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Seasoned North Dakota farmer one of the top contenders in Winter Nationals at Cocopah Speedway
It goes without saying that Marlyn Seidler will likely be the oldest driver in the lineup for the 2013 Cocopah Speedway IMCA Winter Nationals presented by Sun Graphics.
But don’t think Seidler’s age, 60, is a reason to not consider the North Dakota farmer a favorite to win it all.
Although Seidler was winning races and championships before many of the drivers in the lineup were born, he’s still got what it takes to get to the checkered flag first.
Just ask Imperial’s Lance Mari.
During Cocopah Speedway’s season-opening race on Jan. 18, Seidler was poised to win that night’s 25-lap IMCA Modified feature event and would have if it were not for a slick, last-lap pass by Mari to steal the win.
Afterward Seidler said the rough track conditions wore him out, and yellow flags early in the race, generally despised by drivers when they are leading a race, proved to be a good thing.
"Those cautions, in one respect, saved me because they let me catch my breath and get a little rest," said Seidler. "But then again that last caution I didn’t need because that killed my momentum.
"This getting old thing is actually a painful thing," he continued. "But getting old is better than the alternative. I mean, I’m lucky to be doing this, but I don’t want to be this old. I mean, you look around at these kids … and I know I was better, better than I am now. I’m not as good as I used to be."
That is debatable.
A year ago Seidler showed up for the 2012 Winter Nationals and won the opening night feature event.
And in that Friday night show back on Jan. 18, Seidler ran away from the field in his heat race. He was untouchable. He was that fast.
He was also fast during the Saturday night show, finishing fourth in the feature event. That night, however, his generosity and willingness to help another driver, one of those "kids," may have came back to bite him in the butt.
Seidler said that following a race earlier in January in Casa Grande, a hot young driver from Chandler, Ricky Thornton Jr., said he didn’t think he’d be able to make the trip to Cocopah Speedway because of finances. So Seidler loaded Thornton’s car into his hauler and brought him along to the Somerton oval.
Then when Thornton struggled during the Friday night program, "he was really down in the mouth," said Seidler, "so I crawled down under there and said, ‘I don’t think I’d be doing this,’ and I jerked a few things around and he says, ‘This is pretty good Marlyn,’ and I said, ‘Yeah, you little son of a gun.’"
When Saturday night’s feature event was over, Seidler said he didn’t know where he had placed, and as he motored around the track on the cool-down lap he listened to his RACEceiver for the car numbers which were supposed to report to the post-race weigh-in and tech inspection.
The first number was that of Thornton, 20RT, which meant he was the winner, and "before she got to my number, which I was happy to hear fourth, between the 20RT and fourth I’m thinking, ‘Oh that little son of a gun, I helped him win the frigging money. I haul him out here and he wins the frigging race.’
"But I’m glad he did, I really am. I like that kid. I’m lucky I can afford this. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s just an amazing kid."
Thornton no doubt reminds Seidler of himself as a young man with a lot of ambition, who started out racing Late Models in the 1970s, going up against Midwest dirt track legends like Bob Shryock.
In 1979, however, Seidler chose to step away from racing and focused on making a living combine harvesting.
"Then I finally got a little bit ahead and decided I wanted to try and stay home and farm and I went back to doing some racing," said Seidler.
And not only did he get to be pretty good at farming, he also made a name for himself in dirt track racing. He got into the IMCA Modified Division when it was just getting started, and at Nodak Speedway, in Minot, N.D., Seidler went on to win seven track championships (1980, 1993, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011), a feat that has never been repeated at the track.
Now, when the weather at home in Underwood, N.D., gets too cold and the farming operation shuts down for the winter, he and his wife head for warmer temperatures and racing in the sunny Southwest.
Out here he says he tries to get in a month to six weeks of racing at places like Cocopah Speedway.
At home, he said he will get in 30 to 40 nights of racing in the summer, in between tending to crops of pinto beans, corn and confectionary flowers.
But, as he said, he’s not getting any younger.
What lies ahead, he said, is uncertain.
"I can see me moving back to (another division) and maybe racing. I don’t know how far away that is, but it might be close.
"I’m still having fun, but this Modified thing is getting to be a real handful," said Seidler. "And these kids are tough.
"It’d be OK if I didn’t mind running 10th or 15th or something like that, but I don’t want to do that."