Thursday, May 25, 2017

Northwest Focus Midgets, Kendall Oil Sprints Offer Open Wheel Excitement At Southern Oregon Speedway

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion 
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Northwest Focus Midgets, Kendall Oil Sprints Offer 
Open Wheel Excitement At Southern Oregon Speedway

White City, Oregon...The third event of the season at Southern Oregon Speedway is set for this Saturday night.  It is the Open Wheel Showcase, and the featured divisions are Northwest Focus Midgets, Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars, OTRO Hardtops and Pro 4 Modifieds.  The nice weather forecast will make it a great night of racing on the three-tenth mile clay oval.

In Washington, the Focus Midgets are going strong.  This wingless, open wheel division competes about 26 tomes during the year at various tracks.  The group has scheduled a ten race "Summer Challenge Series" that will pay a $10,000 point fund to the Top 10 competitors.  The champion will earn $3,000 of that, but with contingencies, the championship will actually be worth in excess of $5,000.  The first race in the series is this Saturday night.

One of the trademarks of Focus Midget racing in recent seasons has been the close competition in points and for feature wins.  The last two championships have been decided by five points or less.  Tristen Thomas beat Nick Evans by just five points in 2015, and Evans won the title by just two points over Eric Turner last season.  Thomas wasn't far behind in third last year, and his nine wins in the last two seasons ranks him at the top of the winner's list during that time.  Evans won six races last season and is the driver to beat following his win last week at Grays Harbor, where he is the reigning track champion.

The Focus Midgets race at Grays Harbor, Deming and Skaggit Speedway in Washington, but they have dates as far south as Chico, California this year.  Evans will have a group of talented competitors looking to beat him to become the first Focus Midget Main Event winner at Southern Oregon Speedway.  Chance Crumm was a three time winner last year to rank fourth in the standings.  Garrett Thomas is another of last year's winners anticipated for this race, along 2016 runnerup Eric Turner, Michael Vollbrect and Thomas Walker.

The first Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car race produced an 11 car field, which is up from four cars in last season's opener.  Notable in their appearance was three generations of the Hibbard family on the track for the very first time.  At 61 years old, Calvin Hibbard is a rookie.  Other than some experience on the Outlaw Kart track, this was his first start.  He and grandson Bailey took the checkered flag, but Bailey went past the scales after the races to lose a third place finish.  Calvin's son, David Hibbard, had a motor issue and retired from the race early.  The Hibbard family is committed to helping establish this class.

It cannot be understated just how important the Outlaw Kart track is to training future Sprint Car stars.  Camden Robustelli, Jeffrey Hudson, Merissa Henson, Enrique Jaime and B. Hibbard all got their starts there.  Jaime and Henson both made their first starts last week and took the checkered flag in the Main Event.  Henson ended up fifth behind Robustelli.  These young drivers are the future of Sprint Car racing in Medford, and there are a few others preparing to make their first starts in the weeks ahead.

The lure of a $1,000 payday brought Kyler Barraza back to Southern Oregon Speedway for the first time since 2014.  One of the more exciting racers to watch, Kyler is a two time Southern Oregon Sprint Car Tour champion.  He won the six lap Fast Dash to get the pole last week, but it was Jake Waddell surprising him and grabbing the feature win.  Jake was behind the wheel of has father Don's car and drove a great race in victory.   The increased purse should make things interesting this season.

Back for their second season at Southern Oregon Speedway are the Old Time Racers of Oregon Hardtops.  OTRO President Vic Bridges has booked several dates to make this their home track once again.  These beautiful old Coupe and Sedan body, Six-Cylinder engine race cars hearken back to the days when Hardtops were king at race tracks all across the country.  This dedicated group of racers includes Trevor Thomason, Bill Trotter, Wylie Prowell, Jim Del Castille, Brian Crouch, Dean Cast and Mark Minter, among others.  It's all about fun for this group, and they love interacting with the fans after the races.

