BEMIDJI -- With just a few weeks left of the racing season, Bemidji Speedway got in on the specials with its inaugural Prelude to the Stampede held on Sunday, Sept. 20. The Prelude is the warmup to the 41st annual Paul Bunyan Stampede.
The Stampede is set for Sept. 26-27 with pit gates opening at 1 p.m. on Saturday and races starting at 4 p.m. Races on Sunday have a 2 p.m. start time. The races will feature all the regular classes that run at the track, and will be joined once again by the Northern Renegade Wingless Sprints.
The final event of the year at Bemidji Speedway is the following weekend as the track will host a 100-lap Enduro on Oct. 3 at 4 p.m.
Renegade Sprint Feature
The opening feature race of the night was the Northern Renegade Sprints, led on track by Jake Barsness and Paul Schultz. Following a rain delay and much track prep, the race finally got the green flag with Schultz grabbing the lead with Barsness, Chris Lewis, and Ken Hron chasing him.
Hron powered inside and passed Lewis for third while Josh Braford was working his way through traffic from his fourth-row starting spot into fifth. Schultz held a sizable lead as Hron got by Barsness and began to reel him in with each lap until he was on the tail of Schultz with just a lap to go.
Hron made one last attempt to pass coming out of turn four coming to the checkered flag, but Schultz held his line and beat Hron to the finish line by a nose. Hron, Barsness, Braford and Lewis took home top five honors.
Wissota Mod Four Feature
Conrad Schwinn and Blake Erickson held front-row spots for the Wissota Mod Fours. Schwinn took control early with Erickson, Dean Larson, Josh Sautbine and Tommy Pogones trailing.
The caution flag waved a few laps in with Erickson’s car draining fluid on the track. His race car was pushed to the pits, done for the night.
Once the racing resumed, it was again Schwinn in the lead with Dean Larson in pursuit.
Sautbine challenged Larson on the low side. Racing side by side for a lap, Larson finally secured the backup position as Schwinn took the checkered flag. Larson, Sautbine, Pogones and Alex McFarlen trailed in the top five.
Wissota Pure Stocks Feature
Bemidji season-points champion Kade Leeper sat on the pole and led the Wissota Pure Stocks on the track with Devyn Weleski to his right. Leeper quickly pulled out to the lead with Weleski, Josh Berg, Kevin Baumgarner and Austin Carlson in the top five.
Following a caution and restart, Weleski drove high and Berg dropped down low and took the second spot. Baumgarner and Carlson followed, dropping Weleski into fifth. Dusty Caspers started in the fifth row of the feature and had worked his way into the top five with a high side pass.
A three-wide race developed for second with Baumgarner claiming the spot over Berg and Carlson. Baumgarner raced inside and took the lead from Leeper, but slid in turn two, bringing out the caution flag and sending him tailback for a restart.
Following the late restart, Leeper held his line and took home the trophy. Berg was second with Carlson, Caspers and Michael Roth trailing.
Wissota Midwest Modified Feature
Bill Beaulieu and Gary James Nelson led the Wissota Midwest Modifieds down the front straight to the green flag. But two restarts later following first-lap spins, it was Aaron Blacklance in the lead with Nelson, Skyler Smith, Jeff Reed and Bret Schmidt in the top five.
Smith raced inside turn two and into second as Blacklance held a five-car length lead over the second-place car of Smith.
Following another caution, Blacklance continued his dominance and quickly pulled out to comfortable leads. Nelson came back to reclaim the second spot with Smith and Schmidt side by side for third. Smith battled back to regain the third spot with Schmidt backing off into fourth and Jeff Reed claiming fifth as the Thief River Falls racer Blacklance drove to victory lane.
Wissota Hornets Feature
A small but determined field of Wissota Hornets entered the track with Jason Bush and Jordan Thayer leading the way.
Making his first return to racing in many years, Bush took the early lead. But then Lucy LaValley powered up and took the top spot for the first time in her short racing career.
A caution slowed the race for a restart, moving Thayer into the lead as Justin Schelitzche of Cologne, Minn., powered up and around Thayer with Bush dropping back in the field.
Travis Olafson battled from the rear of the field into second and challenged for the lead as Schelitzche took the checkered flag. Jake Barsness was third with Thayer and LaValley trailing.
Bemidji Mini Stocks Feature
Following multiple spins, crashes and restarts to begin the Bemidji Mini Stocks feature, flagman Cole Isensee sent the cars to the infield to “cool off” before restarting them following the Super Stock feature.
