Nine-time and defending World of Outlaws Sprint Car champion Donny Schatz, driver of the No. 15 Fargo Petro Rocket, started on the pole of the main event, but it was his counterpart on the front row, Late Model Sophomore Travis Robertson, Driver of the No. 1R Big Al's Construction MasterSbilt, who jumped out to the early lead.
Any lead Robertson built, however, was slight, as Schatz and Weiss were setting a torrid pace just behind him.
Schatz peeked to the inside at the entrance of every turn, but it was Robertson who had the advantage, running off the top of the exit of each corner to continue his lead.
Up until the first caution flag flew on lap six, it was Bill Mooney, driver of the No. 2 Lithia Toyota of Grand Forks MasterSbilt by JMR, who was making the biggest moves in the early portion of the event. The eighth place starting Mooney had climbed to fourth before the caution.
A caution on the restart briefly erased Weiss' taking of the second spot, as the lead trio went three wide on both restarts.
It was Schatz, however, who was the happiest about the second restart. Schatz had fallen back to third, but after the caution, he lead the next completed lap by a nose over Robertson.
The lead trio continued to go three wide for the next pair of circuits, but is was Robertson who built his biggest lead of the race, gaining just over a car lenght over Schatz, as Mooney closed in on Weiss.
Ricky Weiss preparing for his 22nd NLRA win at River Cities last Friday night.
The field went single file on the ensuing restart, as Schatz, running on the low side, continued to pull even with Weiss at the apex of each corner. As that was going on, Mooney moved past Robertson, and brought Shane Edginton, driving his No. 4 Performance Auto Victory, with him into fourth.
As Robertson took fourth back from Edginton, Dustin Strand made his first appearance inside the top five, moving the No. 71 Q&Z Plumbing & Heating Millenium SRT, to Robertson's inside as the field worked lapped traffic for the first time.
As the field made it's way through traffic, it was Weiss who had built the biggest advantage of the race, a five car length lead over Schatz, as Mooney, Robertson, and Strand cycled around the top, still completing the top five. Weiss had put a few lappers between himself and Schatz as the fourth caution period of the race commenced.
On the following restart, Mooney used the bottom to nose ahead of Schatz for second, but the latter was able to muscle back by on the top. As that battle continued, Strand and Robertson fought tooth and nail for fourth. Strand used the top of three and four to pass Robertson, then the bottom of one and two on the next circuit to move past Mooney for third.
After the fifth and final caution flag flew inside the final five laps, one final flurry for spots began with Strand moving past Schatz for second. Point leader Mike Balcaen, driver of the No. 10 Enns Brothers Black Diamond, became the final contestant to move inside the top five.
Balcaen, who started twelfth, moved past Mooney for third, as the pair joined Schatz in one final three wide battle, which also saw Mooney move past Schatz for fourth.
Weiss held off a hard charging Strand for his 22nd NLRA series win. He said of the track afterwards, "[The track] had a pretty good character to it, you could run right on the bottom, you could run on the top early... then it actually brought the middle line in."
Weiss on the three challenges he faced, "Had a good race with Robertson and Schatz for a long time, then I think Strand even stuck his nose in on the top, and I though, well if Strand gets around us on the top it's probably game over, but I think right then and there, Schatz pushed up a little, and I was able to get under him and move up a line, and then we could use the momentum to make it better and better."
When asked about the caution flags, Weiss said, "I definitely didn't want to see any of those yellows, I felt I had a pretty good lead, we were content going through lapped traffic in and out once we got spaced out a little bit, but that's part of it, and we were able to hold on."
Robertson, Edginton, and Schatz won the heats. 22 cars were in attendance. Racing at the Devils Lake Speedway was rained out on Saturday. NLRA action continues this Saturday night at the Greenbush Race Park in Greenbush, MN.
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