Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Hall Of Fame Night This Saturday At Southern Oregon Speedway, Pit Stops

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Hall Of Fame Night This Saturday 
At Southern Oregon Speedway

White City, Oregon...After last weekend's unusual wet weather forced the cancellation of racing, Southern Oregon Speedway has another special night planned for this Saturday night. It's the Third Annual Southern Oregon Racing Hall Of Fame event. There will be six new members inducted into the Hall of Fame. There will also be some great racing on the Jim Rodgers prepared 3/10 mile clay oval, featuring IMCA Modifieds, Late Models, IMCA Sport Modifieds, Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stocks and JOAT Labs Hornets.

Given the storied history of Southern Oregon racing, including such tracks as the Medford Raceway, Cascade Raceway in White City and the Ashland track, coming up with a list of people deserving of being inducted into the Hall of Fame is not too difficult. The challenging part is limiting who goes in each year. This new tradition has been established to ensure that the history of racing in Southern Oregon is not only preserved, but honored as well.

On Saturday night, six of the all-time greats will be inducted into the Hall of Fame. This list will include Markey James, Jim Walker Sr, Jay McCleary, Sam Dykes, Dave Shinn and Freddy Higginbotham. All six of these honorees have made envaluable contributions to racing throughout their storied careers.

Walker was a two-time champion at the old White City track who won races at both that venue and the Medford Raceway. James, who's father was racing legend Cecil James, bears the distinction of winning Main Events in every decade from the 1960s until he retired in the early 2000s. McCleary was a two-time Street Stock champion who won many races at various venues throughout his career.

In an era when Hall of Famers Ben Neel and Harold Hardesty were winning everything, Dykes was the 1968 champion and won races in the 1960s and 1970s. Shinn won the inaugural POSSE Super Stock championship, which pitted some of the best drivers from Oregon and California against each other in great competition. The man flagging some of the biggest races from the 1960s and throughout the 1980s was Freddy Higginbotham, and he became one of the most respected officials at Medford Racway.

After the rude interruption of the rain last week, point leader Zach Fettinger will be out to see if he can get his second-straight IMCA Modified win of the season. During the past three seasons, it's been rare to see any driver win more than one race, but Fettinger scored three victories last season as well. He holds a 25 point advantage over 2017 champion Jesse Bailey. Bailey will be looking for his second win of the season, and some of the stars to watch for this week include three-time reigning champion Albert Gill, rookies Justin Foux and Jimmy Lipke, Ray Kniffen Jr and Duane Orsburn.

Following his third feature triumph of the season last time out, Trent Elliott is pulling away from the pack in the Late Model championship battle. Saturday night will be a good tune-up opportunity for Elliott as he has eyes on the $4,000 prize being offered in the August 24th Cottonwood Classic. With a pair of third place finishes, Dave Everson now holds second in the standings ahead of one-time winner Darren Coffell and Dave Foote. These drivers could be there this week, and others to watch for include Mark Wauge, Bob Dees, Miles Deubert and Chris Biggs.

Jorddon Braaten is on a pace to write his name in the book as a three-time IMCA Sport Modified champion. Braaten has a pair of victories and a 10 point advantage over one-time winner Matt Sanders. Matt's brother, Isaac Sanders, is 20 points out of the lead and also has a win to his credit. Two-time champion Mike Medel will be out to see if he can get his first win of the season. He currently ranks fourth in the standings ahead of last season's top rookie, Branden Wilson. Other stars to watch for this week include Joby Shields, Brian Knorr, Steve Lysinger, previous winner Braxton Possinger and Billy Richey.

Reigning Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stocks champion David Steele leads the charge with four feature victories and a 15 point lead over Ashtin Hedges. Hedges has been very consistent and also has a feature win and two Trophy Dash victories to his credit. While they battle for the championship, 2017 champ Kristopher Mix and Hunter Magnan have a close battle going for third in the standings. Magnan has a win this year, and Mix is still looking for his first. Other racers to watch for include top rookie Dylan Irving, 2013 champion Steve Goetz, Brandyn Wonsyld and Mike McLeod.

