Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Hall Of Fame Night Offers Racing, History Celebration
At Southern Oregon Speedway
White City, Oregon...The Medford area of Southern Oregon has had several different race tracks through the years. There was the old Ashland Speedway, a track by the Medford Airport, the Medford Speedway in White City and the old Posse Grounds Medford Speedway, to name a few. These days, racers and fans get there dirt track "need for speed" satisfied at Southern Oregon Speedway in White City as racing continues to thrive.
In his second year as promoter of the track, Mike McCann has made more of an effort to honor people from the past who have helped make things special. The track proudly features the Roger Haudenshild Tribute early in the season. There's the R. Charles Snyder Salute in early September for the longtime voice of Medford racing and popular Radio D.J. This Saturday, Hall Of Fame Night will begin a new tradition at Southern Oregon Speedway.
It would take longer than the room this column allows to talk about all of the great people on the track and behind the scenes who have made their mark on the sport. McCann sought the help of two people who know a little something about racing history. Curt Deatherage and his brother Denny started the successful Historical Night at Cottage Grove Speedway 15 years ago, and the two offered to help get the Southern Oregon Hall Of Fame Night started. They have put together a display of old photos and newspaper clippings for fans to view this Saturday night.
The brothers also compiled a list of well over 100 names of racers, car owners, track workers and various people who have been an important part of the sport going back to the early days. Two names that might immediately jump out at long time fans who go back to the old White City track are Harold Hardesty and Ben Neel. When people talk about who the greatest Medford area racer of all time is, these two names are included in the discussion. In the late 1960's, these two were battling for track championships. Neel won the 1966 and 1967 Hardtop championships, but he had to beat Hardesty to do it. Neel was a front runner for many years to come and won the Street Stock title at Medford Speedway in 1985.
Neel's daughter, Lisa Gray, will be there to accept on behalf of her father. Lisa grew up with racing being a big part of her family's life and at one time even got to drive her dad's car in a Powder Puff Race. "It's a great honor for my dad to be inducted into the Hall Of Fame, " she said. "He loved racing more than anything."
Hardesty's legacy included winning many big Stock Car races up and down the west coast, sometimes doing it in cars that were deemed too old to win. He had a knack for jumping into different cars and being able to run up front. Harold was also the promoter of Medford Speedway in the late 1960's and early 1970's. Cars were a passion of his, and he had an extensive collection.
Don Harper came on the scene a few years after Neel and Hardesty, but he quickly became one of the top stars and ran up front for years to come. There was a stretch where he was winning every week at different venues. The promoter at Eugene Speedway created a Get Don Harper Race in 1974. Jay Bugbee won the trophy. When Jay passed away in 2010, Don was asked to come to Cottage Grove's Historical Night, where he received that very trophy from Jason Kocks.
Hardesty, Neel and Harper will be joined by Don Hood, Bert Beck, Jerry McGrew and Peggy Henry in this year's inaugural Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame. Hood was a frequent winner and at times a track record holder at Medford in the late 1960's and into the 1970's. He was another racer who won races at several venues. Many drivers won races and championships with motors built by Beck, and McGrew fielded cars that won races and championships. It's for those reasons and more that these two were selected. Henry was the unsung hero of the Posse Grounds track throughout the 1970's and into the 1980's. She ran concessions, but she frequently handled day to day office duties as well.
This new tradition can begin, and discussions are already beginning regarding who will be inducted next. With a list of names that includes such stars as Jim Walker Sr., Jim Walker Jr., Bruce Rayburn, Dane Smith, Tom Wyatt, John Arnberg and so many others, Hall Of Fame Night at Southern Oregon Speedway will be special for years to come.
On Saturday night, today's stars will be showcased on the track with a six division lineup that includes IMCA Modifieds, Late Models, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Pro Stocks, JOAT Labs Hornets and Southern Oregon Dwarf Cars. Gates open at 5 PM with the first race starting at 7:00 PM. General Admission is $12.00, Juniors, Seniors and Veterans are $6.00 and Children 5 and under are free. There is also racing on Friday night at the Outlaw Kart track. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.
