Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Southern Oregon Speedway Salutes R. Charles Snyder
With Big Racing Event
White City, Oregon...Southern Oregon Speedway is having a big racing event this Saturday and Sunday, and it will honor the late R. Charles Snyder. Snyder was a popular radio DJ for over 40 years, and he spent many Saturday nights announcing at Southern Oregon Speedway and the old Medford Speedway. His announcing career began at Medford Speedway by accident back in 1976. He was attending a race to see how the racing announcers did their job when the regular announcer didn't show up. He was called into action, and he was hooked on the sport from that moment. He continued to announce there until the track closed in 1989.
When Southern Oregon Speedway opened in 1996, Snyder was called into action again. He had become the voice of Medford racing. Hearing his voice over the speakers was part of what made the racing experience special for the fans. Drivers looked forward to being interviewed by him after the races. By then, he had become one of the most beloved and respected people at the race track. As a radio DJ, Charles was active hosting many events and helping raise money for various groups. He also had a hand in bringing some big musical acts to Southern Oregon through the years. When he passed away in 2015, the community mourned, but the track never held a special night for him.
Plans were being discussed to have a special event from the moment Mike McCann became promoter of Southern Oregon Speedway, but the question was what night would it be. McCann also wanted to discuss the race with the Snyder family. Son Travis Snyder was touched that the track would have this race. The plan was not only to have the big race but to dedicate the Race Tower in memory of Charles. Travis not only endorsed the idea, but he also worked behind the scenes to help increase the purse for both the IMCA Modified and Sport Modified divisions. It seems like many within the racing community shared the common desire of making this event special.
Saturday night's format will call for qualifying heat races for the big Main Events on Sunday, and there will also be preliminary features to close the Saturday program. The IMCA Modified preliminary feature will pay $1,000 to win. On Sunday, they will be racing for $5,000 to win, making this the biggest paying Modified race not just in Oregon, but the entire west coast. The Sport Modifieds will compete for $1,000 to win that night, and the Main Events for both classes will also include lap money for the leaders of each lap. As if that's not enough, the SODCA Dwarf Cars are hosing a two race weekend which will see support from both the PHRA and NWDCA groups. They will compete for $1,000 to win on both nights.
The $5,000 prize being offered for the IMCA Modifieds is enticing some top notch talent. Bobby Hogge IV has won several big races not just here but at many venues on the west coast. He may very well be the driver to beat. Such stars as four time Antioch, CA Speedway champion Troy Foulger, Nevada IMCA Modified champion Robert Miller, Darrell Hughes II, Cottage Grove point leader Grey Ferrando, Jake Mayden, Derek Nance, Todd Hermosillo and Chester Kniss will be there. Nick Trenchard had already won the Roger Haudenshild Tribute this season as well a the Shipwreck Nationals at Grays Harbor and the John Arnberg Memorial in Yreka. He is looking to add another big win to his totals.
IMCA Modified points are on the line with just three points separating Jesse Bailey and Albert Gill. Because of the increased car count and a likely B Main, these two will need to be on their game, or seven time champion Mark Wauge could jump right back into title contention. Local stars like Ray Kniffen Jr., James Welshonse, Preston Jones, Shane Everson, Matt Duste and Duane Orsburn are also on a roster of roughly 30 drivers who have committed to this race as of Monday.
The IMCA Sport Modifieds face a familiar scenario. Top stars like brothers Brian and Todd Cooper, Jimmy Ford, Keith Brown Jr., Jayson Nelson, Chris Frisbie, Mike Merritt, Garrett Hamilton and Daniel Ray are coming to town. Point leader Mike Medel and Willie McFall are in a close championship battle with the red hot Rich McCoy trying to claw his way back into contention. Two time champions Jorddon Braaten and Dwayne Melvin will be there to defend the local honor along with Jesse Merriman, Justin McCreadie, A.J. Parker, Dave Rule and Tony Duste. Similarly to the Modifieds, enough Sport Mod drivers have committed that not everybody will qualify for the Main Event. The competition will be fierce.
With Brock Peters, Cody Peters, Camden Robustelli and a host of top notch Dwarf Car competitors also in action, the fans will be treated to an exciting weekend of racing. Gates on both nights will open at 5:00 PM with the first race firing off at 7:00 PM. Saturday General Admission is $15 with Seniors, Veterans and Juniors (6-12) $10. On Sunday for the big Main Events, General Admission is $20.00 with Seniors, Veterans and Juniors (6-12) $15.00. Children 5 and under are free both nights. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.
The Cascade Wingless Spec Sprints produced a 22 car field last week in warm and smokey weather. This was a race that had been on the drawing board since Mike McCann began his ten year run as promoter of Southern Oregon Speedway last season. The timing was set to be the week before the Louie Vermeil Classic race in Calistoga, California. Things didn't quite fall into place last season, but that changed during the offseason. McCann talked with Wingless Sprint Car booster Mark Herz, who has done quite a bit in recent years to promote this style of Sprint Car racing in Oregon. With Herz Precison Parts as sponsor and a $3,000 prize to go to the winner, the date was set for the end of August.
