Bemidji Speedway opens for practice sessions
BEMIDJI -- Bemidji Speedway opened its gates for the first time in 2020 on Saturday and Sunday, but it was limited to slotted practice times for drivers. Up to three people were allowed in each pit with a total of six cars in each time slot.
Beginning Wednesday, June 10, outdoor events can take place in Minnesota with a maximum of 250 people, though that doesn’t make it feasible for the speedway to begin holding races.
“It’s really difficult to try and open with the limit on fans by the governor,” track owner/promoter Tonja Stranger said.
Many area tracks in Minnesota are facing the same issues. Tracks in Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Proctor are all holding practice sessions like Bemidji Speedway.
“For now we will continue to run practice sessions on the weekends until we can at least bring 50% of fans in,” Stranger added. Many area racers looking for an opportunity to race have traveled to surrounding states that are mostly open for racing, including North and South Dakota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Wyoming.
Drivers in attendance on Saturday and Sunday detailed their plans for the 2020 season.
No. 4 Al Sadek returns to racing after six years sitting out in a new pure stock. “I’m retired now and looking to have some fun,” he said.
No. 1 Matt Fullerton will race in the Wissota Midwest Modified class once again. “We should be fully open, but I understand why Bemidji Speedway can’t be,” he said. He plans on racing at Bemidji and Brainerd in 2020.
No. 3 Jamie Chlebecek races in the Pure Stock class and has raced once in Superior, Wis., which is fully open, once already in 2020 and plans on racing at Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Hibbing, Superior and Ashland, Wis. She is in her sixth year of racing.
No. 11 Harley Kroening begins his fourth year of racing in the Wissota Super Stock class and his sixth overall. He has raced twice so far this year and plans on racing at Bemidji, Ashland and Superior in 2020.
No. 36 Tyler Kroening is also in his sixth year of racing but his first in the Wissota Super Stock class after moving up from the pure stocks. He has raced one night in Ashland this year and plans on racing Bemidji and Ashland tracks in 2020.
No. 28 John Current is in his fifth year of racing and plans on racing in the mini stock class at Bemidji and Greenbush Speedways in 2020. He was track champion in Greenbush in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
No. 14j Haley Jones has raced for 2 1/2 years and will be racing in the Wissota Pure Stock class. Her goal is to “have fun and get better” and she plans on racing only at Bemidji Speedway.
No. 26 Kyle Davis is anxious to get racing in his first year in the Wissota Pure Stock class, his third year overall. He plans on racing at Bemidji, Greenbush, Devils Lake, N.D., and Grand Rapids.
No. 18x Connor Drewry is in his third year of racing in the mini stock class and hopes to get back to racing soon.
No. 39 Deryk Weleski will be racing in the Wissota Pure Stock class along with his brother, Devyn. He raced in Devils Lake and finished in the top five this year. He is in his fourth year of racing and will race at Bemidji, Greenbush and Hibbing in 2020.
No. 7 Levi Mutch is in his fourth year of racing and will be driving in the Wissota Midwest Modified class. He “hopes we can start soon” and plans on racing at Bemidji, Grand Rapids and Grand Forks, N.D., in 2020.
No. 11 Devyn Weleski is “ready to race” and will be driving in the Wissota Pure Stock class in his third year of racing. He’s competed in three races already in 2020 in North Dakota and Wisconsin.
No. 292 Kevin Bahr is in his 37th year of racing. He races in the Wissota Late Model class and said he “hopes to race in Bemidji if they host a special” or otherwise he will race in Grand Rapids, Hibbing and Grand Forks.
No. 29 Brandon Bahr is in his 14th year and will be racing in the Wissota Midwest Modified class. “Hopefully the limit on fans ends soon and we can get back to racing,” he said.
No. 32 Nic Jacobson is in just his second year of racing and moved up from the mini stock class to the Wissota Super Stocks in 2020. He said he plans on racing “everywhere” this season. He has raced a couple of times already at Deer Creek and Ashland.
No. 7 Bryan Karl is a local ice racer moving into the dirt track ranks. He is in his second year and said he “respects the decisions by the track officials” and plans on racing at both Bemidji and Grand Rapids in 2020. “The racing family is an incredible community of people who support and encourage one another and we need to get back to the track and racing soon,” he said.
No. 88 Brandon Puschinsky is 15 years old and just got his driver's permit. Brandon is in his second year of racing in the mini stock class. He plans on racing in Bemidji, Greenbush and Grand Rapids when they host the minis. He wanted to thank “the incredible sponsors who still support them, even with the delay to the season.”