Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Third Annual R Charles Snyder Salute
At Southern Oregon Speedway This Weekend
White City, Oregon...This Saturday and Sunday night marks the biggest IMCA Modified and Sport Modified event in the state of Oregon. The Third Annual R Charles Snyder Salute will happen at Southern Oregon Speedway. The event honoring the long time voice of Southern Oregon Racing will see the IMCA Modified and IMCA Sport Modified divisions competing for their biggest purse of the year. The Southern Oregon Dwarf Cars will compete on both nights as well, and the Calculated Comfort Outlaw Pro Stocks will join the action on Sunday.
Snyder got his first opportunity to announce at the old Medford Raceway when the regular announcer didn't show up. Snyder was only there to observe how motorsports announcers do their job, and he ended up getting called into action. Little did he know that that night would spark his love of Motorsports. He went on to announce at the old Medford track and Southern Oregon Speedway for years. Snyder was also a popular local Radio DJ for 40 years. He passed away in 2015.
In 2017, speedway management held the first race in Snyder's honor and dedicated the scoring tower in his memory. His son Travis, an active member in the Medford community at large, was there for the dedication and has been a proud supporter of his father's race. Last season saw the pits fill up with over 90 IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds combined, making it the most successful race the speedway has seen in over a decade.
The prize money will get the attention of some of the top drivers on the West Coast once again. On the IMCA Modified side of things, drivers will be racing for $5,000 to win, $2,500 for second and $1,500 for third among the purse that will give them a minimum of $200 just to start the feature. The special Saturday Invitational Feature will also pay $1,000 to win. The IMCA Sport Modifieds don't often get a huge purse, but Sunday's show will pay them $2,000 to win, $1,000 for second and $700 for third among a purse that pays $150 to start. The Saturday Invitational will now pay $500 to win.
All eyes tend to be on Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas, California when he comes to the speedway. He's won several big Labor Day events through the years and won last year's R Charles Snyder Salute ahead of Manteca, California's Darrell Hughes II and Bricen James. James didn't even show up for the opening night of the event, which meant he had to come from the back of the pack after coming through the B Main to get that third place finish. Hogge can relate to playing catch up as a spin early in the race in 2017 put him at the back. He managed to get up to third as Troy Foulger got the win ahead of local star Mark Wauge.
If you perform will enough in your first heat race, you make it into the Invitational Feature. Though that race doesn't have any bearing on Sunday's show, the $1,000 to win money is attractive enough to get the attention of the competitors. Last season, Hogge was denied the victory as local star CJ Putnam won a race long duel aboard the Don Roemer owned car. Hogge did win the Invitational Race the year before.
Hogge and Hughes are both anticipated for the show. Hogge has won a plethora of championships, but two of his career highlights include NASCAR Regional championships. Hughes was the Merced Speedway champion last season. Another champion planning to make the show is this year's IMCA Wild West Speedweek title winner, Kellen Chadwick. These three drivers certainly present a formidable challenge when it comes to racing for the big prize, but the local stars are anticipated as well.
This is an IMCA sanctioned event, and Sunday's feature race will be paying points as well as money. Zack Fettinger has led the standings for much of the season, but his lead was cut to 12 points at the last race by 2017 champion Jesse Bailey. It was the second win of the year for Bailey, and both drivers need to perform well to set themselves up for a shot at the track title on Championship Night on September 14th.
Rookie Jimmy Lipke picked up $1,200 for his won in the John Arnberg Memorial race in Yreka last week. He outran Fettinger for the victory, and he'll be hoping for good things this weekend. Other area stars to watch for include Justin Foux, Duane Orsburn, Ray Kniffen Jr, Jeremy Richey, Andy Freeman and Nick Trenchard. Trenchard isn't in the point chase this year, but he has won some of the biggest races in the area in recent years.
The IMCA Sport Modifieds are really the fastest growing division in Oregon and on the West Coast. As the IMCA Modified division has been around on the West Coast for 25 years now, there's an abundance of older cars that have had new life breathed into them as drivers have made Sport Modifieds out of them. Over the last few seasons, the driver who has emerged as Oregon's biggest star is Jorddon Braaten. Braaten is the reigning Oregon State champion and current leader in that race as well as at Southern Oregon Speedway. The R Charles Snyder Salute is one of those events that the team circles on their calendar each year.
