Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Sprint Cars, Late Models Headline Kids Night
At Southern Oregon Speedway
White City, Oregon...Southern Oregon Speedway is having Kids Night this Saturday night. There will be free admission for all kids 12 years and younger. The night will also include bike giveaways and free Hot Wheels to the first 100 kids through the gates. The Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Cars will be racing once again. Also on the card for the night will be the Late Models, Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stocks and JOAT Labs Hornets.
David Hibbard is hitting his stride as he has now won four of the five Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car Main events so far this season. In the past two weeks, Hibbard has not won the Scramble, which determines who gets the pole position for the Main Event. Last week, it was Garen Linder making a surprise entrance and winning both his heat race and the Scramble. A week earlier, the division's top rookie, Blaine Cory won his heat and the Scramble. In both cases, Hibbard still found his way into the lead. Last week's Main Event ran 25 laps without a yellow flag, and nobody could stop Hibbard from leading all the way in victory.
However, the rapidly improving Cory has posted back-to-back second place finishes. Cory surprised Linder during the most recent race by making a mid race pass to take over second. While Hibbard now holds a 38 point lead ahead of Jeffrey Hudson, Cory has pulled into a tie with David's son Bailey Hibbard for third in the standings, 14 points behind Hudson. People are now talking about the potential of Cory being the next Main Event winner. Enrique Jaime vacated third in the points as the team discovered motor problems last Friday night. He is anticipated this week along with other hard chargers such as 2009 champion Charlie Thompson, Merissa Henson, Aaron Miller and Calvin Hibbard.
In four Late Model races we have seen four different Main Event winners. A look at the top of the standings shows that three of those winners occupy the first three positions. To maintain his point lead, Nathan Augustine was forced to borrow the Don Garrett Jr car last time as he awaits a new car following the destruction of his own ride at the third event. Augustine leads rookie Miles Deubert by just seven points. Dave Foote only holds a two point advantage over John Dees for third. Dees has a pair of seconds and a third as he searches for his first career victory. These four drivers are anticipated this week along with Garrett, Bob Dees, Garrett Dees, Mike Linder and Eric Massey. Word from California is that 2017 Antioch Speedway point runner-up David Newquist and teammate Joey Olschowka will be back once again this week.
David Steele continues his quest for his first Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stock championship. Though Steele has won well over 20 Main Events here, he has never won the track championship. He does have the 2015 Yreka championship to his credit. With four feature wins so far this season, Steele leads the much improved Hunter Magnan by 31 points. Magnan is closing in on his first career win, and he leads reigning champion Kristopher Mix by 24 points in the battle for second. Mix is the only other driver in the field with a Main Event win so far. Other drivers to watch for this week include 2014 champion Gary Anderson, 2013 champion Steve Goetz, Michael McLeod and Ashtin Hedges.
Speaking of Hedges, the young hard charger now finds himself in the thick of the JOAT Labs Hornets championship battle following his second feature win last time out. He is tied with reigning champion Jason Stoutenburgh for the lead, two points ahead of 2016 champion Tim Hedges and four in front of the surprising Bree Tritchler, who finished second in the most recent Main Event for the second straight week. One time winner Brandon Wonsyld vacated the point lead due to a prior commitment two weeks ago. He slipped to fifth, one point ahead of another one time Main Event winner, Chris Boynton. All of these drivers are anticipated this week, along with Derrel Nelson Jr, Zach Nelson, Dylan Irving and John Ferreira.
There is sure to be some great racing at the speedway this Saturday night, and kids get in free. Gates open at 5 p.m. with the first race starting at 7 p.m. General Admission is $12, while Veterans and Seniors are $6. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.
The IMCA Modifieds returned to Southern Oregon Speedway last Saturday night and put on an entertaining show. Other than a tangle in Turn 3 that forced a complete restart, the race was destined to go without a yellow flag when things were restarted. Considering the bad luck that he had been through since winning the season opener, Mark Wauge was on a mission to put his car in the Winner's Circle for a milestone 50th career win in this division at his home track.
It didn't take long for the seven-time champion to race into the lead. Once he got there, he might have figured it was just a matter of running the laps and he'd be taking the checkered flag ahead of the pack. What he didn't count on was that black #88 car that pulled up behind him. Zach Fettenger picked up an impressive win a few weeks ago, but there was something on his mind after that win.
The night he won a few weeks earlier, he was battling Wauge for position when a slower car veered into their path and took both drivers out. While Zach's crew got his car patched up and ready to go again at the back of the pack, Wauge suffered too much damage to continue that night. Therefore, when Zach made his way to the front of the pack that night, Wauge was nowhere in sight. This time, if he was going to get the win, he had to beat the man that some people consider to be the icon of the division.
