International Motor Contest Association stock car racer Nathan Burke doesn't worry about his positioning in the points standings.
The Minot native prefers racing rather than scoreboard watching.
But this season, Burke will have a large target on his back, with 40-plus drivers aiming to take down the defending stock car points champion. Burke held off Kelly Henderson for the IMCA stock car championship, winning the series by 12 points.
MDN File Photo
Nodak Speedway hosts its first of 18 races Sunday.
"There's pressure every year," Burke said. "It doesn't matter to me. I just go out there and race. But the competition has stepped up."
It's been a quiet offseason on the track for Burke and other drivers, such as IMCA Modified runner-up Steven Pfeifer. The Pfeifers welcomed a little girl to their family at the end of the 2012 season and the newcomer has kept Steven busy.
Pfeifer appeared in the Duel in the Desert at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in November, finishing seventh in the second Modified feature race. Although he hasn't raced in six months, Pfeifer has set the bar high this year.
"Once we get into the groove of things, I'd like to get a five-to-10 win season," Pfeifer said. "That's something we could do."
Nodak Speedway will host its first of 18 events Sunday at 5 p.m. The season includes the Legends tour on June 9, the Dakota Classic tour on July 7, the North Dakota State Fair race on July 23 and the World of Outlaws on August 18.
Both Burke and Pfeifer said they will focus this season on trying new things with different car modifications, even if that means taking a hit in the points standings.
"We have to do a little more experimenting this year," Burke said. "Try to get a little more speed. We're not going to be afraid to try new things."
With the new year comes the early-season jitters. From rookies to seasoned veterans, Pfeifer said pre-race nerves are part of the sport.
"You still always get those butterflies in the stomach the first few times you strap in," Pfeifer said.