, Timmy, Larry (Schwendeman) can you come out and play)?'"
Tim, who has been racing for 20 years, said it will be "cool" racing against Pat again.
"As long as he stays out of everybody's way, speaking of mine," he said.
Pat was lucky to get in his own way Saturday during the speedway's practice session. He killed the engine six times before leaving the pits. He was attempting to master a newer and lighter automatic transmission with a clutch.
He said a racer has to put the car in gear and push the clutch in to make the car move. Once the rpms reach 4,000, a racer lets out the clutch and slams the transmission in high gear. The transmission then is in direct drive, similar to an automatic transmission.
Pat said car suspensions have changed since he raced in 1993. Instead of leaf springs, this car has coil springs, which makes it handle better in the corners.
"(The improvements) are just sort of 'Wow!'" he said. "Totally different."
Pat intends to race only at NCS this season. From 1989 until 1993 he posted several wins in his super stocker at Aitkin.
His goal is "just to have fun."
"I'll remind him of that," Tim said.
"I'm not out for (season points)," Pat said. "I would like to finish in the top five but there is a lot of young competition out there."
Tim said "age hasn't nothing to do with it. It's seat time that counts."
-- Beverages and coolers no longer can be brought into the grandstand or spectator reserved parking area due to liability insurance issues. The Brainerd Jaycees will be selling beer on site.
-- Gates open at 5 p.m.. Hot laps start at 6:45 p.m. with racing to follow.
-- Keith Moilanen enters his 13th year as the speedway's public address announcer. He also will start his 39th year as Princeton Speedway's public address announcer.
-- For the first time, corn dogs, cheese curds, chicken strips, onion rings and french fries will be for sale. The speedway purchased deep fryers for all three concession stands.
-- The pit entrance has been moved to the west side of the track. Racers will still exit off Business Highway 371.
-- Midwest Modifieds are open-wheeled, 1,200 pounds lighter than a pure stock.
-- Street stocks (mostly late 1980s Chevrolet Monte Carlos) feature stock-type cars with race teams allowed to do some suspension work.
-- Pure stocks are the speedway's stock class. Fans will see many late 80s four-door Chevrolet Impalas.
-- All-terrain vehicles that are operated in the pits must be registered by the speedway.
-- Kids Nights will be June 7 and July 26. Sprint races, will be May 31, Aug. 2, Aug. 30 and Aug. 31.
-- Each Wissota class will have a $1,000 winners' purse for street stocks May 24, super stocks June 14 and Midwest modifieds July 12.
-- The second annual Mighty Axe Nationals will be Aug. 30-31.
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