Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Late Models, Sprint Cars Headline Six Division Show
At Southern Oregon Speedway
White City, Oregon...Saturday night marks the beginning of July, and Southern Oregon Speedway has an exciting six division program to kick off the month. The track's two fastest divisions will be represented with the Late Models and Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars. Also competing will be the Mini Stocks, Pro Stocks, JOAT Labs Hornets and OTRO Hardtops. It's going to be an action packed night of racing.
The Late Models brought the excitement last time as Dustin Knight and Nathan Augustine had a battle that brought the crowd on their feet on the final lap. Knight made a dramatic last turn pass on Augustine and left the track that night with a Main Event victory. Knight may very well have the fastest car on the track, but his speed presented a further challenge to him in the season opener. "The car is so hooked up that I sometimes have a hard time judging how fast I come up on slower cars, " said Dustin, who lost that first race to Augustine in traffic. "I just misjudged where they would be, and he got me."
Augustine and Knight are the early stars of the season, and both are champions. Knight indicated that the Rapp Racing Team may field another Late Model before season's end with IMCA Sport Mod star Rich McCoy behind the wheel. Mike Linder returned in the most race and battled reigning champion Bob Dees for a third place finish. These two are anticipated this week along with Kristy Grout, Garrett Dees, Dave Foote and Don Garrett Jr.
The Kendall Oil Winged Sprints begin a busy month with three races scheduled. We've now had three different winners this year with Jake Waddell, point leader Kyler Barraza and Bailey Hibbard. The 16 year old Hibbard impressed with his win ahead of father David Hibbard last time out. The youth movement is in effect this year as second ranked Merrisa Henson and Enrique Jaime are both still in their teens, and word is that we will see another young racer this week.
After his 500 Open Kart win last week, Tanner Holmes indicated that he hopes to make his Sprint Car debut this week. Tanner has been burning up the Outlaw Kart circuit since he was very young, and he has won many championships along the way. He's won two 250 Kart championships at Southern Oregon, and he won the highly competitive Red Bluff Winter Series for the 250's this past offseason. Tanner will be a welcome addition to the roster.
Motor problems have plagued Mini Stock point leader David Steele and 2013 champion Steve Goetz in recent weeks. Steele's most recent two trips to Yreka ended after the Trophy Dash, and he merely took a green flag in the most recent Medford race in an effort to get points. Had he not done that, he would have surrendered the point lead to Dillen Lausen. As it is, it's a close three car battle between Steele, Lausen and Kristopher Mix. Lausen and Mix have both finished as high as second as they pursue their first wins.
Gary Anderson was back in the winner's circle last time out as he finally got his carburetor and fuel issues sorted out. Since 2014, only five drivers have won Main Events in this class. Anderson and Steele are the only two regular competitors from that group still competing this year, though we may see reigning champion Bob Burkett this week. This leaves a group of drivers scrambling for their first wins, led by Andrew Hall, Patrick Stringer-Stine and Michael Johnson. The 15 year old Johnson seems poised to win if he can do a better job of getting through Turn 2 this week.
After two starts this year, Coos Bay's Josh Kralicek is the Pro Stock point leader. Josh impressed with his Trophy Dash win last time out. Kralicek and opening night winner Derrel Nelson Jr. are leading the championship charge, but two time champion Ken Irving gained ground with his third place finish last time out. Tom Hackworth, Dan Randall and Miles Deubert are other drivers to watch for this week.
Between JOAT Labs building the cages and the Hedges Racing Team fielding four cars, the Hornets class is the fastest growing class at the track. The division is a nice stepping stone for new drivers to enter the world of dirt track racing. Several new cars are being built, and a field of ten or more cars is anticipated this week. The flying Joby Shields and David Coggins are the two feature winners so far, and drivers who will be leading the charge to be the next new winner include reigning champion Jason Stoutenburg, Tim Hedges, Jenna Hedges and Ashton Hedges.
The old Time Racers of Oregon Hardtops are back for their third appearance this week, and Mark Minter leads the charge with two wins in two starts. Stock Car veteran Bruce Wilkerson took the wheel of the Vic & Louise Bridges Sedan last time out and battled Jamie Britton for a second place finish. Joining these three should be the two Trophy Dash winners so far, Jimmy Del Castille and Brian Crouch, as well as Dusty Trotter, Bill Trotter and Dean Cast.
Saturday's lineup should provide plenty of excitement for the fans to enjoy. Gates open at 5:00 PM with the Trophy Dashes lining up at 7:00 PM. General Admission is $12.00, Seniors, Juniors and Military are $6.00 and children 5 and under are free. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.
IMCA Modified Speedweek came to Southern Oregon Speedway at the same time as the 105 degree weather last Saturday night. There were 19 competitors coming in from various places along with eight racers from the Medford area. This was a little under half the total of locals anticipated, causing the drop from last year's car count. A couple of drivers commented that they didn't think they could compete against the hard chargers coming in from various places. When you have drivers like Collen Winebarger, John Campos, Ethan Dotson, Randy Brown, Danny Lauer and three time series champion Jesse Williamson among the field, it can be a little intimidating.
