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Madison's Toftes find groove on racetracks

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WILLMAR -- Scott Tofte has piled up dozens of win racing Modifieds over 25 summers; now he gets just as big of kicks helping his son win.

Marshal Tofte is in his fourth season driving the less-powerful but still fast Midwest Modifieds. He's just two years out of Lac qui Parle High School near his home town of Madison, but he's driving like a veteran -- especially this week.

The younger Tofte came into Willmar Thursday night at the top of the Minnesota Corn Growers Ethanol Challenge Series 2009.

He won the 20-lap feature at Alexandria's Viking Speedway Tuesday and took second at Madison on Wednesday, a 25-lap feature.

The Alexandria win was his fifth of the summer campaign.

During intermission, the Tofte's discussed racing strategy for the 24-car feature and also answered a reporter's questions.

The KRA is not on the Tofte's circuit of Fiesta City at Montevideo on Friday and the Madison fairground's on Sunday.

"I stink at this place," said Marshal, who finished near the back of his six-car heat, though he led early. "I'm not use to these corners. They're flatter than most and all different. I'm use to four even corners and more banking."

Scott interjected that it takes a different approach here.

"Maybe, you've got to be really disciplined," he said. "Slower going in and faster coming out."

Scott continued: "Marshal was driving the car too hard. It's all about the corner exit here on four. If you go into it too hard, you're not going to get out on the bottom and everyone will pass you by."

Marshal listens when dad speaks.

"A lot of his knowledge goes into what I do," said the son.

Only rarely, does success come quickly in competitive racing.

As a rookie, he went winless but picked up two feature trophies in his sophomore year of racing, which would have been his first summer out of high school. Last year, he picked up one win.

This season he's won twice at Montevideo and twice at Madison, plus the win at Viking.

He held off Wissota points leader Shane Sabraski in that one. The next night, he led the first 15 laps before Brock Gronwold got him on a cluttered restart.

Marshal, who will be a junior at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, quickly concedes that he had great starting position each time, but he also just may have had the fastest car, too.

"I might have the fastest car tonight, too," he said.

But starting in the eight row against the caliber of competition on a track where he struggles, he wasn't optimistic of a high finish.

Each night's winner and the overall series champion gets $500. There's a $1,000 bonus to the series winner if he also wins tonight at Montevideo.

Scott Tofte, who does a lot of wrenching for his son, enjoys his mentoring role, but a lot of it can be hard to watch his boy race.

"I get pretty anxious," he said. "I sometimes want to wish him around the corner. I wish I could talk to him while he's driving. But he's doing pretty well. He's figured it out."

Scott, who has won seven track championships in Madison and three more in Hartford, S.D., said the young race drivers today are all pretty skilled and able to handle a race car.

"It's different than when I started," he said. "We're all arch rivals, enemies, but now the kids all get along so well. They're pals. They enjoy being together."