Drivers, crews and fans waited a long time for Sunday, July 12. The Bemidji Speedway gates finally opened for racing following several weeks of practice time at the track.
The opener actually started on Saturday with a car show held at the track and ended with a picture perfect night of racing action on Sunday with a good car count and plenty of fans social distancing and enjoying the show.
Bemidji Mini Stock Feature
The Bemidji Mini Stocks were the first feature of the 2020 season. Cory Nelson held the pole position with Connor Drewry to his right. Drewry powered into the lead followed by Nelson, John Current and Blake Erickson.
Conrad Schwinn raced up from his fourth row starting position to challenge late for the win. In a wild three-wide battle to the checkered flag, Schwinn won by inches over Drewry and Current.
Wissota Pure Stock Feature
Austin Carlson and Kade Leeper led the Wissota Pure Stocks to the green flag with Leeper grabbing the lead followed by Carlson, Devyn Weleski and Josh Berg.
A couple of cautions for spins slowed the action and provided Al Sadek Sr. the opportunity to work his way through the field from his third row starting position to challenge for the lead. A late caution sent Carlson to the infield and provided the restart Sadek needed to catch and pass Leeper for the win.
It was Sadek's first feature win and clean sweep in many years after coming out of retirement this summer to get behind the wheel once again.
Leeper, Berg, Michael Roth and Devyn Weleski made up the top five.
Wissota Super Stocks Feature
Tim Carlson and his son Dalton led the field of Wissota Super Stocks to the green flag with Dalton taking the bragging rights over dad to start the race. Tim Carlson, Nicholas Jacobson, Harley Kroening and Matt Sparby chased the leader into the back straight.
Sparby and Nathan Higginbotham tangled in the turn 3-4 corner, bringing out the caution flag with Higginbotham pitting. When racing resumed, it was Dalton Carlson maintaining the lead over his dad with Jacobson challenging and taking second down the front straight.
Dalton Carlson kept his lead and picked up his first feature win in 2020 with Jacobson, Tim Carlson, Sparby and Kroening in the top five.
Wissota Mod Fours Feature
The Wissota Mod Fours streamed on track next with Dean Larson on the pole and Patrick Specht to his right. Larson took the lead with Blake Erickson, Trevor Voss, Specht and Conrad Schwinn trailing.
Larson, the “Pennock, Minn., Flyer” powered out to a sizable lead over the field. The duel between Voss and Jamie Lenarz for third was the race to watch as the two muscled back and forth around the track chasing Larson and Erickson far ahead.
Larson continued with no mistakes and picked up the clean sweep victory. Erickson, Schwinn, Lenarz and Voss finished in the top five.
Wissota Hornet Feature
The screaming Wissota Hornets entered the track next led by Bemidji’s Aidan Helwig on the pole with Jordan Thayer to his right. Helwig took the lead but lost it to Thayer after one lap.
The first caution flag was waved for 15-year-old Logan Bradford in his first race ever after he slipped up and over the turn three corner.
Brennan Schmidt was on the move after the restart, passing cars to challenge for the lead. In a photo finish at the line with Helwig, Schmidt won the race to complete a clean sweep. Kurtis Huseth was third, Travis Olafson fourth and Thayer fifth. Making her first appearance in a race car, Lucy LaValley took sixth in her first feature race.
Wissota Midwest Modifieds Feature
Bemidji’s Jason LaValley sat on the pole and Matt Schow outside on the front row for the Wissota Midwest Modifieds.
Local competitors Brandon Bahr and Jeff Reed connected from their second and third rows at the green flag to bring out a caution.
Again, a caution flag waved and LaValley was sent to the rear of the field, moving Jeff Nelson into the lead for the restart. Nelson quickly powered his No. 33 B-Mod to a comfortable lead as Brandon Bahr powered up into third behind Schow.
Another caution slowed the race and Ryan Schow powered up on the restart to pass Bahr for third as the No. 16 of Skyler Smith made his way into the top five for the first time from his sixth row starting position. Nelson cruised to the victory with Matt Schow, Ryan Schow, Bahr and Smith trailing.
Wissota Modified Feature
Davey Mills of Bemidji and Ryan Gierke of Villard, Minn., led the Wissota Modifieds on track for the final race of opening day.
The race didn’t last long for Mills as mechanical issues forced him into the infield. As the green flag waved, Gierke took the lead over Hibbing’s Keith Koski, Bemidji’s Lance Schilling and Grand Rapids’ Ken Hron.
Tyler Kaeter, age 17, started in the fourth row and made up ground on the field, passing Hron on the back straight for fifth, took fourth in the 3-4 corner and continued his assault to the front by passing Schilling for third.
Out front, Gierke had a huge lead over Koski in second. Back in the pack, Bemidji’s Ricky Jacobson moved into fifth. A terrific race for second developed between Kaeter and Koski with Kaeter taking the backup spot.
A caution flag waved minutes later. Due to Gierke jumping the start of the race, he was moved back to third for the restart, which by rule moved Kaeter into the lead followed by Koski, Gierke, Jacobson and Hron.
With the green flag once again waving, Jacobson used the high side to take third from Gierke as Kaeter took the checkered flag for his first win in 2020. Koski, Jacobson, Gierke and Hron filled the top five spots to end the opening night of races at Bemidji Speedway.