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Moorhead racers taking measure of KRA

Mod-4 car owners Corry Van Mil, left, and his son, Rob, are 30 years apart in age, but not much separates them in dirt-track racing. Rob is first in Wissota National Points and Corry third. The 4D racer shown here belongs to Rob. (Tribune photo by Rand Middleton)

WILLMAR -- Corry Van Mil started racing in 1967. At age 61, he's hardly slowing down.

He runs four nights a week, three of those against his son Rob, 31.

Last week, in the final race of the three-night Mod-4 Corn Growers Ethanol Tour, Rob finished first, Corry second and Josh Abrahamson, another Moorhead driver, took third in the feature.

Abrahamson, 20, won the series points total and cashed $1,100 for the three nights.

"They've made it tougher to win," said Dean Larson of Pennock, who is fourth in Wissota National Points and tied with his son Tyler for fourth in track points at the KRA Speedway.

Rob Van Mil, Abrahamson and Corry Van Mil are 1-2-3 in national points.

All three are regulars this summer at the Kandiyohi County Fairground's oval for the first time.

The Wissota track at Ada (Norman County Speedway) was their Thursday stop until this year. When the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo switched from Friday to Wednesday, the Ada track moved to Friday.

The Van Mils race Ada Friday and Buffalo River at Glyndon on Saturday. On Sunday, dad heads to the Bemidji Speedway while Rob drives to Oglivie.

The Van Mils build their own cars, tires up. Rob, who works as a mechanic for a large recreational vehicle outlet, makes the frame and does all the sheet-metal work. Corry rebuilds the Ford Pinto and Mustang 2.3 liter engines.

They spend the winters building cars for themselves and others, perhaps as many as eight total.

"That helps pay for the summer racing, along with sponsors and the winnings," said Corry.

He just "freshened" the engine in his No. 40 this week. He spent two intense nights fixing the frame, suspension arm and tie rods after hitting the wall at Bemidji on Sunday in a crash with Conrad Schwinn.

The motor had a "leak" and some attention was needed anyway after 35 shows, said Corry, who has operated Automotive Service Center in Moorhead for 32 years.

Rob has 39 nights, including practice, on his engine. He's won a remarkable 18 features and 25 heat races.

Corry dropped out of racing when his sons were young and were interested in BMX, then motocross and snowmobiles. Rob's older brother, Chris, now has a Legend Car and a younger step-brother, Tommy, also races Mod-4s at Bemidji.

Corry got back into racing in 1997. I asked him what keeps him going, especially four nights a week?

"I guess it's that half-hour of adrenalin rush you can't get anywhere else," he said.

The father/son duo don't do it alone. Frank Neisen, Rob's brother-in-law, is the crew chief for both cars (40 and 4D) and John Messer the head wrench.

"These (Mod-4s) are a blast but a handful to drive," said Corry, who has driven in many other classes over the years. "I wouldn't want to change (classes)."

Abrahamson is in his fourth year of racing. His black No. 16, which feature's a Laske body and a Halls engine, has held up to the grind so far without a setback.

In last week's Ethanol feature, he was sent to the back of the 23 car feature with 13 laps left. To win the $500 bonus for overall points, he had to stay within five spots of Rob, who was running up front. He made it by ending up third.

He's not new to success. Despite rolling No. 16 twice last summer, he took fourth nationally after finishing third in 2008.

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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