An added attraction to the show is the Pro 4 Modifieds.  This group has been racing most recently indoors at the Salem Indoor track.  The division is a modified version of the Mini Stock class featured in Medford.  Several members of the Ferrando family have been keeping this division going through the years.  Last winter, it was 70 something year old "Papa" Tom Ferrando winning the championship.  Tobey Ferrando won the championship a year earlier.  Rick Wagner, Mike Wagner, Billy Jack and Brian Finney are other stars of the group to watch for this week.

The gates open for this week's Op/en Wheel Showcase at 5:00 PM with the first race scheduled for 7:00 PM.  General Admission is $15 with Seniors and Juniors $10.  Children 5 and under are free.  For further information, go to

Northwest Focus Midgets Roster
No.    Driver            Hometown    Chassis
2a     Renee Angel         Woodinville    XXX
2j     Jonathan Jorgenson     Tacoma         Beast
3     Wade Spreckelmeyer     Bellingham    XXX
3h     Hannah Lindquist    Shoreline    Beast
4     Michael Vollbrecht     Shoreline    XXX
8x     Otto Jorgenson         Auburn        Stealth
N8     Nate Vaughn         Sedro Woolley    XXX
9s     Sawyer Lind        Abbotsford, BC    XXX
9t     Tristin Jade Thomas     Burlington     XXX
11t     Virgil Ray Stebbins     Auburn        Beast
14     Garrett Thomas        McCleary     Spike
16     Nik Larson        Graham        XXX
17     Chris Bullock        Arlington     XXX
19     Thomas Walker        Elma         Spike
21j     Ryan Cully of         Alger        Spike
24     Nick Evans of         Granite Falls     Stealth
29t     Eric Turner of         Lake Stevens    Stealth
31     Shane Biles of         Woodenville    Eagle
44     Shane Smith of         Lynnwood    XXX
57     Hailey Bower of     Arlington    Stealth
57a    Brian Aune of         Arlington     CRC
83c     Chance Crum of         Lake Stevens    Beast
98     Glenn Bittrolf         Springfield, OR    Edmunds

Pit Stops - Jefferson Edition

The Road To The Iron Giant went through Southern Oregon Speedway last week.  Chris Sine organized this eight race, eight track Street Stock series that will culminate with the Iron Giant race at Willamette Speedway in September.  The Iron Giant Race is the biggest  paying Street Stock race on the West Coast.  The challenge of making this race in Medford happen is obvious.  There hasn't been a Street Stock division at the track since 2014.  The division had a five season run that never produced more than 12 cars at a race.  Despite a booming Street Stock division at the old Medford Speedway, Southern Oregon Speedway opened without the class seven years later.

The bad news for Sine was that his race ended in hot laps.  It's a long trip for these competitors, but it was even longer for Don Jenner.  Jenner came to Southern Oregon Speedway last year for the Wild West Speedweek race, but he wanted to try things out with his Street Stocker.  Unfortunately, his night also ended early.  Sine had hopes of a few more drivers making the trip south and had been contacted by a few California competitors about making the trip.  However, Medford has no Street Stock drivers left, or at least nobody showed up from the area.

Since this race was announced as part of the schedule  there have been locals offering observations in support of the class.  Mini Stock ace David Steele pointed out that he has three 67 Chevelles that would fit in with this class.  The year of those Chevelles accounts for Steele's car #67.  David's concern in building a class here is that the cars aren't in abundance the way they once were and aren't as cheap.  Steele sees the Mini Stocks filling that role now.  Cars are easier to get.  He's also had a hand in helping build several competitive Mini Stocks that are on the circuit now.

Another Mini Stock racer, Kristopher Mix, admits that he would love to see this class given a chance.  His father, Keith Mix, ran these cars at the old Medford track, and he's had other family members in the division as well.  Mix admits he'd probably be in that division if it were an option.  It would likely take somebody coordinating the effort and getting enough cars to get it started to make it happen here.

Because of their love of Street Stock racing, Sine and Jenner were joined by Don Schott, Erik Jarnport, James Whitehouse, Roger Hubbard, Jordon McDaniel, Jack Parshall and reigning Iron Giant Race Champion Kyle Yeack.  Parshall built this car especially to support the series and calls the blue #914 car his Oregon car.  Yeack has won more Street Stock races in Oregon than just about anybody in the past five years.  The way he had his yellow #47 car set up was a thing of beauty, and he put on passing clinic in winning the heat race.