Jorddon turned in a rather dominant performance in winning the inaugural race in 2017. He was chased across the line by Yuba City, California competitor Alan Furuta and 2017 Oregon State champion Jayson Nelson. Jorddon came into last season as the driver to beat, but he was surprised by Brentwood, California competitor Guy Ahlwardt, who drove a flawless race in scoring the victory as Braaten settled for second ahead of Daniel Ray. Last season's 50 plus car count for the Sport Modifieds was the biggest gathering for this division in the history of the class in Oregon.
Braaten and his two closest rivals in track points, Isaac Sanders and Matt Sanders, are anticipated for the show. Cottage Grove Speedway point leader David Schmidt has thrown his hat into the ring for this race along with his closest point rival, Doug Coffman. Travis Pruitt is another top driver from the Cottage Grove area planning on coming down to compete against Medford area stars. Drivers coming in from California include such competitors as Yreka championship contenders Ethan Killingsworth, Ryder Boswell and Colt Boswell, reigning Yreka champion Trevor Tiffee, Turlock, California racers Chase Thomas and brother Tanner Thomas, Marysville, California racer Mike Merritt, Yuba City, California drivers Jimmy Ford and Jason Ferguson and Antioch, California champion Mark Garner.
Southern Oregon Speedway will be well represented by several top notch local competitors, including two-time champion Mike Medel and Branden Wilson, who currently ranks in the Top 5 in the standings. Two-time champion Dwayne Melvin is also anticipated along with hard charger Rich McCoy, Joby Shields, Steve Lysinger, Jantzen Knips and the return of Merissa Henson. Henson has picked up a pair of victories in Yreka this year driving for Donny Bottoms.
For the IMCA Modifieds and IMCA Sport Modifieds alone, the weekend will be worth the price of admission, but they are not coming alone. The Southern Oregon Dwarf Cars will be bringing plenty of speed and excitement with them. This season has seen an entertaining battle at the front of the pack between three-time reigning champion Josh King, two-time champion Brock Peters and perennial title contender Camden Robustelli. This battle will continue for two nights of racing as they are joined by such hard chargers as Chad Cardoza, Ryan Smith, Jesse Lorentz, Mason Lewman and ageless veteran Fred Hay
On Sunday, the Calculated Comfort Outlaw Pro Stocks make their third and final appearance of the season. Dr. Scott Lenz won a thrilling battle with 2016 champion Steve Borror the last time they were in town in July. Lenz is the two-time reigning champion and current point leader over another fast competitor, Scott Flowers. Third ranked James Flowers, longtime Pro Stock competitor John David Duffie, two-time champion Ken Irving, Matt Harlow and Bryan Hammond are some of the other stars anticipated when the Pro Stocks compete on Sunday night.
The R Charles Snyder Salute is one event that you don't want to miss. In addition to remembering a man who meant so much to not just the racing community but the community in general, there will be some exciting and competitive racing on both nights.
Gates will open on both nights at 5pm with the first race starting at 7pm. Saturday General Admission Adults 13+ are $15 with Seniors 62+, Veterans and Juniors 7-12 are $10. Children 6 and under are free. On Sunday, General Admission Adults 13+ are $20 with Seniors 62+, Veterans and Juniors 7-12 $15. Children 6 and under are free. For further information, go to www.southernoregonspeedway.com.
You can see the difference. Things are improving. Much work has been put in to making a better program, and much work still needs to be done. Though we can be optimistic, we continue to be committed to making things even better than they are now. One of the positives of Southern Oregon Speedway right now are the special races on the schedule. In August, two of the newest additions produced plenty of great action and excitement for the fans.
