Thursday, September 12, 2019

Southern Oregon Speedway Preparers for Season Finale Saturday Night, Pit Stops

Southern Oregon Speedway Racing Discussion
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Southern Oregon Speedway Preparers 
for Season Finale Saturday Night

White City, Oregon...This Saturday night, Southern Oregon Speedway will be bringing down the curtain on an exciting racing season. It's Hays Oil Championship Night at the speedway, and there is an exciting Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car point race to be decided. Also competing will be the IMCA Modified, IMCA Sport Modified and Southern Oregon Dwarf Cars.

When Mike Wheeler took a Hawaiian vacation with his family and missed the August 24th race, he knew he had a little bit of leeway. He carried a 40 point advantage into that night, and Bailey Hibbard used a fifth place finish to cut that to 17 points. What Wheeler wasn't counting on was the motor issues that plagued him last Saturday night. He ended up last in the Main Event and lost the point lead as a result. He fell to three points behind Hibbard in what has become a hotly contested battle.

Meanwhile, 2009 champion Charlie Thompson stepped up and scored his first feature win of the season last week. It was a race that nearly went bad for him as he brushed the wall coming of Turn 4. He gathered it back up, but not before rookie David Marble made contact and flipped. Because Thompson continued his momentum, he found himself still leading for the restart. He would hold off the advances of Hibbard for the win, and he is only four point behind Hibbard with Wheeler just a point ahead of him. The championship will be determined between these three drivers, and it's anybody's guess who will win.

Mike Wheeler does lead the field with three feature victories this season, while his nephew Jake Wheeler also has a win. Jake started the season later than everybody else. He once again did a good job driving the Ron Osbourne Sprinter to a third place finish last week. He'll be out to see if he can win this week, and other drivers to watch for include reigning champion David Hibbard, Enrique Jaime, top rookie Johnny Burke and TJ Winningham.

Zach Fettinger set out to win the IMCA Modified championship this year after his struggles in the R Charles Snyder Salute the year before cost him any hopes of winning it then. Fettinger has a feature win, and it will be difficult to get him out of the point lead if he starts this Saturday night. 2017 champion Jesse Bailey has done a great job this year with a pair of victories, but because of his struggles at the R Charles Snyder Salute this year, his title hopes aren't as strong going into the finale. He may also have his hands full fighting off top rookie Justin Foux for second in the standings.

Jimmy Lipke has done an exceptional job in his rookie season in the class. Just a couple weeks ago, he scored a $1,200 victory in the annual John Arnberg race in Yreka. He is currently in the Top 5 in the standings at Southern Oregon Speedway and looking to strengthen that this week. Three-time reigning champion Albert Gill will be back giving it another run this week, and other stars to watch for include Yreka point leader Duane Orsburn, Ray Kniffen Jr and Jeremy Ohlde.

Jorddon Braaten has pretty much assured himself of a third IMCA Sport Modified championship, and he also leads the Oregon State point race. Braaten merely needs take a green flag to lock things up. He has been impressive all season long with three victories and a strong second place finish in the recent R Charles Snyder Salute. Isaac Sanders has given it a good run with a win of his own, but he slipped a little further behind in second. It's likely that Sanders will finish there, but there is a chance for others to advance.

Coming off of his solid fifth place finish at the big show, two-time champion Mike Medel has moved up to third in the standings, but it is still close between he, Matt Sanders and Branden Wilson. Things can still shuffle around, and a win in the finale could make all the difference for these three. Other stars of the division to watch this week include Brian Knorr, Steve Lysinger, Joby Shields and Willie McFall

All season long, the Southern Oregon Dwarf Cars have been a battle between Camden Robustelli and three-time champion Josh King. Each driver has picked up three wins at Southern Oregon Speedway, and it's likely that the title will be decided between these two. Also in the hunt, however, is the consistent Chad Cordoza. Though he hasn't won yet this year, he has a knack for finishing in the Top 3. For Robustelli, the frustration of losing the championship in a tangle in traffic in last season's finale is still fresh in his mind. He knows he will have to have another big performance to finally secure his first ever Dwarf Car championship.

In addition to these three stars, the Dwarf Car class has some other fast competitors who will be out to get the final win of the season. Leading the charge will be two-time champion Brock Peters, Cody Peters, Fred Hay, Ryan Smith, Jesse Lorentz and Kalvin Morton.

