Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mini Stocks, Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites Prepare For 2017 Season

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
Can Be Heard HERE

2017 Mini Stock Season At Southern Oregon Speedway An Opportunity For New Stars To Shine

White City, Oregon...The Mini Stocks are back for another ten race season at Southern Oregon Speedway.  Since the track opened in 1996, they have been one of the staple classes.  Car count had struggled for a few seasons leading into last year, but the track experienced some of its best Mini Stock turnouts since 2010.  In fact, the Mini Stocks were one of the more reliable divisions at the track last season.

A look into the numbers over the past three seasons finds an interesting fact.  You can count the different feature winners over the previous 47 races on one hand.  Bob Burkett, David Steele, Gary Anderson and David Marble won most of them, and James Welshonse had one win.  Welshonse is now in a Modified, and 2015 champion Marble is driving a Sport Modified these days.  2016 champion Bob Burkett has a Late Model Lite and won't run all of the Mini Stock races this year, meaning 2014 champion Anderson and 2015 Yreka champion Steele might be the drivers to beat for the championship this year.

We just received word of another champion returning to action.  Steve Goetz is back this season after a couple of years away.  Steve had three Top 3 point seasons prior to winning the 2013 championship  He returns to a division that has several new drivers on its roster since the last time he was here. 

Chances are good that there will be at least one new winner this season, but the question is who will it be?  Leading the charge is last year's third place point competitor, Andrew Hall.  Though without a feature win last season, Hall still had three second place finishes.  By ending the season with back to back runnerup finishes in his fast Pinto Wagon, Hall managed to hold off Steele for third in the standings.

Hall's Neon Mafia teammate Kristopher Mix had his moments last season with several Top 5 finishes.  The second generation racer's season took a hit at a playday in Yreka last year when his car was destroyed in a crash, but his new car turned out to be pretty competitive.  One of the young up and coming drivers to watch is past 250 Kart champion Dillen Lausen.  Dillen ended the season with a third place feature finish by holding off Bob Burkett, and he left with "Rookie Of the Year" honors.

Eric Hanson had mostly bad luck last season, but he could be a threat to win on any given night  You also have to keep an eye on other hard chargers such as second generation racer Mikey Johnson, Garrett Fredrickson, Hunter Magnum, and Randy Simmons.  Johnson's car has just been painted, and he's excited about the opportunity to try to write his name on the track's all time feature winner's list next to his father

To get those wins, the drivers will have to get past David Steele and Gary Anderson.  Steele returned a few races into the season and won six times last year, matching his season best effort from 2013.  Steele carries the experience advantage of nearly ten seasons over the rest of the pack.  Anderson took the division by storm with his 2014 championship in his rookie season, and he has racked up nine wins in the last three years.  We also can't forget that Burkett will still run some races, and  Goetz is back.  Any new winners will know they've earned it by beating these guys.

Prior to the Hornets being added to the roster in 2014, the Mini Stocks were the most affordable entry point into racing, and it's still a pretty reasonable option for the budget minded racer.  In fact, three competitors moved up from Hornets to Mini Stocks last season.   The competition is still pretty close on the track, and the racing is good.  The ten race season kicks off on April 29th after back to back playdays on April 15th and 22nd.  For further information, check out

2017 Southern Oregon Speedway Schedule

April 15 - Playday
April 22 - Playday (Rain Makeup)
April 29
May 6
May 20
June 10
June 17
July 1
July 8
July 22
August 26
September 26

Mini Stock Champions

1996  Brian Barns
1997  Scott Holt
1998  Rich McCoy
1999  Tracy Bradley
2000  Tracy Bradley
2001  Tom Lanigan
2002  Mike Johnson
2003  David Bishop
2004  David Bishop
2005  Tony Christopher
2006  Milton Carter
2007  Jim Pope
2008  John Derby
2009  John Derby
2010  John Derby
2011  John Derby
2012  Toby Judd
2013  Steve Goetz
2014  Gary Anderson
2015  David Marble
2016  Bob Burkett

New Era For Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites 
At Southern Oregon Speedway

White City, Oregon...For several seasons, the Super 4's were a featured division at Southern Oregon Speedway.  Drivers like Brian Barns, Parker Jones, Joe Guider and Brian Johnsen battled at the front of the pack.  By 2012, car count had fallen off.  After John Barker won the 2013 season championship, the division disappeared from the roster.  It was because of long time competitors Lee Doty and Barger that the division managed to get their foot in the door for a late season date in 2015.

When Mike McCann took over the promoting duties of Southern Oregon Speedway last year, Doty and the others knocked on the door once again.  They were brought back for seven races.  The Super 4's once established themselves as a place for Mini Stock drivers to make the move up, and even drivers from other classes gave it a shot.  Doty was somebody leading the charge to get cars back to the track last year.  By season's end, the division had its best turnout going back a few years into their previous run with back to back ten car fields.  The Super 4's were back and growing.

One of the trends in rebuilding the class has been for the drivers to take their 4 cylinder motors and drop them into older Late Model chassis.  This is largely due to the fact that the older chassis are out there and they are affordable options.  During the offseason, it was suggested that the division be rebranded as the Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites. Valley Stor-All of Medford has come on board as the title sponsor.