We witnessed one of the most exciting Wingless 360 Sprint Car races the state of Oregon has seen as Geoff Ensign won a battle with Jake Wheeler for the $3,500 prize. Fans were actually talking about looking forward to the next installment of the Herz Precision Parts Cascade Wingless Sprint Car Challenge next year. We had a very moving Hall of Fame night in which six legends of Southern Oregon Racing where inducted into the Hall of Fame, and the night was capped by one of the most exciting IMCA Modified Main Events of the season, won by Jesse Bailey with a late pass on Andy Freeman.
Late Model racing is something Medford area racing fans have been starving for in recent years, and McCann has been developing a class with some very talented racers. He upped the ante with the addition of the $4,000 to win Cottonwood Classic last week. The speedway has hosted big Late Model shows in the past, but it's been about seven years or so since the last one. It was a good race, and Trent Elliott went home $4,000 richer. The 24 competitors who came to race put on a good show, and this is just the beginning.
While speedway management continues to look for other potential big events and schedule adjustments to make things even better, two shows that have been on the schedule in recent years continue to deliver. The IMCA Wild West Speedweek show in June and the Roger Haudenshild Tribute race earlier that month. The latter race sort of floated around on the schedule, and McCann made it a point to help build this race up to a level befitting of a man of Roger's status within the racing community. It was Bobby Hogge IV leaving town with the money once again in both the Modified and Late Model portions of the show. Bobby will have his eyes on another prize this weekend.
Labor Day has traditionally had a big weekend event at Southern Oregon Speedway since the gates opened in 1996. Race track founder John Skinner created the signature event, named after his father Lon Skinner. An effort was made to revitalize that particular weekend and restore some of the excitement. It was also an opportunity for the speedway to honor a man who announced many races here and at the old Medford Posse Grounds, long time radio DJ R Charles Snyder. The R Charles Snyder Salute began in 2017, and last season saw over 90 IMCA Modified and Sport Modified competitors come to race for the big prize money being offered.
It's more than that as over 100 competitors were in the pits for this event on both dates, topping out at over 130 cars on the Sunday portion of the event. A full pit area like this hasn't been seen in over a decade, giving a clear indication that things are on the up turn at Southern Oregon Speedway. One of the things McCann has strived to do is give the fans more cars and more racing, and this has necessitated the need to have maybe one or two more divisions than might usually be needed.
However, car counts have grown to a point where the promoter is looking at the possibility of reducing the total divisions needed on any given race night. Because there are as many cars as there are, it puts Trophy Dash presentations off of the schedule to keep the show moving, and an adjustment of one or two less divisions could make a return of the presentations possible. All things are being considered. The continued goal is to make this track a place at which drivers want to compete and a place where fans want to come to spectate.
In the meantime, the speedway is excited to present the R Charles Snyder Salute on Saturday and Sunday. Some of the best IMCA Modified and IMCA Sport Modified racers will be here to race for big prizes. It's $5,000 to win once again for the Modifieds, and that is still the top prize on the West Coast for this class. Even the IMCA Sport Modifieds will pay $2,000 to win, which is also the highest on the West Coast. With some Dwarf Car racing thrown in for both nights and a return of the popular Calculated Comfort Outlaw Pro Stocks on Sunday, this is the event fans circle on their calendar.
We are in the stretch run as championships are being decided. Last weekend, the Late Models didn't compete for points, but the money alone was a season maker for winner Trent Elliott. He has four wins at the speedway and left the track on Saturday $4000 richer. Elliott has clinched the championship, leaving a close battle between local star Dave Everson and Darren Coffell for second when they return for their finale on September 7th. Both drivers were not competing last weekend, but Coffell watched as Bobby Hogge IV drove his #46 car to a $1000 third.
The money will bring the talent. In addition to the highly decorated champion that is Hogge, current Antioch Speedway Late Model point leader and two-time champion Richard Papenhausen made it and had a Top 10 feature finish. 2013 Cottage Grove champion Paul Culp was there as well, though he fell out before the Main Event was over.
Willamette Speedway has about the hardiest bunch of drivers you'll find in Oregon. These guys aren't afraid to take on the best that any track has to offer. As witnessed, current point leader Joey Tanner second ranked Doug Elkins and third ranked Thomas Hunziker all made it to Medford. Only eight points separate reigning Willamette champion Tanner from Hunziker in a hotly contested battle that will continue at their home track this weekend. Hunziker and Elkins finished sixth and seventh respectively behind Justin Duty.