After the Sprint Cars ran their Main Event, nobody left before the 50 lap Street Stock feature.  Maybe it was the idea of wanting to know who would win the $1,000 prize.  Maybe it was the idea of this being the longest Street Stock race in track history at 50 laps, but the fans watched as Hubbard and Schott traded the lead during the first 25 laps.  Hubbard may very well have had the car to beat, but his yellow #18 machine gave up on him while leading at the halfway point.  This left Schott leading with Parhall and Yeack in pursuit.

The way Yeack was working the track, most of the fans probably thought he was going to get the lead, and the question was when would it happen?  On lap 44, Yeack passed Parshall for second, and he went to work on Schott.  Schott ran smoothly up front and made it difficult for Yeack.  When Yeack bobbled just a bit on lap 48, that pretty much clinched the victory for Schott.  Parshall ran strong in third.  There's no doubt that this series will fare better at tracks that already have a class, and the concept of eight races at eight tracks is very intriguing.  As for whether a Street Stock presence could ever be established again in Medford?  It would take a lot of work and dedication, but you never know.

The Pro Stocks have sort of filled that void, but the first championship season for the class since 2011 didn't start off so well.  Even after the schedule had been released in Medford, the existing Outlaw Pro Stock Association booked a race elsewhere.  Because of his work building cages for Hornets at JOAT Labs, Miles Deubert found himself not ready for this race.  Long time Pro Stock competitor Ken Irving was proudly in the pits, crewing for son Dillon's first Hornets race.

Top 5 Coos Bay competitor Josh Kralicek and Derrel Nelson Jr. came to race.  What does Promoter Mike McCann do when only two cars show up to race?  He runs them and pays the guaranteed purse.  McCann does not believe in cutting purses when car counts are low.  Kralicek and Nelson made the race interesting.  Josh was leading the way and appeared headed for victory when a right rear flat tire ended his race on lap 10.  Moments after getting the lead in the Hackworth car, Nelson hit the wall coming out of Turn 4 and limped off the track.  He still won.  The Roger Haudenshild Tribute is next on June 3rd, and several more cars are anticipated.

Getting back to Mini Stocks, David Steele knows he carries a big experience advantage over the pack.  The current point leader and 2015 Yreka champion recalls a few years ago when he was racing a field of newer drivers in Yreka.  When he came around to lap the field, most of them were enjoying a close, side by side battle for position in front of him.  How do you proceed in a situation like that?  On Saturday, David won his heat, the dash and feature for a clean sweep.  He knows somebody will be stepping up to beat him for a Main Event win, but the question is who?

Dillen Lausen is somebody who should be taken very seriously.  Actually, you could see this teen Outlaw Kart veteran getting better last year, and he ended the season with a then career best third place finish on the way to "Rookie Of The Year" honors.  The Mud Wesier Racing Team #87 car has been running strong this year, and has been driven to a pair of heat race wins by Dillen so far.  On Saturday, Dillen battled the #007 Pinto Wagon of Andrew Hall and actually made a pass to claim that second place finish.  Making the finish even more satisfying was the hard work put into repairing the damage to his race car after his Top 5 finish in the opener.

Hall was rolling right along in second in the season opener when his fuel pump died on him.  Rather than stall for a yellow, Hall managed to coast into the infield for a disappointing DNF.  He got it fixed this week, and his third place finish shows that he's still going to be a factor in the battle.  Hall seems to be as fast as Steele, but wheeling the wagon around the track and keeping it pointed in the right direction can be a challenge at times.  Michael Johnson rebounded from a DNF after running second late in the season opener.  The young second generation racer posted his first Top 5 finish in fourth to make the next Trophy Dash.  Kristopher Mix settled for fifth.  Mix was still kicking himself after letting a second place finish in the opener slip away with a last lap pass dropping him to third.

