Thursday, June 16, 2016

Mini Stocks, Hornets Return To Southern Oregon Speedway On June 18th

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Mini Stocks, Hornets Return To Southern Oregon Speedway On June 18th

The Mini Stock and Hornet divisions are an important part of the racing program at Southern Oregon Speedway.  Since the gates opened at the speedway in 1996, Mini Stocks have been on the lineup of divisions.  They have served as a gateway class in getting new racers onto the 3/10th mile clay oval.  There is a mixture of experienced and new drivers in the class.

Three years ago, the Hornet division was added as a means to make an even more affordable path for the new racer to get involved.  There has been a struggle getting it started, but Promoter Mike McCann has reaffirmed his support for this division as well as Mini Stocks.

The biggest challenge facing Mini Stocks right now is the rest of the roster overcoming the experience factor of Bob Burkett and Gary Anderson.  Burkett is a four time point runner up who has won his share of races through the years.  In fact, he won for the second time this season last Saturday.

Bob Burkett #43 is the current Mini Stock point leader and four time point runner up

Burkett sees a challenge coming, and he looks forward to it.  "A lot of these drivers are pretty new to this, " said the current point leader.  "Give them some time, and they will get better."

Burkett sees challenges coming from the likes of Marissa Henson and Andrew Hall.  "She's (Henson) gotten much faster this year. " Bob admitted.  "I can see her getting a win this season the way she is going."

Even more impressive is the fact that Henson is only 14 years old.  She goes to high school with another 14 year old in the division, second generation racer Mikey Johnson.   Johnson was second in Hornet points last season, but he's a bit more of a newcomer than Henson.  He's still learning the ropes and getting better with each start.

Marissa has lots of seat time in Outlaw Karts, where she ranked third in the 250 division three years in a row.  She entered Saturday night's program ranked a strong third in the standings, and she proved Burkett right on his prediction.  She held off 2014 champion Gary Anderson to win her first Trophy Dash Saturday night.

Andrew Hall #007 is currently fourth in the in Mini Stock point race and running strong.

Another driver coming on strong is the #007 car of Andrew Hall.  Hall is driving a unique Ford Pinto Wagon.  "The car has been around for a while, " Hall explained.  "The guy I got it from only ran it once before parking it for a few years.  Before that, somebody else ran it."

Andrew is in his first full season in the class, and he started the season off with back to back Top 5 finishes and heat race wins.  In a desire to get more seat time, he made a trip to Yreka a week ago.  That trip resulted in his car suffering damage.  There was still work to be done to make it better, but he wanted to race.  "We have things we need to fix on it, " Andrew explained.  "We'll get it fixed a little at a time."

It had to be gratifying for Hall to drive to a career best second place finish last week.  The distance between winner Burkett and him was about a straightaway, and that never really changed during the last ten laps.  This time, however, Andrew didn't spin or mess up in getting the good finish.

It's a rare thing to see Gary Anderson make a mistake, but he did on Saturday.  Early in the Main Event, he looped it in Turn 4.  Many veteran racers would park their cars and draw a yellow flag, but Gary took it as a challenge.  He gathered it back up and mounted a charge back to the front of the pack from eighth.  When he caught third place Eric Hanson, he was unable to overcome his lose setup and would settle for a fourth.

Eric Hanson #49h had a strong showing in second last week.

For Hanson, the season has started on a rough note with carburetor and fuel issues keeping him from even starting the first two races.  "We've had a few motor issues, " Hanson admitted.  "We're working on something for later this season, but we're trying to make this work for now."

The third place finish was encouraging for Hanson, who was fourth in points last season.  He actually made a trip during the off week to run at Coos Bay.  It helped him dial things in as he got a fourth place finish  there.  "I enjoy going there, " Bob remarked. "We ran with the Mini Outlaws.  At first they didn't like us running with them, because they are like the Super 4's here.  But, we keep them from having to run with the Hornets.  They like us now, because they get their own race when we come."

We've been talking about the bad luck that Hanson has been having this season, but his C&H Racing teammate Mike Cloud can top that.  Cloud had a car destroyed in a crash last year with Randy Simmons.  It was bad, and he even needed help from the safety crew getting him out of the car.  Despite that, he still managed to improve on 2014's sixth place ranking by moving up to fifth.  He is still in the hunt to maintain fifth, but his motor problems last time out resulted in him scratching from the Main Event.  The one thing Cloud and Hanson were looking forward to was running side by side in a good battle, and that will happen soon.  You can't keep either of the two down for long.

Fifth ranked Kris Mix was practically raised at the race track.  His father is Stock Car veteran Keith Mix, who was there in the pits supporting his son.  Kris made a trip to Yreka a week earlier and ended up getting a little banged up in the Main Event.  "We got tore up, " Kris explained.  "We had to replace the clutch, then we went back out and got dumped again."

Saturday was a little better for Mix, who finished sixth ahead of Hornet graduates Dillen Lausen and Mikey Johnson,  The Hornets are back with some new drivers in the field.  One of them was Darrel Nelson Jr.  Darrell and 13 year old Gabe Nelson, like many others, started racing on the Outlaw Kart track.  "There's actually a few kids who sold their Karts and have Hornets, " Nelson observed.  "They want to start racing on the big track."

Darrel Nelson #8g wrote his name in the books as the first Hornet feature winner of 2016

Nelson was driving the same number that 2015 champion Drew Fielder ran last year, and he looked like a champion in lapping the field for the feature victory.  What was nice was the cost of purchasing this car to go racing.  "It was about $400 to get the car, " Darrel revealed.  "Plus, it came with a spare motor." 

Tim Hedges #14 found the affordability a big plus in going Hornet racing this year.

Tim Hedges is another newcomer to the Hornet division, and he was excited to be a part of the action.  His first race resulted in a heat race victory.  Tim had an influence in his decision to start racing.  "I've been following (Vern and Jake) Wheeler, and I decided I needed to get my own car, " he explained.  "It wasn't gonna be a Sprint Car.  These cars are cheaper.  It was less than $1000 to get the car.  Plus, it's cheaper to run one of these."

The Mini Stock and Hornet divisions will take a break this week, but both classes are back on June 18th for more racing excitement.  Not only do these divisions help bring in the next generation of race car drivers, they are fun classes to watch.

Mini Stocks are back on June 25th as well, along with Pennzoil Winged Sprint Cars, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Super 4's and OTRO Hardtops.  Also, don't forget Monday July 4th's event, which includes IMCA Sport Modifieds, Dwarf Cars and Outlaw Pro Stocks, plus a Fireworks Display.   For information on these and other divisions, check out