BEMIDJI - The 2012 racing season got off to a great start Sunday at Bemidji Speedway. Beautiful clear skies and a warm breeze greeted an excellent field of cars, drivers and crews all with aspirations of that first heat win, that first feature win and, ultimately, a coveted track championship.
Mini Stocks, Pure Stocks, Wissota Mod Fours, Wissota Midwest Modifieds and Wissota Super Stocks will be the main classes at Bemidji this year. Sunday, the Northern Plains Mini Sprint Association brought a handful of Mini Sprints as an added class to the regular show.
Jerry Ramey and Branden Smith traded leads several times and, after racing side by side, Ramey held on to pick up his first-ever feature win. Smith, Bill Beaulieu, Corey Peterson and Keith Koski rounded out the top five.
Weston Ramsrud grabbed the lead early and held off the hard-charging Rick Watson to win a flag-to-flag victory for his initial feature win.
Rick Watson, Becky Barrett, Leahna Barrett and Josh Berg trailed.
A spirited race developed between the Conrad Schwinn and Fran Hauber. Schwinn caught Hauber with just three laps remaining to pick up his first win of the new season. Nathan Higginbotham, Hauber, Tonja Stranger and Mike Margl rounded out the top five finishers.
Don Smith started in the fourth row and worked his way through traffic early to challenge he leaders.
Racing hard down the back straight, Don Smith eventually grabbed the inside line and took the lead. Several cautions for debris on the track and spins slowed the race but didn't change the results as Smith picked up the win. Gary Nelson Jr., Skyler Smith, Doyle Erickson and Christopher Leek filled the top five positions.
When racing resumed late in the race after a caution, Gary Nelson Jr. was in the lead.
The final lap belonged to Nelson Jr., taking the checkers with Derek Vessel, Dalton Carlson, Robert Lore and Bret Schmidt completing the top five.
In an exciting high-flying race, Lawrence Veralrud raced high around Wesley VanDruden for the lead and took the checkered flag. Veralrud, new to racing this year, is 71 years old. His grandson, Trent Stegl, just 15, placed third.
Pure Stock Feature - Jerry Ramey, Branden Smith, Bill Beaulieu, Corey Peterson, Keith Koski, Jay Lutgen, Bill Chaboyea, Troy Hemphill, Chad Puschinsky, Chris Kangas
Heat 1 - Beaulieu, Hemphill, Kangas, Koski, Lutgen
Heat 2 - Puschinsky, Ramey, Smith, Peterson, Chaboyea
Mini Stock Feature -Weston Ramsrud, Rick Watson, Becky Barrett, Leahna Barrett, Josh Berg, Cory Mueller, Andrew Hanson
Heat 1 - Watson, L. Barrett, Ramsrud, B. Barrett, Mueller
Wissota Mod Four Feature - Conrad Schwinn, Nathan Higginbotham, Fran Hauber, Tonja Stranger, Mike Margl, Billy Smith, Ev Barrett
Heat 1 - Schwinn, Hauber, Higginbotham, Margl, Stranger
Wissota Midwest Modified Feature - Don Smith, Gary Nelson Jr., Skyler Smith, Doyle Erickson, Christopher Leek, Bret Schmidt, John Halvorson, Davey Mills, Brandon Bahr, Darrin Lawler,
Heat 1 - Halvorson, Mills, Dudley, Nelson Jr., Reed,
Heat 2 - S. Smith, Erickson, D. Smith, Leek, Schmidt
Wissota Super Stock Feature - Gary Nelson Jr., Derek Vessel, Dalton Carlson, Robert Lore, Bret Schmidt, Matt Sparby, Blake Higginbotham, Andy Davey
Heat 1 - Davey, Schmidt, Carlson, Nelson Jr, Lore
Mini Sprints Feature - Lawrence Veralrud, Wesley VanDrunen, Trent Stegl, Jacob VanDrunen
Heat 1 -Stengl, Veralrud, W. VanDrunen, J. VanDrunen