Thursday, June 22, 2017

IMCA Modified Wild West Speedweek Comes To Southern Oregon Speedway, Pit Stops

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion 
Can Be Heard HERE

IMCA Modified Wild West Speedweek 
Comes To Southern Oregon Speedway

White City, Oregon...Back in 2011, the IMCA Modified Wild West Speedweek Series was created.  It was basically the Modified division's answer to the Sprint Car Speedweek that had been around for several seasons.  The first champion was Medford star Brian Poppa.  Poppa had long built up a reputation as one of the most competitive drivers Southern Oregon Speedway had to offer.  He won many races, including some of the biggest races at the track.  In 2006, Brian won the Modified and Pro Stock championships in the same year.  In 2011, he was stuck in the B Main at the Medford Speedweek race.  This was not an issue for him as he won that race and the Main Event.

In the six seasons that followed, Willamette Speedway star Jesse Williamson won three Speedweek titles, while California stars Alex Stanford and reigning champion Kellen Chadwick won the other two.  Those two are at the top of the list of Californians that will support the week long series.  All Speedweek races pay $1,000 to win, and there's point fund money on the line as well.

This year is the most grueling Speedweek yet.  After opening at Siskiyou Motor Speedway in Yreka on Friday, they head to Southern Oregon Speedway on Saturday.  The next two nights are at Cottage Grove Speedway.  Following that, there is a one night break on Tuesday in which Coos Bay Speedway has offered a $1,500 to win non point race that may attract a few drivers.  On Wednesday, it's Sunset Speedway and Thursday, Friday and Saturday will be at Willamette Speedway.

A field of roughly 40 competitors from throughout the west coast is anticipated for this event, led by Chadwick, Williamson and Stanford.  Between just these three drivers, they have eared 18 total Speedweek victories.  Chadwick earned all four of his last season.  While these three might be the top contenders for the Speedweek championship, they will have to compete with other top notch competitors like Collen Winebarger, Rob Ireland, Grey Ferrando, Danny Lauer and Mark Carrell.

Southern Oregon Speedway has its own track championship, and it's going to be a battle just to make it into the Main Event this week.  The IMCA point update following the most recent race has yet to be released, but Albert Gill and Jesse Bailey appear to be tied.  Gill earned his second straight runnnerup finish last week, while Bailey drove to his third straight Top 3 finish.  With six Top 3 finishes in the last 12 races at the track, Bailey has been the model of consistency.  First and foremost, the goal for these two drivers is to make the Main Event this Saturday, and then they will set out to defend the local honor against an all star field of invaders.  Other regulars to watch for include Monte Bischoff, Mark Wauge, Nick Trenchard, Jeremy Ohlde, James Anderson, Scott Crumm and James Welshonse.

Thanks to the efforts of Pacific Sport Modified Series organizer Steve Kerstulovich, the IMCA Sport Modifieds are getting to run at six of the eight Speedweek events as a support class.  They will also crown a series champion.  Point leader and recent winner Mike Medel is hoping that champion will be him.  Medel had his hands full battling Rich McCoy last week, but he got the job done.  McCoy is hoping this will be his week to win, but all of the competitors can expect the return of reigning Oregon State champion Jorddon Braaten.  Braaten missed last week due to a wedding.

Because of the efforts to create a Sport Mod Speedweek, more visiting drivers are anticipated.  At the top of that list will be Yreka point leader Justin Foux and two time Yreka winner Justin McCreedie.  Reigning California State champion Brian Cooper recently announced his plans to come race.  Brian's brother Todd will be here along with Jimmy Ford and Keith Brown Jr.  Todd won the Haudenshild Tribute race last season for this division.  The invaders can also anticipate some close competition from local stars like Willie McFall, Jesse Merriman, Dwayne Melvin and A.J. Parker.