There was an initial hesitance of the track's Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car stars to run this race. New champion Kyler Barraza was up to the challenge, and he was the first to commit. Word came from the Wheeler Racing Team a week earlier that Jake Wheeler was going for it. The day before the race, word got out that David Hibbard and his son Bailey Hibbard were coming. Bailey Hibbard blew a motor to end his night early, but the other three ran strong. D. Hibbard won a heat race ahead of Chico Wingless Spec Sprint racer Jeremy Wilson. He also finished second in the eight lap Scramble.
The way preliminaries go can make or break your night. Two drivers, Geoff Ensign and Steve Hix, managed to avoid running heat races with the first and second fast times of the night. They made the Scramble along with the first two finishers of each heat race. Barraza charged into the lead from the start with Ensign shadowing his every move. As they raced to the white flag, Ensign moved into the lead, but Barraza began to slow. He fell to the back and started further back in the Main Event than the front row position he would have had.
Barraza was battling for a Top 5 spot by the mid point of the 30 lap race when a yellow flag fell for a muffler on the track on lap 17. A couple laps later, he was involved in a tangle that saw Sterling Kane flip on the back stretch. Barraza left the track on the unhappy end of the tow truck hook, but his crew had him back for the restart. His night didn't get any better as his steering wasn't quite right and he flipped on the back stretch. It got even worse as his car caught fire. Kyler struggled to escape the car, and though he made it out and walked away under his own power, he suffered some burns. We wish Kyler a speedy recovery. The fact that he has clinched the track championship may see him opt to skip the Winged Sprint Car season finale on September 9th.
At the point where Barraza flipped, Hibbard was having a Top 5 run. However, he retired from the race as he was concerned for Barraza. Wheeler moved up to finish fifth at the checkered flag. It's been a good year for the third generation racer. He won a Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car feature not long ago and finished in the Top 5 for the second straight year in the NST Speedweek Tour, including a series best second place finish from a sixth row starting position at Sunset Speedway. Jake doesn't get much opportunity to run wingless, and the whole team was pleased to bring it home in fifth in the competitive field.
Ted Finkenbinder fields one of the top cars when he competes with the USAC West Coast 360 Sprint Car Series. One of the drivers he has racing for him is the talented Geoff Ensign. Ensign can do it with wings or without, as evidenced by the fact that he has clinched the 2017 Petaluma Speedway Winged 360 Sprint Car championship this year and leads the points at Watsonville. He's won several wingless races, including some races driving for Finkenbinder. Their biggest win came last year at the Turkey Classic Grand Prix in Ventura. Ensign was on a mission last Saturday that began with the fast time and continued with his win in the Scramble. After 30 glorious laps at the head of the Main Event pack, Geoff came home $3,000 richer with his Cascade Wingless Sprint Car victory.
We got to see Cody Fendley with the wing on his car at one of the regular shows last season. He's a past Top 10 driver on the Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint Tour. Cody loves non winged racing, but he's been doing some Winged 360 racing at Placerville this season. He's having a good rookie season there this year in eighth, but Fendley couldn't resist taking the wing off to run this race. He was glad that he did. He started his night off with a heat race win and followed it up with a second pace finish ahead of the ever present Kyle Miller. Fendley pocketed $1,500 for his effort, while Miller won $1,000.
Miller wasn't even aware of this race until the week prior, but work schedule allowed him to compete. Miller has multiple Winged Sprint championships and could win another this year, but he's also a past NWWT champion with three wins this season. It was figured that he would be a front runner if he showed, and he didn't disappoint. He finished just ahead of USAC West Coast 360 competitor Steve Hix. Hix is from the Medford area originally, and he came up from Southern California a week early and got some practice laps during the previous week's event. His experience against some of the best on the California circuit served him well.
There were several NWWT stars in action last week, and that included second through fourth ranked competitors Tim Alberding, Lindsay Barney and Lance Hallmark. Alberding and Barney both had Top 10 finishes. The track had attemped to book the NWWT for a race or two this season, but group leadership was not receptive to the idea. Eight of the group's competitors took part in this race, indicating the interst some have in giving the track a chance. McCann has already indicated that he will consider booking a wingless race or two in addition to the Cascade Wingless Sprint Car Challenge next year. This means fans will get to see some wingless racing in addition to the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars.
The Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites championship battle is between rookie Bob Burkett and Charlie Eaton. Eaton has all Top 3 finishes and is the only driver to do that this year. However, he's still looking for his first win. He has finished second once here and at the Yreka race that Burkett won. Burket has one win and three seconds at the home track, and this, along with three Trophy Dash wins, puts Burkett ten points ahead of Eaton in the standings. Neither one of these drivers can assume things will go fine in the finale. It seems like every week one or two drivers in the group has a mechanical issue knock them out for the night.
