Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Sprint Cars Return To Southern Oregon Speedway
White City, Oregon...The first appearance of the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car division is on the schedule when racing resumes this Saturday night at Southern Oregon Speedway. A loaded seven division show will also include the Pro Stocks, Mini Stocks, SODCA Dwarf Cars, Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites, JOAT Labs Hornets and a special Street Stock series race.
There's a change in the Sprint Car division this season. Rules were adjusted in a way that should cut the costs of racing and encourage car count to grow as the season moves forward. Sprint Car veteran David Hibbard has been a leader in the movement to establish this division in Medford. Hibbard's credentials include several feature wins between his home track and Cottage Grove, where he won a championship in 2014. He was leading the points in Cottage Grove last year when he stepped out from behind the wheel to let his son Bailey drive the car.
Bailey Hibbard was having a rough season and was seriously questioning whether he should be racing when he started a race in Medford last September. The teen racer made a late pass on Raquel Ivie for his first career win. The Hibbard family will be three generations strong this Saturday as Bailey's grandfather, Calvin Hibbard, will be competing. It's the first opportunity for the three of them to be on the track together.
Among the stars to watch for this week will be 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" Jeffrey Hudson, who is the 2015 Pro Stock champion and recently won the Billy Geyer Memorial in Yreka. Two rookies in the class will be Top 5 Mini Stock racer Merissa Henson and 2010 Outlaw Kart champion Bartley Foster. SODCA Dwarf Car star Camden Robustelli, 2013 Cottage Grove champion Raquel Ivie and Kinzer Cox are also anticipated for the beginning of a new era in Sprint Car racing at Southern Oregon Speedway.
Robustelli takes great delight in competing with the Southern Oregon Dwarf Car Association. He is coming off of back to back runnerup point seasons. The Dwarf Cars make their first appearance of the season, and most of last year's biggest stars are anticipated. This includes reigning champion Brock Peters in a new car and two time champion Josh King. Brock has moved his son Cody Peters into his championship ride. Chad Cardoza, Kalvin Morton, Rob Gergel, Paul Haslow, Randy Slater, Rob Sanders and the returning Fred Hay are among the other stars of the group. The competition level is so high that it's anybody's guess who might win.
The Street Stock race is the first of an eight track, eight race series billed as The Road To The Iron Giant. Drivers from other Oregon tracks compete in this series that builds up to the grand finale Iron Giant Race in September at Willamette. The race last season paid over $5,000 and was won by Kyle Yeack. When it comes to Street Stocks, Kyle has racked up over two dozen wins just in the past five years, and he figures to be the driver to beat. Series organizer Chris Sine, who just won a race in Madras, reports a field of 18-22 cars is anticipated for the biggest Street Stock show Medford has had in several years.
Once upon a time, the old Medford track had a Street Stock division that evolved into the Pro Stocks that were a part of Southern Oregon Speedway when it opened in 1996. The Pro Stock division has raced every year at the track, but the most recent track champion was Dustin Knight in 2011. One of the first track champions, Scott Lenz, is back in a Pro Stock this season and could very well be the driver to beat. Two time champions Ken Irving and Brian Johnsen, 2014 Street Stock champion Miles Deubert, Derrel Nelson Jr., Josh Kralicek and Dave Satterfield are some of the other drivers anticipated this week.
There are some interesting things happening in the three four cylinder classes. Lee Doty is the reigning champion of the Late Model Lites and won the opener, but he was chased by two drivers sure to give him a challenge this season. Last season's Mini Stock champion Bob Burkett finished second in the opener, while Charlie Eaton was third. Word out of Portland is that one of the top drivers in the state, Bob Westcott, will be racing this week. Westcott has occasionally competed at Medford and left town with the winner's prize on multiple occasions. Wesctott and car owner Randy Hansen intend to make every race. "It's a bit of a drive, " Bob admitted, "but we've committed to the season."
Wesctott is happy to see the division back in Medford again. He sees it growing and getting stronger here. Bob ran the circuit at tracks like Willamette and Banks and tried to keep it together. "Eventually, the guys just stopped showing up. I was at the last race with six cars, and that was pretty much it after that."
With Bob Burkett moving up, David Steele would seem poised to win the Mini Stock championship after winning the opener. Steele remarked before the first race that he will miss a race or two this year, leaving some talented newer drivers lining up for their moment to shine. This includes Kristopher Mix, Andrew Hall, Michael Johnson, Patrick Stringer-Stine and Dillen Lausen. A win for any of them would be a first career victory.
You can't forget the two champions in the field. 2014 champion Gary Anderson is coming off of a runnerup season in the standings. That car is actually the 2013 championship car of Steve Goetz. "It was a good car, " said Steve. "My wife wanted me to get it out of my system and go out as champion. We did that and sold the car."
Steve wasn't happy siting on the sidelines. "We started this car with the last of the cars I had left. I got rid of the other ones. My wife saw how mopey I was, so she encouraged me to come back."
Helping put the cage together was good friend David Steele. There were still last minute details left to finish. A rainout may have saved him from not being completely ready. He was still working out the bugs in the opener, but you can believe that he will be battling for wins in the weeks ahead.
After breaking a car count record in the Hornet division two weeks ago, management added a rain makeup race for the class this week. Joby Shields bested the ten car field last time. Word is there are another ten cars being prepared to race in the coming weeks. Most of the competitors are newcomers. Two interesting teams of note are the family team of reigning champion Tim Hedges, wife Jenna and son Ashton, who field three cars. Ashland High is represented by Erik Oline and the unique PT Cruiser of Ethan Doty. The Hornets are the most affordable path into racing at Southern Oregon Speedway.
It's an exciting seven division program this Saturday night. Gates open at 5 PM with the first race at 7 PM. General Admission is $12, Seniors (62 and up) and Juniors (6-12) are $6 and Children 5 and under are free. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.