Pogones, Puffe & Hagemann AFCO WISSOTA MPH Invitational Champs
WISSOTA’s newest post season special event crowned three champions during the first ever MPH AFCO Invitational, held on Sunday, September 11th at the Bemidji Speedway in Bemidji, MN. Zimmerman, Minnesota’s Tommy Pogones raced to the $2,000 payday by topping the WISSOTA Mod Four division, while Laporte, Minnesota’s Dustin Puffe came out on top of the $750 to win WISSOTA Pure Stock main event and Fort Ripley, Minnesota’s Jenna Hagemann took the checkered flag in the WISSOTA Hornet division to take home the $750 top prize.
Seventy-three competitors signed in for the inaugural event on a beautiful fall Sunday evening at the Northern Minnesota track, most famously known for their Chicken Shack, which keeps the local race fans fed throughout the summer months each week.
Starting the night, Clear Lake, Minnesota’s Tommy Bawden set a new Bemidji Speedway Mod Four Track Record with a lap of 16.229 around the banked track to earn the $100 Wes’ Plumbing Fast Time Award.
After qualifying was completed, all three divisions were broken up into their respective heat races, which set up the night’s championship feature races.
The Pure Stocks were up first for their 20-lap feature race with Dustin Puffe and national point leader Josh Berg sharing the front row on the start. Puffe jumped out to the initial lead on the opening green flag of the night and was able to pace the opening lap with Berg in tow and Kade Leeper just behind in third. The trio raced nose to tail in tight formation out front with Chris Dudley and Jake Smith inside the top five throughout the middle part of the race.
The laps began to wind down with Puffe hitting his marks lap after lap as he was able to keep Berg and Leeper at bay. Dustin was able to race away with the victory ahead of Berg, Leeper, Smith and Dudley, who rounded out the top five. Austin Carlson, Cameron Labelle, Deryk Weleski, hard charger Austin Fencl and Brandon Puschinsky completed the top ten finishers.
It was an all-female front row for the night’s Hornet feature race with Ellen Lange and Jenna Hagemann pacing the field to the green flag in the 20-lap event. Hageman took off into the lead with Lange a close second early on.
The race was only slowed by one caution and after the restart Hagemann took back off into the lead with Lange trying to sneak under Jenna into the top spot, but Hagemann kept her #26 ahead as Brandon Backstrom working his way into third from his fourth starting spot. Adam VanDerostyne and Brooklyn Vernlund were in a pretty good battle for fourth just outside of the top three as well.
Jenna led all 20 laps en route to the victory and became the first female to ever win a WISSOTA 100 event in the 40+ year history of the organization. Lange ran a close second with Backstrom rounding out the podium. VanDerostyne and Vernlund rounded out the top five with Bradley Rossow, Caylyn Binkley, hard charger Chad Reller, Adam Throener and Dylan Black in the top ten.
Fast qualifier Tommy Bawden sat on the pole for the night’s final event as the 25-lap, $2,000 to win Mod Four feature roared to life off of turn four. Bawden got the jump on fellow front row starter and hometown star Nick Seitz and set sail into the Northern Minnesota night before an early race crash eliminated several of the frontrunners including Seitz and Tyler Larson.
On the restart, Bawden took back off into control with Josh Litzau, Dustin Holtquist, Blake Erickson, Tommy Pogones and Jamie Flickinger all battling just behind Bawden out front. Bawden continued to be the class of the field as Pogones worked his way into fourth, just behind Litzau and Erickson, who was trying keep pace with Bawden.
As the laps wound down, Bawden suddenly slowed on the backstretch and rolled onto the infield, handing the lead to Pogones, who had just slipped by Erickson into second after the last restart. Pogones lead the final laps to the richest victory of his young career. Erickson crossed the finish line in second with Flickinger third at the line. Litzau and Holtquist rounded out the top five. Dean Larson, hard charger Tyler Borg, Nick McCann, Ashton Schwinn and Brayden Ahlers completed the top ten finishers on the night.
The event, for three WISSOTA-sanctioned divisions, the Mod Fours, Pure Stocks and Hornets and took place of the three divisions’ attendance at the annual Speedway Motors WISSOTA 100.
Submitted By: Camryn Sullivan