Jumping the Start: Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge  
The Pacific Northwest experienced a very nasty winter, but spring is finally on the horizon. The Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour start their 2017 campaigns at the Yakima Dirt Track Friday and Saturday as part of the Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge.

Jason Solwold won the STSS championship for the second straight year and collected three wins along the way. J.J. Hickle was second with Colton Heath, Justin Youngquist, and Cam Smith three through five. Hickle, Heath, Youngquist, and Smith were separated by just 48 points when the points were totaled.

Kyler Moore took home his first title last year with the Washington Modified Tour after not racing in 2015 at all. Lawrence O'Connor wound up second for the second consecutive year. Tiana Berkeley logged on many miles from her residence in Eastern Washington, and came through for third in points. Chris Beaulieu and Brian Harding were fourth and fifth, respectively.

Solwold and Trey Starks won last year's STSS season opening A-Mains in Yakima, while Jesse Williamson and Jason Beaulieu were the winners of the modified features.

A practice session will take place on Thursday, so drivers can try different setups before they go racing.

Even though the weather won't be as warm as last year, it's forecast to be in the 60's with sunshine for all three days. Racing season is finally around the corner in Washington. It's almost time to pull those seat belts tight with the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour!

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Back in business 
I finally got a new computer last Thursday (Groundhog Day), so I'm all set for the 2017 racing season. I absolutely love it. It's sleek, clean, new, and fast! I think I bypassed many eons by going from Windows 7/Vista right to 10. I already have my pictures and documents in it, so everything's pretty much back to normal.

My first race of '17 is scheduled to be the Summer Thunder Sprint Series/Washington Modified Tour season opener at the Yakima Dirt Track on March 31 and April 1. I'm counting down the days and trying to brave through the snow. Stay warm and safe travels, everyone!

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Five days until Christmas 
2016 has just flown and I can't believe that Christmas and New Year's Day are both around the corner. Looking back on it, I've had a very productive year. I went to 16 races (one up from last year) and just two races got rained out. I went out to the Yakima Dirt Track for the first time, as well as the Rainier Cycle Bowl for two races as a regular fan.

The tentative 2017 schedules for the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series presented by MAVTV Motorsports Network and the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars are already out. The ASCS racers return to Skagit Speedway for the 46th annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup on June 22-24, then head down to Grays Harbor Raceway for the third annual Fred Brownfield Classic June 30 and July 1. The WoO come to Skagit for the Outlaw Energy Showdown on September 1 and 2 before going to GHR on September 4 for their Labor Day weekend three-fer.

Hopefully, my schedule for next year will be about the same with trips to GHR and Skagit and possibly a drive back up to Deming Speedway. I also aim to take a vacation in the fall, as I didn't do one this year because I had some crazy hours at work and I stuck close to home. I had a blast at the Summer Thunder Sprint Series/Washington Modified Tour season opener in Yakima back in April for not one, but two nights of racing. If they come back for a two-night show to start off their 2017 seasons, I'll be there.

Also, I'm in the process of doing some computer shopping. The one I have is eight years old and it still works, but it's got very little memory left. I finally decided to step up and go current. If my PC lasts at least five years, then I must be doing something right.

In the meantime, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. Also, go Cougs on Tuesday as they take on Minnesota in the Holiday Bowl down in San Diego!

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Labor Day weekend pictures are up 
My shots from the WoO/Washington Modified Tour races at Skagit are finally uploaded. Check them out below!

For a little extra, the album from September 4 at GHR with the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Shipwreck Beads modifieds is also up and running.

For Skagit, go here:
http://s113.photobucket.com/user/Racer4 ... amp;page=1

For Elma, go here:
http://s113.photobucket.com/user/Racer4 ... amp;page=1

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Time to Review: Labor Day weekend recap 2016 
It was yet another Labor Day weekend, so it was time for another trip up north to see the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars and the Washington Modified Tour for the Outlaw Energy Showdown presented by NAPA Auto Parts. I was between Monroe and Snohomish at around 10:00 a.m. when it started pouring down. I thought there’s absolutely no way there would be any racing at all. I made it to Mount Vernon at noon and things started to look up with the sun peeking through. Sure enough, everything was completed.

Monday was only day where Mother Nature didn’t want to play nice, so I went 3-for-4. At least it was better than last year, where it was 2-for-4. I usually do a thorough recap of the races. Since I saw three nights of racing, I want to get right to the point and just do the good parts.

