Jack Sparby Memorial Chicken Shack Nationals open racing season at Bemidji Speedway

The Jack Sparby Memorial Chicken Shack Nationals opened the season of dirt track racing on Sunday, May 30, and Monday, May 31.

The Northern Renegade Winged Sprints of No. 15 Caley Emerson and No. 47 Jake Barsness race down the front straight and past the packed grandstands at Bemidji Speedway on Sunday, May 30, 2021. (Dennis Peterson / Special to the Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- On a day race fans have waited months for, racing returned to Bemidji Speedway in grand fashion. The Jack Sparby Memorial Chicken Shack Nationals opened the season of dirt track racing on Sunday, May 30, and Monday, May 31.

An impressive 134 cars filled the pits Sunday. The car count was 111 cars on Memorial Day.

Joining the regular field of Wissota Modifieds, Wissota Super Stocks, Wissota Midwest Modifieds, Wissota Mod Fours, Wissota Pure Stocks, Wissota Hornets and Mini Stocks were the Northern Renegade Winged and Wingless Sprints making their first appearance of the year.

The sprints return next Sunday, June 6 without the wings. Start time next Sunday is 5 p.m.

Day 1 (Sunday)

Northern Renegade Winged Sprint Feature

The feature of the day was led on track by Teal Arneson and Ryan Johnson. Johnson grabbed the early lead but Arneson came out in front when Johnson slowed into the infield. Chris Lewis, Ken Hron, Brad Larson and Jake Barsness trailed.


Bemidji Mini Stock Feature

An even dozen Bemidji Mini Stocks were next on track with Cory Nelson on the pole and John Current to his right. At the green flag the two veteran racers dueled side by side for a lap before Current moved out ahead. Conrad Schwinn raced up from his fourth-row starting spot and battled with Mike Hart for third. In a tight race, Current picked up the initial feature of the year in the Minis with Nelson, Schwinn, Kalin Horner and Hart in the top five.

Wissota Hornet Feature

The third feature on track was the increasingly popular Wissota Hornets class.

Newcomer and 16-year-old Caylyn Binkley was on the pole and Cody Davis was to her right. Binkley led the first lap and then dropped back with Davis taking over the lead as veteran racers began working their way to the front weaving their way through the 18-car field.

Chase Golliet from Fargo, N.D., Ross Magnuson and the eventual winner Travis Olafson worked to the front with Olafson taking the checkered flag. He was followed by Golliet, Magnuson, Ethan Newman and Logan ZumMallen in the top five.

Wissota Pure Stock Feature

Veteran racer Al Sadek led the 18-car Wissota Pure Stocks on track on the pole with Dusty Caspers to his right. Second-row starter Michael Roth powered by Sadek for the lead as Caspers on the high side dropped back to third. Caspers continued dropping back and later determined his engine had blown. Roth picked up the win with Sadek, Austin Carlson, Kade Leeper and Deryk Weleski trailing.

Wissota Mod Four Feature

Sixteen Wissota Mod Fours rolled on track next with class newcomer Shannon George on the pole and St. Cloud area driver Patrick Specht to his right.

The start of the race had a three-wide race for the lead coming out of turn two with Specht out front followed by Landyn Randt from Siren, Wis., in second with George third. Specht and Randt dueled for the lead side by side with Skyler Smith charging up from his third-row start to join the leaders.

The race was cautioned, setting up a tight field with Randt, Smith, Jamie Lenarz, Conrad Schwinn and Specht in the top five. The race had the fans standing and cheering on the last lap as Lenarz and Smith raced door to door with Smith taking the lead out of turn four for the win. Lenarz, Schwinn, Specht and Dean Larson made up the top five.


Wissota Midwest Modified Feature

A total of 28 Wissota Midwest Modifieds fought it out for the right to race in the 18-car feature.

On the pole was Michael Jacobson with Jeff Reed to his right.

An early race spin created the first caution and sent several cars to the pits for repairs. The restart put Reed on the pole and he dueled with Travis Krumrei for the lead with Reed up high and Krumrei down low. In third was Wyatt Boyum, followed by Joey LaValley and Brandon Bahr.

Working through the mass of B mods, Aaron Blacklance made his way into the top five by passing Bahr for fourth as Bahr and Blake Higginbotham battled for fifth.

Following a second multi-car melee, Blacklance moved up to second behind Reed with Tyler Vernon of Mason, Wis., in third, Krumrei in fourth and Alan Olafson in fifth where they finished.

Reed and Blacklance put on a show for the fans with Reed high and Blacklance low on the track with each taking the lead only to have Reed come out in front down the front straight. Reed claimed his first clean sweep of the year with the win.

Wissota Super Stock Feature

The Jack Sparby Memorial Super Stock feature was led on track by Jake Froemke and Dalton Carlson in row one. Froemke tried the high side and dropped behind Carlson, but a early caution gave the restart signal. The restart was what Froemke needed as he powered to the front followed by Carlson, Matt Sparby, John Farrington and Jeffrey Frey.

Sparby passed Carlson and the two leaders pulled away from the pack led by Froemke. By nearly a 1/2 lap, the two battled alone with Froemke fighting off the battle to win the Jack Sparby Memorial race in honor of longtime racer and race fan Jack Sparby, father of Matt Sparby. Kevin Salin raced up from his fourth-row start to take third. Nicholas Jacobson started tailback and gained a very respectable fourth followed by Kevin Bahr racing legendary racer Gordie Lancaster’s super stock to a fifth-place finish.


Wissota Modified Feature

The final race of Day 1 was the Wissota Modifieds. Davey Mills was on the pole with Tyler Vernon to his right.

