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Auto racing: Tracks at Proctor and Superior hope to start this weekend

Caywood and company can’t wait for the racing action to fire up.

Superior Speedway
Local auto racing tracks in Proctor and Superior hope to kick off this weekend. (File / News Tribune)
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DULUTH — Duane Caywood isn’t the type to sit around. It’s not part of his makeup, not in his DNA.

So when the new Halvor Lines Speedway president underwent hip surgery May 5 at St. Luke’s, the 69-year-old from Esko didn’t plan on being laid up for long.

Duane_Caywood.jpeg
Duane Caywood
Submitted

“I walked right out of there the same day,” Caywood said. “I told them, ‘Gunsmoke starts at noon. We gotta get going here.’”

Jokes aside, Caywood was impressed with his care.

“They have such a team — it’s unbelievable,” he said. “I’m not kidding you. That’s what I call it, a team. I’ve never dealt with so many nurses, and of course, they’re coming to the races.”

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Weekly racing is scheduled to start Sunday in Proctor while Gondik Law Speedway hopes to start Friday in Superior.

Friday’s forecast calls for mostly cloudy skies and a high of 55. There is a chance of rain Wednesday and Thursday, and this time of year, Northland tracks can’t handle much, especially this spring, brutal even by Duluth-Superior standards.

Gondik Law Speedway already absorbed plenty of rain last week and is still dealing with frost.

“It’s already soft,” promoter Joe Stariha said. “They’re talking like a half inch to three quarters of an inch of rain on Thursday, and that probably does us in. On a normal week, probably not, we’re pretty dry and everything is good. But right now it’s soft underneath really bad. We’re not about bringing a bunch of cars to our track to be a big rut fest and damage a bunch of parts for the drivers and cost them money. That’s not my deal.”

Joe Stariha.jpg
Joe Stariha
Submitted photo

That doesn’t mean Stariha isn’t excited to get going. For people who love racing, like him and Caywood, soon isn’t soon enough.

While there are no World of Outlaws Late Models this year in Superior, Stariha is looking forward to the XR Super Late Model Series Superior Showcase Aug. 8, right after the Cedar Lake Speedway USA Nationals.

“It’s brand new this year,” Stariha said of the series, a product of Barry Braun of Silver Bay. “They have a lot of big super Late Models that are following that tour, so we should have a lot of bigger draw for that race. It’s $25,000 to win and a $100,000 purse for the night. That’s the largest payout in Superior history.”

And there will be light … phase four of a six-year, $200,000 lighting project in Superior is expected to be completed this year.

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“We’ve got a few other little things we’re working on, but nothing major,” Stariha said. “Once phase four is complete, we’ll be able to turn all the lights exactly where they are supposed to be. It should be absolutely perfect, so we’re looking forward to that.”

And Caywood is looking forward to Sunday.

Despite his hip surgery, Caywood has been busy helping get things ready for the opener in Proctor.

Just like it takes a team to provide good medical care, it takes a team to successfully run a good race track.

“It really does. It’s no one person,” Caywood said.

Caywood said being closed during the COVID year of 2020 hurt the track but they got through it. Now, gas prices have spiked in part due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It’s a crazy world we’re living in here but Caywood is doing his small part to make it just a little bit better.

Caywood plans on being at the back gate Sunday handing out $20 gift cards to drivers as they come in, courtesy of the Proctor and Pike Lake Holiday Stationstores.

“They are going to give me $2,000 in these little gift cards, and I’m going to hand them out until they’re gone,” Caywood said. “It’s not much but we’re trying.”

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Caywood is proud of his Salvation Army bell ringing, saying he brings in a thousand bucks an hour. He said bell ringers are not created equal.

“I work hard at it,” he said. “I’m not a guy who just lays back, you know what I mean?”

And that’s the same approach Caywood, a retired Duluth Transit Authority mechanic, is taking towards his first stint as Halvor Lines Speedway president. He doesn’t care about previous Proctor politics. He just wants what’s best for the track.

“I’m just a fan of racing,” Caywood said. “It’s going OK, and I’m learning a lot. It’s a volunteer board. Everyone is there because they like racing, and we’ve had a few challenges, but we’ve got some good people in place. You get to the track and there are nice people who hang out there. If you’ve got trouble, you just wave your hand and somebody will come help you. It’s just like in the pits. A guy will wreck a tire or a rim or break a rotor and there will be two other teams from the same class of cars helping him fix it so they can race against him.

“So I’m just going to hold my hand out in friendship and smile and say thanks — forgotten words these days.”

Proctor Speedway
Kelly Estey (No. 37 car) of Kelly Lake and Jody Bellefeuille of Duluth streak down Halvor Lines Speedway's back straightaway during a WISSOTA Modifieds heat.
(Steve Kuchera / file / Duluth News Tribune)

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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