The IMCA Modifieds roll into Southern Oregon Speedway this Saturday night as co-headliners along with the Late Models. After five races, we have five different winners. Point leader Albert Gill was the latest to add his name to the winner's list. Albert has probably been the most loyal supporter of Medford's IMCA Modified effort over the past five years, and he's usually a factor in the battle up front. Gill had a pair of second place finishes and a Trophy Dash win going into the most recent race, but he added an exclamation point to his statement earlier in the evening that he's racing for his third championship in the past four seasons. His first win of the year came ahead of Matt Duste. The question is, can Gill make it two in a row?
It's hoped that Duste will make another appearance for Hall Of Fame Night, though that has not been confirmed. Matt kiced off last season with a second place finish, but we only saw him occasionally after that. Last week was Matt's first appearance of the season. Through the years, he has won in both Sport Modifieds and Modifieds, so he would have to be considered a threat to win if he shows. It goes without saying that seven time champion Mark Wauge is a threat to win any time he shows up. With some 50 Main Event wins at Southern Oregon Speedway alone, he's very familiar with the winner's circle there. Wauge has a new car that could be ready for Saturday. He's debating whether to run #1m or his old #28m when he returns. Either way, he will be fast.
Jesse Bailey sits comfortably in second in points. Jesse hasn't won since the 2015 season opener, but he has three third place finishes, a Crack The Whip win and the most recent Trophy Dash victory. Behind Bailey is a battle for third that includes Wauge, Jeremy Ohlde and Ray Kniffen Jr., all within 12 points of each other. All three of these hard chargers are looking for their first win of the year. Kniffen can't get too comfortable in fifth as Tim Bailey, rookie Shane Everson and James Welshonse are within five points of him. A decent turnout is anticipated for this Saturday night, and other drivers to watch for include feature winner Monte Bischoff, rookie Jantzen Knips, Preston Jones and Zach Fettinger, who finished third last time out.
The Late Model division has a close championship battle between Dustin Knight and Nathan Augustine after four races. There are no repeat winners. Augustine and Knight each have a win, but Knight has three seconds. Augustine's three Trophy Dash wins have helped keep this battle close. The other interesting thing is that we now have four different winners in four races. Trent Elliott made a surprise visit at the third event and left with the victory. Knight chose to start back in eighth that night and charged to second. Elliott commented that he may return before the season is up. It's nice to see visitors coming to Medford to run their Late Models, and word is that we'll see Antioch Speedway regulars David Newquist and Mike Hynes on August 19th.
Meanwhile, Bob Dees turned in an impressive performance last time with his Main Event win. He had been running second to Mike Linder, who won the heat race that night. It was these two drivers who launched the Late Model effort at the track last year, and both are excited about how this class is growing. Dees had Augustine and then Knight pressuring him during the late stages of the race, but he prevailed. The win also put Dees 13 points behind Kristy Grout in a good battle for third. While Bob seems to have his orange #6 car dialed in, Grout had a rough night that ended with her being put on her lid in the Main Event. Word was that the team is hard at work getting ready for their return. Kristy had done a good job of getting to the finish line before that night, and she won't give up third without a fight.
Third was where Dave Foote finished in the Main Event last time as things are finally starting to come together for him. At only 14 points behind Dees, he could still move up in points before the season is done. Late Models are making everybody talk. Car count is growing and the racing has been entertaining. On Hall Of Fame night, there will be others looking to make their mark, including brothers Garrett Dees and John Dees and the possible debut of Chris Biggs.
IMCA Sport Modifieds have also had four different winners in their last four races. In fact, there have been four different second place finishers. The battle at the top is between reigning champion Mike Medel and Willie McFall. Medel leads McFall by just six points. Medel's effort took a hit with a DNF at the Roger Haudenshild Tribute, which has kept this race close. It's interesting to note that while Mike has a win and two seconds, McFall has yet to have a Top 3 finish. He finished fourth last time after winning the Trophy Dash. Medel had to settle for third that night as last year's "Rookie Of The Year" David Marble had his best finish of the year in second.
The star of the most recent race was Rich McCoy. He won the race by a huge margin, and it was also his third Top 3 finish in a row. McCoy's championship hopes took a blow at the opener when a hot lap crash ended his night early. It's amazing that he's actually gotten as close to the lead as he has. Jorddon Braaten might have been the driver to beat again this year after his back to back wins opened the season. The two time champion missed a race for his sister's wedding and went to Cottage Grove for a special race. That may have taken him out of contention at the track, but Braaten is leading the Pacific Sport Mod Challenge Series, which is a championship he won last season.
