Jumping the Start: Deming and Skagit weekend 
I’m back at it this weekend, as I’ll be making the long drive up with stops at Deming Speedway and Skagit Speedway.

Deming’s season continues Friday with NAPA Auto Parts of Bellingham/Mt. Baker Powder Coating, Inc. Night. Four different mini sprint classes will be in action, along with the USAC Northwest HPD midgets. Deming only has one race in the books thus far in 2015, with three races getting rained out.

Picking up wins back on April 17 were Jake Helsel (Shots 2 Go Espresso 1200's), Jared Peterson (SpeedMart/Hoosier 600's), Riley Watkins (MyTrafficMan.NET 600 restricted), Peyton Rambow (Kasey Kahne Juniors), and Mike Vollbrecht (USAC Northwest HPD midgets). The midget racers raced last Saturday at Grays Harbor Raceway, where Garrett Thomas was awarded the victory after original winner Seth Bergman was disqualified for being light at the scales.

Saturday’s program at Skagit consists of the Summer Thunder Sprint Series presented by Here 2 Wire and Finishline Graphics, the Shipwreck Beads modifieds, and the USAC Northwest HPD midgets.

J.J. Hickle won the STSS season opener at Yakima on April 4 with Jason Solwold and Evan Margeson finishing second and third, respectively. A strong field of 31 cars showed up. The modifieds were at Skagit’s season opener on April 18, and the margin of victory was just 0.009 seconds! Lawrence O’Connor won it by a whisker over Mark Carrell. That race was round two for the newly-formed Washington Modified Tour.

The last time I went on a Deming/Skagit jaunt was in 2012, so this will be a great doubleheader for me to start the month of May.

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Time to Review: Grays Harbor season opener bits and pieces 
Grays Harbor Raceway got its season opener in Saturday, but Mother Nature gave everyone a very tough fight. Lingering showers hung around before the racing started and it didn’t look encouraging at times. Luckily, they stopped when it all counted. It was a very night, as the final checkered flag didn’t fly until 12:30 a.m. Five different divisions were in attendance, and race fans didn't leave disappointed after a very full program.

The USAC Northwest HPD midgets had the first main event of the night with a 25-lapper. Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series presented by MAVTV American Real regular Seth Bergman led from start to finish, but he had polesitter Garrett Thomas right behind him. “Bad News” Nick Evans brought out the first yellow flag on lap ten, as he came to a halt on the backstretch near the pit entrance. Kenzi Thomas also stopped on the backchute six laps later for another yellow. The fourth place car of Nik Larson clipped the lapped car of Ray Stebbins and spun on the backstretch in a separate incident, but luckily kept his car right side up. Bergman still had the lead for the restart with G. Thomas still right there. New track record holder Tristin Thomas was running in third, but he got a little out of shape in turn two on the 17th lap and fell to fifth. That allowed Ariel Briggs and Mike Vollbrecht to sneak by. Seth saw the checkered flag first, but his car failed during postrace inspection by being two pounds underweight. The revised top five rundown was G. Thomas with the victory with Biggs getting second, T. Thomas third, Vollbrecht fourth, and Hannah Lindquist fifth.

Next up were the Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks. The 20-lap A-Main had a lot of side-by-side action, and racers made the low and high grooves work. Austin Kerrigan was the early leader, but third-place starter Brenton Schnitzer was hungry for his first career victory. Brenton used the high side to take second place from reigning champion Jack Parshall on the backstretch on lap three before taking the lead from Austin one lap later on the backchute as well. The yellow lights blinked on the fifth lap, as Shane Kerrigan looped it in turn one and got t-boned by Cory Sweatman. Both drivers were able to continue despite considerable damage. The drivers out front were running nose to tail for the next few laps as Tommy Hecker, former track champ Jason Tole, and Mike Knox entered the picture. A. Kerrigan regained the lead on the tenth lap down the backchute and Parshall moved up to second at the same spot one lap later, dropping Schnitzer to third. Schnitzer, Hecker, and Tole were almost three-wide coming out of turn four on lap eleven when Hecker and Tole made contact on the frontstretch while coming up on the slower car of Taylor Miller. Tole had damage to his right front suspension and stopped in turn three on lap 13. C. Sweatman brought out two more yellow flags, as he stopped in turn four on laps 14 and 18. Hecker went on the high side to take second from Parshall on the backstretch on the next-to-last lap, but ran out of time as A. Kerrigan won it for the Ford fans. Hecker settled for second and Parshall crossing the finish line in third. Kelly Fugate started 16th and worked his way up to fourth, with Schnitzer rounding out the top five.