Friday’s WoO 30-lap feature had Logan Schuchart on the pole, and he took off with the lead with Shane Stewart tracking him down. Stewart took the lead from Schuchart in turns one and two on the sixth lap, but Schuchart tried to return the favor in three and four. Logan’s car bounced right in front of Shane and Shane spun into the turn four wall. Schuchart had his first WoO victory at New Richmond, Wisconsin’s Cedar Lake Speedway on July 8 and looked to be on his way to his second win. David Gravel moved up to second after Stewart’s spin and stayed on Schuchart’s tail as they worked through traffic. On the final lap, Gravel timed his pass perfectly as he went down low on Schuchart in turn three to get the win. Schuchart settled for second with Jason Johnson in third, Brad Sweet fourth, and seven-time WoO champion Donny Schatz fifth.

Lawrence O’Connor led the first eight laps of the 25-lap modified main, but his motor expired as he was about to enter turn one. That gave the lead to Mark Carrell, but Rick Smith took it away on the 11th lap when he used the high line to make the pass just before the finish line. That happened just before the yellow flag came out for an accident on the fronstretch involving Louis Nutter, Sr. and Tyler Ketchum. Smith slowed down out of turn two on lap 14 and Carrell got into him. Carrell managed to keep his car going, as another yellow flag was needed. Chris Beaulieu looked to have the lead, but stopped in turn four with a broken universal joint. Carrell had the lead again, but he had to contend with series points leader Kyler Moore. Carrell had a close moment on the last lap when Brandon Nutter spun in turn one. Carrell got by, but Moore wasn’t so lucky and got into Brandon. That set up a green-white-checkered finish, but Carrell came through for the win. Mike Knox did a great job moving up through the field with a 14th-to-second charge and Jeff Blanton advanced from twelfth to third. Brian Harding was running second on the final lap, but suffered a flat left rear tire and dropped to fourth. Tiana Berkeley rounded out the top five after starting 15th. There were some light sprinkles at the very end of this race, so it was a close shave.

The modifieds had the first main event on Saturday for their 25-lapper, and the early leader was Moore. Carrell used the high line to get by Austin Kerrigan for second on lap number nine and passed Moore at the same place one lap later. Carrell was the class of the field once again and scored another victory. Graham Cook moved up to second on a lap 14 restart and held onto it at the end. Don Martin used a late pass on Moore to get third with Moore falling to fourth and Kerrigan getting fifth.

The WoO went 35 laps for their feature race and Joey Saldana took the lead from the pole. Sweet tried to look to the inside of Saldana as they were coming up on slower traffic, but couldn’t make the pass. Gravel entered the fray and he took second from Sweet going into turn one on lap eleven. Saldana was still leading with Gravel, Sweet, and Daryn Pittman lurking. Sweet had second place back in turns one and two with a side job with six to go, but Gravel quickly got it back. Just moments later, Saldana got into the back of Travis Rilat on the fronstretch and Gravel took the lead away in turn one. Sweet took second from Saldana, as he made the pass stick in turn four with three laps left. It looked like the race would go nonstop, but the red lights flashed on the next lap. Austen Wheatley flipped in turns three and four and collected Trey Starks, Jacob Allen, and Paul McMahan. In a different crash, Stewart launched over Saldana’s right rear tire and tumbled down the backstretch. Nobody was injured in the two wrecks. Gravel completed the sweep and won it over Sweet, Saldana, Johnson, and Schuchart.

Let’s go south to Grays Harbor Raceway for some Sunday night racing. Brian Izzi and Del Schnitzer were on the front row in the Shipwreck Beads modifieds 25-lap main event, but third-place starter Zack Simpson passed both of them out of turn two on the opening lap. Simpson was looking to win after losing the August 27 race on the final corner to Lane Zerbin. Simpson led the first seven laps until Carrell got by out of turn four to complete lap eight. The last 17 laps of this race went nonstop and Carrell went three-for-three for his Labor Day weekend. Simpson was second once again with Tom Sweatman crossing the finish line third. Beaulieu climbed from 15th to fourth after winning the B-Main with Scott Miller in fifth.

Next up was the 30-lap was the Summer Thunder Sprint Series A-Main with Cam Smith on the pole and J.J. Hickle starting alongside. Smith shot up high in turns one and two on the first lap and fell off the pace before coming back down across the track. John Stuart got the short end of the stick, as he went upside-down on the backchute. He was unhurt. Rilat moved up to the pole and he led the first lap before Hickle passed him out of turn two on the next lap. Hickle had problems himself on the seventh lap, as he spun a 360 in turns one and two. He kept going, but he caused the yellow flag and had to drop to the back of the field. Jason Solwold cashed in on Hickle’s misfortune and went on to get the W. Starks wound up second and Evan Margeson finished a strong third. 11th place starter Henry Van Dam passed Rilat for fourth on the next-to-lap in turn two. Rilat hung onto fifth, just a few car lengths ahead of Hickle.

The Outlaws and the Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks were supposed to race Monday in the Grays Harbor Grudge Match presented by NAPA Auto Parts. The rain fell before the cars got onto the track and everything was canceled.