The SODCA Dwarf Cars are already seeing a good battle in points between recent winners Brock Peters and Camden Robustelli.  Peters is the reigning champion and Robustelli is coming off of back to back runnerup seasons.  They may be the favorites to win this week, but you can expect good competition from two time champion Josh King, Cody Peters, Chad Cardoza, Rob Gergel and Fred Hay.

For a little extra excitement, the Outlaw Kart track will open on Friday night.  The Speedway Karts have been added to the program along with Beginners Box Stocks, Box Stocks, 250 Intermediates and 500 Open Karts.  Our list of 2016  champions in those four classes last year were Kiley Grimes, Trevor Grimes, Bodee Weiser and Johnny Burke.  The first three are anticipated this Friday along with other rising young stars such as Malachi Johnson, Shailene Horn, Roger Whipple, Natalie Richard, Vinny DeBenedetti, Braden Weiser, Brenden Bartlett, Wyatt Pinckney and Reece Slyter.  It is sure to be a fun night of racing as the format calls for two sets of heat races and then Main Events in all classes.

Saturday's big show will be one you won't want to miss.  The IMCA Modifieds alone will be a great show, and IMCA Sport Modifieds and SODCA Dwarf Cars are the icing on the cake.  Gates open at 5 PM with the first race at 7 PM.  General Admission is $15 and Seniors, Juniors and Military are $10 and Children 5 and under are free.  For further information, go to

Pit Stops

A six division program entertained the crowd last Saturday night at Southern Oregon Speedway.  This was an event that included lots of speed, including the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars.  An interesting trend this year finds that there have been three different teams to have won Main Events after three races.  Plus, car count has improved over the first three races last season when it was four for each race.  We've seen 11, seven and eight cars so far, and wins have been earned by Jake Waddell, Kyler Barraza and Bailey Hibbard.

Hibbard may be kicking himself after his error after the first race saw him head to his pit rather than the scales.  The disqualification that night has likely kept him out of the point lead despite his second place finish and last week's victory.  Bailey has gone from the kid with self doubt about whether he should be racing a Sprint Car to a more confident competitor, and his time competing at Southern Oregon Speedway has made all the difference.  He now has two wins and a second to show for it.

Last week, the 16 year old hard charger surprised Kyler Barraza by beating him in the Scramble to grab the Min Event pole.  Though Barraza got the jump on him at the start of the Main Event, young Hibbard used a lap four restart to grab the lead.  He led a Hibbard family 1-2 finish as his father David Hibbard made a late move for the second place finish.  Bailey is a past 250 Kart champion at Cottage Grove, and it's way too early to count him out in this battle.  Likewise, his father is still in the hunt.  David is the 2014 Cottage Grove Limited Sprint champion.

Barraza has clearly staked his claim as the driver to beat in the division so far.  Though he fell back to third last week at the checkered flag, he's the only driver with all Top 3 finishes.  The last two times he has competed for championships, he ended the season as the Southern Oregon Sprint Tour champion.  Barraza will be gunning for more Main Event glory when the division returns for three races in July (The 1st, 8th and 22nd).

Merissa Henson continues to impress with her ability to drive a Sprint Car.  Some might have been wondering how she would adapt to the switch from a Top 5 Mini Stock competitor to a Sprint Car rookie.  If you've seen her in 250 and 500 Open Karts, you knew that wouldn't be a problem.  Henson grabbed a fifth place finish last week behind two time Cottage Grove champion Patrick Dills.  She now has two lead lap Main Event finishes.  Her second place heat race and Trophy Dash finishes last week helped keep her in second in the standings as the top rookie in the field.

Late Model car count doubled to eight cars, and we still haven't seen all of the drivers who intend to compete this year.  Dustin Knight commented before the races that Rapp Racing will field another car later this season with Rich McCoy behind the wheel.  Through the years, McCoy has racked up several Modified feature wins in addition to his Mini Stock title.  Knight is also a champion in both Pro Stocks and Modifieds, and he's set his sights on the Late Model title. 