The first attempt to start the Shipwreck Beads modifieds 25-lap A-Main was aborted, as Jason St. Paul spun into the turn one wall on the opening lap. Kenny Miller was the polesitter, but Kris Asche took command coming out of turn four to complete the first lap. Another yellow flag was needed on the next lap, as Joe German spun on the backchute after contact with Steve Signal. Four-time track champion Scott Miller passed K. Miller at the stripe on the restart and we had Shelton drivers running one and two. Scott looked down low out of turn four to steal the lead from Kris and made it stick on lap four. That happened just before Tom Sweatman spun in turn one for another yellow flag. The restart was also called off, as Cameron Sanders went for a spin in turn two. K. Miller took second from Asche on lap six down the backstretch and Canadian Graham Cook advanced to third on the following lap, as he passed Asche out of turn two. Cook wasn’t through and he passed K. Miller for second place on the backstretch on lap nine. Graham chipped away at Scott’s lead and got into Scott’s bumper at one time, but couldn’t find a way around. The final yellow flag was out with five laps remaining for Brandon Nutter’s turn four spin. K. Miller got a good restart and took the runner-up spot back from Cook going into turn one, but didn’t have anything for Scott. Scott won the fight of the Millers with Kenny finishing second and Cook rounding out the podium. T. Sweatman and German recovered from their spinouts for fourth and fifth, respectively.

The 360 sprints also had a rough start in their 25-lap A-Main. Logan Forler got loose out of turn two on the opening lap and J.J. Hickle had nowhere to go, sending both flipping. Multi-time Jay Cole was also involved. No one was injured, but Hickle’s car was mangled. Eric Fisher looked strong from the start, as he paced the field with defending Summer Thunder Sprint Series champ Colton Heath in second and Trey Starks running third. Six laps were in the books before Devin Madonia spun in turn two to bring out another yellow. The red lights came on for the restart, as Chase Goetz did a Tommy Tipover in turn two and Jason Reed was also involved. Chase was able to restart, but Jason was done. Cole brought out a yellow on the ninth lap, as he faced the wrong way in turn four. Fisher, Heath, and Starks were still the top three drivers on the restart and there were battles behind them. Henry Van Dam and Tyler Anderson split Cam Smith out of turn two before another quick yellow flag came out on the next lap for Nick Thornhill’s turn two spin. Fisher was still the leader, but Heath really closed in as they were lapping slower cars. Colton look to the inside of Eric on lap 18, but they got together in turns one and two. Eric went spinning and Colton got collected. Starks got a piece of the mishap, but managed to drive away with his life and inherited the lead! Anderson lost third place on the restart, as he spun in turn one and got his front end clipped by Smith. The final seven laps went clean and green as Starks drove to his second win of '15, followed by Van Dam, Smith, Robbie Price, and Thornhill.

Last but not least was the 12-lap feature for the outlaw tuners and it happened in the early hours of Sunday morning. Ryan Onasch led the first lap, but his right front tire went flat going into turn one on the following lap. Willie Wright took over and never looked back. Don Briggs, Sr. was second with George Lovell, Jason Valentine, and Cody Scouller third through fifth.

I’m going back to the tracks later this week, so I want to get this posted before I head out. Here we go, peeps...

