Friday, April 1, 2016

Pear Blossom Parade Means Racing Season Just Around The Corner At Southern Oregon Speedway

Pear Blossom Parade Means Racing Season 
Just Around The Corner At Southern Oregon Speedway

White City, Oregon...Down the road a little bit in Medford, the Pear Blossom Parade is happening on April 9th, and some racers representing Southern Oregon Speedway will be taking part in it.  There is lots of excitement in the air as the popular 3/10 mile clay oval in White City begins its 21st season of racing with Mike McCann as promoter.

There is much to be done to get things ready for the coming season, and McCann is busy putting things into place.  The good news is the rules will stay the same for the divisions that have been there.  No changes are coming other than what IMCA has made with the Modified and Sport Modified rules.  Mini Stocks, Hornets, Pro Stocks and Dwarf Cars are steady as she goes with the rules

The Super 4 drivers are trying to reestablish their rules and won't be too ridged with the rules as long as things are in the spirit.  Sprint Cars are open enough to allow a wide variety of engines to compete as the class gets rebuilt.  The 6 cylinder Hardtop division will pretty much be what is allowed in Roseburg, but on dirt.  The Open Stock class is being started to give Street Stocks and Late Models a place to race while McCann figures out what to do next.  Enough interest could lead to the two classes becoming separate entities.

The drivers wanted IMCA to remain as the sanctioning body, and that is the case.  The concern was that they wanted to run what other tracks were running.  A schedule of nine Modified and 13 Sport Modified dates was booked this year, ensuring that the track champions will be recognized by IMCA and also that the drivers can be a part of the Northwest Modified Cup and Sport Mod Challenge Series.

A newspaper feature back in 2014 mentioned that Jorddon Bratten had an eye toward moving up to the IMCA Modifieds.  At that point, he was already a Street Stock champion.  He won the Sport Mod title that year and repeated a year later.  At this time, Bratten, who is one of the more popular racers at the track, will be trying for three Sport Modified titles in a row.  Jorddon pretty much dominated at Southern Oregon Speedway and Yreka last year, but he didn't win the IMCA State championship because the two tracks are in different states.

To say that Mike Medel is not a true champion is a misstatement.  Mike did not make it easy on Bratten as he was just ten points behind him at the speedway.  Medel, who proudly staked his claim to the Oregon IMCA State championship, was also very competitive in his visits to Cottage Grove Speedway and Sunset Speedway in Banks. Glenn Severson had a nice maiden season in Sport Mods last year with a third in the standings, and he should come back even stronger this year.  Randy Fernandes improved on his Top 10 status of 2014 with a fourth place season last year.  You also have to consider two time champion Dwayne Melvin entering the Sport Mod's fifth season.  New cars are anticipated this season.

The big question is who will be coming back in Modifieds this year?  There are some key names on the roster that he we haven't seen enough of in the past couple seasons.  Even after missing races, six time champion Mark Wauge was still second in the standings and won some big races between Southern Oregon Speedway and Yreka.  If he comes back more often, things could get very interesting.  The same can be said for hard chargers liked Jon DeBenedetti, Brian Poppa and Travis Peery.  All are past champions, and all are very talented racers.  Can you imagine a season with all four of these leadfoots racing full time?  Add in a car from the Duste team, and it would get even better.

Getting more cars to show up regularly as they did in the past will be the key.  There are plenty of good racers out there, and even guys liked Tim and Jesse Bailey are not to be ignored.  Both have run up front with Tim Bailey finishing third in points last season and Jesse finishing second the year before.  Speedway veterans like Zach Fettinger and Monte Bischoff, Brett Provost, Jeremy Ohlde, Eric Mobbs, Andy Freeman and Brian Bowman are all important ingredients to the success of the class.  All of them are primed and ready for their big moment on the race track.

And, of course, you cannot possibly ignore Albert Gill.  Gill is coming off of back to back championships and going for a third one.  He was a past Top 5 Pro Stock racer before that.  And there is one thing to consider.  As good as Albert is now, we haven't even seen his full potential.  The best may well be yet to come for Gill.  Hopefully, this will come with bigger car counts, and indications are that bigger car counts will indeed be the case this year.

SODCA Dwarf Cars and the Valley Boys Auto Pro Stocks have been moving right along with strong car counts and good races whenever they come to town.  Southern Oregon Speedway will see lots of them this season, just as Yreka gets some visits from both.  In the case of the Pro Stocks, young Jeffrey Hudson overtook Scott Flowers for the championship with a great effort in the season finale.   James Flowers was third, and, of course, Ken Irving was Top 5 again as the two time champion was tied with John Cobb for fourth.  2013 champion Dave Everson was busy winning the final race at the speedway.  Indications are that the class will remain strong and competitive this season.

As for Dwarf Cars, Josh King is the man on a roll with back to back championships, but nobody is making it easy for him.  Ryan Smith came within 17 points of beating him in 2014, while Camden Robustelli finished just 24 points back last year.  King knows that if he slips up a little, somebody might overtake him.  With other hard chargers like Fred Hay, Kalvin Morton, Brock Peters, Rob Gergel, Travis Gergel, Jesse Merrimen and Kaycee Sheeler in the group, among others, the Dwarf Car class is more competitive than ever.

We're still waiting to see who will be a part of the Super 4 Mini Stock class, but indications are that drivers will be coming from all over the state to try and restart what had been an 11 year tradition.  It's assumed that the Top 3 finishers from last year's one appearance, Lee Doty, John Barger and Charlie Eaton, will be among the competitors.  We'll be keeping an eye on this situation in the days ahead.

The Mini Stocks have a different situation, David Marble, Gary Anderson and Bob Burkett have ranked Top 3 for the past two seasons and pretty much dominated the action.  Burkett has been a  front runner for several seasons, Anderson is the 2014 champion and Marble won it last year.  The question is, will there be a breakout star this year to loosen the grip of the big three?  As the fourth and fifth place drivers last season, Eric Hanson and Mike Cloud are the likely candidates, but what about second year racer Kris Mix, Andrew Hall or Randy Simmons?  It will be interesting to see where this division goes.  The good news is the car count was hitting double digits and on the rise when the 2015 season came to a close.

Hornets are the other question mark.  Car count has struggled, and that has left people wondering about the future of the class.  However, the new promoter wants to build this class up.  Last year, there were multiple nights when six cars showed up.  Drew Fielder was the star of the class and champion, but Mikey Johnson, Neal Coaty and Jason Peeble had their moments.  There were ten different drivers who had cars last season, and one goal this year is to see the class have at least ten cars show up for a race.  The potential is there for this to happen.  The other nice thing about the Hornets is that they will help make new stars at Southern Oregon Speedway.  Of course, the web site for the track is to find out about the latest happenings.  The new site will be going live soon.