Knight let a win get away from him at the opener when he misjudged where to go in traffic, opening the door for championship rival Nathan Augustine to race by.  Dustin remarked that as hooked up as his #77 car is, it's sometimes difficult to judge how fast he's coming up on slower traffic, and that's what got him in the opener.  In the recent Main Event, he seemed to be getting the job done when his car lost power in Turn 2 halfway through the race.  This gave the lead to Augustine.

After winning the Coos Bay championship last year, Nathan has decided to run for points in Medford this year.  The schedule makes it easier on him than elsewhere as there aren't as many dates.  Augustine's car took a little damage in his recent visits to Madras and Cottage Grove, but his heat and dash wins showed that things were still okay.  When Knight had his misfortune, Nathan gained the lead, and it looked like a win was a forgone conclusion.  Unfortunately, he slowed his pace just a bit, figuring he had a big enough lead.  He was also lapping a slower car.

What he hadn't counted on was Knight had his foot to the floor on a mission to regain the lead.  Knight was using every inch of the race track he could find for the extra traction, and even a brush with the front wall as they took the white flag wasn't going to slow him down.  Knight made a controversial slide job pass in the final turn, barely brushing the nose of Augsutine's car.  The move got the biggest reaction of the crowd as they were on their feet cheering.  Knight was a happy winner and Augustine was a bit displeased by the way he lost the lead.  The points should still reflect Augustine as the leader, but this is sure to be a battle that will go down to the wire.

The Dees family was back with the beautiful cars of reigning champion Bob Dees and his rookie son Garrett Dees.  Also returning was Mike Linder and Don Garrett Jr., who was piloting the former Augustine car.  Linder had a beautiful new blue body on his car.  Garrett and Linder have been racing together for years, and the two are pretty much founding members of the Limited Sprint effort nearly 25 years ago.  All was not right with Garrett's car, which still didn't have a number on the new yellow body, and he retired early in the race.  Linder was enjoying a good battle with Kristy Grout and B. Dees before ending a respectable season debut with a third place finish.

Grout could only chase Dees, but she still finished a lead lap fifth after a second in the Trophy Dash.  In fact, Kristy even led the dash early.  The good news in all of this is that the six drivers who finished could still drive their cars up on the trailer.  Next time, we hope to see the season debuts of John Dees and Steve Lemley.  Dave Foote was a bit disappointed that he missed the Main Event.  He was having starter issues.  The Coos Bay resident was unable to find the push truck he needed to at least attempt to get a Main Event start.

Motor issues seem to be effecting some of the top Mini Stock competitors this year.  There were carburetor and fuel issues slowing down 2013 champion Steve Goetz and 2014 champion Gary Anderson in the first two races, and neither one looked like their usual selves on the track.  Goetz was asked by teammate and motor man David Steele to come to the Yreka race a week earlier to see if he had things sorted out.  The adjustments hadn't solved the problem, so they had a list of a few things to try on the #55 car last week.

Meanwhile, Steele himself had encountered motor issues during the two weeks leading up to this race.  He competed in Yreka, but motor issues prompted him to scratch from the Main Event rather than risk any more damage.  Last week, David had more problems with the motor, but he decided to sacrifice the motor to get a Main Event start for his points.  Last place points were still better than non starting points.  Goetz managed a seventh place finish after running third for several laps.  It looks as if there will be some more work to be done.

For Anderson, there was a clear indication that the #0 car was back in running order after he won his heat race.  Come Main Event time, Gary was surprised when the much improved Kristopher Mix shot into the early lead.  Mix had already finished third in a Main Event here and recently had a career best second in Yreka.  In fact, Mix is very much in the championship hunt this season.  Anderson made his winning move on lap eight and led the rest of the way for the win.  Mix was a close second, and Dillen Lausen grabbed another podium finish in third.  The point battle up front between Steele, Lausen and Mix is close, and Anderson just reasserted himself into that contest with his impressive performance.

