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Teen girl wows speedway crowd by playing national anthem, then racing her car

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Gwen Saler starts her engine after a crowd countdown as her mom, Darcy, and dad, Scott, finish helping her prepare for her first race Friday, June 15, 2018 at the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo. Erin Bormett / The Forum2 / 3
Gwen Saler performs the national anthem on her viola before racing Friday, June 15, 2018 at the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo. Erin Bormett / The Forum3 / 3

WEST FARGO, N.D. — Gwen Sailer is a thrill-seeker, and the evidence is wrapped around her right wrist.

Already this summer, the 15-year-old Fargo native has collected nearly a dozen speedway entry wristbands for racing in the sport mod class.

On Friday, June 15, before zooming around the Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo, she was racing to the microphone to perform "The Star-Spangled Banner" on her viola.

"It's not a hard song, but it means a lot," she said.

Dressed in a protective fire suit, she jumped out of her race car, adorned with pink decals, to meet her mother, Darcy, who proudly held sheet music as her dad, Scott, recorded the moment on video.

The crowd went wild for the multi-talented teenager who quickly packed up her string instrument and traded it for her pink helmet. Scott helped her strap in safely, and with the roar of her engine, she was back on the track with dust flying.

She admits the viola and her race car are an odd combo, but she loves them both. "Each have their own thrills," she said with a laugh.

On Friday, she was the only girl and the youngest racer in the first heat. She said she mostly races against a bunch of boys, like her older brother, Reile.

Sailer said her family revolves around racing. Her dad raced back in the early 2000s, and her mom helps out in the ticket booth.

Sailer has played the viola since fifth grade and started racing when she was 9 years old.

When she's not at her home track in West Fargo, she races at the Buffalo River Race Park in Glyndon, Minn. She's raced go-karts for five years, and this is her rookie sport mod season. A friend of the family, Tom Cummings, who's well-known in the local racing scene, helped build the chassis on her first sport mod race car.

Outside of racing, is member of the Fargo Moorhead Area Youth Symphony and also attends music camp at the International Peace Garden along the North Dakota-Canada border.

Kim Hyatt

Kim Hyatt is a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and a 2014 graduate of the University of Minnesota Duluth. She started her newspaper career at the Owatonna People’s Press covering arts and education. In 2016, she received Minnesota Newspaper Association's Dave Pyle New Journalist Award and later that year she joined The Forum newsroom.

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