Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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The Wait Is Over,
Southern Oregon Speedway Opens Saturday Night
White City, Oregon...The rains have washed away two play days, and despite a sunny Saturday night last week, the pits were too wet to make it happen. However, Southern Oregon Speedway is set to open this Saturday night with an exciting evening of Late Model, IMCA Modified, IMCA Sport Modified, Mini Stock, Valley Stor-All Late Model Lite and JOAT Labs Hornet racing. The racers and fans have been looking forward to this night for the entire off season.
The pits have been groomed by Uncle Rich, the concession stands have been fitted with new equipment as old equipment has been removed and Jim Rodgers has been hard at work making the track ready for Saturday night. With an officiating crew, led by Director Of Competition Jon DeBenedetti, the season will begin. There are changes in store for this season, but racing will go through mid September. The track will be making an announcement soon about a special race that will feature IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds, while saluting one of the beloved members of the community, long time DJ and track announcer R. Charles Snyder. Stay tuned for details on this and other happenings as the season moves on.
One of the divisions we're seeing the most activity from is the IMCA Sport Modifieds. Roughly 20 competitors are preparing cars for the coming season. Jorddon Braaten and "Marvelous" Mike Medel are both back in new cars this season. Braaten has already won a race on the circuit this year. He is a two time Medford champion as well as reigning IMCA Oregon and Pacific Sport Mod Series champion. Medel, meanwhile, enters the season as the reigning Medford champion. They may be the two drivers to beat, but there is a host of tough competitors lining up to do just that.
Two time champion Dwayne Melvin is back again this year, and another champion is planning to race with us. He's 2016 Yreka champion Jimmy Lipke. Rumors circulated of Bob Nelsen selling his car during the offseason, but the latest word is that he will be competing at Medford this year, possibly on opening night. Nelson won two Main Events last year, including his "Race Of The Year" battle with Braaten.
It doesn't stop there. Top 5 2016 competitors David Marble, A.J. Parker and Willie McFall are back this year. Marble was the "Rookie Of The Year" and will be gunning for his first feature win in this class. Marble is the 2015 Mini Stock champion and racked up numerous wins there. Parker did well in his rookie year and is hoping to improve upon that, while McFall was Top 5 for the second straight season. The impressive roster includes past Mini Stock champions Rich McCoy and Toby Judd. McCoy has won Modified mains in the past and was a Sport Mod feature winner last year. Judd made his return at the end of last season.
Dwarf Car ace Kalvin Morton, Bob Thomas in the former Brian Cooper car, Lloyd Speer, Shane Everson and rookies Justin McCreedie and Braxton Possinger are others to watch for. McCreedie is coming off of an impressive win at Yreka, while Possinger has already had Top 5 success there. The IMCA Sport Modifieds are poised for a big year as they enter their sixth season.
JOAT Labs Hornets have just sort of been there for the past three seasons. The 2013 launch yielded no results, the next two years sort of had them treated as an afterthought, but new management made more of an effort to promote this class. Two six car fields last year were signs that interest was growing. During the offseason, Miles Deubert of JOAT Labs offered to come in as title sponsor with a goal of building safe and reliable cages for the new cars in production. Over a half dozen cars have left his shop since then, and more cages are in production.
Tim Hedges is back to defend his championship. As Derrel Nelson Jr. moves up to Pro Stocks, his 14 year old Kart racing son Gabe Nelson slips behind the wheel of the #8g car. John Hoult is also said to be coming back. All three drivers face stiff competition from the "Triple Nickel" Hornet of Joby Shields, who finished third last year with four wins. Shields already has two wins in Yreka. The list of drivers is growing as Jason Stoutenburg, Ashton Hedges, Anthony Kniffen, Tylor Ray, David James Gillig and Christian Listro are among those joining the show this year. Speculation is that car count in this class will double from the previous record.
Late Models have only had one "officially recognized" championship season, won by Chris Salyer and Roger Lorenzini in a tie. The division returned last year as Open Stocks to welcome any fendered Stock Car. Late Model drivers answered that call, and Late Models are what they are this year. Bob Dees returns as reigning champion, and his sons Garrett and John will be joining him. Two time winner Mike Linder will be back, joined by a fellow competitor from the Limited Sprint class of the early 1990's, Don Garrett Jr.
