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Koranda, Erickson, Williamson Lead Bemidji Speedway Winners

Jack Koranda has won two straight features at Bemidji (Photo by Lisa Rhen)

It was Women in Motorsports Night Sunday at Bemidji Speedway. All of the female drivers competing were introduced at intermission with their cars along with the female track workers who are part of the show at Bemidji. A good field of 88 cars signed in to compete on a breezy July evening.

I’m of the school of thought that car counts are relative, depending on track size. A nine-car Mod 4 field might not be entertaining at a bigger half-mile track like Viking Speedway, for example, but on a ¼-mile track like Bemidji, it puts on a good show. With 13 Wissota Modifieds on hand that is almost a perfect amount for a good show on a ¼-mile track.

The Wissota Super Stock numbers seem to be down at a lot of tracks, with the exception of the Northland Tour that was held earlier this season which packed them in. Several of the tracks west of U.S. Highway 71 are all seeing low numbers. Viking Speedway has been between 10-12 most of the year; Madison, Fiesta City and KRA Speedway are usually in the single digits; on Sunday Bemidji had seven on hand. You had a $5,000 to win Super Stock special at Cedar Lake attract 34 cars, which is good, but I’d expect more for that amount to win. Numbers in most racing classes are cyclical, so it’s important to consider that, but if the trend continues I wonder about the future of the class at some tracks.

One interesting thing about Bemidji is the amount of Grand Rapids-area cars that compete weekly at Bemidji. It’s about an hour drive from Grand Rapids to Bemidji, give or take, and some Bemidji cars race Thursdays at Grand Rapids. Honestly it’s a good situation for both tracks, particularly in the hornet and pure stock divisions.

Billy Binkley of Puposky and Bonnie Farrington of Akeley led the Wissota Pure Stocks to the green, but it was Dustin Puffe of Laporte who surged into the lead from the fourth starting spot on the opening lap.

Farrington was running well in second ahead of Cameron LaBelle of Laporte, who had Justin Barsness of Grand Rapids applying heavy pressure. Kade Leeper of Guthrie was close behind.

Puffe opened up a 3.2 second lead on Farrington and was never threatened to pick up a dominating win. Farrington was second, Barsness third. Wissota national and Bemidji season point leader Josh Berg was running well early and in the top five and slid back for a few laps but came back to finish fourth ahead of Austin Carlson of Cohasset.

The last time I was at Bemidji the Pure Stocks did not have a good night with a lot of cautions; this time the group went caution free and did a great job.

Barsness, fresh off a top three finish in the pure stocks, was the early leader in the Wissota Hornet feature Chad Reller settled into second. With Malachi Albrecht of Fosston was battling Travis Olafson of Wilton for third.

Barsness, third in the Wissota national points as of July 9, turned the race into a runaway with a 2.202 second win over Reller. Olafson finished third, Albrecht fourth and Brooklyn Vernlund of Bemidji was fifth. Like the pure stocks, the hornets went caution free and ran a good clean race. One car, the pole sitter Malakai Wilson of Bemidji, had issues before the green and did not start the feature.

There was a nice 15-car field on hand but the race got off to a rough start with several cars getting together on the frontstretch as the green waved. It looked like it could be a big mess but I think aside from a couple of flat tires it wasn’t too bad. I was a little nervous we’d see a couple of rollovers there.

After the tire changes the line up was shuffled. Peyton Emerson of Grand Rapids, only 14 years old, was the early leader in the 51. Hayden Engen of Gonvick and Kalin Honer of Laport were behind with Shannon George soon joining them.

Emerson opened up a 2-3 car length lead on Engen. George had worked into third, but slowed with an issue and pulled into the infield to end his night.

The top three had a big breakaway as Engen stayed close; Engen though had Honer all over him as the laps waned. The caution would wave late, setting up a green-white-checkered finish.

Emerson didn’t waver and picked up his first feature win of the season. Engen outlasted Kalin Honer for third. Justin Honer of Laporte had a big run through the field, going from 15th to fourth, ahead of Cory Nelson of Leonard.

Landon Gross of Bemidji and Connor Drewry of Bemidji led the Wissota Midwest Mods to the green.