The Labor Day weekend had a damper at the end, but the sprint car and modified drivers should be commended on some fantastic racing on the other three days. I’m not sure if I’ll back at the races in the next few weeks, but I still look back on it with a smile if I do call it a year. Let’s get right to it with my thoughts...

Nine Lives: With his weekend sweep at Skagit, Gravel is up to nine victories on the WoO circuit in his first season driving the CJB Motorsports #5 car, and he just barely hangs on to second place in points. David’s previous best was five wins in 2014 when he drove Dennis Roth's #83.

Another New Track Record: Stewart got into the history books on Friday with a new track record of 10.697 seconds. Nine other drivers were down in the 10’s in qualifying. The old record was 10.718, which was set by Pittman on August 30, 2013. It took some extra time to get the track worked in due to the rain, but it was worth the wait.

Schatz Did What?!: It’s very rare to see Schatz get involved in any crash, let alone flip. After the green flag flew in Saturday’s second heat, he and Schuchart were going at it for the lead when they touched in turn two and Donny went tumbling. :shock: He collected the KSE Hard Charger Award in the main event, as he finished seventh after started 20th. The last time Schatz flipped in a WoO race was at Castrol Raceway on August 24, 2013 when he took a scary ride when he bounced off the turn four wall in warm-ups (he jumped into a backup car and won).

Problems for Paulie: McMahan had a double trouble before time trials at Skagit with rear end troubles both nights, and he didn’t register a qualifying lap. He pulled in early in Friday’s A-Main and he was credited with 18th and did better on Saturday with an 11th-place run, but his struggles in his first year aboard the Destiny Motorsports #7 continues.

Neck and Neck for Second: Schatz still has a very comfortable points lead, as he shows the way with 9,193 points. He just won two days ago at Willamette Speedway, which brings him up to 21 victories. Three drivers are going at it for the second spot in points and it’s a close one. David Gravel has it with 8,931 points, but Sweet is just one point behind him. Sweet’s teammate Pittman is right there at 8,908, so anything can happen with over a month of racing left to go.

Scelzi on the Swing: Dominic Scelzi has raced around the nation with the Outlaws this season, as well as the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions. He turned in his career-best WoO finish of fourth in the Mini Gold Cup at Silver Dollar Speedway on April 2. Dominic had been racing with the Outlaws since August 26 at Grand Forks, North Dakota’s River Cities Speedway and has five straight finishes of 15th or better. He had a reasonable weekend at Skagit with finishes of ninth on Friday and 13th on Saturday. He also had an eighth-place run at Willamette on Wednesday to give him five top ten finishes in Outlaws competition in 2016.

Looking to Clinch: With his win on Sunday, Solwold is up to five victories this year. However, it’s his first win since July 23 at Skagit and he hasn’t won on the STSS tour since the season opener at Yakima on April 1. On the plus side, Jason has been on the consistency route with the STSS as he has eight top five finishes and ten top tens in eleven races so far. He looks to win the title for the second straight year, as the STSS and the Washington Modified Tour wrap their seasons up at Yakima on September 23 and 24. Special thanks to Mike Anderson for another new shirt!

Labor Day Vacation: Nine modified racers had a full weekend, as they competed in all three nights. They were Carrell, Beaulieu, O’Connor, Moore, Don Martin, Tim Phillips, Berkeley, Harding, and Knox.

Check Out My New Rides: After his engine grenaded while leading Friday’s A-Main, O’Connor jumped into Louis Nutter, Sr.’s car (with #27 taped on it) on Saturday and finished ninth. “Sir” Lawrence was in Jon DeBenedetti’s #21J car (a #7 was duct taped over the 1J part) for Sunday at GHR, where he came home sixth. O’Connor looked to have a top five wrapped up, but Miller passed him out of turn four as they saw the white flag.

Cosmopolis vs. Shelton: Sweatman had a 28-point lead over Miller before Sunday's race, and Tom was able to add to that advantage a little bit with a third-place finish compared to a fifth for Scott. Tom is looking for his first championship in a modified and first title at GHR since 1989 when he was in the street stock class. Scott has five mod titles to his credit (2000, 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2015), and is still in the thick of things to get number six.

Number for the Weekend: 20,000. Gravel and the CJB Motorsports team were looking forward to going to the bank, as Friday’s race was a $8,000-to-win event and Saturday paid $12,000 to win.

Consistency Award: Sweet. “The Big Cat” had a fourth on Friday and a second on Saturday. Schuchart also had two top five finishes at Skagit with a second and a fifth, as his impressive season stays alive with twelve top fives (compared to six for all of 2015).