As they worked the 10th lap, Zach found his opening down low and moved by Wauge for the lead. Wauge held on to second for a couple more laps before heading for the pits. It was a case of more mechanical issues for the driver who is currently ranked third in the standings. Fettinger might have been expecting another challenge from point leader, Nick Trenchard. However, there was a driver in front of Trenchard keeping him from second. Fettinger sped to the victory and became the first two-time winner of the season. Last season, there were no repeat winners, and Zach, much like Wauge, has won three Main Events at the track in the last two seasons. Nobody else has won more than two in that time.
One of those two-time winners is Albert Gill, and he watched Nick Trenchard going by to briefly gain second. However, Gill wasn't having any of that as he drove back around and maintained second all the way to the checkered flag. For Gill, this is his second second place finish of the year, but he's still looking for his first win. Trenchard maintained third all the way to the checkered flag as he holds on to the point lead after five events.
Further back but on the lead lap were Jeremy Ohlde and Andy Freeman in a close battle for fourth. Freeman picked up a Trophy Dash win earlier in the evening and held fourth for several laps. Ohlde was trying to overcome a penalty from the incident that resulted in the restart, and he made the move around Freeman for the fourth place finish. It still had to be a bit frustrating for Jeremy, who seemed to have a car capable of winning.
Saturday night was a somber occasion for the Southern Oregon Dwarf Car Association and the Southern Oregon racing community in general. Southern Oregon racing icon Markey James had passed away during the week. The James family has been a part of Southern Oregon racing going back to the early days of the Posse Grounds Medford Raceway in the 1950s when Markey's father Cecil James was a promoter there. Markey won many races through the years and was a part of things at Southern Oregon Speedway for many years as well. His son Brett James has been racing with the Dwarf Cars this year, and grandson Josh King is a two-time champion. There's even another James racing at the Outlaw Kart track, Jacob James.
Prior to the Main Event, the Dwarf Car competitors had a memorial lap for Markey. After that, they proceeded to put on a race that would have made him proud. There are several drivers on the cusp of victory this year, and the record shows that in six Southern Oregon Speedway visits the only repeat winner is Kalvin Morton. Morton battled his way around the likes of Ryan Smith, Josh King and Fred Hay and into the second position.
Once Morton and got there, he set his sights on race long leader Cody Peters. Peters has been running strong this year, but various different things have happened to steal his chances at victory. This time, the second generation racer wasn't about to let it get away. They started 22 cars in the Main Event, which meant traffic would come up on them before they took the checkered flag. Peters made the right moves, and even though Morton made a really good run going to the checkered flag, his bid for a third straight win came up just short. Cody joined his father Brock Peters on the winner's list this year, but unfortunately for Brock, his race ended on lap eight.
Morton is certainly looking as fast as he was prior to the rollover he suffered on 4th of July Weekend in 2016. It just may be that the championship that got away could be his to win this season. However, Chad Cardoza, Peters and Smith, who finished fourth on this occasion, may have something to say about that. King jumped behind the wheel of the #4us car, which he had driven to a feature win earlier this season for Jerry Hauck. He had been driving the #14 car for a couple of weeks, but they made the decision prior to the races for him to get into the #4us car and put Brett James in the #14 car. Josh won the A Dash and then had a respectable fifth place finish in the Main Event ahead of Camden Robustelli.
The driver finishing third in the Main Event was ageless icon Fred Hay. Hay had finished second the week before, making this his second straight Top 3 finish. The way he's running, it wouldn't be surprising to see Fast Freddie picking up his first win since 2015. Another driver looking good was rookie Michael Johnson, who finished a solid seventh ahead of Kaycee Sheeler. Johnson kept pace with the leaders this time as he continues to get comfortable behind the wheel of a Dwarf Car.
The road to a Main Event victory in the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car division goes through current point leader David Hibbard. Hibbard has been fast all season long. Even if he's not winning the Scramble to get the pole for the Main Event, you know he will be challenging you for the lead. On this occasion, there was a driver hoping to swoop in and steal a victory. He's Garen Linder, and he's won Sprint Car Main Events in the past at Southern Oregon Speedway.
This year, Linder has picked up victories in Winged 360 competition at Grays Harbor Speedway and Silver Dollar Speedway, so he thought he'd test out the #42 car, normally driven by rookie Theron Smith. Linder picked up both the wins in his heat race and the Scramble. With a pole position, he figured it would be a snap to wheel the car, crew chiefed by past champion TJ Winningham, to the victory. What he wasn't expecting was David Hibbard pulling ahead at the drop of the green flag. As he watched him pull away a little bit more, he was in for another surprise.