The two Medford champions in the field, Gary Anderson and Steve Goetz, most certainly did not look as fast as you'd expect in the opener.  Both drivers had similar issues with their fuel lines.  Anderson just tried to get it to the finish line that week and hoped that changes made during the last two weeks might help.  He switched a few things around with the carburetor and fuel pump, but his night started with him missing his heat race before finishing seventh in the feature.  Goetz had a problem with his fuel line keeping him from getting the fuel flow he needed in the opener.  Repairs definitely helped him as he had a second in his heat and sixth in the main.  However, the best is still yet to come for both of these competitors.

Tim Hedges and his family seem intent on building the JOAT Labs Hornets class single handedly.  Tim has been working on a new car for himself, and it finally debuted on Saturday.  There was no paint job or car number as he was hoping to get input from the fans on all of that.  His white car carried him to a heat win and fifth in the Main Event.  His old championship car will be driven by guests on different weeks, and Ryan Nelson drove it last week.  Further up in the pack, Tim's wife Jenna was running a strong third when Joby Shields' misfortune on the last lap saw Jenns get a second place finish ahead of her son Ashton Hedges.  The whole family is enthusiastic about this division, and Tim pointed out that the simple rule set makes this affordable and possible for him.

David Coggins and Shields had a good race going on up front, and Coggins surprised the early season star with a lap 10 pass.  Coggins lost a bumper during the race, but the car didn't give up on him as it did in the opener.  David drove a great race for his first victory.  Shields, meanwhile, didn't leave empty handed.  He won the Trophy Dash.  He also got another new driver out there as Mikah Walker drove the #553 car.  Still another new driver, 13 year old Dillon Irving, made his first start.  Dillen drove his red #11 car to a lead lap sixth place finish. 

By all accounts, the JOAT Labs Hornets class is on a pace to reach 20 cars before the season ends.  Christian Listro was making repairs to his car last week, while Ashland High competitors Eric Oline and Ethan Doty were both running the Race Of Lemons at Willows.  R&W Racing will be fielding two cars this year, driven by third generation racers Anthony Kniffen and Taylor Ray.  It looks like the JOAT Labs Hornets are finally having their breakout season at Southern Oregon Speedway.

The Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites have just gotten more interesting.  Lee Doty remarked before the season opener that he hasn't beat division super star Bob Westcott yet.  Bob got behind the wheel of Randy Hanesn's #40 car and set the track on fire last week in winning his heat race.  Doty led the early going of the feature.  As fast as these two super stars are, they soon caught a group of three cars battling for position.  Westcott had the presence of mind to put it up on the outside and grab the lead from Doty.  After that, he led the rest of the way in victory.  Doty was second in everything, and he leads Bob Burkett and Charlie Eaton in the point race.

Eaton hasn't looked too bad in these first two events with back to back thirds.  He's been able to stay on the lead lap, but a few adjustments need to be made to move him up further.  Burkett did something he had a knack for in Mini Stocks.  He won the Trophy Dash.  The feature didn't go as well as he'd have liked.  He had steering issues, but he still got it back to the line in fourth.  This puts him on the pole for the next Trophy Dash.  Greg Arnold was recruited to drive the Dustin Aos #3 car last week.  If the name sounds familiar, it's because his list of accomplishments includes 2001 Super Truck runnerup and 2002 champion, third in Late Model Lites in 2003 and fifth in 2004.  Unfortunately, he fell out of the Main Event early on.  Meanwhile, teammate Eric Aos took a checkered flag in sixth.  Both did better than Bill Spencer, who suffered mechanical problems in hot laps to end his day very early.

The Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars kicked off their nine race season with 11 cars.  The talk of all the young talent in this division is true.  Enrique Jaime joined the division with his familiar yellow #48 car.  Enrique has been racing Outlaw Karts on dirt and on pavement for several years, but he was thrilled to have a chance to hot lap Mark Wauge's Modified last year.  The move up to a Sprint Car was a logical step for Jaime, and the rules package opened that door for him.  He did well for his first time and ended up taking a checkered flag with a sixth place finish.

