For Wissota Mod Four racer Tonja Stranger losing 150 pounds was the inspiration she needed to get back into racing after 17 years.
Stranger, 42, of Bemidji, works as a school bus driver and cook and races in the very competitive Wissota Mod Four class. She began her racing career after working on a modified and then in 1989 began to race herself in the Super Stock class until 1994.
In 1993 she earned the Super Stock season points championship at Buffalo Rive Speedway with 10 feature wins. She also was the runner-up in both 1992 and 1994.
Stranger also was awarded four "Best Appearing Car" awards and was named "1989 Rookie of the Year". Among her most prized awards was being named "Most Popular Driver" in 1993 at Buffalo River Speedway.
Stranger plans on racing at Bemidji Speedway, Princeton, Willmar and Buffalo River speedways this season. She gives special credit to fellow racer Conrad Schwinn for giving her the chance to race again.
"Mod Fours are very hard to drive, very challenging, but he is a great teacher and inspiration," she said.
Her goals this season include winning Rookie of the Year honors at Bemidji Speedway and finishing in the top five in points.
Stranger's sponsors are Miller Lite, Tom's Windshield Repair, Classic Cuts, Corner Bar and 5 Star Limousine.