Speaking of impressive, you have to give it to young Michael Johnson.  The second generation racer is piloting the former Merissa Henson car, and he has shown much improvement.  Johnson's Achilles heel last week seemed to be Turn 2, where he spun in both his heat race and the Main Event.  Johnson started to make a move that possibly could have resulted in a first career win.  He was running an outside line that nobody else seemed interested in, and he grabbed second from Mix.  Unfortunately, he spun late.  He managed to make a late pass on Patrick Stringer-Stine for fifth as reigning champion Bob Burkett returned for a fourth place finish.  Stringer-Stine was none too pleased about the crash that left his chassis damaged last time.  He feels as if his car is much more competitive now, and that hampered his efforts to get a win.  His repairs at least allowed him to get a respectable lead lap finish in sixth last week.

The OTRO Hardtops were back to entertain the crowd, and they brought their best field yet with eight cars.  This included the season debuts of Dean Cast and Jimmy Del Castille.  Del Castille won his first Trophy Dash to start the night, and Jamie Britton made his second dirt start with a heat race win.  We also saw Nathan Augustine in the Dusty Trotter owned #26 car.  Augustine had to change motors during the week to get the car ready, and he didn't have much luck in the Main Event.  D. Trotter is working on a second car, which could see the track this year.

Mark Minter was a heat race winner, and he and Britton ran at the front of the Main Event.  Minter spent the offseason making much needed repairs and getting the motor together for the Minter Family #33 car, and he's been fast so far.  He ran second behind Britton for several laps before the two made contact in Turn 2 as they battled for the lead on lap 11.  Minter hit the brakes, and both gathered it back up.  However, Minter still made the pass for the lead and eventual victory.  Vic & Louise Bridges had Bruce Wilkerson behind the wheel of their #63 Sedan.  Wilkerson is a past Street Stock racer at Marysvile, CA Raceway.  He would make a late pass on Britton for the second place finish as Britton settled for third.  Hardtops return to Southern Oregon Speedway on July 1st.

The IMCA Sport Modified point race was rocked by the absence of two time champion Jorddon Braaten.  Jorddon was attending his sister's wedding.  Mike Medel had finished second to Braaten in the first two races, and it might have been easy to assume a win would be a piece of cake for the reigning track champion.  If you assumed that, you were wrong.  Medel is driving the first new car he's had since starting racing at the track back in the 1990's, and winning more races this year is a goal.  He got things started with a Trophy Dash win.  The Main Event would be far from a slam dunk.

As Medel came up from the fourth row, Jesse Merriman sped into the lead.  Rich McCoy is still trying to make up for the hot lap crash in the opener that ended his night early, and he quickly moved into second in this race.  His bid to challenge Merriman for the lead resulted in a spin.  Medel benefited from a yellow flag a couple of laps later.   He followed Merriman for a lap before making his pass, only to find McCoy closely following him in second.  Medel was not giving up the bottom groove that McCoy was trying to take.  After some serious pressure for a few laps, Medel prevailed at the checkered flag.  McCoy was a close second, and you have to believe a feature win is just around the corner for the #95 car.

Merriman settled for third, but he has to be happy with the way his car ran in this race.  The former Dwarf Car star is making a good transition to the Sport Modified class.  Two time champion Dwayne Melvin has come back for a pair of races to challenge the hooked up race track.  Though not a big fan of tacky racing surfaces, he did get a win in the season finale last year.  This time around, he outdueled second ranked Willie McFall to get a fourth place finish.  This puts him into the next Trophy Dash.  When it comes to potential winners, you certainly can not count out either Melvin or McFall.

The IMCA Modified division was headed for a post Haudenshild Race dip again as several competitors were absent.  However, the addition of Brian Bowman, Ryan Baker, Max Augustine and California visitors Derek Nance and Tim Cecil kept the count in double digits.  Nance is a long time Merced Speedway competitor in both Late Models and IMCA Modifieds, but it's been a while since he's won a feature.  Cecil comes from a racing family.  His grandfather is Watsonville Hall Of Famer Jerry Cecil and his father is Street Stock legend Mike Cecil.  Mike lost his battle with Cancer 20 years ago, and that track has held a race in his honor ever since.  When Nance and Cecil arrived in Yreka, they were informed that the better car count for this class would be in Medford.  They quickly headed north.