Merissa Henson has been running the Outlaw Karts for years and has long since shown her ability to drive well and finish consistently.  Her multiple Top 3 point seasons there speak for themselves.  Her Top 5 Mini Stock season last year showed that she was ready for what she really wanted to do.  She didn't hesitate when her dad presented her with the opportunity to compete in a Sprint Car.  Merissa had a second place heat race finish and lead lap fifth in the Main Event.  With her skill set and as she learns the car, Merissa will become a factor in the battle to win races.

Camden Robustelli and Jeffrey Hudson have already won races in this division,  Camden has a pair of wins in Cottage Grove.  Hudson won the Medford season finale to secure 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" honors.  Unfortunately, he blew a motor in his heat race.  For Robustelli, the night was already a keeper as he drove his Dwarf Car to victory.  He followed that up with a fourth in the Main Event.  He's still looking for his first Sprint Car win at his home track, and that could happen at some point this season.

Bailey Hibbard started racing karts in Medford, and he won his first Sprint Car race here last year.  Grandfather Calvin Hibbard did some Kart racing, but at 61 years old, he is a Sprint Car rookie.  Calvin was just thrilled to get to race with his son David and grandson.  He made his laps and got it to the checkered flag.  Bailey made a mental error after crossing the line third.  He forgot to go to the scales and was disqualified.  David's anticipated battle with Kyler Barraza and Jake Waddell never materialized.  He had a motor problem while running fourth and retired early.

Raquel Ivie's best night of the year was last year in Medford when she won a heat race and led most of the Main Event before finishing second.  She was back to see if she could win it this time.  She drove a good race and finished third. Waddell and Barraza were the stars of the show.  Waddell won a heat race early on, but Barraza secured the pole with his win in the Fast Dash.  Kyler hadn't raced in Medford since 2014, when he was winning his second Southern Oregon Sprint Car Tour championship.  He made an appearance in Coos Bay earlier this year and won the feature in impressive fashion.  However, in Waddell, he met his match on Saturday.  Once Jack got the lead, even a pair of late yellow flags would not cost him the victory.  He won the $1000 prize as of Barraza settled for second.

The Outlaw Kart connection is still at play here.  At some point, many time Kart champion Tanner Holmes will make his division debut.  Tanner has demonstrated impressive skills through the years in the various Kart classes.  Bartley Foster and Blaine Cory are others preparing cars, and word is another Kart champion is looking at the Kendall Oil Sprint Cars.  A few California Winged Economy Sprint drivers are also looking to visit at some point this year.  The goal with this class is to generate more interest in Sprint Car racing in Medford, and it's off to a good start so far.

Fans know when the SODCA Dwarf Cars are in town, they are going to see some fast and competitive racing.  On Saturday night, the Dwarf Cars put together 25 laps of non stop, green flag racing.  The Peters family was well represented by A Dash winner Brock and B Dash winner Cody.  After winning the 2015 championship, Brock has a new M&M Chassis this season, and he put son Cody in his old car.  Cody did a great job of leading the race until lap 15.  Camden Robustelli is tired of finishing second in points and has made it a goal to win the championship this year.  Once he grabbed the lead from C. Peters, the soon to be high school graduate Robustelli led the rest of the way in victory.

For Cody, things didn't seem quite right with the rear end of his car, but he and his father had built a nice lead on the rest of the pack.  Though Brock took second, Cody maintained his pace as best he could and still got a third place finish.  It was a pair of past SODCA point runnerups, Chad Cardoza and Ryan Smith, who finished fourth and fifth for solid point efforts.  Though they race at other tracks, most of the group's races will happen in Medford this year.  One of the drivers hoping to get his first win this year is last year's fifth place point competitor, Randy Slater.  Randy had a solid night with a second in his heat, a third in the A Dash and a lead lap seventh in the feature.  Mason Lewman finished just ahead of Slater in the Main Event and was second in his heat race.  A solid 14 car field of Dwarf Cars made this an enjoyable show.

We look ahead to the June 3rd Roger Haudenshild Tribute Race.  IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Sport Modifieds are showcased that night along with Pro Stocks and SODCA Dwarf Cars.  The Haudenshild family and Dusty's Transmissions are sponsoring extra money for the purse.  The Crack The Whip Challenge will also be part of the show to make it a great night of racing all around.  Stay tuned to for more details.