With a season high third place finish, Jesse Merriman is holding fourth. He's 20 points behind McCoy and 22 ahead of two time champion Dwayne Melvin. After the terrible start he had to his season, Marble is still only two points behind Melvin in the battle for fifth. Marble had his car destroyed in a crash at Cottage Grove and had to build a new one. His return ended in a Crack The Whip race at the Roger Haudenshild Tribute. However, he turned in an inspired performance last time as he battled Medel and McFall to finish second. David will be looking to get his first win in this division when he returns. With A.J Parker, Tony Bartell and newcomer Tony Duste among the others anticipated, the racing should be good this week.
The Pro Stock effort has certainly gotten off to a slow start as area races who were anticipated did not show. The future may be unclear for this class, but the show will go on as scheduled this year. Scott Lenz is a past Pro Stock champion at the track who has won some big races in the past. He added a Roger Haudenshild Tribute win to his totals this year, and his second win puts him nine points ahead of rookie Dean Hackworth, who finished second last time out. Lenz is the point leader with the Outlaw Pro Stock Association as well, and he leads Scott Flowers in that battle this year with Johnny Cobb and Jeffrey Hudson chasing him. All four drivers are anticipated this week as the Association has booked this weekend's Hall Of Fame night event as a point race. Hudson won the most recent race and is only one point behind Josh Kralicek and 11 behind second ranked Hackworth. Fifth ranked Derrel Nelson Jr. won the opener and is fifth in points, but his car owner has sold that car. A dozen or so cars are anticipated this week, including Darron Arnold, James Flowers, Matt Harlow, two time champion Ken Irving and the rumored debut of Mini Stock graduate Mike Cloud.
In the JOAT Labs Hornets division, reigning champion Tim Hedges continues to lead the standings as the only two time winner, but the most recent race shook up the battle. While Tim seemed to be involved in just about every crash on the track that night, Jason Stoutenburgh won his heat race and the Main Event. This put Stoutenburgh just three points behind Hedges in a good battle. Tim's wife Jenna Hedges isn't out of the championship battle either after her impressive performance last time. She won her first Trophy Dash and heat race and then finished third in the Main Event. She is one of five different drivers to finish second this year and is only 15 points behind her husband Tim in the championship battle.
Ashton Hedges is fourth in the standings, 19 behind his mother Jenna. Fifth place Dylan Irving is not close behind A. Hedges as he missed a race, but he has a tenuous hold on his spot in the standings. One time winner Joby Shields is a point behind him, but Joby has sold his car as he builds a Sport Modified. Two points back is fellow rookie Brandon Wonsyld. Six points back is one time winner David Coggins and Zach Nelson. It's interesting to note that Zach and his father, Derrel Nelson Jr., both have second place finishes. In fact, Ryan Nelson also earned a second place finish in the fourth Hedges car last week. The Nelson team is building another car and will likely have another car in addition to that one. Who will be the first Nelson to win this year? You can expect Zach and Ryan's younger brother Gabe to start racing soon too.
The sixth division on the card this Saturday night is the SODCA Dwarf Cars. We saw a point sheet as of July 4th, but there have been no official updates since then. The battle appears to be between reigning champion Brock Peters, Ryan Smith and Chad Cardoza. In the five races held at Medford so far, B. Peters has three wins and two seconds. In Yreka, Brock was shut out of the podium in all three races, won by son Cody Peters, Josh King and Camden Robustelli. Robustelli and King are the two other winners at Medford. Cardoza and Smith both have three Top 3 finishes with season high seconds in those eight races. Word at the Dwarf Car Nationals was that B. Peters was leading the championship race after throwaways were calculated, but it's still very close. Smith reportedly skipped the Nationals and helped behind the scenes to keep his car ready for the next SODCA point race.
Cody Peters was looking for his first Medford win, and it couldn't have happened on a bigger stage than it did last week. Cody drove an inspired race and made a last turn pass to win the Pro Dwarf Car Main Event. He beat NCDCA star Danny Wagner in that race. It was a big night for the Peters family. Fred Hay and Randy Slater were battling for a Top 5 point position last time we saw a point sheet. Hay finished third in the Veteran's Preliminary Feature last week and had a third place finish in one of his Yreka starts. Slater worked very hard behind the scenes last week to help make the Nationals a success, and he's been getting better finishes with SODCA this year. Kaycee Sheeler, Steve Walker, Jerry Hauck and Joe Sanders are among the other drivers to watch for this week. Top 3 ranked 2016 competitor Kalvin Morton will reportedly return to Dwarf Car competition in a new car soon.
The Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars will be back next week (August 19th) in a winged race. This was originally going to be wingless, but some of the drivers expressed concerns that they weren't ready yet. One of the keys to this division's success is the fact that several new and young racers have joined the ranks. This includes Merissa Henson, Enrique Jaime and Tanner Holmes. All three have looked good this year. Henson continues to make good laps and get lead lap Main Event finishes as she battles for second in the standings. At the moment, she trails David Hibbard by five points and leads two time winner Bailey Hibbard by two. She also leads all rookies in the division. D. Hibbard is still looking for his first win, but he has three seconds in his seven starts. Henson has a third.
Kyler Barraza has a big enough point lead to skip a race and still be leading. His impressive numbers include three wins, two seconds and one third. The night he didn't finish in the Top 3 saw him spin out in the final turn trying to take the lead from B. Hibbard. Kyler now leads D. Hibbard by 57 points. Unlike the rest of the roster, Barraza has said that he will take off his wing and make a run at the $3,000 prize being offered in the Cascade Sprint Car Challenge, presented by Herz Precision Parts. Barraza now has a new threat to his bid for feature wins. Last week, reigning champion Jake Wheeler drove a great race and collected his first win of the season. Wheeler also joined 1998 Cottage Grove champion Hedge Carter as a heat race winner that night. Carter finished third after finishing fourth in the previous race. Fourth last time out was Jaime, who did a great job in holding off D. Hibbard. The Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car class is looking good this season and continues to gather momentum.
Friday's Outlaw Kart race will be the fourth of the season with one more to go. Trevor Grimes came into the year just hoping to get comfortable with his 250 Kart, and now he holds an 18 point lead over Carley Holmes. Holmes wasn't even expected last time as her brother Tanner was concentrating on his first Sprint Car start the next night. However, she returned and won her second feature that night. What will be interesting to see is if she will run these last two races and if she can overtake Grimes to win the championship. She is still pretty much a rookie in this class, though she has a couple more starts than Grimes. Hopefully, the count will increase for these last two races.
T. Grimes is leading the Box Stock points in his bid for a third straight championship. Trevor's time in this division is wrapping up, and he'd like to go out as champion. With three feature wins, it appears as if he will reach that goal, but Keaton Augustine has had a good season and is only 14 points back. Keaton has won a heat race in his beautiful blue #24 Kart, but he would like to get a feature win. Sophia Bauer, Vinny DeBenedetti and Yreka point leader Taylor Fuller all have the same goal. Fuller's first visit saw him get on his lid. He's been pretty dominant in Yreka so far this year, but it hasn't gone as easy in Medford. His second place finish last time shows he is on the right track. DeBenedetti looked quicker last time, but his night ended in the second heat when contact put him into the Turn 4 wall and on his lid.
The Beginners Box Stock point race might seem to be under the control of two time winner Jacob James. However, James missed the most recent race. He's ranked Top 5 for the past two seasons and has looked much quicker than everybody else. If James returns this week, he's the driver to beat. His lead over reigning champion Kiley Grimes is only 11 points. Isaiah Sanders is 13 points back, while Malachi Johnson trails by 16 points. Sanders and Johnson have looked good this year, and Johnson won the most recent race. The Beginners class has been the best supported class with an eight car field one night and a total of 11 cars so far this year. Carson Crisp and Shailene Horn are two drivers we could see, and we might even see the racing debut of third generation racer Mike Wheeler Jr., who made his first laps after the most recent event concluded.
The 500 Open Kart class has no repeat visitors yet this year and three different winners in Tanner Holmes, Mike Wheeler and Wyatt Pinckey. There are enough 500 Karts out there for a pretty good show, but who might show up and race this week is anybody's guess. The three winners are tied for first. Kenny Boardman, Kevin Hilgendorff, past champion Stephanie Crisp and Brionna Fuller are all within ten points of the lead. Hilgendorff has put his Kart up for sale. We'll see who shows up this week.