Rounding out of exciting program will be the JOAT Labs Hornets. The wins have been divided amongst four-time winner Dylan Sauer and two-time winner Tim Hedges. Sauer leads Hedges by nine points in the hotly contested chase, while Tim's wife Jenna Hedges has a close battle going with rookie Quinton Tritchler for third in the standings. Those two drivers are still looking for their first wins as they've been running very strong this season. Other racers to watch for include rookie Shawn Nelson, Lacey Sauer, Chris Boynton, Zach Nelson and Ryan Nelson.

Fans looking for a little bit more racing action can go to the Little Southern Oregon Speedway track on Friday for championship night. We will be crowning champions in the various divisions. Jayme DeBenedetti continues to lead the Beginners Box Stock chase, while Trevor Grimes is leading the 250 Kart standings. With Flat Track Bikes, Trikes and Quads also on the schedule, it should be an exciting program.  Gates open at 5 pm on Friday with the first race starting at 7. $10 gets you pit access and a bleacher seat.

On Saturday night, the gates will open at 5 with the first race starting at 7. Also, the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is will take place approximately after the heat races have concluded. General Admission Adult tickets 13+ are $13, Seniors 62+, Veterans and Juniors 7 to 12 are $7 and children 6 and under are free. For further information, go to

Pit Stops

There are some big things happening at Southern Oregon Speedway these days. Part of the effort to turn a declining program around when Mike McCann stepped in as promoter in 2016 was to add a couple of different featured classes to the roster, but the other piece of the strategy was offering up some big time racing events. One such event happened last Saturday night, and it was the Cascade Wingless 360 Sprint Car Challenge race.

Mark Herz of Herz Precision Parts is a racer, but he's also a big supporter of Sprint Car racing in Oregon, Wingless in particular. Herz liked the idea when Mike proposed it at the end of the 2016 season, and this big August event happened for the first time in 2017. It went well that year, though there was a scary moment involving Kyler Barraza on the backstretch that made a few racers nervous and may have impacted the car count numbers a year later. This led to some uncertainty heading into this third event. How would it go?

McCann himself had been doing what he could to recruit racers, and race director Tony Parker was doing the same from Portland. What resulted was 19 competitors turning out for this race, and things went so well that Herz has already committed to sponsoring the fourth event in 2020. One of the things that helped was the fact that more local racers decided it was time to take off their wings and test themselves against the others who would be coming from up north and from California.

Win, lose or draw, you have to give some praise to Jake Wheeler, Camden Robustelli, Blaine Cory, David Marble, Todd Whipple and Seth Nunez for giving this race a shot. It was nice to see so many racers from the area on hand to compete. Whipple had been struggling to get his car ready, and unfortunately he had mechanical problems early on to put him on the sidelines. One may have been a bit surprised to see Marble show up. However, this guy is a champion in multiple divisions at Southern Oregon Speedway, and he's always up for challenging himself on the track. He did well in making the effort. Cory, meanwhile, was dealing with a few mechanical issues.

Jake Wheeler had been in the hunt for the championship at Cottage Grove in the 360 Sprint class, but the team made the decision to take the wing off and make a run for the big bucks. They certainly have had Southern Oregon Speedway figured out pretty well over the past few years. Jake has come a long way as a driver. With his father, Vern Wheeler Jr, as his crew chief, Jake figured to offer a formidable challenge to two-time reigning event champion Geoff Ensign and car owner Ted Finkenbinder. Finkenbinder will be honored at Calistoga Speedway as a Hall of Fame member in September.

Wheeler made a key move in his heat race that would put him into the Scramble. This was important because Ensign picked up the $100 prize for setting the fast time and automatically had a spot in the Scramble. As luck would have it, Wheeler drew a front row spot and surprised Ensign by taking the lead at the start of the eight lap race. Wheeler prevailed, sending a message to Ensign that he had a clear challenger for the $3,500 prize.

