Oil in the veins
The last thing Jamestown Speedway needs this evening is more rain. Each of the past three Saturday events at the track have been cut short due to the wet conditions the area has faced this spring, forcing the speedway to try and make up a total o...
The last thing Jamestown Speedway needs this evening is more rain.
Each of the past three Saturday events at the track have been cut short due to the wet conditions the area has faced this spring, forcing the speedway to try and make up a total of seven feature races during the June 19th Bomber Special.
The speedway is hosting its popular annual Sprint Show tonight, featuring the drivers of the Northern Outlaw Sprint Association, and more rain would not only make it four straight Saturday's hampered by gloomy skies, it would also washout one of the track's larger spectator draws of the seasonBut if there's even just a chance that the green flag will drop today at Jamestown Speedway, one particular car and driver will be sure to be there.
Mike Stearns, of Hecla, S.D., is one of many drivers who roll in the neighborhood of 100 miles in one direction to compete in Jamestown each week. Like other driver's from North Dakota's neighboring states of Minnesota and South Dakota who come to turn circles in Jamestown, Stearns' reason for making the weekly trek is something that the track has grown a reputation for.
"You always know what you're going to get. The track is racy and smooth," Stearns said. "Some places you go to you never know what to expect. The norm so far is rough.
"I don't if it's just that type of year, or the spring we're having or what. But it's nice to find a nice smooth place and Jamestown always is."
Stearns is normally behind the wheel of his No. 24 WISSOTA Modified a total of four nights a week. The driver begins his week at Fargo's Red River Valley Speedway on Wednesdays, before running his home track of Brown County Speedway in Aberdeen on Fridays and Jamestown Speedway on Saturdays.
On Sundays, Stearns picks from a variety of dirt to race on at tracks in Glyndon, Minn., Madison, Minn. and Watertown, S.D. Stearns raced at Lisbon's Sheyenne River Speedway's season opener last Sunday night.
"I guess it's just the thrill of it. It's the adrenaline rush, which is what everyone says," Stearns said. "It's just as bad as drugs or alcohol as far as addiction goes. Once you start, it's tough to quit."
Stearns began his racing career as most do, which is something a lot of folks unfamiliar to the sport wouldn't realize.
Racing is a quintessential family sport. Many of the drivers found competing at local dirt tracks are most likely to be second or third generation drivers, and the 28-year-old Stearns is no exception.
"My dad used to race a hobby stock back in the '80s, which is similar to a super stock," Stearns said. "My grandpa never raced, but he was big on the pit crew back then and he still does quite a bit for me when he can. Everybody helps out."
Stearns' father is Rollin Stearns and his grandfather is Stanley Stearns, both of Hecla. Rollin Stearns can normally be found alongside his son in the pits on any given night, along with family friend Gaylen Meyer, who was a part-owner of Rollin's car during his racing days.
"My dad goes quite a bit, and our buddy, Gaylen," Stearns said. "He lives in Hecla and goes as often as he can."
Stearns has been driving for five years and started by racing a WISSOTA Super Stock with his dad's No. 24 on the side. Stearns won 18 features in two years behind the wheel.
Stearns is now in his third full year of racing a WISSOTA Modified, after jumping in the seat of one of the area's most respected driver's mod at a test track in Ortley, S.D., in 2007.
The modified was owned by Aberdeen's four-time WISSOTA national points champion Kent Arment. Arment has won two WISSOTA Late Model national championships and two WISSOTA Modified national championships, winning titles in both divisions in 2001.
"I was over there with my super, and he was there with a modified and a late model and I asked him if I could drive it for a few laps. It was a lot more responsive and it had a lot more power," Stearns said. "That was the end of my super stock days. After driving Arment's mod I had to have one."
Since jumping up to the modified class, Stearns has seven career feature wins with two of those coming in Jamestown in 2008. His latest victory was at Fiesta City Speedway in Montevideo, Minn., two weeks ago driving his new 2010 Fegers chassis.
"To win a feature in WISSOTA Modifieds you've really earned it. The competition is tough," Stearns said. "One night you're on top of your game, the next night you might run 10th or 15th."
Stearns, however, said that even though the competition might be tough, most of the guys he's trying to beat each night have quickly evolved into friends, including Arment.
"Kent is a big help to me. He's a good go-to guy to throw some ideas off of," Stearns said. "Sometimes I'll just plain old ask him, 'What do I do here? I'm lost.'
Sometimes Arment's advice has been too good. Stearns has four career mod feature wins in Aberdeen and Arment was in the field during all four of those victories.
"I'm not saying he didn't have trouble or something like that, but he was out there," Stearns chuckled. "I'll take them however I can get them."
And taking them in Jamestown can be difficult.
"The drivers you race against in Jamestown are second to none," Stearns said. "A lot of heavy hitters race there and if you win there you've done something."
A notable regular at Jamestown Speedway who Stearns pointed out is difficult to beat is Jamestown's Jason Grimes. Grimes has won both of the completed modified feature events at the speedway this season.
"Grimes is obviously on top of his game right now, and he's another guy I'd be shooting for," Stearns said. "If you can run with him you know you're going in the right direction."
Stearns owns Extreme Graphix in Aberdeen, which is one of his primary sponsors. Others who make it possible for Stearns to hit the track each night include Stearns Farms, Intercomp, Humphries Construction, Daly Farm, Elsen Homestead Farm, Ken's Alignment, Lou Fegers Racing and Piute Pup Photography.
Rain is once again in the forecast for Jamestown Speedway today, but if track officials can get the show in Stearns said he doesn't plan on missing it.
"It seems like during the week it's all right, but when the weekend comes and we want to go racing it starts raining," Stearns said. "It's just bad luck, I guess. I plan on racing there all year."
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org .