Crowded in the Pits: All five divisions had incredible car counts to make the season opener a success. The modifieds had the highest number of drivers with 21. There were 19 sprint cars, along with 18 street stocks, 14 midgets, and nine tuners.

One Record Broken, Another Barely Stands: T. Thomas’s time of 15.578 seconds was a new all-time track record for the midgets. Evan Margeson had a lap of 15.608 seconds during an open midget event on July 15, 2010. Forler almost got into the record books at 12.071 seconds during time trials in the sprints. That was just 0.01 seconds off the existing record held by Steve Vague on June 6, 2009.

One Province and Three States: The driver who traveled the most miles over the weekend by far was Cobble Hill, B.C. young gun Price. He headed down to Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, California on Friday for the eighth annual Bill Brownell Memorial. Rico Abreu was the winner, while Robbie finished seventh. Robbie rushed over through Oregon and into Washington to switch over from a 410 engine to a 360 in preparation for Saturday's race. He timed in fifth, ran third in heat two, and crossed the line fourth in the main. He has a victory already in a 360 sprint in ’15 at Skagit Speedway’s season opener on April 18 and looking for more wins before it’s all said and done.

Leaving the Grove: A small group of drivers were at Cottage Grove Speedway on Friday for the first ever race of the Western Sprint Tour. Starks came out on top for night number one of the Spring Showdown, but Saturday’s races got rained out. Starks, Forler, Hickle, Smith, and Greg Hamilton decided to fill their nights by making the long trip to Elma to take on the Grays Harbor regulars. Starks was the beneficiary of all this by racking up two victories.

Rookie Driver Worth Noting: First-year sprint car driver Thornhill didn’t look like a beginner in his first ever Grays Harbor race. He led flag-to-flag to win the second heat race over fellow Enumclaw resident Van Dam. Nick spun out in turn two on lap ten in the feature, but rebounded for a top five finish in just his second career 360 start.

Moving Up Classes, Part 2: Season openers always bring mysteries on drivers going to different classes, car numbers, paint schemes, and other things. Two-time midget champion Goetz transferred up to a 360 sprinter to stay on the same path as his older brother Reece. Despite getting his wing crumpled in a rollover early in the A, Chase nursed his car for an eighth-place finish. Brian Izzi, S. Kerrigan, and St. Paul were street stock veterans and they advanced to the modifieds. This was Shane’s first modified race, as his son Austin started racing his mod last summer. Last year’s tuner runner-up Jeff Daniel came with a street stock, and he finished tenth in his debut in that class.

Canadians in the House: Price and Valleyview, Alberta’s Steve Reeves represented the drivers north of the border in the sprint car division. Port Hardy, B.C.’s Cook was the lone Canuck in the modifieds, but he won the second heat and ran as high as second in the A before coming home third.

Number for the Weekend: 111.838. That’s the average speed on Forler’s qualifying lap. Despite on-and-off showers earlier in the day, the track held up very well and was bad fast. Track videographer and PR Aaron Reed mentioned Starks was running in the high 12’s during the A-Main!

Hard Luck Award: Jared Ridge. Jared had mechanical problems and didn’t start in the second heat race for the sprints. He made the A-Main, but drove back to the pits before the first lap was complete.

“Never Say Die” Award: T. Sweatman. Tom spun in turns one and two on lap five in the modified feature, but he and German were the drivers to watch. Tom passed Joe to take the fourth spot away on the final lap in turns one and two.

Best Appearing Car: Eddie Blood. “Fast Eddie” switched his scheme up big time this season. His #97 street stock has blue, green, yellow, white, and black. One might think that’s too overboard, but it's really not. K. Miller and German’s modifieds look killer also, along with Thornhill and C. Goetz’s sprinters.

Next race: NAPA Auto Parts of Bellingham/Mt. Baker Powder Coating, Inc. Night at Deming Speedway on Friday, followed by round number two for the Summer Thunder Sprint Series presented by Here 2 Wire and FinishLine Graphics at Skagit Speedway Saturday. I’m going to see mini-sprints, midgets, 360 sprints, and modifieds. Oh, my!