Wheeler looked as if he'd been running Wingless Sprints for quite a while as he charged into the lead early in the Main Event. This race was close throughout the first 20 laps, and even when Ensign got the lead, Wheeler stayed with him. The duo exchanged slide job passes one lap as Wheeler gave it everything he had. In the end, however, Ensign prevailed to make it three years in a row for the team at the Cascade Wingless Sprint Car Challenge.

For Jake Wheeler, however, people need to start taking notice. He's continually challenging himself by going to different venues and testing his ability. The team continues to gather more knowledge that makes them even faster every time they go to the track. Though he didn't get the grand prize, Wheeler still pocketed a tidy sum of $1,500 for the second place finish.

We don't get to see Rob Lindsey very often at Southern Oregon Speedway. He is a star on the Wingless Sprint Tour in Oregon and Southern Washington. He has collected four Wingless championships and is leading the current point race. He did well in his inaugural visit as he ran a race long third for $1,000 after winning his heat race.

Two other Medford area competitors were in the mix in the battle for a Top 5 position. We haven't seen Seth Nunez very often as he runs a Winged 360 Sprint Car. He used to compete at the Little Southern Oregon Speedway track before moving to the Sprint Cars. As the track runs a limited rules package, the only opportunity Seth has to run is to remove the wing and give it a go. He mixed it up with Dwarf Car star Camden Robustelli and Californian Shawn Arriaga. Arriaga seemed to be doing well early on until he did a 360 and kept going. He later spun and had to come from the back of the pack.

Running wingless is something that Robustelli isn't used to. He's competing for the ISCS Winged Sprint Car title this year and is also in the mix for the Southern Oregon Dwarf Car crown. Given the speed and nature of the Dwarf Cars, it's not too much of a reach for a driver in that class to be able to run well in a Wingless Sprint. Robustelli ran in the Top 5 for most of the race before settling for a sixth place finish ahead of three-time Hunt Wingless Spec Sprint champion Terry Schank Jr and CRA Sprint Car racer Steve Hix. Arriaga managed to get up to fifth, but Nunez did a great job of bringing it home to a fourth place finish.

Though this event has happened for the past two years, this race had a different feel to it. The crowd seemed more into it, and the racing was exciting all night. Wingless racing is not something that Southern Oregon racing fans get an opportunity to watch very often. It's a different type of discipline for the drivers, but it offers another exciting form of open will racing for fans to enjoy. It's easy to see that as the fans see more of it, they will become more interested in it. Could there be more than just the big race on the schedule next year? Time will tell.

The Southern Oregon Dwarf Cars continued to crash the gates with a huge field of competitors. On this occasion, there were 24 cars in the pits to do battle. Josh King was doing what he's been doing for most of the year. He was winning. The preliminary battles saw King winning both his heat race and the A Dash. There was an unusual situation that saw a heat race in which nobody had won with the group before. In this case, it was young Trevor Davis getting his first career eight lap victory.

Another driver winning a heat race was Jesse Lorenz, who had to battle two-time champion Brock Peters to get it done. It's interesting to know that Jesse is one of three drivers in the group who runs a Mod Lite, which has been allowed in the series rules. The association is moving to eliminate this style of race car in 2020. The Lorentz team fields a second Mod Lite, driven by Chad Lorentz, while long time Medford area racer Reggie Ayers has a Mod Lite as well. Ayres has already moved to a Dwarf Car. What is interesting is if there had been a few more drivers with this type of car, the potential would have been there to start a new Mod Lites class. The Bakersfield area in California has a thriving Mod Lites division.

Fred Hay picked up the win in the B Dash and would lead the Main Event early before being passed by King, Cody Peters and Chad Cardoza. Cody Peters made his best effort of the year and at times seemed to have King covered. However, King was back in front during the second half of the race and wasn't about to let his third win at his home track slip away. Point listings are hard to come by, but King is currently in the hunt for his fourth championship. For Peters, second place was his best finish of the year and a clear indication that he could be a threat to get a win before the season is over. Cardoza remains consistent as he grabbed a third place finish ahead of Brock Peters, while Jesse Lorentz had one of his best finishes yet in fifth.