With a fresh start, Waylon Current drove his mini to the front followed by Kalin Honer, Cory Nelson, John Current and Conrad Schwinn.
John Current passed Nelson for third as his son Waylon won his first-ever feature race, celebrating in victory lane by climbing atop his mini in triumphant joy. Honer, John Current, Schwinn and Nelson held the top five spots.
Wissota Super Stock Feature
The Wissota Super Stocks drove on track with Kevin Baumgarner making a rare appearance in a super on the pole. Matt Sparby was to his right.
A spin on the first try sent Baumgarner to the rear of the field for the restart, which Sparby controlled with Dalton Carlson, Tristan LaBarge, Tim Carlson and Mikey Vajdl trailing. Sparby found his groove and held his line as Carlson and LaBarge waged war for second with bumper to bumper action while Tim Carlson and Vajdl waged a similar war for fourth.
Sparby, holding a comfortable lead, was beginning to pass lapped cars and nearly had a disastrous incident on the front straight with one, but was able to save his lead. LaBarge and Carlson’s battle continued until LaBarge slid in turn two and came to a stop on the back straight, bringing out the caution flag.
A series of three cautions slowed the race. When racing resumed, it was Sparby still holding his lead over Dalton Carlson close behind him. Sparby crossed the finish line and drove to victory lane. Dalton Carlson was second with Tim Carlson third. Vajdl, Baumgarner and Bruce VonHoldt finished in the top five.
Wissota Modified Feature
Scott Engholm and Doyle Erickson led the field of Wissota Modifieds to the green flag for the night’s final race. The first two tries at a start ended in spins and cars were sent to the rear of the field. On the third try, Engholm took the front spot and was chased by Adam Johnson, Lance Schilling, Nathan Sletto and Josh Beaulieu.
Schilling drove inside in turns 1-2 and passed Johnson for second. Engholm enjoyed the lead position and used it to his advantage in pulling away to a huge lead. Doyle Erickson recovered from his bad start to pass several cars and pulled into fifth and then fourth following a three-wide battle for the spot with Johnson and Beaulieu.
The field was spread out around the track as Engholm took the checkered flag and drove his No. 34 modified to victory lane. Schilling, Sletto, Erickson and Beaulieu trailed Engholm.
Bemidji Speedway results (Sept. 20)
Northern Renegade Sprint Feature: Paul Schultz, Ken Hron, Jake Barsness, Josh Braford, Chris Lewis, Ross Cummings, Teal Arnason, Brad Larson, Brian Trembath.
Wissota Pure Stock Feature: Kade Leeper, Josh Berg, Austin Carlson, Dusty Caspers, Mike Roth, Margo Butcher, Kevin Baumgarner, Joe LaValley, Bryan Karl, Tabatha Conkle.
Heat 1 – Josh Berg
Heat 2 – Joey LaValley
Heat 3 – Michael Roth.
Wissota Mod Four Feature: Conrad Schwinn, Dean Larson, Josh Sautbine, Tommy Pogones, Alexander McFarlan, Patrick Specht, Dean Shaver, Brian Feda, Nicole Feda, Jonathon Feda.
Heat 1 – Dean Larson
Heat 2 – Blake Erickson
Wissota Midwest Modified Feature: Aaron Blacklance, Gary James Nelson, Skyler Smith, Bret Schmidt, Jeff Reed, Doug VanMill, Alex Johnson, Mike Johnson, Cory Peterson, Casey Kintner.
Heat 1 - Bret Schmidt
Heat 2 – Skyler Smith
Wissota Hornets Feature: Justin Schelitzche, Travis Olafson, Justin Barsness, Jordan Thayer, Lucy LaValley, Jason Bush.
Heat 1 – Travis Olafson
Bemidji Mini Stocks Feature: Waylon Current, Kalin Honer, John Current, Conrad Schwinn, Cory Nelson, Brandon Puschinsky, Landon Gross, Brandon Hunter.
Heat 1 – John Current
Wissota Super Stocks Feature: Matt Sparby, Dalton Carlson, Tim Carlson, Mikey Vajdl, Kevin Baumgarner, Bruce VonHoldt.
Heat 1 – Nicholas Jacobson
Heat 2 – John Farrington
Wissota Modified Feature: Scott Engholm, Lance Schilling, Nathan Sletto, Doyle Erickson, Josh Beaulieu, Adam Johnson
Heat 1 – Nathan Sletto