This is the last chance to check out some exciting racing action on the 3/10th mile clay oval this season. Gates open at 5 pm with the first race starting at 7 pm. General Admission Adults 13+ are $13. Seniors 62+, Veterans and Juniors 7 to 12 are $7. Children 6 and under are free. For further information, go to

Pit Stops

There wasn't too much drama in the three divisions that held their season finale races last week at Southern Oregon Speedway. We knew that Trent Elliott had clinched the Late Model championship. We knew that David Steele pretty much won the Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stock championship the moment he started the Main Event. We also knew that Greg Arnold just needed to not finish last in the Valley Store All Late Model Lites Main Event and he would win the championship.

Two of those drivers put the exclamation point on their seasons with feature victories. For Late Model point leader Trent Elliott, he started in the second row and had the lead on the second lap. After that, there was little doubt that unless he had problems, he would win his fifth Main Event at the season. Elliott has been fast all season long, and other than Darren Coffell, nobody's come very close to matching him. As Elliott was putting a nice bowtie on his championship season, there was still the matter of who would finish second in the points.

It's really a shame that Mark Wauge had the motor issues that he struggled with for a few races. He looked fast from the moment he made his division debut. If not for those problems, it's likely that Wauge would have ended up finishing second in the standings. As it was, he gave a glimpse of things to come by winning his heat race and finishing second in the final Main Event of the season. This is a clear indication that Wauge will be somebody to watch in next year's battle. Wauge came within one point of Miles Deubert for fiftth in the standings as Deubert fell out of the Main Event early.

Darren Coffell probably seemed like the odds on favorite to get the second position in points. He's been really fast all year, and he had two Main Event victories to show for it. However, you cannot underestimate the ability of Dave Everson. He's won several Pro Stock Main Events in his career at Southern Oregon Speedway and is also the 2013 champion in that division. He's rapidly improved in his short time in the Late Models, and he came out swinging last week with his second four lap Trophy Dash win. After finishing second in his heat race, Dave pretty much knew that as long as he didn't let Coffell get too far ahead of him, he could still hold on to second in the standings. Coffell ran third ahead of Everson, but then mechanical issues struck and Coffell was out. Everson scored his third third place finish of the season and therefore ended up finishing second in the final standings.

Willamette Speedway championship contender Tomas Hunziker made a surprise visit to the speedway. He was one of the competitors at the Cottonwood Classic just a couple of weeks earlier. With his home track not running, Tomas gave it a good effort with a fourth place finish. He is only eight points out of the lead at his home track in third and is also a feature winner there. Overtaking reigning champion Joey Tanner is certainly a possibility. Back in the fifth position was Dave Foote. The 2012 Coos Bay Speedway champion had a for sale sign on his car, but this isn't because he's looking to make an exit from the sport. Reportedly, Dave is looking to upgrade his his equipment to be more competitive next season. He will end up fourth in this season standings this year with a season high second place feature finish. As a two-time winner last season, he's hoping to get back in the winner's circle again next year.

For Bobbio's Pizza Mini Stock point leader David Steele, he was feeling just a little bit more sporty. Having won the heat race he was in and the night's regularly scheduled Trophy Dash, he refused his front row starting spot in the Main Event and started last. Though Ashtin Hedges knew that his championship hopes were over, he had his second feature win of the season in his sites. The young charger led most of the race, but it took less than 10 laps before Steele found his way into second. Getting around Hedges was another matter as he was running fast, consistent laps. It wasn't until the final lap when Steele thrilled the crowd by putting his car up on the outside and beating Hedges back to the line by inches.

Hedges was just a little bit frustrated with himself afterwards for letting this one get away and settling for his division leading sixth second place finish. However, he can be proud of what he accomplished. He's come a long way from his abbreviated first season and has set himself up as one of the drivers to beat going into next year. Second place in the standings is certainly something he can be a proud of.

Maybe it wasn't the way he wanted to end up third in the standings, but Kristopher Mix none-the-less secured that ranking just by being there. Mix had his eyes on a pair of Trophy Dash wins and got the first one when motor issues reared their ugly head in the second one. He lost the lead to Steele, but the worst news was that he would be unable to start the Main Event. However, the team was in celebratory mood in the winner's circle as this was his first Trophy Dash win of the season.