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

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

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Jumping the Start: Grays Harbor Raceway 2015 season opener 
For the first time in two years, Grays Harbor Raceway has its season opener with a date at the end of April. Five different classes compete Saturday night, and fans can expect a full racing program as well as a full pit area.

The defending champions are Evan Margeson (360 sprint cars), Craig Moore (Shipwreck Beads modifieds), Chase Goetz (USAC Northwest HPD midgets), Jack Parshall (Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks), and Chad Norton (outlaw tuners). Norton has three titles at Elma to his credit, while Moore and Goetz have two each. Margeson and Parshall both collected their first. The closest points battle last year was in the tuners, as Norton got the title over Jeff Daniel by only five points.

The USAC Northwest HPD midget drivers had their first race of ‘15 at Deming Speedway last Friday night with Mike Vollbrecht getting the win over Tristin Thomas and Greg Lane.

In just five days, Grays Harbor Raceway drivers will put the hammer down on their 2015 season. It’s almost time to go racing!

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Looking ahead 
The racing season has already started for some people across America. NASCAR, the World of Outlaws, and the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series have their seasons underway just to name a few. For sprint car fans in Washington, the season begins in just under three weeks. The Summer Thunder Sprint Series presented by Here 2 Wire head east of the Cascades for the very first time to get the 2015 campaign off and running. They’ll be at the Yakima Dirt Track on April 4 for the Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge.

My season unofficially starts on April 25 with the Grays Harbor Raceway season opener. On the following week, I plan to do a “double dipper” up north with a visit to Deming Speedway on May 1 and Skagit Speedway the following day.

Everything is still being ironed out on my schedule, but I’m staying hopeful that I’ll be at more races than the last two years. 2013 and 2014 were okay, but I intend to make 2015 better. My notebook, camera, pens, and batteries are at the ready as late April comes closer...

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Happy holidays and a look at my 2015 plans 
With Christmas only four days away, I want to wish everybody and their loved ones a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. I hope to see you again next year.

As for racing in 2015, there’s a number of races that caught my eye as I was looking at the schedules for Grays Harbor Raceway and Skagit Speedway. First and foremost, the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series presented by MAVTV American Real will come to Skagit Speedway for the very first time on June 25, 26, and 27 for the 44th annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup presented by Jack in the Box. They’ll head on down to Grays Harbor Raceway the following weekend (July 3 and 4) for the Fred Brownfield Classic. The ASCS national drivers didn’t have any Northwest dates at all this year, but they’ll return next year in full swing.

The Summer Thunder Sprint Series have eleven races scheduled for 2015, with seven events at Skagit and four at GHR. Some of the rounds coincide with Dirt Cup, the Fred Brownfield Classic, and the Summer Nationals. Colton Heath is the defending series champion. The first STSS race at Skagit in '15 is set for May 2.

The World of Outlaws STP Sprint Cars have their usual jaunt across Washington during Labor Day weekend. They’ll be at Skagit on September 4 and 5, and then at GHR on the 7th. Donny Schatz won all three races last year to cruise to his sixth championship.

July 25 and 26 is the weekend I’m sort of torn about. You have the Northwest Modified Nationals and the PHRA Northwest Dwarf Car Nationals at Elma. At Skagit, the Summer Nationals and the Outlaw Tuner Nationals are going to take place. I went to Elma last year and Skagit this year, so the plans for 2015 are still up in the air. Someone help me!

Skagit’s season starts up on April 18 and Grays Harbor’s season begins the following Saturday. 2015 is upon us and before you know it, the green flag is going to fly on our racing season!