Joey LaValley of Bemidji, who has won the last two features at Bemidji, quickly moved into the top five after starting eight.

Drewry was fighting hard with Darrin Lawler of Grand Rapids for the lead with Gross settling into third. Brandon Bahr and LaValley fought for fourth.

Drewry built a comfortable lead over Lawler who had a sizeable advantage on Gross for third.

Bahr and LaValley had the best battle on the track for fourth with Brennan Schmidt joining in that battle. Those three went at it hard for the spot.

After an early battle with Lawler, Drewry had pretty comfortable sailing up front, opening a straight away advantage on Lawler for the win. Lawler settled for second with Gross in third.

Schmidt and Gary James Nelson of Ponemah went around in turns three and four on the final lap; I didn’t see what triggered the incident but it cost Schmidt several spots; Nelson was awarded his spot in the finishing order, seventh.

Cohasset driver Dalton Carlson took the lead in the Wissota Super Stock feature and led Nic Lewis of Bemidji to the lead. After a caution, it turned into a three-car tussel up front between Carlson, Matt Sparby of Bemidji and Jack Koranda of Bluffton, last week’s winner.

Carlson would go around in turn one and that led to a multi-car melee. Carlson would go pitside for a tire change; Brandon Bahr and and Garrett Masurka were both finished for the night, dwindling the field down to five.

Koranda went up high and that seemed to be the right decision as he led Sparby on the restart. Carlson and Doug VanMIll of Bagley had the best battle for third as the laps waned.

Koranda made it two in a row, by 1.574 seconds, over Sparby. VanMill held off Carlson for fourth. The month of July has been good to Koranda – he has four wins in eight starts and has yet to finish outside the top five.

Blake Erickson held off national point leader Dean Larson for the Wissota Mod 4 win (Photo by Lisa Rhen)

National point leader Dean Larson of Pennock was on hand – more on him later – for the nine-car Wissota Mod 4 main event.

Rookie Nick Seitz edged ahead early in the Wissota Mod 4 but it was Blake Erickson of Bagley surging into the top spot on the green.

Larson, a long, long time veteran – who I’ve seen entertain the crowd by climbing the fence after winning a feature – was closing on Erickson, who had built a nice lead. Seitz was third ahead of Conrad Schwinn of Little Falls.

Larson had caught Erickson and the two would fight side-by-side for the lead. There was contact between the two and Larson would hit the barrel out of turn four to bring out the caution. Interestingly no car was sent to the tail on that incident.

On the restart Larson went back to the bottom as Erickson ran up high. Schwinn got by Seitz for third. Erickson would open up a couple of car lengths on Larson to pick up the win. Schwinn was third, Luke Erlandson of Brainerd worked up to third at the checkered after starting ninth with Seitz rounding out the top five.

Canadian Tanner Williamson took the lead on Lap 1 of the Wissota Mod feature. Things went three-wide for second between Josh Beaulieu of Bemidji, Lance Schilling of Laporte and Billy Kendall of Walker. Jeff Reed of Bemidji was pressuring Kendall for fourth. Four cars spun in turn four to bring out the first caution. It didn’t look like major contact and everyone was able to continue.

Williamson resumed his lead. Schilling slide off the top of turn two and it was costly dropping him back to the field.

The 60-year-old veteran Alan Olafson of Blackduck had worked into the top five ahead of Reed. Williamson, meanwhile had opened a commanding lead on Kendall, who had worked into second.

Reed and Olafson had the best battle on the track for fourth with Reed claiming the spot. By then Williamson was blitzing the field with a 3.2 second lead.

Reed was having an excellent run from sixth as he got around Beaulieu. Kendall was comfortably in second as the field spread out.

Williamson picked up his third feature win of 2023 with a 2.969 second victory. Kendall was second, Reed third, Beaulieu fourth and Olafson fifth. After the one caution the race went smoothly and all 13 starters finished.

