Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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The season opened under cloudy skies and cool temperatures Saturday night at Southern Oregon Speedway. Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Mini Stocks, JOAT Labs Hornets and Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites were on the card. There were some good battles all night and some positive things to take away from the night as we head into a two race weekend of Outlaw Karts on Friday and the big track on Saturday, May 19-20.
The Late Models didn't have the turnout that was anticipated, but four cars was still better than the two car opening the Open Stocks had last year. Absent from the show were the Dees Racing Team, Mike Linder and Steve Lemley. Work kept Lemley and Linder out, while a combination of work and not being ready kept the Dees cars out.
The heat race Saturday night was a flag to flag romp in favor of Dustin Knight, and it looked like the past Pro Stock and Modified champion was picking up right where he left off last season. Before the feature, Knight noticed the #75 car of Dave Foot had made the trip from Coos Bay to support the show. He helped Foot with gears, and Foot remarked that this was the kind of help he never had at his home track. Foot had fun and is already preparing for his return to Medford.
Knight was back in command in the Main Event, while Nathan Augustine was caught up in an early tangle with teammate Kristy Grout. When racing got going again, Augustine took up pursuit of Knight, while Grout and Foot had their own battle for third. Gradually, Knight and Augustine caught the third place battle, and that's when Augustine made his move for the lead. He went on to win, and it served as a reminder that Nathan is not to be taken lightly. He is the 2016 Coos Bay Speedway champion. Augustine says he lives within two hours of three tracks, but he enjoys racing on Medford's hooked up race track.
It could be that we will have a battle between Augustine and Knight for the championship, and they will definitely be fast. Grout and Foot will get faster as the season goes on, and we certainly look forward to the return of reigning champion Bob Dees, his sons John Dees and Garrett Dees, Stock Car veteran Mike Linder and Steve Lemley. The next show should see a few more cars.
All was quiet concerning the status of Mark Wauge. The winner of some 50 Main Events at Southern Oregon Speedway and seven Modified championships spoke during the offseason of the possibility of racing elsewhere, but his familiar white #1m car was back in the pits for the opener. He was joined by the #f1 of Monte Bischoff. About a month ago, Wauge won a thrilling battle in Coos Bay for a feature victory, and he was hoping to do the same back home.
Wauge and Bischoff both had to work their way to the front, and Bischoff got there first. Wauge seems to excel on the inside line. He gradually worked his way into second, but that black #f1 car wasn't giving him the opening he needed to make his move. Wauge took looks to the inside, but Bischoff came off the corners a bit quicker. In the end, it was Bischoff grabbing the glory and the victory. Wauge settled for a second, knowing he left it all out on the race track.
The Bailey's were well represented. Jesse "Beetle" Bailey was the only driver with three Top 3 finishes last season, and he got another one in third last week. What was nice is we also saw the return of the #6b car of Tim Bailey. Tim took last season off, but he was Top 3 in points in 2015. Tim had an eventful Main Event, but he still took a checkered flag with a lead lap sixth. Trailing him was last season's third place driver, Duane Orsburn. We hadn't heard much from Duane during the offseason, but he returned with a black paint job after just finishing preparations that morning. Duane is a two time Street Stock champion who will be out to win his second IMCA Modified Main Event.
Two time champion Albert Gill and 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" James Welshonse had their own battle going for fourth. Welshonse dominated his heat race in victory. James has already run a few races this year, and he had a little wear and tear on his on his car after a Yreka visit. He was a bit disappointed when he was the only modified driver to race there a couple weeks ago and was looking forward to racing in Medford. Welshonse would out-duel Gill for fourth, but these are two drivers to watch in the battle for victory this year. Gill is actually the most decorated IMCA Modified druver of the last three seasons with two championships each at Medford and Yreka.
Scott Crumm had his red #2c car at the track for the opener. He was one of the Top 10 drivers in points last season, and he was in Yreka for a lead lap eighth in their season opener. He repeated that performance with a lead lap eighth on Saturday night in Medford. Ray Kniffen Jr. is back behind the wheel of the #64 car as he has healed from a broken wrist suffered in the big race in September last year. The impact of the crash actually bent his steering wheel. Kniffen says he's just starting to get comfortable in the driver's seat again. Unfortunately, he was out of the Main Event early on Saturday night. Ray has joined his brother Wayne to promote the bear4life.com movement. Bear 4 Life promotes teen suicide prevention. Both brothers are doing what they can to promote awareness, and Waybe will be selling t-shirts in his pits with the proceeds going to Bear 4 Life.