Hard Luck Award: Tayler Malsam. Tayler had a strong start on Friday, as he qualified third in the 23-car field. Unfortunately, he took a couple of somersaults in turns three and four on the opening lap of heat three to end his weekend. He suffered a concussion and Kevin Rudeen’s #26 machine had some frame damage.

“Never Say Die” Award: Hickle. After spinning out early on while leading Sunday’s STSS main event, J.J. passed cars left and right to salvage a sixth-place result.

Next race: ????

Pictures: http://s113.photobucket.com/albums/n205/Racer4u_2006/

Blog: http://www.shauninthedirt.com/bensblog

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Jumping the Start: Labor Day weekend racing at Skagit and Grays Harbor 
Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest weekends of the year if you’re planning to do some traveling. If you happen to be a racefan, this weekend’s just for you. Skagit Speedway will have two races on Friday and Saturday, then Grays Harbor Raceway has two races Sunday and Monday.

The World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars and the Washington Modified Tour compete at Skagit in the Outlaw Energy Showdown presented by NAPA Auto Parts. Defending Outlaws champion Donny Schatz has won the last four races on the tour, and his win total for 2016 is up to 20. Schatz is aiming for his eighth championship and he leads the points standings by 271 markers. Brad Sweet, Daryn Pittman, and David Gravel are in a very close race for second place in points and they’re separated by just seven tallies. Joey Saldana rounds out the top five.

Kyler Moore is the points leader for the Washington Modified Tour by 48 markers over Chris Beaulieu. Lawrence O’Connor, Tiana Berkeley, and Brian Harding sit third through fifth in points.

The first night of last year’s event was rained out after time trials, but everything was a go for the next night. Shane Stewart led wire-to-wire to win the Outlaws main event, while O’Connor took the modified race.

The racing weekend is just getting started, as it continues Sunday at Grays Harbor Raceway with the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Shipwreck Beads modifieds.

Jason Solwold is having a very consistent season with the STSS and he’s trying to win the championship for the second straight year. He leads Colton Heath by 112 points. Justin Youngquist, J.J. Hickle, and Cam Smith are only 20 points within one another in the battle for third. The last STSS race was at Skagit on July 29 and 30 in the Bob’s Burgers & Brew Summer Nationals, where Roger Crockett swept the weekend.

Veteran racer Tom Sweatman has a street stock title to his credit at GHR, but he’s vying for his first championship in a modified. He shows the way by 28 points over five-time champion Scott Miller. Moore, Harding, and Austin Kerrigan complete the top five. Last Saturday’s mod race at GHR saw Lane Zerbin collect his first career victory, as he passed Zack Simpson on the final corner.

Monday will see the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars back in action along with the Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks in the Grays Harbor Grudge Match presented by NAPA Auto Parts.

Two-time and defending street stock champion Jack Parshall has three wins this season and he holds an 81-point advantage over former champ Jason Tole. Shane Kerrigan is third in points, but right behind him are rookie driver Tyson Blood and Brenton Schnitzer.

It looked like Paul McMahan was going to win last year’s WoO race at GHR, as he led 28 of the 30 laps. However, he got trapped behind slower traffic and Schatz made the pass on the next-to-last lap to pick up his 200th career Outlaws win. Schatz has won at GHR the last three years. A. Kerrigan was the winner in the street stock feature, as the 20-lap race was called after 15 laps due to yellow flags.

Racefans will get a chance to see the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Cars, modifieds, and street stocks in a four-day stretch at two tracks in Washington over Labor Day weekend. It’s a very eclectic combination that will bring you to the edge of your seat.

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Hey, football fans! 
Football season is almost here and it starts tomorrow. The Seahawks’ first preseason game is tomorrow afternoon, as they take on Kansas City at Arrowhead Stadium. The first regular season game for the ‘Hawks is set for September 11 at CenturyLink Field against the Miami Dolphins. The ‘Hawks were 10-6 last season and they made the playoffs the last four years. This year is the seventh under head coach Pete Carroll.

Turning to college, the Huskies’ season kicks off on September 3 when they host Rutgers. The Huskies finished the 2015-16 season with a 7-6 record and they won last year’s Heart of Texas Bowl 44-31 over Southern Miss. This will be Chris Petersen’s third year as head coach.

On the other side of the mountains to my alma mater, the Cougars also start their season on September 3 with a home game against Eastern Washington. Wazzu ended last season 9-4, and they held off the Miami Hurricanes to win the Sun Bowl 20-14. Mike Leach is at the helm for the Cougs for the fifth year.

It’s time for that popular question, are you ready for some football?! The pros go at it tomorrow, while the college teams get their seasons underway in just over three weeks!

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Modified Nationals pictures are available 
Do you want some modifieds with a side of dwarf cars? You got it! My Mod Nats pics have arrived. I'll see you in September for the Outlaws!

http://s113.photobucket.com/user/Racer4 ... amp;page=1

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