Rookie Blaine Cory was out to show that his second place finish the week before was not luck. Fact is, this young gun is getting better each time he gets behind the wheel. By lap 15, Cory was making his move around Linder to grab the second place finish. However, Hibbard was just a little bit too far ahead enoute to his fourth win in five starts. The night David didn't win, he was finishing second to son Bailey Hibbard.
Speaking of Bailey Hibbard, the second place finish for Cory moved him into a tie with him for third in the standings as Enrique Jaime dropped a couple of positions by missing the race. It turns out the Jaime team discovered a motor problem on Friday that they were unable to resolve in time to go racing. This was a big blow to Enrique's championship hopes as well as his shot at second place Jeffrey Hudson in the standings. He falls back 28 points as a result of his absence, but you have to believe Enrique is still a contender for a feature victory the way he's been running.
For Cory, his recent two seconds have moved him to within 14 points of second place Hudson in a close battle. Hudson was not having a very good night as he finished back in seventh behind 2009 champion Charlie Thompson in the Main Event. Meanwhile, rookie Tanner Holmes was doing a little bit better with a fourth place finish ahead of Bailey Hibbard. Tanner has been busy making starts in Outlaw Kart competition and also recently made an appearance at Cottage Grove. This week was an important week for the 14 year old leadfoot. He was making his Speedweek debut in the team's Winged 360 Sprint Car.
Meanwhile, the IMCA Sport Modified competitors were left a little bit frustrated after a race filled with spins and crashes. Some of the drivers you might anticipate running at the front of the pack were left to go back to the drawing board. Two-time reigning champion Mike Medel has been absent as he's run up north in recent weeks, but a recent start at Willamette resulted in a broken chassis. It was fixable, and Mike was hoping to come back to his home track and compete for a win. After winning his heat, a tangle took him out of the action early.
Likewise, the bad Main Event luck continued for Willie McFall. McFall seems to have mastered the Trophy Dash as he picked up another win there, but the IMCA points go to the drivers in the Main Event. He again missed a Top 10 finish in 11th. Because of that, the Tonys, Bartell and Duste, gained even more ground on him in the battle as they finished fifth and sixth, respectively. McFall now leads Bartell by four points and Duste and Branden Wilson by five points.
Wilson has sort of been creeping along under the radar, and perhaps nobody was expecting him to do what he did on Saturday night. The Yreka connection, Jimmy Lipke and Randy Wright, ran at the front of the pack for much of the race. Wright was the only driver during the first 19 laps to challenge Lipke for the lead, gaining that spot briefly. Other than that, Lipke was running along and seemed headed for an impressive victory.
However, in the latter stages of the race, Wilson had settled the matter of who was in second as he got around Wright, and he had an impressive 20th lap. As he gathered momentum exiting Turn 4 he found himself moving by Lipke. To the surprise of the crowd, he beat Lipke to the checkered flag for the victory. It turned out to be the most exciting finish of the night at the track.
When it's your time to shine, the breaks go your way. Incoming point leader David Marble won his heat race, but his Main Event was a little bit rough during the first half of the race. He spun and had to go to the back of the pack. However, Marble never gave up on the race, and he made a late move around Wright to finish a respectable third. This finish moved him 28 points in front of McFall in the championship battle. Wright settled for fourth, which is one of his better finishes so far on the circuit this season.
For the Valley Store All Late Model Lites, Lee Doty was a welcome sight in the pits. Doty had a nice looking black and red #7 car out there, and it ran as swiftly as it looked. Still, Lee was being tentative with the car as he didn't want to over drive it and do something he'd regret. The last time he was at the speedway, while leading a race, he brushed the front wall and flipped his car. Doty reports that there will be a second car as he purchased the #40 car driven by Randy Hansen and Bob Westcott to feature wins last season. It's likely that Dusty Aos will be piloting that machine next time out.
Doty did find his way into third during the Main Event as reigning champion Bob Burkett was working on a clean sweep and leading championship hopeful Greg Arnold. When Arnold suffered mechanical issues halfway through the race and retired, it opened the door for Doty to try to make a move. Unfortunately, as they went to a lap 15 restart, Doty made slight contact with Burkett exiting Turn 2, allowing Charlie Eaton to race past both of them and steal the lead and victory.
There have been many times during these past three seasons where Eaton was right in the thick of the battle and could only muster a second or third. This year, things are different. This was his second feature win this season, and with the bad luck of Arnold, he added a few points to his lead. He still leads a very close championship race. Burkett would settle for second ahead of Doty at the finish. Bob isn't running for points this year, but he is hoping to notch another win or two in Main Event competition. His trophy Dash victory isn't too much of a surprise. Nobody at the speedway in the past six or seven years has won more Trophy Dashes than Bob has.