The night started of looking like it would belong to Albert Gill.  The two time champion won both the Trophy Dash and his heat race.  Gill showed no signs of slowing down as he raced into the lead early in the Main Event.  Even a yellow flag that allowed Nance to restart right behind him didn't look like it would stop Gill.  Gill was running strong, but when he came up on two slower cars fighting for position, it proved to be his undoing.  Nance ducked underneath all of them down the back stretch and emerged with the lead.  Nance would bring it home to a satisfying victory, while Cecil finished fifth behind Baker..  Nance and Cecil will be back later this season.

Gill settled for his second straight runnerup finish, which still made it a good point effort.  Behind Gill in third was Jesse Bailey.  Bailey's third place finish was his sixth Top 3 finish in the last 12 races.  However, he hasn't won since the 2015 season opener, and he's looking to change that soon.  At the moment, the battle is between Gill and Bailey for the point lead.

On Friday night, the Outlaw Kart track opens for its first race of the season.  In addition to the 500 Open Karts, 250 Intermediates, Box Stocks and Beginners Box Stocks, there will also be Speedway Karts.  Count in the mid 30's is anticipated, and it could reach into the 40's as well.

So far this season, we've noticed that 500 Open Karts in the area who have competed include rookies Reece Slyter and Wyatt Pinckney as well as Jeffrey Hudson and Kenny Boardman.  We're not sure who might show up.  Kevin Hilgendorff recently relocated to Medford, and Johnny Burke is the reigning champion.  Other Karts who have supported recent races and could be there include 2013 runnerup Jantzen Knips, past champion Stephanie Krisp, Brody Sim and Merissa Henson. 

The 250 Karts figure to be represented by two of the top stars in the area, reigning champion Bodee Weiser and brother Braden Weiser.  Top 5 2016 competitor Brenden Bartlett had his moments last season, and he should be fast.  Teammate Devin Felix made the move up to the 250's late last season.  There are some fast competitors in this division who could be there this week, including Colby Bergquist, Ashleigh Strain, Braden Cory and 2016 Yreka Box Stock champion Brionna Fuller.  With third ranked 2016 competitor Enrique Jaime in a Sprint Car, we could see his sister Isabella in that Kart this week or in the weeks ahead.

Trevor Grimes is the two time reigning Box Stock champion.  He won three times last year and is clearly the driver to beat.  However, 2016 Yreka Beginners Box Stock champion Taylor Fuller is moving up this year for his next challenge.  Past Top 5 competitor Vinny DeBenedetti is making his return after a year off.  We also have Natalie Richard coming off of her second straight Roseburg Indoors championship and 2016 runnerup Emma Rodgers.  Other hard chargers to watch for include Ryan Hirschbock, Loveah Crice and Natalie Hudson.

Kiley Grimes is the reigning Beginners Box Stock champion.  More importantly, she is looking for her first feature win.  Second ranked 2016 competitor Shailene Horn and fourth ranked Jacob James were both feature winners last season who may be tough to beat.  We also have to keep an eye on Malachi Johnson.  This youngster looked like he'd been racing for a while when he made his first start midway through last season.  The Whipple brothers, Thomas and Roger, Adrian Richard and Nicholas Davis Jr. are other drivers to watch for.

The Fuller family are big boosters of the Speedway Kart class.  Larry Fuller finished second in points in Yreka last year ahead of teammate Nick Davis, Lori Fuller and Sean Fuller.  Young Brionna Fuller has gotten the chance to race in Yreka this year.  There's also Rambo Motorsports, and Steve Rambo and Johnny Hoult have both competed in the class.  Rambo won the most recent race in Yreka.  We're still learning the names on the roster, but we've heard a field of a half a dozen or so Speedway Karts could be present for their maiden run on the Medford Kart track.