Sunday/Bemidji Notes

--I was at Ogilvie Raceway for the Mods Wars on Friday and Saturday and saw a few Bemidji-area cars on hand. That included Gary James Nelson of Ponemah, who qualified for the Wissota Midwest Modified feature both nights which is an accomplishment in a field that stacked. Brennan Schmidt of Bemidji, second in the points at Bemidji Speedway was also there in the Midwest modified class while Nick Seitz of Bemidji was there in the Mod 4s. Williamson competed in the USMTS and had his Wissota Modified on hand Sunday at Bemidji.

--An interesting contrast in the Wissota Mod 4s on Sunday. You have 66-year-old Dean Larson, a long-time competitor out of the Willmar area competing --- I’m guessing he’s past 25 years (at least) in the class. Then there’s 16-year-old Brooke Erickson of Bagley in the #99 and 18-year-old rookie Nick Seitz of Bemidji, the son of the late John Seitz.

--I watched Billy Kendall race for a few years in the IMCA Modified class out of the Brainerd area. He made some trips to Red River Valley Speedway in West Fargo and was a formidable foe. He’s now racing Wissota and racing out of Walker, according to myracepass. He’s raced at Bemidji, Grand Rapids, Ogilvie, Gondik Law Speedway in Superior and Hibbing so far this summer.

--Congrats to Tucker Pederson of East Grand Forks for picking up the Wissota Street Stock win Sunday at Granite City Motor Park in Sauk Rapids. Pederson, in a fight for the national points lead (currently second), has won his last six features he’s started, including all four this week. He has 14 wins on the year.

Peterson Takes 2 at Casino; Broksieck, Hansen Add Wins

Tyler Peterson of Hickson is on some kind of roll right now. He won the Wissota Late Model feature Sunday at Casino Speedway. The win came a night after he claimed the $6,363 to win Dacotah Rumble in Aberdeen.

Blake Swenson of Watertown was second, Curt Kranz of Watertown was third, Jayson Good of Watertown fourth and Trevor Anderson of Watertown fifth.

Earlier in the evening, Peterson topped Joe Thomas of Fargo for the Wissota Modified feature win. Tony Konold of Clear Lake was third, Dale Ames of Huron fourth and Mike Stearns of Aberdeen fifth.

Maria Broksieck of Goodwin picked up the Wissota Street Stock feature win over Al Schmidt of Watertown. Andy Rossow of Florence was third, Matt Goth of Huron was fourth and Trey Hess of Grand Forks was fifth.

Scott Hansen of Garden City topped Luke Johnson of Miller for the Wissota Midwest Modified feature win. Zach LaQua of Watertown was third, Chad Williamson of Watertown fourth and Lorin Johnson of Miller was fifth.

Doug Walsh of Watertown topped Tony Croninger of Watertown for the Gen X Late Model win. Only three of the seven starters finished.

Jayden Pavlicek Picks Up Big Win at Buffalo River

The IMCA Sport Mods were racing for $1,250 to win at Buffalo River and it was young Jayden Pavlicek of Casselton who survived a 40-lap marathon to take hom the big money, and his first career feature win.

Luke Johnson of Moorhead went from 17th to second while David Siercks of Princeton was third. Skyla Miller of Harwood finished fourth, her best finish in a sport mod, with Vince Jegtvig of Dilworth in fifth.

Dexter Dvergsten of Greenbush won the POWRi Minn-Kota Lightning Sprint feature over Alex Truscinski of Greenbush. Alan Truscinski was third, Dylan Langevin of Thief River Falls fourth and Jason Berg of West Fargo fifth.

Nathan Kohl of Fort Ripley topped Kyler Satran of Minot for the IMCA Hobby Stock win. Chris Seidel of Brainerd was third, Marvin Priem of Moorhead was fourth and William Herron of Brainerd was fifth.

Collin Compson’s big season continues with a feature win in the INEX Legends. He started 11th. Kody Machart of Moorhead was second, Evan Hendrickson of Mapleton third, Ryan Braseth of Ulen fourth and Zander Compson of Valley City was fifth.

Allen Kent of West Fargo topped Matt Aukland of Fargo for the IMCA Modified win. Jesse Skalicky of Fargo was third, Tyler Hall of Fertile fourth and Jamie Schulz of Fargo fifth.

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