Story originally published May 1, 1993
By Rob Beer
There were some thrills, chills and spills on opening night at the Red River Valley Speedway Friday:
Some chills as in a temperature of 50 degrees at the first green flag.
Some spills as in what Jason Geringer from West Fargo and Chad Chenoweth from Huron, S.D., had in the Wissota modifieds.
Sonny Mack from East Grand Forks, Minn., provided even more spills when his sprint car rolled six times in front of the grandstand on the second lap.
Some thrills as in what Donny Schatz from Minot, N.D., had driving in his first sprint car race.
Schatz is a 15-year-old rookie who finished first in his heat and sixth in the feature.
“Age has nothing to do with that guy,” said Fargo’s Mike Sitzman, the feature winner. He runs a really straight line.”
Schatz drove bumper-to-bumper with drivers twice his age. Even a capacity crowd didn’t seem to faze him.
“The people don’t bother me, its the speeds and quicker reactions you have to have,” Schatz said. “It makes you nervous every once in a while, but once I get strapped down, I settle down.”
“If I was 15 years old, I’d be scared,” said veteran driver Chuck Swenson of Watertown, S.D.
But Schatz is not a stranger to driving. He got his drivers permit when he was 14 and his license when he was 15.
Schatz grew up driving go-karts. He won numerous championships in Minot. But it was the bigger sprint cars his father, Danny, drove that started his interest.
“He used to race ever since I was little,” Schatz said. “I always wanted to race cars.”
Though he may lack some experience, he said he has a lot of drive to perform well.
“I tried,” he said. “I’m just getting used to the strength it takes to drive a car. It takes a lot of endurance. I just did the best I could.”
Despite the cool temperatures, a packed house of 5,600 turned out of the season opener. With cancellations at the track in Grand Forks, N.D., and Rapid City, S.D., manager Bruce Olson expected 15 to 20 more cars at Red River Valley Speedway.
Heat 1 – Donny Schatz, Minot. 2, Mike Sitzman, Fargo. 3, Loren Langerud, Fargo. 4, Raleigh Sandberg, Long Prairie, Minn. 5, Tim Mulvey, Northwood.
Heat 2 – Lou Kennedy, Jr., Winnipeg. 2, Chuck Swenson, Watertown. 3, Randy Nygaard, Hartford, 4, Fran Bruns, Madison. 5, Rick Aukland, Fargo.
Feature – 1, Sitzman. 2, Swenson. 3, Bruns, 4, Kennedy. 5, Aukland.