Friday, September 15, 2017

Championship Night #2 Ends Southern Oregon Speedway Season

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Championship Night #2 Ends 
Southern Oregon Speedway Season

White City, Oregon...It seems like the season has just flown by at Southern Oregon Speedway.  This Saturday will be Championship Night #2.  After crowning the first four champions last week, we still have five other championships to decide on Saturday night.  The Late Models are back along with the IMCA Modifieds, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Mini Stocks and SODCA Dwarf Cars.

The Mini Stock division will bring the closet battle of the season.  The most consistent driver of the group has been Kristopher Mix.  Mix has five Top 3 finishes and has finished as high as second.  16 year old Dillen Lausen also has a second place finish this season, while 15 year old Michael Johnson has a win.  Mix leads Lausen by just five points and Johnson by eight.  Because of his recent Top 4 finish, Mix will start the night in the Trophy Dash while Johnson and Lausen watch from the sidelines.  It's an opportunity for Mix to add points to his lead.  

It's also an opportunity for 2013 champion Steve Goetz to gain some ground.  Goetz is a Main Event winner this season, and he trails Mix by 13 points.  It's anybody's guess who will win this championship.  With four time winner David Steele, two time winner Gary Anderson, Andrew Hall and possibly 2016 champion Bob Burkett in the field, it's going to be a battle to the checkered flag.

Dustin Knight opted to start at the back of the pack last week after winning the Late Model heat race.  despite that, he raced into the lead within a few laps and won his third Main Event.  The win didn't come easy with point leader Nathan Augustine making several attempts to get by before finishing second.  After the win, Knight remarked that he would be missing the season finale due to another commitment.  Because he made a similar comment two races ago, there are some people wondering if Knight will give up on his quest for his third championship in a third different division at the track.

Whether Knight is back or not, Augustine is committed to winning this championship.  The 2016 Coos Bay Speedway champion holds a nine point advantage over Knight.  Nathan also has two feature wins and four Trophy Dash triumphs.  He was going for his fifth dash win last week when John Dees forced him to settle for second.  J. Dees and his father Bob Dees are two drivers determined to get a feature win this week.  Both have run well this season.  Bob is a feature winner this year and is currently a comfortable third ahead of Dave Foote and Mike Linder in the standings.  Foote finished third last week.  Word is that Rich McCoy will be racing this week in a car that came from the Rapp Racing shop and Chris Biggs will be making his second start in the growing division.

Jesse Bailey took a big step towards the IMCA Modified championship just by making the R. Charles Snyder Salute two weeks ago.  He may just need a Main Event green flag to clinch that title, but he'll be out to earn his first win since 2015.  Albert Gill will be looking for redemption following a disappointing night two weeks ago.  In fact, the two time champion is just four points ahead of Mark Wauge in a close battle for second.  Wauge finished a strong second in the R. Charles Snyder Salute, but he wants to end the season with a win.  There are still some positions up for grabs in the Top 10, and Ray Kniffin Jr., Preston Jones, Shane Everson, Duane Orsburn, Zach Fettinger and James Welshonse are other drivers to watch for this week.

Championships seem to come in twos for the IMCA Sport Modified division.  Dwayne Melvin and Jorddon Braaten have each won back to back titles.  After a solid fifth place finish in the R. Charles Snyder Salute, Mike Medel pretty much just needs a Main Event start to win his second straight championship.  Medel has been consistent, and that leaves the battle for second between Willie McFall and hard charging Rich McCoy.  With a pair of victories, McCoy is just a point behind McFall in the standings.  There's still the matter of who will end the season as the final feature winner, and Jesse Merriman, Melvin, David Marble, Justin McCreadie and Tony Duste are at the top of the list of contenders for that honor.

Brock Peters has had an impressive season with four wins and two seconds in SODCA Dwarf Car competition at Southern Oregon Speedway.  His lead over Chad Cardoza is just 11 points.  It might still take a very bad night for Peters to cost him his second straight championship, but he's not taking anything for granted.  He didn't do all that well in the $1,000 to win features two weeks ago, which were won by two time champion Josh King and Mason Lewman.  Peters knows anything can happen.  Ryan Smith only has a ten point lead over the rapidly improving Randy Slater for third.  Slater is in the midst of his best season ever.  Ageless veteran Fred Hay leads Cody Peters by ten points in the battle for fifth.  With all of these positions up for grabs, it's going to make this an exciting night of racing.

Saturday night's show should be a good one from start to finish.  It's the final chance to check out a race before the season ends.  Gates open at 5:00 PM with the first race ay 7:00 PM.  General Admission is $12.00, Juniors (6-12), Seniors and Veterans are $6.00 and Children 5 and under are free.  For further information, go to

Pit Stops

Southern Oregon Speedway brought the curtain down on four of this season's championship races last week, and there's optimism in the air about the future.  The Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars and JOAT Labs Hornets ended the season on a high note.  The Late Models are gaining momentum.  The Late Model Lites have maintained what they had last season, and the Pro Stocks have also maintained a strong presence.