Numbers were down slightly in the Late Model division. Several racers are gearing up for the Cottonwood Classic event on August 24th. With the purse and format having been released, this event looks even more attractive to racers coming in from out of the area. It appeared as if incoming point leader Trent Elliott would have an easy go of it as chief rival Darren Coffell was a no show. However, Elliott found himself shut out of the winner's circle during the preliminaries. Mark Wauge looked impressive in winning his heat race, but he suffered a motor issue in the process to end his night.

Dave Everson, however, had the real momentum as he won both his heat race and the Trophy Dash. Everson even bolted into the lead ahead of Elliott at the start of the Main Event and he figured to have something for Elliott and the rest of the competition. Elliott shadowed his every move, however, and when there was contact between the leaders, Everson's race ended in Turn 1. From that point on, Elliott certainly had things in hand as he set a blistering pace. Dave Foote had no competition for the season best second place finish that he earned, but he was unable to deny Elliott his third win.

This meant that Chris Biggs, 2016 champion Bob Dees and Miles Deubert were left to battle for the third position. Biggs held the spot until the later stages of the race when Dees went by for his season best third place effort, which moved him into the Top 5 in the standings. Biggs still took a checkered flag in fourth. The Late Models will be a part of the Hall of Fame night race on August 17th.

There's been an effort to get cars back out to the track in the Late Model Lites. Reportedly, the Narramore team will be back in action as they have the former Bob Burkett championship car. The Narramore team competed in the old Thrill Car division in the early 2000s. Furthermore, there is another report that past Modified champion Don Estramado could be seen in a car before the season is up. This would certainly make things very interesting.

As it was, there were eight competitors, and Krista Hadley was giving the fans a show at she held off reigning champion Charlie Eaton to win the Trophy Dash. Eaton was still in the hunt for a heat race victory, but it was Ross Payant forcing him to settle for second. Still, Eaton was in the midst of a good night that would gain him some ground on point leader Greg Arnold if things continued. This is when a miscommunication between the flagman and an official shook things up in the Main Event.

Payant was doing what he needed to do in the Lee Doty car as he led the way in front of Eaton. On the seventh lap, Eaton spun trying to make a bigger challenge for the lead. He didn't hesitate to get going, but moments later a yellow flag was going to come out when Dusty Aos spun. At that point, Payant was expecting to see the yellow flag and reduced his pace, allowing both Arnold and Hadley to get by for the first two positions. They took the checkered flag in that order with Payant wondering what just happened as he finished third. It was indeed a miscommunication between officials.

The win meant Arnold gained a few more points on Eaton, but because Eaton had a good preliminary effort, the damage wasn't as bad as it could have been. The one thing Eaton might have going for him in his hope to regain the lead from the three-time feature winner is the increased car count. If that continues, anything can still happen in this championship battle between the two drivers.

Bryan Weberg II managed to picked up his first ever Trophy Dash win in his yellow #18 Hardtop. OTRO generally puts the newer drivers into the Trophy Dash as they are racing for fun, not points. Because the count was a bit down, two-time winner Dean Cast and recent winner Dan Fouts were in that race, but club president Mark Minter didn't put himself in the race. It got a little bit crazy behind Weberg, who set a good pace in getting the Dash win.

Minter has had a disappointing season that saw him have mechanical problems leading one race and then brushing the wall on the back straightaway while battling for another win. He missed the most recent race, but the Minter family #33 car was in good working order for this event. To demonstrate, Mark drove it to a heat race win and then picked up the 20 lap feature victory. He is the only driver in the group to win a Main Event in each of the past four seasons as Fouts placed second in the Dusty Trotter #26 car, followed by Cast and Eric DeRamus.