Albert Gill, Mark Wauge, Nick Trenchard, Preston Jones and James Welshonse made the Main Event. Welshonse has been off to a rough start after his "Rookie Of The Year" season, but he punched his ticket into the Main Event after an impressive heat race win in front of Dotson. Wauge was also a heat race winner. Welshonse did take a lead lap checkered flag in 13th. Wauge, meanwhile, was in the thick of the battle. The seven time track champion was as high as second before settling for fourth in front of Trenchard. After winning a night earlier in Yreka, Trenchard had to win the B Main ahead of Jones to get into the show.
It's not surprising to see that Wauge excelled in the big show and had a strong points night. He moved to within a couple of points of Jesse Bailey for second in the track's standings. After three straight third place finishes, Bailey wasn't there. Meanwhile, point leader Gill continues to challenge himself, and he was on the move and running as high as sixth in the Main Event. Unfortunately, Albert got caught up in a late tangle and had to settle for a disappointing 12th place finish. He still leads the way in the standings, and he will be tough to beat as he battles for his first win of the season on July 22nd.
Danny Lauer is a multi time IMCA Modified champion of Santa Maria Speedway. The Lauer family has been racing there for years, including Bill Lauer in a Late Model in the 1980's and 1990's. Danny grabbed the Main Event lead early on, but Bakersfield Speedway point leader Dotson was right behind him. Dotson actually bailed on the point lead at his home track to compete in the series. Unfortunately, a flat tire derailed his bid for a win. Oregon State point leader John Campos took up the chase and finished a close second to the happy Lauer. The man making a strong statement early in the series is Winebarger, who finished third.
As of this writing, Winebarger leads the series after five races. Trenchard, Lauer, Dotson, Campos and Williamson made it five different winners in the first five races, and the consistent Winebarger leads Dotson in the series championship battle. They close the series with three straight races at Willamette Speedway, and an up to the moment update finds Dotson winning the Thursday night show to become the first two time winner this year. With Williamson also having a good night, the points will get that much closer between Winebarger, Dotson and Williamson.
The IMCA Sport Modifieds brought 18 competitors for what would be Round #2 of their own six race Speedweek Series. That series was put together by PSM Series director Steve Kerstulovich. After winning at Yreka, Jorddon Braaten went flag to flag in the Main Event at his home track. Jorddon also won the Trophy Dash and his heat race. The Main Event went non stop, which isn't seen often in this class. However, the reigning Oregon State champion Braaten won with California State champion Brian Cooper nipping at his heels in traffic. Braaten's night took a turn for the worse in post race tech with a disqualification. Braaten had already taken himself out of the the track point battle as he missed the previous race to attend his sister's wedding, but this ended his bid for a Speedweek title. All sorts of negative comments and accusations have been levied at the Braaten team, but anybody who knows them knows that they are all about supporting the sport and their home track. They are respected among their fellow competitors.
The Cooper team may have things in hand now. Brian Cooper emerged with the win after Medford and won impressively at Sunset Speedway on Wednesday. At the moment, the podium in Speedweek points is occupied by Brian, brother Todd Cooper and Jimmy Ford, who is piloting the Marty Burdine car. These three teams have come from Yuba City, California to support the Oregon Sport Mod effort. Of course, when it comes to Sport Mod support, you know Mike Medel will be there, and Justin McCreadie, Braxton Possinger and Oregon State point leader Jayson Nelson have also backed the Speedweek Series. Sponsorship has led to a point fund for the Top 5 drivers and Top 3 trophies. It will only grow from there. Getting back to Nelson, what is interesting to note is that he has taken an interest in running for Oregon State points in a bid to end the Braaten-Medel reign. Willamette and their decision to add two sanctioned races to a Monster Truck show on short notice contributed to Nelson taking the State point lead as both Medel and Braaten were in Yreka for a big race.
In the track point race, Medel's effort was derailed when he ended up last in the Main Event. However, Willie McFall didn't capitalize on that too much after he ended up 11th. Meanwhile, Rich McCoy is hitting his stride. He followed up on his second place finish in the previous race by finishing third Saturday night, and he is closing in fast on Medel and McFall as a result. McCoy hasn't done much racing for points since winning his Mini Stock championship, but he's certainly won his share of races. After a bad start left him crashed out of the season opener in hot laps, McCoy is steadily on the move up the point ladder.
It's also noteworthy that two time division champion Dwayne Melvin has now made three straight races and has been looking good so far. Melvin held off Jimmy Ford for a fourth place finish last week. Like McCoy, you could be seeing Melvin in the winner's circle some time soon. David Marble has had a tough start to his season. The 2016 "Rookie Of The Year" totaled a car in Cottage Grove and followed that up with a crash in the Crack The Whip Challenge on June 3rd. David wasn't planning to race last week. After arriving late and missing his heat race, he took a checkered flag in tenth. Not too bad considering his late start.