IMCA Sport Modified turnout was a little lighter than anticipated, but two time champion Jorddon Braaten and reigning champion Mike Medel were two of the drivers in the group. An eventful hot laps session saw Medel, Tony Bartell and Rich McCoy scrambling during the heat races to make repairs. Unfortunately, McCoy was done for the night. This also meant Braaten's main challenger for most of the night was the #7m of Willie McFall. McFall drove well all night in a car that looked every bit as nice as the cars wheeled by Braaten and Medel.
After a second in the heat race, McFall led early in the Main Event. Even after Braaten passed him, McFall drove a great race and appeared to be headed for a second place finish when his transmission gave up on him. Another driver who was looking good was A.J. Parker. A.J. looked a bit faster than he was last season, and we will have to keep an eye on him this season. He ended up fourth behind Bartell, who had to be happy to take a third from a night that started off as roughly as his night did.
Speaking of which, Medel finally got up to second and searched high and low for a line to race past Braaten. Once Jorddon gets the lead, he's not an easy guy to catch. Medel made a last ditch attempt at a low pass in the final turn, but Braaten prevailed. It was his 25th career Sport Modified win at his home track as Medel settled for second. We did see two new competitors in Jay Zimmerman and Danny Rule. We'll be seeing more new cars in the weeks ahead.
The Mini Stock division could be very interesting this season. David Steele picked up right where he left off last season with wins in his heat race and Main Event. The Main Event win came with a bit of luck. Andrew Hall had mechanical issues and costed off the back stretch and into the infield while running second. The leader, Marissa Luckman, led by a straightaway before spinning for a mid race yellow flag. Steele was more than happy to add another win to his totals. He's already won twice in Yreka this year. David might be the driver to beat in points, but he commented before the races that he will miss a race or two due to other commitments.
Steve Goetz went out a champion when he won the 2013 title. He sold his car to Gary Anderson, who proceeded to win the 2014 championship. It was partially due to the encouragement of his wife that Steve decided to buld a new car for this season. He had a few cars that he needed to get rid of, and he decided to build this one out of the last car of the group. Helping him in this endeavor was David Steele. Steve admitted that he would not have been ready for the opener a week easier, though he'd have been there to make the best of it. He went out there last week and made his laps, finishing a lead lap seventh behind Anderson. Anderson didn't quite look like his usual fast self, but he'll have the #0 car dialed in better next time.
Back up front, people were wondering where Luckman came from. She had a front row start in her Ford Pinto, and when the green flag flew, she checked out of the field. If not for her spin, she might have won the race. What made things more interesting was the battle taking place for third. Kristopher Mix was in the hunt, and the rapidly improving Patrick Stringer-Stine, Michael Johnson and Dillen Lausen were also mixing it up. Stringer-Stine was coming off of a lead lap fifth with the Mini Outlaws at Coos Bay, and Johnson had a secret weapon. The second generation racer was in the former Merissa Henson car. Johnson might have ended up second if not for a flat tire at the end.
Mix found himself in second at the white flag, and this would have been the best finish yet for the third generation racer. Unfortunately, Luckman was making her charge back to the front and beat him back to the checkered flag in a drag race. Mix settled for third, and Stringer Stine had his best finish yet in fourth. Lausen was fifth. There has only been a handful of winners in this division in the last three seasons, but there will be at least one new winner this year. These drivers are all chomping at the bit to be next one in the winner's circle. The question is, who will be next?
The JOAT Labs Hornets have been an after thought at the track since the rules were released in 2013. Last year was the first season in which it competed for a purse. Two times, the record of six cars was reached last year, but that record was broken last week. Ten competitors were in action. Reigning champion Tim Hedges mentioned at the end of last season that he intended to field multiple cars. At the opener, his wife Jenna was in the former Heather Menzel car, while son Ashton Hedges had a new car. Tim is building a new car and has a fifth car in the works as well. He hopes to have other people driving the car in which he won the championship once his new car is ready. In the meantime, he drove the #14t car to a fourth place finish.
The driver to beat is the #555 of Joby Shelds. Joby had a pair of wins in Yreka leading up to this race. He grabbed the lead from Gabe Nelson last week and went on to victory. JOAT Labs has been building cages for new cars this season, and the #007 car of Jason Stoutenburg is one of them. Jason drove well all night and surprised Shields by holding him off for a heat race win before finishing a strong second ahead of Nelson in the Main Event. David James Gillig is another driver who went to JOAT Labs for his cage. He was also a heat race winner, but his Main Event ended early.
