This will be the fifth time in the last seven runnings of the Prelude that the title will be decided during the main event at the high-banked, quarter-mile oval on the Greater Grand Forks Fairgrounds.
Two-time series champion Dustin Strand, driver of the No. 71 Keewatin Truck Service Millenium SRT, and five-time titlist Mike Balcaen, driver of the No. 10 Mission Transport Black Diamond, will head into the Prelude separated by just eight points.
In three of the previous four runnings of the Prelude that decided the series championship, it came down to a battle between Strand and Brad Seng, driver of the No. 12S Schill Construction MB Custom, as they finished the season separated by 24 points in 2012, 32 in 2015, and eight in 2016.
Strand won in 2013 and 2015, but came up just short in 2016, as he won the Prelude, but Seng's sixth place run was good enough to take the title.
In 2012, Seng came out of the Prelude with the series title, but he wasn't the favorite to do so going into the night. Ricky Weiss, driver of the No. 7 A.I.E. Communications Bloomquist, headed into the feature with the point lead, but fell out of the main event on lap 18, while Seng's second place run earned him the series title.
Dustin Strand will take an eight point lead into the prelude. Speedway Shots photo.
But a hard wreck last Saturday night unfortunately took him out of action for the Sunday portion of the Double. Seng is expected to be in action on Thursday night with the help of former Prelude winner and Seitz Memorial champion AJ Diemel, who will borrow a spare MB Custom to Seng for the weekend.
Don Shaw, driver of the No. 42S Blaine Brothers Victory, won last season's running of the Prelude, and went on to win the Seitz Memorial feature two nights later, becoming the first driver to win both the Prelude and 92 lap finale. Shaw will also head into Thursday night as the most recent series winner, as he picked up the win Sunday night at the Viking Speedway.
This season, three NLRA events have been held at the 'Bullring', with Ricky Weiss scoring the win on June 15th, Dustin Strand on Midco night two weeks later on June 29th, and Donny Schatz, driver of the No. 15 K3 Farms Rocket, who won both the NLRA and World of Outlaws feature on the same night for the third time.
Only four drivers have scored top ten runs in each of the three previous series races at River Cities this season, as Ryan Corbett, driver of the No. C4 Dempsey's Truck Service MasterSbilt and Joey Pederson, driver of the No. 7P Big Jim's Tire Victory, join Mike Balcaen and Brad Seng as the drivers to accomplish that feat.
Behind Dustin Strand and Mike Balcaen in the current standings are Shane Edginton, who is third in the No. 4 Performance Auto Victory, with Brad Seng dropping to fourth after last weekend, and Troy Schill completing the top five with his No. 11 Mid Ag Dispatch MasterSbilt by JMR.
Brody Troftgruben in sixth in the No. 14 R&R Landscaping Rocket, with Corbett seventh, and Jesse Teunis eighth in the No. 70 Imrie Demolition MasterSbilt.
Bill Mooney is ninth in the No. 2 Lithia Toyota of Grand Forks MasterSbilt, while last Saturday night's winner as the Viking Speedway, Cole Schill, driver of the No. 44 Rivinius Ranch MasterSbilt by JMR, moved into the top ten after last weekend's Double at Viking.
Racing begins at seven on Thursday night. To find out more about the event, visit our Tracks page, or log onto rivercitiesspeedway.com.
The NLRA would like to thank Tour Sponsors: Wes' Plumbing, S&S Transport, Performance Auto, Adams Automotive & Machine, White Water Truck Wash, Day Dreams, Grand Forks Subaru/Kia, BOSS Signs & Graphics, Storbakken & Sons Construction, Cartunz, Generous Jerry's/Gold Silver Exchange, A&L Siding, Millar Engines, Todd's Electric, Gateway Cenex, Fastlane Racing Equipment, Q&Z Plumbing, On The Edge, Fargo Forum, Hugo's, Eagles, and Contingency Sponsors: Speedway International Fuel, Hi-Per Flex, Schaeffer's Oil & Lubricants, Hoosier Tire North, and FYE Motorsports Promotion, for their support.
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