The thing about Tanner is he seems to win just about everywhere he goes, though the Medford win hasn't been something he's pursued so much. He's won at Cottage Grove, Coos Bay and most recently Madras to go along with his seven triumphs at his home track this season. However, the $1,000 third place prize slipped away on the last lap as Hogge went by. Rob Mayea has racked up an impressive list of championship credentials, which includes the 2014-16 titles at Willamette. He gave it a valiant effort in the Cottonwood Classic before settling for a still nice $2,000 second place finish.
Local stars Mark Wauge and Miles Deubert can be proud that they made the show. Wauge also took a checkered flag in the Top 10 in the Main Event as he seems to have his motor problems solved. Late Models are a new thing to the seven-time IMCA Modified champion, and as he gets more comfortable, you better believe he will be a threat to win. Deubert, a two-time winner last year, is still continuing to get used to his car this year and trying different things to get faster. Making the big show was indeed progress for him.
Unfortunately, Eric Massey missed the feature, but it wasn't through lack of effort. Massey attempted a last lap pass on Kellen Chadwick in the B Main, but he came up just short. Chadwick was piloting the Chris Biggs owned car and did make it into the show, though he fell out of the race before the finish. While they didn't do as well as they might have liked, it was still good to see local racers Cliff Massey, Greg Arnold and Kelly Justason back in action. Massey and Justason are two names that go back to the old Medford Raceway, and it's been a while since they've been behind the wheel. Arnold was pulling double duty.
As Greg Arnold had his Late Model motor in his Late Model Lites ride, it was Lee Doty coming to the rescue for his Late Model Lites championship effort. Doty and Ross Payant have been teaming up this year, but Payant stepped aside so that Arnold could earn points in his battle with reigning champion Charlie Eaton for the title. The #7 car is a good ride, and Arnold did Doty proud by winning both the heat race and Main Event with Krista Hadley trailing him.
Hadley has been doing an admirable job behind the wheel of her #16 car, while husband Terry, the division's all time win leader, has struggled a bit this year. Eaton took a third place finish. Though Charlie may have a shot at the title, it looks like it will be Arnold's to lose. Greg will be focused on making sure he takes the green flag in the Main Event on September 7th and doing what he needs to do to get the job done.
In the Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stock division, David Steele continues to take steps towards the championship. Young Ashtin Hedges has done everything he can do. With the experience factor that Steele carries into the show, it's hard to beat him when he's hitting on all cylinders. Steele was a heat race and Main Event winner, but he knew Hedges was there. Hedges, who also won his heat race, led the early Main Event laps before being passed by Steele. Though Hedges kept the point loss to a minimum, Steele is in a similar situation to Arnold. If he doesn't stumble, he could leave on September 7th with his second-straight championship. Steele has won six Main Events this season, while Hedges will be doing everything he can to collect his second win next time.
There's a lot going on in the life of 2017 champion Kristopher Mix, a proud father of two boys. Work keeps him so busy that usually somebody else will bring his car the track, and he shows up in time to hot lap later. Mix was looking to make another championship run, but some bad luck early on left him in third. With Hunter Magnan not far behind him, Mix needed to step up. He did just that last week with a second in his heat race and season best third in the Main Event. He faces another situation where if he doesn't stumble in the finale, the third place trophy should be his. Furthermore, Mix will be doing some IMCA Sport Modified racing next year as his father Keith reports that they have a car in the works.
The Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car division continues to be led by Mike Wheeler, and Wheeler wasn't even at the track last week. He and his family had a planned vacation for Hawaii, and as he was leading by 40 points, there was no concern about losing his lead despite being absent. There was also no concern about the Wheeler family being absent from the Winners Circle as 2016 champion Jake Wheeler did a fabulous job of leading all the way in a non-stop race for the victory. With Vern Wheeler Jr being very active in helping both his son Jake and his brother Mike, it's no wonder why the Wheelers seem to be fast on race day.
