Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Four Cylinder Frenzy On Tap Saturday Night
At Southern Oregon Speedway
White City, Oregon...Fresh off the track's best season opening event in recent seasons, Southern Oregon Speedway returns with an exciting lineup that is being billed as Four Cylinder Frenzy. The full powered V8 Late Model class will headline this show that features for Four Cylinder classes. The Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites make their season debut with Mini Stocks, JOAT Labs Hornets, Pro 4 West Modifieds and the Silva Painting Destruction Derby also on the night's agenda.
After winning a good battle for the Late Model championship last season, Nathan Augustine is back to see if he can defend the crown. Augustine was a model of consistency last season in winning two Main Events and leading the division with four Trophy Dash victories. However, he can expect some stiff competition from Bob Dees. Dees is a longtime Southern Oregon Speedway competitor who ran Pro Stocks for several years and was a feature winner there as well. He is also the 2016 champion and was a two time feature winner last season.
Garrett Dees was last season's top rookie in the class, and after an impressive performance in the finale, he is hungry to notch his first victory in this division. Past Late Model champion Dave Foote, Don Garrett Jr and longtime Medford area competitor Mike Linder are anticipated along with the division debut of 2014 Street Stock champion Miles Deubert.
Charlie Eaton has been a model of consistency in the Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites division during these past two seasons. Last year, he had his best year yet in second. Two things are on his radar this season. He's looking for a championship and he's looking to grab a feature victory. Two people who could stand in his way are reigning champion Bob Burkett and 2016 titlist Lee Doty. Burkett has racked up impressive numbers throughout a Mini Stock career that saw him win the 2016 championship and earn four runner-up rankings. Doty has won more Main Events than anybody in this class in the past two seasons. Other drivers to watch for include 2002 Super Truck champion Greg Arnold, Danny Prewitt, Eric Aos and his son Dusty Aos.
David Steele started the season as anticipated by winning the Mini Stock Main Event. With over 20 feature wins in his impressive Southern Oregon Speedway career, he's still searching for his first track championship here. He may very well be the driver to beat this season, but 2013 champion Steve Goetz could be the man standing in his way. Goetz was a close second to Steele last week. Not to be forgotten in the shuffle is reigning champion Kristopher Mix, who finished third last week. 2014 champion Gary Anderson will be hoping to rebound from horrendous luck in the opener, and other drivers to keep an eye on this week include Hunter Magnan, Garrett Fredrickson and rookie competitors Tim Hedges and Cameron Hall.
If last week was any indication, the JOAT Labs Hornets division figures to be a wide-open battle all season long. Second year competitor Brandon Wonsyld had an impressive night as he held off reigning champion Jason Stoutenburgh to win both the Main Event and his heat race. Brandon's teammate, Dylan Irving, took the checkered flag in third after a late race battle with rookie Zack Nelson. These four aren't the only drivers you need to watch in the race for victory. Anybody can win, and other drivers anticipated this week include 2016 champion Tim Hedges, wife Jenna Hedges and son Ashtin Hedges, Derrel Nelson Jr and Bree Tritchler.
In the Salem area of Oregon, the Pro 4 West Modifieds have been competing indoors during the winter. These four cylinder racers have competed at just about every track currently operating in the state. In fact, they had a visit to Southern Oregon Speedway in 1996 and came back last year for a race, won by Tobey Fernando. The record shows that the last three champions at Salem are from the Fernando family. Thomas Fernando won by 10 points this year over Tobey, Papa Tom Ferrando is the 2017 champion and Tobey won the title a year earlier. All three are anticipated this week along with Rick Wagner, Barry Lampert and Zac Fernando.
Not only did Chris Silva come on board to sponsor the Destruction Derby, the painter will be feilding two of the cars in this weekend's event. It's been a few years since the Destruction Derby has been featured at Southern Oregon Speedway, and there's excitement in the air.
Gates will open at 5 p.m. with the first race at 7 p.m. General Admission is $12, Veterans, Seniors and Juniors (6-12) are $6 and children 5 and under are free. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.
