Mike Spieker of Speedway-shots.com, and All The Dirt, caught up with the two-time NLRA series champion to talk about his 2016 season, and what his future has in store.
ATD caught up with Strand to get his thoughts on a successful 2016 season and what’s up next for 2017.
First off, how’s it feel to pick up the national championship in WISSOTA’s premier division?
“It’s really awesome. When we first started the year, we didn’t really have any intention on running for national points, but about halfway through the year thing really started picking up and we had really good luck the second half of the season. I guess I’d rather be lucky than good any day.”
You are a 2009 Midwest Modified national champion, so how does the Late Model championship compare to your first one?
“This one is definitely the highlight of my racing career. With the caliber of drivers we race against week in and week out, and even across all of WISSOTA, it’s a pretty awesome honor.”
“This one is definitely the highlight of my racing career." - Dustin Strand on winning the 2016 National Title
Strand after winning at the Red River Valley Speedway in July. Mike Spieker photo.
“Ultimately we were hoping to win the River Cities Speedway points and the NLRA points. We ended up coming a little bit shy in the NLRA points, but we ended up on top of the WISSOTA standings so that was a pretty cool deal.”
It’s no secret that River Cities Speedway is home to some of the toughest weekly Late Model competition in WISSOTA country. What’s it like going up against that caliber of talent each and every Friday night?
“It definitely makes you a better racer when you are racing against the best every week. That’s part of the fun. Grand Forks is probably one of the most challenging tracks I have ever raced at. It can be muddy in one spot, dry in the next, and dry over here. You definitely have to be up on the wheel all the time there.”
What is your chassis/engine combination for the Late Model.
“We have a Millenium Chassis that be built and Ben Adams does all of our motor work.”
What is your chassis/engine combination for the Modified.
“Same thing. Millenium Chassis with a Ben Adams motor.”
Do you have have goals established for the 2017 season yet?
"We have a really good group of guys that we race with. Everybody races hard and races each other with respect. If something happens on the track everybody gets over it, has a beer after the races, and moves on to the next night." - Dustin Strand on racing with the NLRA
Strand crosses the line for one of his 20 wins in 2016. This one came in front of a packed house at River Cities in August. Mike Spieker photo.
“I guess we are just going to run our normal stuff. We’ll be running weekly in Grand Forks and follow the NLRA circuit. Ultimately that would be our goal for next year would be the same as this year - to do well at our home track and the NLRA tour. On top of that we are hoping to hit a few more Modified specials. I would like to get that program a little better, too.”
Explain what it’s like to run the NLRA tour. It seems like it’s full of guys who get along pretty well, but aren’t afraid to get after it and race each other hard when it comes down to it.
“Yeah I really enjoy it. We have a really good group of guys that we race with. Everybody races hard and races each other with respect. If something happens on the track everybody gets over it, has a beer after the races, and moves on to the next night.
You are the first North Dakota driver to win the Late Model national championship since Mitch Johnson in 1993. What’s it mean to bring the title back to your home state?
“Yeah that’s definitely pretty cool. There’s not a ton of Late Model racing in North Dakota. Grand Forks is basically the only track that runs Late Models weekly, but yeah, that’s definitely a great honor.”
With the national championship being the highlight of 2016, was there low point of your season at all? A time where you had to face some adversity?
“Probably that night in Greenbush [at the NLRA special on June 30, where Strand got caught up in an incident when a pair of drivers wreck in front of him]. We tore the car up pretty bad. That took a lot of the wind out of my sails, but we rounded pretty well. It was about two weeks after that when we went on our tear there so maybe it worked out for the best. Sometimes you tear the car up pretty bad and get into a bad deal where you were just a victim of circumstance and you kind of get down on yourself. If I could do it over again, I would have patched the car up and tried to make at least one lap in the feature. That’s what kind of took me out of contention for the NLRA points race with that night being double points. We ended up with only heat race points for that night.
You were seemingly unstoppable from July, August, into September. What was it like to be the guy to beat each night for such a long stretch.
“It was unbelievable in my book. To be that competitive with the caliber of drivers we race against each week… that was awesome.”
How many feature wins did you end up with in 2016?
We got 20 with the Late Model and five with the Modified.
What do you attribute your success to in the Late Model?
“We’ve been kind of working on our program the last few years. We have been steadily getting it better and we just stumbled on something that works for us. My crew was always on the ball and on top of things. They were in the shop as much as they could be and always at the track keep it going. I definitely couldn’t do it without all of their help. My dad puts in so many hours. Luck has a lot to do with racing. Luck has to be on your side. You can’t get caught up in a wreck. You can’t get a flat tire. I always believe races are won in the shop during the week. We spent a lot of hours in the shop making sure nothing was bent or broke. That’s one of the biggest things, making sure your car will hold together to finish the race. ”
With all of the success you’ve had in the Late Models, what brings you back to compete in the Modified division?
“Modifieds are my main business. We do a ton of B-mod stuff and some A-mod stuff. So I kind of need to keep my guys up to speed on all of that. Plus I enjoy running the Modified deal. In my eyes it kind of stinks that the sanctioning bodies are getting split up in our area. It takes the ability to load up and run anywhere you want on any given night. It kind of make you have to commit to one sanctioning body or the other. You’re not going to be competitive running one with the other with just a few changes.
We have a new chassis out now this past year - the Millenium SRT. We’ve been working on that and I just want to be able to tell my guys what they need to do, when they need to do it. It’s hard for me to tell them what to do when I’m just getting their feedback.
“Modifieds are my main business. We do a ton of B-mod stuff and some A-mod stuff." - Strand on his chassis building business
Strand wheeling a B-Mod a the Jamestown Stampede in October. Photo from Speedway-Shots.com
First off I’d like to thank my wife and my daughter for being there for me all the time, my mom and dad, Nate and Timmy in the pits. I’ve got to thank John, Joe, and Zach Naastad with Q&Z Pluming and Scott Bintz with RH Rebel Storage and RHRswag.com, Lance Schill with Schill Construction, Mike McCaughan with McCaughan Builders, Kevin Forest with Forest Flying Service, Ben Adams Automotive, he does all of my motor work and does a heck of a good job, Anderson Brothers Bodyshop, Bemidji Welders Supply, RealTruck.com, Truck Hero, Troy Pecka Trucking, Forks Mobile Wash, Generations Salon & Spa, Altru’s Sports Advantage