An incredibly fast start found Mills out front trailed by Vernon, Josh Beaulieu, Matt Fullerton and Lance Schilling. Mills quickly powered out to a five-car length lead. Beaulieu got a bit high on the track and dropped back to fourth, moving Schilling up to third.

Doyle Erickson charged up from his fourth-row start into fifth as Mills continued to build on his lead. As Mills began to lap cars, Vernon was able to gain on the leader but the final lap white flag waved and Mills took the checkered flag from flagman Tim Jackson for the win. Vernon, Schilling, Beaulieu and Erickson trailed, ending the first day of racing at the Jack Sparby Memorial Chicken Shack Nationals.

Day 2 (Monday)

Day 2 of the Jack Sparby Memorial Chicken Shack Nationals received the green flag start on Memorial Day under clear skies. A total of 111 cars again filled the pits with an excellent crowd of race fans to cheer them on.

Northern Renegade Wingless Sprints Feature

The wingless sprints opened the show with Brad Larson and Teal Arneson leading the way to the green flag.

The top five of Larson, Arneson, Josh Braford, Ken Hron and Caley Emerson were in a tight racing formation when Emerson dropped out and into the infield.

The top three were nose to tail with the checkered flag in the hand of flagman Tim Jackson. It was a three-wide battle on the back straight with Arneson and Hron emerging in turn four. Arneson outlasted Hron and picked up his second feature win of the weekend.

Bemidji Mini Stock Feature

Gordon Hunter and Waylon Current led the mini stocks down the front straight to the green flag with second-row starter Conrad Schwinn charging up to take the lead on lap one.


Following a couple of yellow flags the race went single file and Schwinn picked up the win. Kalin Honer, Ashton Schwinn, Cory Nelson and Mike Hart filled the top five spots.

Wissota Pure Stocks Feature

Sixteen Wissota Pure Stocks rolled on track with Austin Carlson on the pole.

Carlson took the lead with Landon Gross, Al Sadek, Bonnie Farrington and Josh Berg trailing.

Following a caution and restart, Carlson’s No. 57 pure stock slowed and pulled into the infield, moving Sadek into the lead with Berg, Roth, Deryk Weleski and Kade Leeper in the top five.

Another caution created an opportunity for Berg to move up, taking the lead with Sadek dropping back to finish fourth. Berg took the checkered flag with Roth, Weleski, Sadek and Leeper trailing.

Wissota Midwest Modified Feature

The 24-car field of Wissota Midwest Mods went through heats and B Mains to create the 18-car feature field led on track by Jeff Reed and Chad Puschinsky.

One lap into the race, a series of spins and crashes slowed the race with many cars pitting for repairs or out for the night. Once racing resumed, it was Reed out front followed by Darrin Lawler, Puschinsky, Alan Olafson and Austin McClellan.

Charging up from his seventh-row starting position, Brandon Bahr challenged and took over fourth using the inside line. Reed and Lawler dueled bumper to bumper with the third-place car of Olafson four car lengths back.


Following another late caution, the race resumed single file with Reed, Lawler, Bahr, Blacklance and Puschinsky in the top five. Puschinsky slid up high, dropping back several positions as Reed claimed his second feature of the weekend. Lawler took second while Bahr, Blacklance and McClellan rounded out the top five.

Wissota Hornet Feature

Malakai Wilson and Peyton Edelman led the field of 21 Wissota Hornets to the green flag with Wilson in the early lead followed by Chase Golleit, Travis Olafson, Ross Magnuson and Derek Wangberg.

A caution created a restart, but after three tries, the race was started single file with Golliet taking the lead over Olafson. Magnuson raced by Wilson for third as Aiden Helwig raced into fifth. Olafson took home the trophy with Golliet, Magnuson, Wilson and Helwig trailing.

Wissota Mod Four Feature

Jamie Lenarz and Blake Erickson brought the field of Wissota Mod Fours on track with Erickson taking the lead on lap one followed by Lenarz, Jon Feda, Mike Hart and Patrick Specht.

Feda moved to the outside and dropped back as Erickson out front pulled away with a big lead. But cautions brought the field back together for a restart and gave veteran racer Dean Larson a chance to move up from his third-row starting position to third on the track behind Erickson and Lenarz.

Sunday night winner Skyler Smith was looking to move up and raced side by side with Lenarz for second as Lenarz slid up high and dropped back to seventh. Larson caught Erickson and raced door to door with the speedy Bagley flyer before taking the lead in turn four on the final lap. Erickson was second with Specht, Josh Sautbine and Smith trailing.

Wissota Super Stock Feature

Matt Sparby was on the pole for the start of the Wissota Super Stock feature. Kevin Bahr started on the outside front row as the green flag waved. Sparby flew to the lead with Kevin Salin, Kevin Bahr, Brandon Bahr and Jake Froemke trailing.

Dalton Carlson cruised inside turn four to pass Kevin Bahr for fourth and Brandon Bahr raced the inside down the front straight to pass Salin for second. A caution flag waved once more with Sparby, Brandon Bahr, Dalton Carlson, John Farrington and Kevin Bahr in the top five where they finished in that order.


Wissota Modified Feature

The final race of the two-day special was the Wissota Modifieds. They were led on track by Josh Beaulieu and Tyler Vernon.

Beaulieu took the initial lead with Vernon, Davey Mills, Matt Fullerton and Lance Schilling in the top five.

Following a caution, Mills got by Vernon for second on the track with Scott Engholm charging up from a last-place start into the top five. A chain reaction crash on the back straight sent mods careening to avoid the mishap with several cars pitting for repairs.

The final caution didn’t slow the No. 22 of Josh Beaulieu as he finished out front with Mills, Farrington, Schilling and Engholm in the top five to end an incredible two days of racing at Bemidji Speedway.

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