Ashland High was represented by the two cars of Erik Oline and Ethan Doty. Teacher R.C. Britt put the cars together with his students and was there at the track to oversee the team. Doty generated lots of buzz when he had the team's PT Crusier in Yreka prior to his Medford debut. He drove a good race and finished fifth ahead of J. Hedges. Oline struggled a bit, but he still made some good laps in the second team car. The good news is there are several new cars still to be debuted as the JOAT Labs Hornets class is growing.
Two of the big names in Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites in the past are Jason Weslowski and Bob Westcott. Weslowski was fast, but his car has been up for sale. Fortunately for 2016 Mini Stock champion Bob Burkett, he got a good deal on that car. Westcott ran the circuit up in Northern Oregon and even won some big races in Medford. Randy Hansen is the owner of the #40 car, and Wescott will be driving that car next time. Unfortunately for the team, the #40 car had motor problems in hot laps and was done early on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Lee Doty was still running at the head of the pack as he won his heat race and the Main Event. Chasing the reigning champion in second was Burkett, who also won a heat race. Bob was just trying to feel out the car, but it seems like he is already comfortable behind he wheel. Charlie Eaton was running pretty strong in third, while Bill Spencer took a checkered flag in fourth. Bill is building a new car and has put his car up for sale. Dustin Aos was there making laps, but he had problems in his heat race to end his night. Eric Aos is anticipated for the next race, and a few others should be ready as well.
The Pro Stocks are ready for their first point race next week. Dr. Scott Lenz is a past champion in this class as well as a past Medford Speedway Street Stock champion. Recently, Lenz won his 100th career Main Event in Yreka, and he's ready to try for a win at his home track. Miles Deubert is anticipated next week along with two time champion Ken Irving, Top 5 Coos Bay competitor Josh Kralicek, Derrel Nelson Jr., Dave Satterfield, Brian Johnsen and others. The track hasn't crowned a Pro Stock champion since 2011, but it has been a part of the Outlaw Pro Stock Series schedule since then.
The May 20th race will be the first event for the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car division. Past Cottage Grove Limited Sprint champion David Hibbard has been leading the charge to grow the class in Medford. Through the years, David has won several races in Medford. He and his son Bailey were both feature winners last year, and both are anticipated this week. Merissa Henson was making practice laps last week and did well for her first time behind the wheel of a Sprint Car. 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" Jeffrey Hudson will be back this week, and Camden Robustelli and Bartley Foster are other drivers to watch for this week. The division returns on May 27th as part of Open Wheel Showcase night.
The OTRO Hardtops make their first appearance on May 27th. OTRO President Vic Bridges reports that the group is looking forward to doing more dirt track racing this season. These vintage style Coupe and Sedan race cars with V-6 motors always put on a good show, and this should be no different. Trevor Thomason and Bill Trotter are leading the group of racers that includes, Wylie Prowell, Jimmy Del Castille, Brian Crouch, Dean Cast, Mark Minter and more. OTRO is scheduled for eight visits. It's all about fun and putting on a show. Points are not kept, and Bridges tries to mix things up where everybody gets a fair shot.
The Outlaw Kart drivers are hoping May is not a complete wash out as it was last year. The Speedway Karts are set to run their first race, led by the Fuller family and Steve Rambo. Speaking of the Fuller family, Brionna Fuller is in a 250 Kart this year, while younger brother Taylor is in a Box Stock. It's a move up for both of them as they won championships in their classes at Yreka last year. In fact, Taylor won two Beginners Box Stock races last season in Medford. Kiley Grimes is the reigning Beginner champion, but she can expect competition from Malachi Johnson, the Whipple brothers (Roger and Thomas), Adrian Richard and others.
Trevor Grimes is the Box Stock champion, but T. Fuller and past champion Carley Holmes could make things very competitive this year as others, such as Natalie Richard and Emma Rodgers, step up as well. The 250's sort of took the lead last year, and Bodee Weiser is the reigning champion. Some talented racers like Braden Weiser, Enrique Jaime, Braden Cory, Colby Bergquist, Ashleigh Strain and Branden Bartlett will make this an exciting show. There's also multi time champion Tanner Holmes to consider. Tanner actually has a 250 and a 500, and he'll also be moving up to the big track to race Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars.
Might we see more of Tanner in a 500 this year? We know Wyatt Pinckney has a 500 that he plans to race, and we've heard that Kevin Hilgendorf will be racing. Brody Sim made the move up last year. We're hoping to see reigning champion Johnny Burke, Kenny Boardman, Jeffrey Hudson, Merissa Henson and others in the field this year to help keep the 500's going. The Outlaw Karts always put on a great show in all of the divisions, so May 19th should be a great night of racing. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.