The door was open for somebody to make a big gain on Wheeler, and it's a shame that past champion TJ Winningham missed a race this year. He looked quite impressive in making a move past reigning champion David Hibbard in getting a season best second place finish, but Wheeler was too far ahead for the old veteran to make any kind of move on him. A note of praise should go to past Outlaw Kart champion Johnny Burke on a strong performance that netted him a fourth place finish. He gained more ground on rookie leader Anissa Curtice, but one has to wonder if he has enough time to catch her after his late start.
You have to shuffle back to fifth place to find the driver making the gain on Wheeler in the championship chase. That was Bailey Hibbard. Hibbard didn't have the kind of night he may have hoped for, but he nonetheless cut the Wheeler lead in half. Charlie Thompson and Enrique Jaime are still very much in the hunt as well. Mike Wheeler certainly looked good the last time we saw him, but if he stumbles in the least in these last two races, the title he thought was his could still slip away away. It may be the most intriguing battle we watch as the season comes to a close.
The OTRO Hardtops race for the fun of it, and there might have been a big smile on the face of Mark Minter in the Minter family #33 car. Mark won a heat race battle with Brian Weberg II and led all the way for the feature victory. After some really bad luck in the first part of the season, Minter closed with back-to-back victories. It's no surprise to see him winning as he has won a Main Event with the group in each of the four seasons they have been here, but the surprise happened in second.
That would be Matt Butler, who has just made his laps at the back of the pack, tried to stay out of trouble and get to the checkered flag. On this occasion, he made all 20 laps and earned his best finish yet with the group in second. The Hardtops produced better fields this year as more people have joined the OTRO which bodes well for the future. This was their last appearance of the season. It's because of the Trotter family, who had Dan Fouts and Jimmy Del Castille driving their vehicles last week, Eric DeRamus, Weberg and others that this group that was founded back in the 1980s still continues.
The Hornet battle is over. By now, everybody has heard that the division has been dropped from the remainder of the schedule, which only included the September 7th finale. Things got just a little bit too heated in the pits, and management felt they needed to make the decision they made, which also included dropping them from the 2020 schedule, as of now, and also not including them in any plans for the awards banquet. This is not the sort of news people like to hear, and it is certainly not the sort of news that we like to report. However, management made the decision based on what went down and other factors.
Rather than dwell on negativity, we look at Dylan Sauer and an impressive year that saw him score six of the eight feature victories that were up for grabs. At times, he was unstoppable, and after he took the point lead from 2016 champion Tim Hedges early in the season, he managed to hold on all the way to the end. Had the September finale not been removed from the schedule, Sauer was already in a position to claim the championship, leaving the Hedges family and rookie Quinton Tritchler to mix it up for second.
Because of the rough and tumble action in the heat race, Tim Hedges and his crew were very busy. Not only did did he have to repair damage to his #14t car, his wife Jenna lost the right front wheel on her #27g car at the end of the heat race. Tim spent more time working on Jenna's car to get it running, and only too late discovered that his own car would not start. This meant that as a Main Event scratch, he was in a position to lose second in the standings, and with her season best second place finish, Jenna made the move. For the second time in her three seasons, she will finish second, dropping Tim to another third place season. Fourth ranked Quinton Tritchler will be the top rookie in the field.
The Hornet division has served to bring more new drivers into the fold, and management had made a bigger commitment to build this class up, further enhanced by the sponsorship of JOAT Labs. Last season, the division graduated top Mini Stock rookie Dylan Irving and teammate Brandyn Wonsyld up in classes, and 2018 champion Bree Tritchler has a Dwarf Car for a move up. There is word that Dylan Sauer may be moving up to the Dwarf Car class next year as well. There's also the impressive performance of Ashtin Hedges in the Mini Stocks. He won two Hornet Main Events last year before moving up in classes later in the season.
What the future will hold for this particular division will be something to speculate on at another time. These past four years have certainly provided plenty of entertainment and excitement, and that is something this writer will choose to remember.