Here's an amusing little anecdote. The crew was working hard to get Southern Oregon Speedway ready for the intended season opener on April 28th. Much work had been done, and things were taking shape quite nicely. Then, the weather forecast started looking gloomy on Wednesday leading up to the weekend. Management kept an eye on things for the next couple of days, but it wasn't getting better. The decision to cancel was made on Friday afternoon to allow people to make other plans and to spare people from going to the track and getting soaked.
There were some disappointed people who voiced their feelings on social media. Really, who can blame them for not being happy? It's not really the track's fault. The weather is what it is, but people have been jonesing for some racing all winter and for part of the spring. So, they weren't happy. Can't we just wait until Saturday and see if it does rain? Another track not far away did that, and people had fun getting out of the pits that night.
As forecast, it rained on Saturday. There was just no way the races would get in. One of the most disappointed people with the decision to cancel was two-time reigning IMCA Sport Modified champion Mike Medel. Mike was itching to get his car back on the track again. On Saturday, May 5th, he got the chance. As for Mike's comments on the previous cancellation, he remarked with a smile, "Like I said, it was gonna rain."
The IMCA Sport Modifieds have been on the verge of a breakout season. For the last year, we've been hearing of people getting cars and new people joining the excitement. On Saturday, we got a glimpse of some of the new blood in the division. One of those drivers was Steve Lysinger, who was wheeling a former Jorddon Braatten car. Another driver was the Triple Nickel of Joby Shields, who was last seen running rather impressively in a Hornet. There was also Billy Richey, former Pro Stock competitor Josh Kralicek, Brandon Wilson and Brian Knorr.
We saw 15 competitors in the IMCA Sport Modified class, and there were some hard chargers. David Marble has made his mark at Southern Oregon Speedway in a Mini Stock through the years. With some 20 feature victories and the 2015 championship to show for it, the IMCA Sport Modified class was the natural next step for him. After notching a Top 5 season in 2016 as well as top rookie honors, he again made the Top 5 last season.
But making the Top 5 isn't enough for David. He had high hopes for last season. His first start was at Cottage Grove last year, and unfortunately he had a hard crash and had to get another car together. It didn't get much better at the Roger Haudenshild Tribute Race where he was done after the Crack The Whip race. But David is persistent and he is a tough competitor.
When he showed up on Saturday night, he felt very confident that he had something for the competition. He gave them a taste of what was to come by winning his heat race. Come Main Event time, there was nobody out there who could stop him from getting his first career win in this division. Does this make him one of the big threats to win the championship? It could be. One thing is for sure, the Marble team left Southern Oregon Speedway that night feeling very good about things.
Mike Medel didn't have the kind of start to his season he was hoping for. He did win his heat race, but between dealing with certain drivers who were just a bit too aggressive, Medel found himself having to battle from the back of the pack. At one point, he nearly lost a lap before a yellow flag flew for debris on the backstretch. Mike salvaged a sixth place finish and will go back to the drawing board.
With Marble getting the win, Willie McFall is hoping that his turn may be next. McFall has now finished as high as second in the Main Event and has won heat races and Trophy Dashes. He's as fast as anybody on the track. Though he couldn't quite make the move on Marble, he still finished a strong second.
McFall had young up-and-coming competitor Tony Duste in his rear-view mirror. The Duste family has done many great things at Southern Oregon Speedway since it opened in 1996. Dave Duste Sr, Dave Duste Jr and Matt Duste have all won Main Events, and Tony is anxious to become the third generation of his family to win a one. With a strong third place finish on Saturday, you have to believe that win could happen this season.
AJ Parker was back and looking really good for several laps as he ran in fourth. Though it didn't end as well as he'd have liked, the way he was running had to give him confidence going into the next race. Danny Rule also had to be feeling good after his best finish in fourth. Rule is in his first full season in this class after making his division debut midway through last season. He definitely hit some speed bumps along the way, but he looks much quicker now.