Outlaw Kart Pit Stops
The Friday Night Outlaw Kart program has seen a little bit of an increase in support from the drivers this year over last year. Though not a huge increase, there are more drivers making an effort to be out there for each race. Hoping to keep that momentum going, management decided that instead of running three straight races they would scratch the scheduled race for this Friday night to allow the kids to enjoy Friday night at the County Fair.
There's another interesting situation developing in the Beginners Box Stock division. There are some drivers that are very new to the scene. In fact, they are very tentative behind the wheel as they negotiate the track and make laps at a slow and steady pace. There are a few drivers with a little bit more experience, yet still of the age group allowed in the Beginners class. They come up on these slower karts very rapidly, and it makes things a little bit dicey at the front of the pack.
This was certainly true at the most recent race as Malachi Johnson and Mike Wheeler Jr were slicing and dicing for the lead through slower traffic. Johnson was just a little quicker and managed to just beat Wheeler back to the line for his third straight victory as he maintains the point lead over here Carson Henson.
For Hanson, the night was an opportunity for him to return to the red #11 kart. It's the kart he won the Yreka Indoor championship with this past offseason, and he's just a bit more comfortable behind the wheel. He had been leading Uriah Sanders in a good battle for third. Sanders ended up spinning, but he still made a late pass around the steady Jayme DrBenedetti to finish fourth. Sanders will maintain third in the standings as Shailene Horn was absent. The Hornbrook fire had an impact on the show as a few drivers in the kart program were unable to come. Shailene's grandfather is a volunteer firefighter. Wheeler is now tied for third on the standings with DeBenedetti, 17 points behind Sanders.
As to the solution with the slower newcomers, management is strongly considering the possibility of putting these drivers in their own heat and Main Event and labeling the class Novice Beginner Box Stocks. This would be the place to learn and get comfortable while not worrying about being run over by the faster karts. Drivers demonstrating that they are comfortable and able to go at a little quicker pace could then be a part of the regular Beginners class.
What happens when you are comfortable behind the wheel of your Box Stock was clearly demonstrated in Friday's show with Box Stock point leader Keaton Augustine and Jacob James again winning heat races. Augustine bolted into the lead at the start of the Main Event with James right him. Right behind James was Ryan Hirschbock and Taylor Fuller. The four Karts ran nose to tail for the entire 15 lap distance and did so with no yellow flags.
The kids were all looking for a mistake to be made by the driver in front of them, but no mistakes were made. Hirschbock seemed to be the most active as he looked high and low to get around James, but James held on for his second straight runner-up finish. Augustine leads the championship chase by eight points ahead of Hirschbock and 14 points ahead of the tied James and Fuller. The steady Kiley Grimes looked much better as she picked up a lead lap fifth place finish.
In the 250 Kart division, Trevor Grimes now sees a threat in the field. He's Vinny DeBenedetti, and he's had Trevor's number for these past two races. Vinny's ace in the hole is his ability to put his kart up on the outside and make passes when he needs to. In fact, his passes around heat race winners Cadyn Smith and Grimes were both made on the outside. Grimes had mechanical issues a lap after losing the lead to retire from the race.
We've been speaking to the toughness of young Vinny, who had his hard times last season as he hit the Turn 4 wall in his Box Stock and rolled. Rather than return in a Box Stock, he made the move up to 250's, perhaps a year sooner than most kids might have gone there. But Vinny has a good mentor in his father, IMCA Modified and Dwarf Car star Jon DeBenedetti. Vinny used this win to move to within 12 points of Grimes in what is turning out to be an exciting championship battle.
Not to be counted out in the battle for victories is Smith. Young Cadyn has already won a championship indoors in Yreka during this past offseason, and he's picked up two heat race wins so far at little Southern Oregon Speedway. And if this isn't enough good news, word from the Holmes racing team is that we will see Carley Holmes back in action at some point. Last season, Carley picked up three feature victories.
Lori Fuller was the unlikely winner of the Main Event for the UAS Speedway Karts last week. She was piloting the only Four Cycle in the field, and her strategy is simple. Make steady laps and get it to the finish line. This time, the competition fell very rapidly. Only one lap had been in the books when Lori was the only driver left on the track. She was declared the winner. Double heat race winner Larry Fuller, Johnny Hoult and the leader of the first lap, Steve Rambo, we're all out. The drivers will get everything tuned up and be back for the next race on July 20th.