The competition level is going up with the addition of 2016 Coos Bay champion Nathan Augustine and past Medford Pro Stock and Modified champion Dustin Knight. Both drivers were impressive feature winners last season. Augustine's teammate Kristy Grout will be racing, and past Cottage Grove Street Stock champion Steve Lemly is joining the division with two cars, one of which is for sale. Interest in Late Models is growing, and it will be interesting to see how things go this season.
IMCA Modifieds have been an important part of Southern Oregon Speedway since it opened in 1996. We're hearing of new cars being built, but the good news is some of the biggest supporters of the class in recent years are also coming back. Albert Gill has racked up two championships each between Medford and Yreka during the past three seasons. He was Top 5 last year with an impressive win. Gill may be the driver to beat this year, but multi time Top 5 racer Jesse "Beetle" Bailey may be the driver to do it. He had three Top 3 finishes last season, but he's anxious to get back into the winner's circle this season.
2016 "Rookie Of The Year" James Welshonse won the season finale last year to secure second in points. He's a driver who should not be counted out in this year's battle. Nick Trenchard has won several races in Medford as well as the 2015 Yreka championship. We should see these four drivers as well as several other hard chargers such as Monte Bischoff, Duane Orsburn, Zach Fettinger, Bo Shields, Scott Crumm, Kevin Hewitt, rookie Dave Martin Jr. and more.
The Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites are back this year after ending last season with two ten car fields. Lee Doty enters the season as the reigning champion and five time winner last year. He is the man to beat, but Charlie Eaton, Terry Hadley, John Barger and Steve Thompson are four drivers to keep an eye on. Eaton's strong season ended with two second place finishes in the last three races, and he is due to win. Thompson won the opener before blowing a motor. He's won races through the years in this class and is one of the faster competitors. You don't win over 20 Main Events in the last 12 seasons while ranking second twice without being fast, so we know what T. Hadley is capable of. His wife Kritsa has also won races in the past. Barger was the 2013 champion and finished second in points last year.
Danny Prewitt was a feature winner last season and is somebody we'll have to watch this year. Eric Aos won one of the Bud Cup Late Model Lite races in the past and was a feature winner at Madras last year. Dustin Aos will be joining him as one of this year's rookies. The steady Bill Spencer was Top 5 last year, and the division will gain 2016 Mini Stock champion Bob Burkett. Burkett has won over 20 Main Events in his impressive Mini Stock career.
Of course, Burkett has said he may run his Mini Stock sometimes, but the three drivers who may be the early favorites in Mini Stock points are 2014 champion Gary Anderson, 2015 Yreka champion David Steele and 2013 champion Steve Goetz. Anderson finished second in points last year with two wins, while Steele finished fourth with six wins after a late start. Goetz has been away for a couple of years, but he is a welcome return to the division.
Drivers are lining up to see who can become a first time feature winner, and leading that charge may be last year's third ranked driver, Andrew Hall. Hall had three second place finishes last season, including two in a row to hold off Steele for third in points at the end of the season. Hall's "Neon Mafia" teammate Kristopher Mix will be out to grab his first win after several Top 5 finishes. 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" Dillen Lausen is primed and ready to write his name onto the winner's list, and the class will have some fast competitors, including Eric Hanson, Patrick Stringer-Stine, Michael Johnson, Garrett Fredrickson, Randy Simmons and rookie Hunter Magnun.
Saturday night marks the beginning of an exciting time of the year. It's racing season. There are lots of exciting things in store for the fans this year. It starts with this week's program of Late Models, IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Valley Store-All Late Model Lites, Mini Stocks and JOAT Labs Hornets. Gates open at 5:00 PM with the first race at 7:00 PM. General Admission is $12, Juniors (6-12) and Seniors (62 and older) are $6 and children five and under are free. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.