Of our rookies, Joby Shields might be the driver to beat. It's no surprise when you think about it. When Joby got started two seasons ago in the Hornet division, he came out with a top-notch ride. Joby put much work into the preparation of his car, and it showed in victories. However, Hornets were not the dream of Joby. He wanted something faster, and he sold his car and begin working on his current Sport Modified. He stayed out of trouble for most of the race and finished a respectable fifth at The checkered flag.
The Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars, presented by Hays Oil, are helping re energize Sprint Car racing in Oregon. Nobody can deny that in recent seasons, the state of Winged Sprint Car racing has not been good. Car counts have been dwindling and driver interest has been waning as top drivers head down to California and abandon Oregon. Something needed to be done. Promoter Mike McCann entered Southern Oregon Speedway with intent to establish a strong Sprint Car class.
The missing ingredient was the rules set that helps keep things competitive and reasonably priced. Dave's Carpet And Vinyl Liquidators came on board last year to help sponsor the class in support of the track's direction with the rules. The result was an increase in driver support and much buzz as the season ended with speculation about what this year would look like.
It's been humorously referred to as Romper Room, but you can call it what you want. The young stars of the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars are giving Southern Oregon Speedway hope for the future of this class. We heard that new drivers were coming, and we saw some of them this week. There was Blaine Corey, who is a 500 Open Kart champion on the smaller track in recent years. With Randy Rodgers as his crew chief and engine man, Blaine came out looking good from the start with a solid fifth place finish.
Another newcomer was Theron Smith. Smith has been racing Micro Sprints in California and had some experience in the Jimmy Sills Racing School as he is determined to become one of the top competitors of Sprint Car racing in Oregon. His father, Mike Smith, has enlisted past Southern Oregon Speedway Sprint Car champion TJ Winningham as a crew chief. The plan was for Theron to go out there at the back of the pack and make his laps. He took a checkered flag in the Main Event in seventh.
Other teens in the class were looking even better. Bailey Hibbard is getting some recognition as the potential driver to beat in the championship race this year. He did nothing to dissuade those thoughts when he outran his father, David Hibbard, to win his heat race. He followed that up by outrunning fellow heat race winner Enrique Jaime to win the Scramble and earn the pole for the Main Event. Unfortunately for Bailey, mechanical issues sent him to the pits early in the Main Event.
Two other young guns had a crowd pleasing battle for second throughout the race. The aforementioned Jaime led 6 laps of the Main Event and then had to contend with Outlaw Kart Superstar Tanner Holmes for the rest of the race. Holmes was looking for a way around Jaime, but Enrique wouldn't budge for 15 laps. You can see the Improvement in the past Kart champion Jaime. He took the checkered flag in third after Holmes made the past late in the race, but you have to believe that the yellow #48 car of Jaime will be seen in the Winner's Circle at some point this year.
The same holds true for Tanner Holmes. Everywhere this kid has gone, he has won. He's only 14 years old, and he looks like he's been driving Sprint Cars for years. Tanner finished second, and a feature win is just around the corner. If not for the fact that his schedule will take him to some big Kart races during the year and force him to miss races in this class, Tanner could very well be a championship contender.
Last season, Jeffrey Hudson was hoping that he would be a championship contender, but he blew a motor on opening night instead. He spent the rest of the season winning Pro Stock races, but that's no surprise. Hudson won the 2015 Outlaw Pro Stock championship at the age of 15. Back in the Sprint Car again, he ran strong and finished fourth on Saturday night.
David Hibbard knows that you have to take those opportunities when they come. Last season, wins kept slipping away. He led the division with three second place finishes before finally getting his first win. When he found himself in second early in the race, David didn't hesitate when the opening came to move past Jaime for the lead. Once in front, the past Cottage Grove Speedway champion pulled away in the race that went without a yellow flag and won by a sizable margin. After the races, Hibbard was talking more about how great it was to see so many young competitors out there than he was about his win.
More cars are on the way in the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars. We will see Kyler Barraza again as the reigning champion has been cleared to compete. We saw last year's top rookie, Merissa Henson, do what she was doing all last season. She got her car to his checkered flag once again, this time in sixth place. Unfortunately for Todd Whipple and Camden Robustelli, mechanical issues kept the two of them from even starting the Main Event. Worse yet was Aaron Miller, who was unable to get his motor together in time for this race. He was in attendance and hopes to be racing very soon.