David Hibbard so believed in the new rules the track used to establish Sprint Cars that he worked behind the scenes recruiting drivers and sponsoring this year's effort.  Given his experience, you might have thought David would use this as a vehicle to showcase himself and go for the championship, but getting a car count was his biggest goal.  David fielded three cars as his father Calvin and son Bailey were part of the team.  He also lent a motor to Jake Wheeler to get him out there.  Despite two bad nights, he came into last week ranked second in points and stood a good chance of finishing there.

David had three second place finishes and won the previous race.  Meanwhile, his son Bailey had a blown motor in hot laps in the finale and also at the Cascade Wingless Sprint race.  David decided to turn the wheel of his #3 Sprinter over to his son.  He remarked that he's had his glory, and he wanted his son to have a chance at a win and possibly second in the final standings.  Bailey's confidence level has gone up since his win last September.  Saturday night, Bailey did everything he could do to stake his claim on third in the standings as he won his third Main Event of the season.

However, rookie Merissa Henson stood in his way.  Merissa has had a good season and has done well getting her car to the finish line most of the time with lead lap finishes.  She finished a solid fourth last week to win the second place battle by one point over B. Hibbard.  Henson may have won this battle at the previous race.  New champion Kyler Barraza passed her for his seventh Top 3 finish that night as he clinched the division championship.  B. Hibbard was right behind her, trying to make a similar move  However, Merissa stayed cool under pressure and brought it home in fourth that night as well.  Had she given up that position to B. Hibbard, he would have finished second in the standings.  Second and "Rookie Of The Year" honors made this a great year for the talented teen racer, and B. Hibbard can be very proud of his third place season as well.

The young racers in the Sprint Car division are why the future looks so bright.  Tanner Holmes made just his third start last week and had his best finish yet.  The multi time Outlaw Kart champion won a battle with Scramble winner Kinzer Cox late in the Main Event for a second place finish.  In 2018, the competition needs to beware of Tanner.  He's just 14 years old, and he has some great seasons to come as he gains more seat time.  Enrique Jaime did a good job all season long as he finished fifth in points.  In the season finale, Enrique looked impressive in winning his heat race.  We've seen Dwarf Car star Camden Robustelli finish second and third this year, and if the team decides to focus more of their efforts with the Sprint Car next year, he will become an even bigger threat to win.  The bottom line is good things are happening in the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car class at Southern Oregon Speedway.

The JOAT Labs Hornets were almost an after thought two years ago before KJE Enterprises came in as the new promoter of the speedway.  With JOAT Labs building good cages for new cars, Tim Hedges fielding four cars every week and several new drivers joining the fun, car count reached into the double digits on multiple occasions.  In fact, almost 20 different cars competed this year.  2000 Thrill Cars champion Jason Stoutenburgh won the championship after winning four straight Main Events.

T. Hedges gave it a good run, but the motor in two of his cars started to go away at the end of the season.  He was basically just going around the track, which was not what he came out there to do.  Prior to the finale, Hedges spent a couple of intense days preparing yet another car.  The Hedges team brings a great deal of enthusiasm with them to the track.  Tim lost second on the final night, but that trophy will still go to the family as wife Jenna took over second in the standings.  Jenna ended her season strong with a pair of heat wins and dash wins in the last four weeks.

Young Ashtin Hedges was the only one on the team to get a Top 5 finish in the finale as he held off the fast closing Dylan Irving.  Ashtin will take home the fourth place trophy.  Another battle was taking place between 14 year old Irving, teammate Brandon Wonsyld and Derrel Nelson Jr.  Dylan is being groomed to eventually take the wheel of his father Ken's #1 Pro Stock, and he had an amazing preliminary effort with heat race and Trophy Dash wins, both ahead of Stoutenburgh.  Those wins probably kept the fifth place trophy in his possession.  2016 point runnerup Derrel Nelson Jr. won his heat race and lost a close battle with Wonsyld for second in the Main Event.  Only six points separated these three in the end as Irving beat Nelson and Wonsyld.

Going into the season, 14 year old Gabe Nelson was set to make his debut in the #8g car.  However, Gabe wasn't comfortable with the stick shift, and his father and brothers took turns driving the car.  T. Hedges put Gabe in his #4t car for the finale.  Gabe won a battle between the two other newcomers, Bree Trichler and Kelli Burton, to take a checkered flag in ninth.  Look for Gabe in next year's rookie battle, and the Nelson family will probably have at least one more car as well.  Burton was making her second start in the former Christian Listro car as she made her Hornets debut at Coos Bay.  The popular Ashland High School PT Cruiser was back with Ethan Doty driving it to a seventh place finish.  More cars are in the works, and car count will continue to grow in this entry level division next season.