Hunter Magnan and Steve Goetz can only wonder what could have been. For both drivers, the season started with major motor issues. Goetz blew a motor in a visit to Yreka and wasn't ready for the season opener or the next race. Magnan made the opener, but motor issues cut that night short. It took him a few weeks to get going, so the 2018 point runner-up never made a threat in the point race. Like Hedges, however, Magnan did get a feature win. Both drivers had respectable showings in the season finale as Goetz was third ahead of Magnan. Minus the motor issues they had this year, they would certainly have to be considered bigger threats in the point race in 2020.

The point earning opportunity for Charlie Eaton improved as the Valley Store All Late Model Lites class was able to get a makeup Trophy Dash. Eaton did win one of the Trophy Dashes, while Ross Payant was the other winner. However, Greg Arnold did a good enough job of getting his points in the preliminaries that he knew the championship would pretty much be his as long as he didn't stumble in the Main Event. Arnold won four Main Events during the season, and his fourth place finish in the finale, not far behind Eaton, meant that he won his first championship in this division. He'll have a nice championship trophy to add to his mantle next to his 2002 Super Trucks championship.

Payant, meanwhile, was talked out of retirement by car owner Lee Doty. Doty announced his retirement prior to the season, but he's been instrumental in getting this division back to the track. He wanted to see it continued and has still been active in that cause. Payant scored a victory in Lee's car earlier this season, and there was an announcement prior to this race. Ross has purchased this car for next season. He went on to win the final race of the season after an early duel with the division's all time Main Event win leader, Terry Hadley. Hadley had second until a flat tire sent him to the pits, giving the position to his wife, Krista Hadley. For Krista, this was her third runner-up finish of the season after she won her heat race earlier in the evening. All in all, it was the best showing of the season for the division.

The drama came into play with the Kendall Oil Winged Sprint Car class. For the past three seasons, there has been no drama in this division heading into the finale. Everybody knew in 2016 that Jake Wheeler was the champion at the final race. Kyler Barraza clinched the championship the next year before the final race, and David Hibbard did the same before the finale last year. However, the sure championship that appeared to be in the sites of Mike Wheeler slipped away. He now is in for a fight this Saturday night. Wheeler skipped a race due to a planned Hawaii vacation, and things just got worse last week.

All day, Wheeler had been struggling with motor issues, but the team was hoping he could just maintain and hold on to some semblance of his point lead. Those hopes went out the window about halfway through the race when his motor lost power and he was out of the event. Because he ended up last, the door was open for Bailey Hibbard to take over, and the young charger walked right through. After winning his heat race over Charlie Thompson, Bailey chased Thompson throughout most of the Main Event before finishing second. His season best effort gained him a three point advantage over Wheeler. It's not just Wheeler and Hibbard in the hunt.

Thompson, who is the 2009 champion, used his win in the Scramble to grab the pole position for the feature race. He then proceeded to lead all the way for his first win of the season. In doing so, Charlie is just four points behind Hibbard. Now comes the real question. Will it be Wheeler, Hibbard or Thompson who wins the championship? We know Wheeler can win as he's picked up three victories. Thompson just won and that leaves Bailey Hibbard looking for his first win of the season. Though he recently got a win in Cottage Grove, Bailey is still looking for his first win of the year at his home track. He has won six feature races in his career at Southern Oregon Speedway.

Ron Osborne's decision to put Jake Wheeler behind the wheel of the #42 Sprinter has certainly made things interesting. Wheeler's been enjoying his time running his Winged 360 Sprinter at various venues and recently earned a Top 10 finish in a very competitive field down at Chico, California. Jake already has a win in this car a couple races ago, and Saturday night saw him score a respectable third place finish. Behind him, Johnny Burke was looking to use a fourth place finish to take the top rookie position in the standings as Anissa Curtice didn't show up. Reigning champion David Hibbard shuffled Burke back to a fifth place finish. However, coupled with his heat race win earlier in the evening, Burke is now the top rookie with one race remaining.

The IMCA Modified division made it through the pivotal R Charles Snyder Salute, and Zach Fettinger managed to do just enough point damage that he will probably win the championship as long as he starts the season finale. Zach managed to earn a feature start after watching his point lead get cut in half by Jesse Bailey in the previous race. Bailey seemed to be in a good position to make a bigger move, but he was unable to make it out of the B Main and pretty much lost what he gained. Now, the 2017 champion will have his hands full trying to fight off top rookie Justin Foux for the second point position.