Improvements In Store For New Season
At Southern Oregon Speedway
White City, Oregon...The 22nd season opener is set for this Saturday night at Southern Oregon Speedway. Weather forced the cancellation of two playdays and last week's race. Despite sunny skies last Saturday, mid week rains proved to be too much for the pits to handle. Preparations are well underway for Saturday's six division show. On the schedule will be IMCA Modifieds, Late Models, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites, Mini Stocks and JOAT Labs Hornets.
Promoter Mike McCann and crew are continuing to make improvements to the facility, and much focus has centered around the concessions stand. New equipment has been brought in. There are also new benches for the fans to enjoy their food under the shade before the races. McCann is also braining in new track prep equipment to continue the focus on a smooth and tacky racing surface around the three-tenths mile clay oval. Jim Rodgers will be back to provide his expertise to the track preparation.
The focus on getting the show done in a timely manner will remain. Gates open at 5:00 PM with the first race firing off at 7:00 PM. The goal has always been to get the show done and send the fans home happy at a reasonable hour. For the most part, this was accomplished last season. Despite the anticipated increase in car count, ticket prices for regular shows will remain $12.00 for General Admission, Juniors (6-12) and Seniors (62 and older) $6.00 and children five and under free. It will be good family entertainment at a reasonable price.
Helping keep the show running smoothly will be the addition of Dwarf Car and Modified champion Jon DeBenedetti and his wife Valerie DeBenedetti to the officiating crew. DeBenedetti will be Director Of Competition, which is a role McCann filled last season. DeBenedetti's experience will allow McCann to focus on other aspects of the show. Valerie will serve as Head Scorer, which is a role she has filled in the past. Both are welcome additions to the team.
It is a team effort and people are stepping up to help build this program. People have observed how the racing program has fallen off in recent years, and they want to be a part of ushering in the "New Beginning" McCann envisioned when he began his ten year stint as promoter last year. In the Kendall Oil Sprint Car division, for instance, long time racer David Hibbard has taken on a leadership role in building up a car count with a more sensible set of rules. The car count will increase noticeably this season. David will race this year along with his son Bailey, both of whom won races last year.
The Sprint Car roster will take on a new look with several young drivers coming in from the Outlaw Kart divison. Fans can anticipate seeing Kart champion Tanner Holmes, Merissa Henson, Bartley Foster and Blaine Cory, along with returning competitors like Jeffrey Hudson and Camden Robustelli. The first race for the Sprint Cars will be on May 20th as part of the "Road To The Iron Giant" Street Stock show and a week later as part of the Open Wheel Showcase. Northwest Focus Midgets will be in town for that show as well.
The buzz around town is that the IMCA Sport Modifieds will have an increased car count, and champions Mike Medel, Jorddon Braaten and Dwayne Melvin will be part of the increased roster. Pro Stock racer Miles Deubert of JOAT Labs noticed the track's effort to build the Hornets class last year, and he has gotten on board as the title sponsor. JOAT Labs has built cages for at least a half dozen of the entry level Hornets, indicating that the car count will probably double from last year.
Late Models are back this season. The roster stands at 10 cars now as excitement builds. Returning champion Bob Dees, Coos Bay Champ Nathan Augustine and Modified champion Dustin Knight are three of the stars to watch for. Speaking of Modifieds, they are back and continue so sport the IMCA sanctioning. Two time champion Albert Gill, Yreka champion Nick Trenchard, James Welshonse and Jesse Bailey are among the racers to watch for.
Mini Stocks and Late Model Lites had solid seasons last year, and it's looking good for both classes this season. Three champions, David Steele, Gary Anderson and Steve Goetz, will battle it out with the emerging stars of the Mini Stocks. Reigning champion Bob Burkett will race some, but he will also compete in the Late Model Lites. Reigning Late Model Lites champion Lee Doty, hard charger Terry Hadley, Charlie Eaton and Danny Prewett are just some of the stars to watch for this week.
This week's six division program is just the beginning. There are some great events booked throughout the season, and the Outlaw Kart track is set to open on Friday, May 12th, for the first of eight races. The big track will be the place to be this Saturday night to see some beautifully prepared race cars in action for the first time this season. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.