The Late Model division has had a good championship battle between 2016 Coos Bay Speedway champion Nathan Augustine and past Southern Oregon Speedway Pro Stock and IMCA Modified champion Dustin Knight.  This is a battle that has kept the crowd on the edge of their seats all year long.  After winning his heat race, Knight elected to start last in the Main Event and still grabbed the lead in just a few laps.  However, Augustine was quickly up to second and battling fiercely with Knight for the lead.  Knight collected his third win of the season, but Augustine protected a nine point lead with a second place finish.  Knight dropped a bombshell that he has another racing engagement scheduled for this week and will miss the finale.  If that holds true, Augustine will not be challenged for the championship.  Even if Knight does return, passing Augustine in points will not be easy.  We'll see what happens on race day.

Augustine has done a great job all season long, and one of the races the two time feature winner has excelled at is the Trophy Dash.  He was in the hunt for his fifth dash win, but John Dees had other ideas.  J. Dees looked good in the previous Main Event with a fourth place finish, and he led several laps in a race at Cottage Grove before finishing third.  The Trophy Dash was John's first win in the division.  Both he and his father Bob Dees have looked good this year.  Reigning champion B. Dees is a feature winner this season who had back to back third place finishes going into last week.  Bob was on his way to another third when he had to pit late in the race.  Both Bob and John would have to be considered threats to win this week.  "Rookie Of The Year" hopeful Garrett Dees would just like to make some laps and get his #66 car to the finish line.  His bad luck got worse last week when mechanical issues kept him from even starting the Main Event.

Dave Foote drove a solid race last week and earned his second third place finish.  The past Coos Bay Speedway champion holds fourth place in points ahead of Mike Linder and would have to be considered a threat to win this week.  Linder had problems early in the race and fell out.  Mike does have a third place finish and a heat race win, and if he has everything situated with the #22 car, he could be a threat for a win as well.  Word at the end of the night last week was that Rich McCoy would see some track time helping get a Late Model dialed in for the car's new owner.  We may also see Chris Biggs making his second start.

The Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites were back to finish the season.  After winning over 20 Mini Stock features in his career and the 2016 championship, Bob Burkett moved up to the new class to challenge himself.  He did well all season with four second place finishes and a win, which went along with four Trophy Dash triumphs.  Burkett used his fourth runnerup finish and dash win last week to clinch the championship and "Rookie Of The Year" honors.  Charlie Eaton didn't have quite the night he was hoping for.  He led the Trophy Dash for three and a half laps before being passed by Burkett.  He also lost a good battle with Greg Arnold for third and settled for his first non Top 3 finish of the season.  Still, he had one second and four thirds to wrap up a respectable second place point season.

2002 Truck champion Greg Arnold kicked off his night with the heat race win ahead of Dusty Aos and used that third place feature finish to move up to third in the final standings.  His first start of the year came in the Dusty Aos #3 car.  Dusty blew a motor in the previous race and his father, Eric Aos, decided to let him drive the #66 car in the finale.  Dusty made his father proud as he held off Burkett for his first career win.  The season ended on a low note for Danny Prewitt as he had more mechanical issues keep him from running last week.  Lee Doty is still without a car as his rollover back in early August bent the frame of his #7 car.  The 2016 champion decided to regroup and come back stronger next year.

The Pro Stocks completed their first Southern Oregon Speedway championship season since 2011 as management attempted to bring the class back in house with a guaranteed purse.  The car count only popped when the Outlaw Pro Stock Association supported the show, and even local area racers who could have supported the regular shows did not.  The points were still tight going into the final race as Dr. Scott Lenz led rookie Dean Hackworth by four points.  Lenz had motor problems in Coos Bay the week before as he was trying for his second straight win there.  Roy Bain offered Scott the wheel of the #19 car, and Lenz responded by winning the Trophy Dash and finishing sixth in the Main Event.  Lenz may not have made it to the show at all, so the ride in Bain's car won him the championship and kept him firmly in the Association point lead with one race left to go for them in Yreka.  Hackworth had a respectable showing and held off Jeffrey Hudson for second in the standings.

The Pro Stock drivers put their skills on display last week with perhaps the most exciting race of the night.  Scott Flowers got to watch the race, but not because he wanted to.  Flowers was eliminateed on the first lap after a crash with Johnny Cobb off of Turn 3.  The final 19 laps went all green, and James Flowers led most of the way before Jeffrey Hudson started to make his move.  Hudson and Flowers had a great battle during the final three laps.  Hudson made a last lap pass and drove Scott Bennett's car to the victory.  J. Flowers settled for his second runnerup finish at the track this season.  After motor problems earlier in the evening, Matt Harlow had a nice recovery with a third place finish ahead of Jeff Haudenshild and Ken Irving.

The Pro Stock Association continues to offer a reliable car count every time they are in town, and there were 15 cars on hand last week.  Past Yreka IMCA Modified and Worden Pro Stock champion Jeff Hudson was behind the wheel of the #87 car after working late in the week to get the car running.  However, motor problems ended his night early.  Fourth ranked Southern Oregon point competitor Josh Kralicek was also done after hot laps.  Management has indicated that the Association will be offered some dates next year, but we'll have to see how things work out.  S. Flowers has his hands full with Hudson and Cobb right behind him in the battle for second going into the Yreka September 23rd finale.  Lenz appears to be headed for that championship too.