The class has evolved just a little bit from those earlier days, they are going just a bit faster now and they have the look of the popular Late Model class.  This is not an entry level division, but it remains an option for Mini Stock drivers moving up   Making it more enticing is the fact that the Late Model Lites are back for an eight race season that will begin with the April 29th season opener.

To highlight the fact that Mini Stock drivers can move up, Mike Cloud moved from Mini Stocks to Late Model Lites late last season.  Perhaps the most consistently fast Mini Stock driver of the current decade, Bob Burkett, is also moving up.  Burkett has racked up four runner up point seasons in Mini Stocks and was the champion last year.  Furthermore, he's won a Mini Stock division leading 20 races in the last five years.  He is a welcome addition to the Late Model Lites.

It is Doty leading the charge as the defending champion.  He won five times last season, but he didn't overtake Barger until the end of the season.  Doty not only won often, he did it with class.  Getting this division built up seems to be an even bigger goal than winning for Doty.  Barger, meanwhile, will be out to try to return to the winner's circle this season.  As with Doty, he brings years of experience into his effort.

Speaking of experience, you need not look any further than the husband and wife duo of Terry and Krista Hadley.  Both have had Top 5 seasons in the past, and Terry is a two time runnerup.  Both have also won Main Events through the years, and they were fast when they raced last year.  Word is that they have a new car in the works and may be fielding a third car this year.

Speaking of fast, Dan Prewett is fast as well, and he was one of two other drivers to get a feature win last year as he finished fifth in points.  Steve Thompson, another driver with feature wins through the years, won last year's opener before blowing a motor and falling out of the action.  Eric Aos is a winner of a prestigious Battle At The Border Late Model Lites race not too many years ago.  He had his moments last year and is anticipated this year along with Dustin Aos, who is up from the Outlaw Karts this season.

Charlie Eaton came on very strong late last year with a pair of dash wins and two Main Event seconds in the last three races.  The steady Bill Spencer finished right behind him in fourth in points.  These drivers are all anticipated this year along with others who the fans may be familiar with.

The Late Model Lites are a fast and exciting brand of racing that will continue to entertain the fans when they are in town.  After the playdays on April 15th and 22nd, their ten race season kicks off on April 29th.  For further information, check out

2017 Southern Oregon Speedway
Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites Schedule

April 15 - Playday
April 22 - (Rain Date) Playday
April 29
May 6
May 20
June 10
July 8
Auugust 5
August 26
September 9

Past Late Model Lites Champions

2003  Brian Barns
2004  Brian Barns
2005  Reggie DeVore
2006  Joe Guider
2007  Jacob Cole
2008  Brian Johnsen
2009  Parker "Hollywood" Jones
2010  Brian Johnsen
2011  Joe Guider
2012  Jamie Guider Newberg
2013  John Barger
2016  Lee Doty

There's Nothing Like Opening Day At The Races

There's nothing like opening day at the race track.  We're in the heart of spring after a wet winter, and there is so much green around the race track and the pits.  It really is a beautiful time of year.  It's not so beautiful when the rain comes and forces the races to be canceled, but it does add to the beauty of the area.

It's a clean slate for all of the racers.  Consider the fact that every racer at the track on opening day is technically tied for the point lead until that first heat race pulls out onto the track.  The preparations have been made, the car is ready and anything is possible.

That brings us to the other thing about that preparation.  We've already seen some pictures of the cars, and there are some beautiful race cars.  Some of them could win the prize for best looking car.  Several cars will be on display this weekend at the 64th Annual Pear Blossom Festival Parade.  For the fans, it's their first chance to look at these race cars this year.

The teams put all of that work into their cars with the knowledge that the car won't stay pristine for long.  The first ding will be put on that car soon, maybe as eaerly as hot laps.  That's okay.  It's to be expected.  It's all about the competition.  The pre season preparation is itself a competition.  My car is better looking than your car.

Some people haven't seen each other since the last race.  The opener is the first chance to visit with everybody and get caught up on what's been happening.  We're stll a family, and that doesn't change because it's been a few months since we last spoke.  The racing family is a special fraternity.

The clean slate makes it special too.  You were the champion last year?  That's fine, but you have to go back out there and earn it again this year.  You had a bad season?  That's okay.  It's a new year.  That was then, this is now.  The beautiful thing about auto racing is that anything can happen on any given week.

Goals can be set and achieved if the dedication is there to make it happen.  Maybe a driver simply wants to take a checkered flag.  That happens, and now they want to win a heat race.  Maybe a Main Event?  It's all possible for those who put in the effort.  The offseason was the time to get everything lined up.  Now the green flag waves, and it's time to make it happen.

The sound of the race track.  That first motor is fired up as the car backs out of the trailer.  The sound of the cars going around the track on the pace lap, followed by the roar of the engines as the green flag waves.  The announcer is  calling the action as the crowd cheers.  The sound of multiple conversations in the stands.   You can hear the pit board official call the next race to staging.  It's on now.

The smell of opening day is unique.  Racing fuel and oil.  The smell of barbecue wafting through the pits, or the smell of the food being prepared at the concessions stand.  Just being out in the open air at one of your favorite places to be, the racetrack.  You've waited all winter for this, and now it's time.

This is the 22nd time we've had an opening day at Southern Oregon Speedway, and no other race day is quite like it.  This night doesn't need a special promotion to make it better.  It's finally time to go racing again, and you've been looking forward to this.  Whether you win or lose, you're enjoying a night at the races.  That's what it's all about.