Little Southern Oregon Speedway Pit Stop
Little Southern Oregon Speedway dropped the curtain on their season with championship night. It's known that the count is down at several tracks as cost and other factors have contributed to the decline in Kart count. Promoter Mike McCann made the call to bring in the Flat Track Bikes and Trikes this year, which has helped keep things going. It's also made for some very interesting racing on any given Friday night.
The 250 Kart championship had already been wrapped up in favor of 2017 champion Trevor Grimes. Grimes has won four Main Events this year, though the win in season finale was going to avoid him. Vinny DeBenedetti has looked fast this year, but if there was a hard luck driver in the field, it would be the 2018 champion. Vinny again had problems after leading several laps, but it wasn't Grimes who swept in to take advantage of the situation.
Cadyn Smith is a two-time Beginner's Box Stock champion at the little track, and he's been having a pretty good year this year. He came into the night with four-straight podium finishes and was going to receive the Most Improved Driver honors. However, the son of Dwarf Car star Ryan Smith was hoping to make a move on second in the standings and possibly pick up his first winners trophy. When DeBenedetti had his problems, Smith stepped forward to get the lead. As expected, Grimes was there to make a challenge and it got close. When Grimes ran out of real estate and spun into the infield with a few laps to go, it looked like smooth sailing for Smith. In fact, not even a last turn attempt by Grimes to get around would keep the young charger from picking up his first win in this class. Grimes would settle for second with Emma Rodgers taking a checkered flag in third.
The Beginners Box Stock championship honors were pretty much decided when the green flag waved on Jayme DeBenedetti. However, She was hoping that she could get her fourth win of the season. The division saw visits from Cottage Grove regular Bentleigh Chapman and Urijah Humphrey, the latter of which led some early laps before stalling. DeBenedetti may have thought this win could be hers, but her closest point rival, Isaac Grimes, turned in his best effort of the year. Grimes was a heat race winner earlier in the night, and he made a charge in the final half-dozen laps to take the lead and secure his first ever win. Second was still a nice way to wrap up a championship season for DeBenedetti as Chapman, Humphrey and Most Improved Driver Caleb Ranney made up the Top 5 at the finish. Rookie of the Year Talia Colley was sixth.
Keaton Augustine has been making trips more than two hours away to be a part of the show at the little track, but to the team's disappointment, there really haven't been many competitors supporting this program this year. Augustine was the reigning champion and was on hand to take some victory laps for repeating as the champion. This young third-generation competitor has done well in this class, and his father, 2017 Late Model champion Nathan Augustine, says that Keaton will be moving up to the Junior Street Stock division at Madras Speedway.
The Flat Track Bikes have been supported well by the Taylor family this season as they've made most of the races. Trevor Taylor has proven to be a formidable competitor this year and was on hand to wrap up championships in the 250cc, 450cc and Open Bike classes. Trevor rode to the Open Bike feature win ahead of Jessie Miller with Rick Roach in close pursuit. It was Roach giving Taylor his best challenge in the 450cc Bike class before settling for second. Theo Lount, who was absent this week, wrapped up second place seasons in all three bike classifications. It was Trevor's younger brothers Brody and Jax who ended up finishing first and second in the Little Bike feature to wrap up their first and second place seasons.
Mike Burson Sr and daughter MiKayla Burson have been good supporters of the Big Trike and Little Trike classes this year and as a result wrapped up championships as Mike was the Big Trike champion and MiKayla was the Little Trike champion. Mike and MiKayla had a spirited duel going in the Little Trike Main Event until MiKayla, who was leading going into the last turn, got too high on exit and hit the wall head on. Fortunately, she was okay and in good spirits as she collected her championship trophy. Mike would finish second in the Little Trike point race ahead of Ben Herbert.
Herbert is one of the fastest Big Trike competitors we've seen at the speedway, and he ran impressively in scoring another feature win in that class ahead of the man who won the first Trike feature of the year, Ryan Comstock. Mike Burson finished third to wrap up his championship season. At times, the Trike classes have been very well supported this year as there were over a dozen competitors on one night in particular. The Trike and Bike classes have certainly been entertaining to watch.