Jason LaValley of Bemidji grew up watching his uncle Larry Mills race. Later, cousins Ricky Jacobson and Davey Mills took over the racing duties, and Jason often wondered what it was like to race.
Over the winter months with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting everything down, Jason, 42, turned to racing.
“I could see it was something we could do as a family,” said LaValley.
The self-employed founder and CEO of LaValley Industries bought his first race car, a Wissota Midwest Modified, and looked for every available opportunity to practice his new passion.
But it wasn't just a car for himself. His son Joey also wanted to race. Father and son picked up another race car, a Wissota Pure Stock, for Joey to race and the LaValley race team was formed.
The two LaValleys hit the tracks immediately with circuits in Wisconsin and North Dakota opening early in the spring, while Minnesota delayed track openings until much later.
Bemidji Speedway held four weeks of socially distanced practice sessions in June and July, which the LaValleys took advantage of by perfecting their racing skills. But the LaValley race team wasn’t complete yet.
“My husband showed up one evening with a car for me, so I decided to give it a try,” said Lucy LaValley, wife of Jason and mom to Joey.
Lucy’s car would be the No. 13L in the Wissota Hornet division.
“My first race was on July 12,” said Lucy, who is a childcare teacher and administrative assistant with TLC Preschool. All together, the LaValleys have two sons: James, 17, and Joey, 15; as well as two daughters: Josey, 14, and Cejay, 11.
“Why do I race? Because my wife said I could,” Jason said with a laugh. “I’ve always wanted to try racing and I love speed, it puts a smile on my face. My dream would be to race in the Modified class with my cousins.”
Jason’s goal is to win a race and to “have fun with my family.”
Joey LaValley mows lawns, helps with haying and also helps out at LaValley Industries. He commented, “The racing is a good family thing to do together and it’s a blast.”
Joey won his first heat race earlier this summer at Bemidji Speedway and his goal is to win a feature.
Lucy LaValley is still waiting for that first win. She commented that a highlight for her was passing her first car in a race.
“I never thought I would ever pass anyone after my first race. It was my third race and I decided to make a move and it worked, super fun,” she said. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity, I am so grateful. I love the family aspect and hope I can be a role model to those who think they can’t do it. If an old mom like me can do it, anyone can.”
Jason added he’d like to thank God “for giving us the opportunity to race for however long it lasts.”
Whether they win races on the track or not, the LaValley family is winning in the race of living a dream and loving and growing as a family.
The LaValley race team can be seen three more times at Bemidji Speedway in the coming weeks.
On Sunday, Sept. 20, the track will have all seven classes racing, and the Northern Renegade Wingless Sprints will return with a 4 p.m. starting time.
Then, the 41st annual Paul Bunyan Stampede will take over the track with two days of racing on Sept. 26-27. Saturday's races start at 4 p.m. and Sunday’s are set for 2 p.m.
The track will host a 100-lap Enduro on Oct. 3 to end the racing season at Bemidji Speedway.