This has been a forgettable year for Lee Doty. After winning the season opener, it's gone down hill for the reigning champion. He missed the recent race after rolling his car at the race before. Previous to that start, he broke a rear end mud packing the track. Doty just surrendered third in the standings to "Wild" Bill Spencer. Doty may have even relinquished his claim as the fastest driver in the group. That title may belong to Randy Hansen, who scored his second straight win last week. Hansen turned in a rather dominant performance in winning all three of his races. He may be the early favorite to win the season finale.
Danny Prewitt would certainly be in the hunt for a win if he could avoid the mechanical issues that have been plaguing him this year. He won a race last season, but it's been a rough go so far. Last week, he broke a driveline to end his night early. Dustin Aos won his first heat race at the beginning of the month, but his night ended last week with a blown motor in his heat race. Eric Aos clings to a two point lead over Hansen in the battle for fifth following his fourth place finish last week. As a feature winner in the past, Eric is capable of winning the finale. He had his hands full in the fourth place battle with Greg Arnold last week. Arnold, who is a past Super Truck champion at the speedway, had problems in Turn 2 during the race and lost a lap. He still earned enough points to stay within nine points of Bill Spencer in a close battle for third in the standings. The final point race of the season for the Late Model Lites should be interesting.
How many people figured Kristopher Mix, Dillen Lausen or Michael Johnson might win the Mini Stock championship this year? Johnson and Lausen are still teenagers with a bright future ahead of them. Lausen is coming off of a "Rookie Of The Year" season and is only five points behind the surprising Mix. Both Lauser and Mix have finished as high as second and won a Trophy Dash, but Johnson has won features here and in Yreka this year. Mix leads the pack with five Top 3 finishes, but Johnson is the one with the fishing story last week, as in "the good finish that got away."
While David Steele was once again demonstrating why he's probably the Top Mini Stock driver between here and Yreka with his fourth win, Johnson and Mix had a rough start. The two got together and crashed off the back stretch into Turn 3. The race didn't end for either, but Johnson had to make a pit stop. The second generation racer has such confidence that he completed a three wide back straightaway pass a few laps later on his way up to second. The good point night he was having at that moment didn't enter his mind as much as the possibility that he was going to catch the man who's won roughly 20 Mini Stock Main events in his career at this track. Unfortunately, Johnson brushed the front wall once too many times and ended up with a flat tire. He lost eight points settling for sixth, rather than grabbing the second place finish he could have had. Will that make the difference in the end?
Steele and Goetz were not letting go of the Top 2 positions. Both won heat races that night, but it was Mix winning his first Trophy Dash. Mix made it up to third, which was good enough to gain him the point lead. Dillen Lausen tried to get by Andrew Hall for fourth, but he settled for fifth. Hall hasn't been a factor in the point race this year because of various mechanical issues. When the car is running right, Andrew can mix it up with the best of them. This adds another element to the battle, because Hall would like to end this season on a strong note as he eyes a move up to Dwarf Cars next year.
Lausen and Johnson will go back to the drawing board, but they will bring their best effort to the finale. Everybody knows by now that Johnson is a threat to win every race he's in, and Lausen is poised for his first feature win. However, neither will be in the Trophy Dash with Mix at the finale, which is an opportunity for him to increase his advantage. The other two will be hoping for a big dash effort for the two champions in the second row, Goetz and Steele. An increase in car count could make things that much more interesting as it opens the door for more opportunity to gain on somebody having a bad night.
Jason Stoutenburgh has hit his stride in the JOAT Labs Hornets class. With three wins in a row, he would have to have a pretty bad night to lose it all. Anything is possible, but the battle is for second between reigning champion Tim Hedges and Jenna Hedges. There are certainly challenges in maintaining four Hornets, and T. Hedges is definitely not up to speed lately. He qualified for the Trophy Dash in the white #14 car, which he knew was having engine issues. He started the race, but he fell to the back. Even getting back in the #4t car for his qualifying heat and feature didn't help as he took a checkered flag in last in the feature. Jenna has been the star of the family lately with two dash wins and two heat wins in the last three races. She finished fifth last week to move to within five points of Tim.
Son Ashtin Hedges has a solid hold on fourth in the standings and will likely maintain that spot as long as he takes a green flag in the finale. Fourteen year old Dylan Irving has his hands full holding fifth with Derrel Nelson Jr. five points back and Brandon Wonsyld seven points back. Last year's second ranked driver D. Nelson has taken over the driving duties of the #8g car again and had his second runnerup finish. Irving's season best third place finish after a good battle with Wonsyld enabled the second generation racer to hold on to fifth for another week. You can see the confidence level of both Irving and Wonsyld going up with each start. It's been the best season yet for the Hornets division, and the future looks bright for them.