You might say that the Sunday Main Event offered a challenging track to deal with. Drivers weren't really able to put it up on the outside, and when Troy Foulger tried to make a move around Shane DeVolder for the lead, he got shuffled back a few positions for his trouble. However, there was passing from the back of the pack as witnessed by last row starter Kellen Chadwick and Nick Trenchard. When DeVolder got just a bit antsy running behind a slower car, the two ended up crashing in Turn 4. This took the race that seemed to be in the hands of DeVolder and broke it wide open. Initially, Bobby Hogge IV took the yellow flag in first, but he had to make a pit stop. Suddenly, Chadwick found himself leading the race.

This was another one of those seasons were second-generation racer Chadwick picked his races and traveled up and down the road. He came to Oregon to win his second Wild West Speedweek Series crown this year and thought the $5,000 prize in the big show could be his. When he broke a rear end in his heat race on Saturday, it looked like Chadwick's weekend might be over. Fortunately, he was able to borrow another one and spent all Sunday morning getting it ready to go racing. Even then, he would be starting at the back of the B Main and hoping to grab one of the six transfer spots that were open. He managed to get fifth.

With a format like the R Charles Snyder Salute uses, your odds of winning the race aren't very good when you start so deep in the pack. The top runners from the preliminaries get the first four rows. You'll be lucky to get to the Top 5. However, Chadwick was not intimidated by the odds. He seemed to be assured of a podium finish, but when the mishap occurred, he was there to get the lead and the victory. A weekend that looked like it might end early ended up with him bringing home the big paycheck and trophy.

The beauty of a race of this magnitude is you get some of the best drivers out there. DeVolder, who is the reigning California State champion, also led much of the Invitational Feature on Saturday before being overtaken by Troy Foulger in traffic. Foulger, who was once again wheeling the Bowers Racing Modified that led him to the victory in this race two years ago, picked up the $1,000 Invitational win. He also raced to a $1,500 third place finish on Sunday, which meant a nice $2,500 trip to the pay window. It was interesting to see the effort turned in by Trenchard, who has been struggling with his new car this year. After winning the B Main, Trenchard managed to climb all the way to a $2,500 second place finish. Not the victory he hoped for, but still a very strong showing.

Jon DeBenedetti has certainly seen his share of victories at Southern Oregon Speedway through the years. He teamed up with Brian Bowman once again and managed to grab a $1,000 fourth place finish in the big feature race. The Top 10 had some good drivers coming from everywhere, and that included past Oregon State and Speedweek champion John Campos, Jeremy Ohlde, Californian Dylan Schriner, Cottage Grove star Paul Rae, Susanville champion Chris Nieman and Merced Speedway veteran Derek Nance, who finished in order. Nance turned in a solid performance all weekend as he also won both of his heat races on Saturday.

Overall, the numbers were down slightly, though still very strong for the weekend. There were just under 80 total IMCA Modifieds and Sport Modifieds. The IMCA Sport Modifieds delivered a solid 48 car field. Again, this featured some of the best drivers Oregon and California have to offer. Everybody knew that Merissa Henson was coming home to race again, but it's not likely that many people figured the teen leadfoot would be the one scoring the victory. We've watched her grow up around the speedway as she ran various different Kart divisions at the little track before graduating to the Mini Stocks and then the Sprint Cars, where she was Rookie of the Year and second in the points in 2017.

During the off-season, past Yreka champion Donny Bottoms was looking for a driver for his Sport Modified. Son DJ Bottoms picked up the championship in Yreka two seasons ago. Merissa agreed to drive for Donny, and preparations were made on the car. This included putting her colors and #17m on it. Henson has already picked up a pair of victories in Yreka and one at Sunset Speedway, but Medford would be the big test. When she won the very first heat race of the night, people took notice. The preliminaries went well, and got even better when she drew a front row start for the big show.

However, a front row start and keeping the lead are two different things. Henson would be tested with several restarts and second-generation racer Chase Thomas running behind her for much of the race. The bigger test would come in the form of two-time champion Jorddon Braaten. Braaten had a disappointing preliminary night that forced him to run the B Main on Sunday. In the B Main, he made a last lap pass on Jimmy Ford to win that race. From deep in the pack, Jorddon methodically worked his way to the front. Once he got to second, however, he found the challenge of passing Merissa a bit too much and was forced to settle for a $1,000 second. Henson, however, led every lap to score the big $2,000 victory. It was the biggest win of her career and certainly proved very popular with the fans.