Southern Oregon Speedway has some of the best IMCA Modified drivers in the state of Oregon. That is a fact. Perhaps the best of them all is seven time champion Mark Wauge. Nobody has more IMCA Modified wins than Wauge at Southern Oregon Speedway. On Saturday night, he added to that total with his 49th win at his home track. However, this was no gimme. Weather you have bad luck or not, if the #1m car of Wauge is running strong, he's going to be right behind you or moving past you.
James Welshonse suffered the sophomore slump last season. It was a year he'd soon forget, and people need to remember that he was the winner of the season finale in 2016 on his way to top rookie honors that year. James set a blistering pace after taking the lead from Dave Duste Jr. Unfortunately, he had problems and pitted off the backstretch. Jeremy Ohlde's luck wasn't much better after he got the lead. Right after being passed by Nick Trenchard and Wauge, he headed for the pits.
Trenchard has relished the roll of Bounty Hunter in the past few seasons. In fact, he will be heading to Madras Speedway to run the Bill Mills Memorial Race. He very well could be the driver to beat. Last season, he won the Beads Shipwreck Nationals at Grays Harbor, the John Arnberg Memorial in Yreka and the Roger Haudenhild Tribute at Southern Oregon Speedway. Nick was looking forward to coming to the season opener and possibly getting a win. He found himself leading in the late stages of the race, but unfortunately, Wauge forced him to settle for second. You know Trenchard will be much faster when he returns next time.
It was a welcome sight seeing Dave Duste Jr back in the field again. Duste has notched victories in Pro Stocks and Modifieds through the years at Southern Oregon Speedway as a past runnerup in Modified points. It had been a couple of seasons since we saw his #73 car, but he picked up right where he left off by leading early in the Main Event. Though the win didn't come, he still brought it to the checkered flag in fourth behind reigning champion Jesse Bailey.
You won't hear Bailey talk about points. If he's able to make the races, he'll be there. However, over the past two seasons, he has been the most consistent racer at the track. Nobody has more Top 3 finishes than him in that time span. We'll just have to see how the season goes. Jesse looked good last week, but he has more up his sleeve for the races ahead.
"Cowboy" Duane Orsburn has already been busy racing. Duane got his car last year and has been dialing it in. His most encouraging finish was a strong fourth place run at Petaluma Speedway a few weeks ago. Duane was hanging at the back of the pack, but as the race wore on, he got quicker. He brought it home to a fifth place finish. Orsburn is anxious to return to the Winner's Circle, a place he last visited in 2016. It's also worth noting that Duane won many Main Events in the Street Stocks as a two-time champion in that class.
Albert Gill and Zach Fettinger both had season openers they'd rather forget. It seemed that Fettinger was struggling with mechanical issues all night. Gil couldn't get his #89 car up to speed either. Both drivers were members of the Main Event Winner's Club last season, and you better believe they will bring something better for the competition next time out.
The IMCA modifieds also boasted a 15 car field, including long time California competitor Stan Gunderson, who took a checkered flag in sixth just ahead of the Triple Nickel car of Bo Shields. David Satterfield joined the class as well. You may remember Satterfield from the Pro Stock division a few years back, where he was a Trophy Dash winner. It was a great turnout of Modified racers, and the racing was some of the best the track has seen in a long time.
Mini Stock star David Steele doesn't seem to slow down. He has things very much dialed-in, as his back-to-back wins in Yreka in April would indicate. David was riding a three-race winning streak on Meddled as he closed the 2017 season. Would there be any slow down for him? The answer was a resounding no. David won his heat race, but so did 2013 champion Steve Goetz. The two drivers shared the front row and enjoyed a good early battle. Goetz led the first lap, but Steele moved ahead. Goetz had commented prior for the races that he was happy with the way his car was running, which is bad news for Steele. It means he'll get some really good competition out of his teammate. Knowing David, he wouldn't have it any other way.