We finally saw the welcome return of Dwarf Car ace Kalvin Morton last week. Morton was making his first Sport Mod start of the year in the #18 car. He's still dialing the bugs out of it, but he finished the race in 14th, right behind Jesse Merriman and just ahead of Tony Bartell. You can expect that as Morton gets his car dialed in, he will be a threat at the front of the pack. Last year was certainly a year of excitement for Morton in Dwarf Cars. He won several races on the circuit before finishing third in points. He also won his first Sport Mod feature in Yreka. He's still pretty much a rookie in this division.
Dwarf Car drivers had a lot on the line when SODCA returned for their third appearance of the season. Dwarf Car supporter Jim Nelson offered up $1000 to win and $50 for each lap led. At the moment, the three biggest stars in the field are Brock Peters, Camden Robustelli and Cody Peters. B. Peters and Robustelli have each won twice. Though C. Peters hasn't won yet, he's been finishing strong and most observers agree that his win could happen at any time. Robustelli has made the commitment to race for points again after back to back runnerup seasons. He really wants this championship, and for 16 laps, he led the way last week. Working lap 17, Robustelli suddenly lost power as a sure victory slipped away.
Luck plays a part in racing. When you're on a roll, things have a way of working out. B. Peters won his heat race and the A Dash, and he was riding along in second when misfortune struck Robustelli. Brock led the final four tours of the Jim Rogers prepared oval and collected the big prize. Moments after talking the checkered flag, his car lost power. Son Cody was there for another second place finish. We've yet to see a SODCA point sheet, but these three drivers will likely be ranked at the top as the group heads for a two day WSDCA Regional event in Coos Bay this weekend.
Moments after the Robustelli misfortune, Top 5 contenders Ryan Smith and Rob Gergel tangled for a yellow flag. Both drivers were able to restart at the back, but it was Chad Cardoza finishing third. The rapidly improving Randy Slater had fourth until Gergel's last turn pass gained him the position. We talk about the possibility of C. Peters getting his first win, but we might have to keep an eye on Slater. Modified racer Steve Walker made made his first Dwarf Car start and finished a lead lap seventh. This division keeps getting more competitive, and you can bet there will be some more different winners in the weeks ahead.
Outlaw Karts were back on the track Friday night as their season finally opened. Though car count wasn't quite up to where it might have been hoped, there were enough competitors to put on a show for the fans. The best news of the night may have been the eight Beginners Box Stock drivers competing. These youngsters are the future of the track, and they also had their most competitive race of the last year and a half.
Jacob James was fifth in points last year and third the year before. He was a feature winner last season, and he had an exciting night last week. After winning his heat race, he had a brush with the front wall in his next heat. He took a checkered flag in that race and came back for another Main Event win. Jacob is leaving little doubt that he will be ready when the time comes to move up to Box Stocks. A pair of Cottage Grove competitors, Keegan Bounds and Steven Bounds, battled newcomer Uriah Sanders for second in the Main Event. K. Bounds won his two heat races and managed to hold off his two closest rivals for a strong second place finish. S. Bounds settled for third with Sanders a lead lap fourth.
Carson Crisp won his first heat race at the track, and he followed that up with a fifth in the Main Event. The race didn't go so well for Malachi Johnson, who blew his motor in the Main Event. Silas Holden and Shailene Horn both took checkered flags in the Main Event and did a good job. Horn was second in points last season and a Main Event winner.
The Box Stock turnout was a bit light, and it appears as if reigning champion Trevor Grimes is ready to move on to the challenge of racing a 250 Kart. Trevor has long since shown his ability in this class, and he dominated the action in winning both heat races and the Main Event. Keaton Augustine and Sophia Bauer battled for second all night and each had a second in a heat race. Augustine held Bauer off for the second place Main Event finish.
Bodee Weiser may be the reigning 250 Kart champion, but it was brother Braden Weiser getting off to a good start in winning the second heat. Carley Holmes gave a preview of things to come with a heat race win of her own. The 2014 Box Stock champion, C. Holmes got the Main Event lead early on and drove a flawless race in collecting her first win in this division at her home track. Braden Weiser had one of his best finishes in this class in second, followed by brother Bodee, who was back behind the wheel of the "General Lee" #01 car. Grimes took a checkered flag in fourth, while past Beginners Box Stock champion Cadyn Smith DNF'ed in fifth. Cadyn wasn't running his number or colors in his newly purchased car, but the goal was to get him out there for the first time as he has also just moved up to this division.
Tanner Holmes is on the brink of his Sprint Car debut on the bigger track, but he brought out his 500 Open Kart to shake off the cob webs. It had been a about a month since his last race. Tanner is a two time 250 Kart champion at the track and won the Red Bluff Winter Series for that class this year. Once he got the lead, he led to the checkered flag as Kevin Hilgendorf and past champion Stephanie Crisp rounded out the finishing order.
Car count was down just a bit, but the racing conditions were good once the track was brought in. On July 7th, Kart racing returns, and it should be another good show with more Karts in action.