For Braaten, however, the second place finish did serve to pretty much clinch his third championship. He needs only to take a green flag in the finale to make it official. He's also headed for the Oregon State championship. After Matt Sanders had mechanical issues in a transfer spot in the B Main, he scratched from the feature race. Brother Isaac Sanders seems to be headed for second, but third is now open between two-time champion Mike Medel, Branden Wilson and Matt Sanders. Medel got into a tangle early in the feature race, but he steadily worked his way back to a respectable fifth place finish. Wilson was behind him in sixth.

Rather than doing multiple B Mains, the format called for a C Main with transfers into the B Main. Yreka championship contender Ryder Boswell found himself in that C Main, but he earned a transfer position in third. He then finished fourth in the B Main. Boswell was having one of the biggest nights of his career as he worked his way to the front of the pack and ended up fourth in the feature race behind Susanville star Craig Nieman. Between the performance of Boswell and Henson, the Yreka fans were certainly smiling on Sunday night.

Chase Thomas, who had been doing so well for so long in the Main Event, fell back to an eventual seventh place finish, followed by two-time Medford champion Dwayne Melvin, Doug Coffman and Austin Petray. Petray actually won the C Main, and due to a miscommunication between officials, he ended up starting 23rd in the Main Event.

After such a big race like the R Charles Snyder Salute, there is a bit of let down among the fans. This is certainly a hard race to follow, and the Modified classes also get the week off due to it being the IMCA Boone, Iowa Nationals that weekend. Even if the track could host a point race, which is not allowed under IMCA rules, there would probably be several teams out due to making repairs. However, most of the teams should be ready for the season finale. It's been a good year for both Modified classes, and in particular the Sport Modifieds. Car count continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and one has to wonder what things might look like next year.

With the season only one week from being over, there's plenty of speculation about what 2020 will bring. This will be the 25th season of racing at Southern Oregon Speedway. We are already hearing of new Mini Stocks being prepared, and this could be the best season for the division in three years if these rumors hold true. There could even be a third generation of the Walker family competing in that class as well as a driver or two moving up from the now discontinued Hornets division.

There's also been some speculation as to whether or not there could be a Hobby Stock or Street Stock type of class. There have been a few people lobbying for this type of addition to the roster, and given the discontinuation of the Hornet division for 2020, anything is possible. All of the other divisions that have been offered up this year are expected for next year, and this includes all of the big special shows as well. New surprises are also being discussed for the next schedule, though work won't begin on that for a while.

One division hoping that they can get back to the speedway a little more often in the coming season is the Calculated Comfort Outlaw Pro Stock division. They had the opportunity to be a part of the big Labor Day show and delivered a 20 car field once again. it was just a bit rough going at the start, and everything came to a grinding halt when the race director stopped every car on the track to get them properly lined up for the complete restart.

It just so happened that point leader Dr Scott Lenz had made a pit stop prior to the next attempted restart, and he was able to rejoin the field. What happened next is subject to interpretation of the association's rules as Lenz didn't technically lose a lap. However, because he missed the first restart after pitting, the association reportedly has rules on the books that say he in fact did lose a lap.

Lenz, being as fast as he's been all season, made a rapid run to the front of the pack, and it's likely that he felt there might still be time once he got into second. Little did he know, there was discussion of the time limit when the last restart happened. Lenz was challenging Jeff Haudenshild, but he was not able to make his winning move. Haudenshild scored a rare feat as he evicted Lenz from the winner's circle. Lenz and one-time winner Steve Borror are the only other winners with the group this season.

The rough start to the race also saw 2015 champion Jeffrey Hudson having to restart at the back of the pack in the Scott Bennett owned car. Like Lenz, Hudson was a heat race winner earlier in the evening. Jeffrey reported that IMCA Modified car owner Don Roemer had a new car that would be ready soon, and Jeffrey in fact put that car through its initial pieces in a practice at Yreka on September 8th. On the Labor Day weekend event, Hudson was following Lenz through the pack and would cross the line in third. With the association making the move to put Lenz down a lap, Hudson ended up second, followed by Matt Harlow, two-time champion Ken Irving and Dan Randall.

Tragedy struck the association as Bryan Hammond suffered a heart attack moments after earning another Top 10 feature finish. Hammond entered the night as one of the Top 5 competitors and maintained that status with another solid performance. Sadly, he passed away. It's been a difficult time for the association as just two years ago, they lost Rocky Nash in an ugly crash in Yreka off of Turn 3. Hammond was not just somebody who enthusiastically supported the group by being at almost every race since he started in 2017, he also sponsored the group via his Hammond Construction company.