Kristopher Mix still has that first career win in his sights. However, just trying to keep a spot on the podium was a challenge on Saturday night as the rapidly improving Hunter Magnan held the third position for several laps. Magnan knew that an upgrade in cars was in order if he wanted to compete for wins after his Rookie Of The Year season last year. You have to believe that Hunter will be a threat to win, but so too will Mix. Mix made his move around Magnan and grabbed another third place finish. Though he'll take that, you know Mix is thinking about when he'll get his first win. Could it be this week?
For Garrett Frederickson, a win hasn't been on his radar. Getting consistent behind the wheel of his #45 car has been the more immediate goal for Garrett. He's been racing at Southern Oregon Speedway for the past few seasons, starting in the Hornet division. It's been an adventure for him sometimes, but he comes back enthusiastically. On Saturday night, Garrett saw just how much he is improving as he drove his car to a career best fifth place finish.
Cameron Hall took the wheel of the Pinto Wagon that Andrew Hall has been driving for the past two seasons. He too was having a bit of an adventure out there as he spun on the last lap. The car can be a handful to drive, but given enough time, Cameron will get it figured out. Another rookie in the division is Tim Hedges. Hedges is the 2016 Hornet champion, and he's doing double duty this year. He got this car from Randy Simmons and quickly put a paint job on it and his familiar #14t.The biggest thing that will have to be figured out now is making the switch from the Hornet to the Mini Stock after races as these two divisions generally run one after the other on the card.
The Hedges team brought three JOAT Labs Hornets to the speedway for the opener, and Tim had a heat race win in his sights. Prior to the night, son Ashtin Hedges was remarking that he was going to win a race. Did he know something nobody else knew? Ashtin went out there and beat his father to win his first heat race. Unfortunately, the two got a little too close for comfort in the Main Event and made contact on the opening lap. The Hedges team will come back strong next time, and Tim reports that his new car will be ready soon and that he may retire the #4t car. Wife Jenna Hedges was running in the Top 3 for several laps before problems sent her to the pits.
Everybody knows that the man to beat is reigning champion Jason Stoutenburgh. Jason wrapped up last season with four consecutive feature wins. If you're going to get your first career win, beating Jason makes it that much more of an accomplishment. Brandon Wonsyld might not have been making any predictions about winning, but that was what he was about to do. It started in the heat race when Brandon outran Stoutenburgh for a victory. Come Main Event time, Brandon got the lead early on and was not about to let Stoutenburgh around him. Brandon drove a flawless race and definitely earned his first feature victory.
Derrel Nelson Jr has proclaimed that he is the driver of the #8g car this season, and he's hoping to make a run for points. Son Zack Nelson was enjoying racing so much last year that he got his own car and hopes to beat his father and the rest of the competition. In the waning laps of last week's feature, Zack had a third place finish in his sights as he battled second generation competitor Dylan Irving. Unfortunately for Nelson, he hit the front wall exiting Turn 4 to take the checkered flag. He did cross the finish line, but he settled for fourth behind Irving.
The Hornet division happily welcomed David Miller and Chris Boynton Into its ranks. Boynton didn't do so well back in 10th, while Miller took a checkered flag in seventh. Ahead of them was another rookie, Bree Tritchler. Bree made her first start at the season finale last year. She looked a little tentative in her heat race, but she made a pass around Tim Hedges in the Main Event to finish a lead lap fifth. Not bad for her second race ever.
By all accounts, the season opener at Southern Oregon Speedway was one of the best that track has had in recent years. There was a good turnout of fans to watch some great racers do battle In all classes. The four cylinder classes will take center stage on Saturday night with Four Cylinder Frenzy. In addition to the JOAT labs Hornets and Mini Stocks, the Pro 4 West Modifieds will be there along with the Valley Stor-All Late Model Lites. If that's not enough, you can add Late Models and a Silva Painting Destruction Derby to the card for what should be an entertaining night from start to finish. Further information can be found at www.southerniregonspeedway.com or just by looking at the official Facebook page.