Bemidji Speedway racers qualify for AFCO Race of Champions

Bemidji Speedway played host to the AFCO Race of Champions qualifier on Sunday night, with four clinching their spots at the track.

The father and Son race team of Chad and Brandon Puschinsky carry the colors as the fans honor America at Bemidji Speedway on Sunday, June 27, 2021. (Dennis Peterson / Special to the Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- Bemidji Speedway played host to the AFCO Race of Champions qualifier on Sunday night, with four clinching their spots at the track.

The AFCO Race of Champions winners are invited to race in the “Race of Champions” at the Wissota 100 at I-94 Speedway in Fergus Falls later this fall. Bemidji Speedway’s qualifiers were Skyler Smith of Bemidji in the Wissota Mod Fours, Wyatt Boyum of International Falls in the Wissota Midwest Modifieds, Dexton Koch of Becker in the Wissota Super Stocks and Danny Vang of Deerwood in the Wissota Modifieds.

The track is taking next week off in observance of the Fourth of July holiday. Racing resumes with the postponed Pepsi Nei Bottling “Kids Night” on July 11, with all kids 12 and under getting free admission. During intermission, many prizes and treats will be handed out and everyone will be allowed to go down on the track and meet their favorite drivers, get autographs and photos.

Wissota Pure Stocks Feature

The first feature of the day had Devyn Weleski and Dusty Caspers lead the 16 cars onto the track. With the green flag of flagman Tim Jackson waving, Austin Carlson took the first lap from his second row inside position. Devyn Weleski and his brother, Deryk, held second and third with Bonnie Farrington fourth and Al Sadek fifth. Deryk Weleski and Al Sadek put on a spirited battle for third with Weleski holding the position as Carlson picked up his second feature win of the summer at Bemidji.

Bemidji Mini Stocks Feature

Father and son race team of Conrad Schwinn and Ashton Schwinn led the Bemidji Mini Stocks down the front straight and then proceeded to tangle with each other in the first turn. That brought out the caution flag and sent the younger to the rear of the field for the restart. When racing resumed, Conrad Schwinn took the lead with Kalin Honer in second. The race went quickly with Schwinn taking the checkered flag. Honer, Travis Klein, Gordon Hunter and Ashton Schwinn were in the top five.


Wissota Super Stock Feature (AFCO Race of Champions qualifier)

The first of four Race of Champions qualifiers was the Wissota Super Stocks, led on track by Jeffrey Frey and Dalton Carlson. Second-row inside starter Dexton Koch dove low in turn one at the start and slipped past both for the lead. Carlson raced up to the leader’s bumper on several occasions, but Koch raced ahead each time. Matt Sparby and Nic Jacobson battled side-by-side for third, with Sparby holding the position to the end of the race. Koch finished with a clean sweep of the superstocks with a heat and feature win and the ROC qualifier. Carlson, Sparby, Jacobson and Frey took top five honors.

Wissota Mod Four Feature (AFCO Race of Champions qualifier)

Veteran racer Dean Larson led the field to the track with Conrad Schwinn to his right. Once out in front, Skyler Smith was on a mission, pulling away to a three-car-length lead from second. Schwinn and Tommy Bawden battled back-and-forth for second, with Bawden eventually claiming the spot as Smith picked up the checkered flag and the ROC qualifier win. Bawden, Schwinn, Larson and Blake Erickson finished in the top five.

Wissota Modified Feature (AFCO Race of Champions qualifier)

Josh Beaulieu on the pole and Devin Forquette started out in the front row. Danny Vang powered into the lead, followed by Beaulieu, Davey Mills, Fourquette and Lance Schilling. Vang quickly created some space between himself and the field as the mods spread out around the track. The only closely watched duel was back in the pack between Matt Fullerton and Scott Engholm for seventh with Engholm holding the position. Vang won the race to receive his ROC award and the right to race at the Race of Champions. Beaulieu, Mills, Fourquette and Schilling filled the top five spots.

Wissota Midwest Modifieds Feature (AFCO Race of Champions qualifier)

Sixteen Wissota Midwest Modifieds powered on track, with Darrin Lawler on the pole and Harley Kroening outside. Lawler powered to the lead at the green flag with Kroening second followed by Wyatt Boyum, Austin McClellan and Taylor Jacobson. A caution in turn four slowed the race for a restart and, as the green flag waved once again, Boyum took the advantage high around Kroening and Lawler for the lead. Boyum continued to increase his lead on the field and finished the race well in front of second-place finisher Alan Olafson, who made the pass of McClellan late in the race. Lawler finished fourth with Kroening fifth.

Wissota Hornet Feature

On the pole was 16-year-old Caylyn Binkley, with Ross Magnuson to her right. Binkley took the initial lead with Magnuson chasing after a lap, but a broken wheel on the front straight sent Magnuson flying in the air and coming down hard. Magnuson was OK, but his car was towed to the pits. When racing resumed, Binkley led Aidan Helwig, Travis Olafson, Logan Sathre and Lucy LaValley in the top five. A tremendous race ensued between Binkley down low and Helwig up high, as the two young racers battled lap after lap, side-by-side. Finally Helwig powered up and around Binkley for the lead, but Binkley raced into turn one and into Helwig, bringing out the caution flag and sending her tailback after a great race. Helwig held his lead to the finish line for his first-ever win. Olafson drove up to take second with Ruby Eggebraaten in third and LaValley fourth. Sathre finished in fifth.

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