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Tribute to GP shots up 
After working my tail off for the past few days doing some long and odd hours, I've finally got my photos up from the 31st annual Tribute to Gary Patterson. I apologize on the sun glare on some pics. But, it's great to see a very healthy car count before my season comes to a close. See everybody in 2015!

http://s113.photobucket.com/user/Racer4u_2006/library/Tribute%20to%20Gary%20Patterson%20November%202014?sort=2&page=1



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Time to Review: Tribute to Gary Patterson notes 
The 31st annual Tribute to Gary Patterson was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but it got pushed to Sunday due to inclement weather. Despite the schedule change, lot of cars and fans flocked to the Stockton Dirt Track at the San Joaquin County Fairgrounds to catch a doubleheader of sorts. The Civil War Sprint Car Series presented by Flowmaster had its season finale, as well as the King of the West Sprint Car Series. That’s right...360 and 410 sprint cars in the same place.

“Mr. Excitement” Andy Forsberg and Rico Abreu started on the front row of the final Civil War 30-lapper, and Forsberg showed the way for the first two laps. A yellow flag came out on the third lap for a spinning Mike Faria on the backstretch, and Forsberg retired pitside. This handed the lead to Abreu. The green flag flew for the restart and the track remained quick after some maintenance, but very tricky. Matt Peterson lost fourth place when he bicycled in turns one and two, but kept going. D.J. Netto got up on two wheels on the same lap at the other end of the track, but he stayed dirty side down as well. Abreu never looked back and was very strong in lapped traffic, as he pulled away from Carson Macedo and points leader Shane Golobic. Shane’s night ended on lap ten, as he bicycled in turn four and turned over. He was okay and he still got the championship. Another red flag was required only two laps later, as Greg DeCaires flipped in turn three. Greg was fine, but he wasn’t too happy with Netto. The driver to look out for with only a third of the race in was Tim Kaeding, who was already in fifth after starting 20th. He passed Herman Klein and Willie Croft in one fell swoop on lap twelve on the backstretch to move up to third. Tim then went on to pass Macedo for the runner-up spot in turn three on lap 20. With only a few laps to go, Abreu got into some very rough stuff in turns three and four and TK really closed in. Rico wouldn’t be denied, as he became the first repeat winner for the Civil War this year and got a $2,000 payday. TK was second, followed by Macedo, Croft, and Dominic Scelzi.

The first try to start the King of the West A-Main was aborted, as Andy Gregg went for a nasty flip into turn one. Andy was all right. T. Kaeding jumped out to the early lead over Scott Parker and Netto. The yellow lights came on the speedway on the third lap, as points leader Kyle Hirst stopped in turn one. Hirst was done for the night, but he earned enough points to win the KWS title for the second straight year. The lights turned red on the next lap, as Parker took a tumble in turns three and four. Scott was also okay. Abreu got into the picture, as he passed Netto down low in turn two to grab second on lap six. The next yellow period was on the tenth lap for Mark Barroso, who stopped on the backstretch. Netto reclaimed second from Abreu as the 11th lap was completed, and that happened just before the fourth place car of Sean Becker hooked on a rut in turn two on the following lap and went flipping. “The Shark” was A-OK. Abreu suffered a flat right rear tire as the green flag dropped, and eventually came to a halt moments later. Third place now belonged to 14th-place starter Golobic, but he lost it to 16th-starting Jason Statler going into turn three on lap 12. Netto tried to take the lead from TK on the 18th circuit when they made contact in turns one and two. Tim spun and kept going, but was charged for causing the yellow flag and had to drop to the rear. After a red flag for a fuel stop, Netto was the new leader ahead of Statler. However, D.J. biked it in turn four and Jason went by for the lead on lap 20. With a new right rear tire, Abreu was blazing fast and was already up to fourth! On the 21st circuit, Rico used the inside groove to pass Golobic in turn one and Netto in turn three to climb to second. Golobic got back up to third, as he passed Netto down low in turn four on lap 22. Shane wanted second and he got it two laps later, as he slid in front of Rico coming out of turn two. Rico fell out of the race on the next lap, but the green lights stayed on. Just when Statler was on his way to the win, the yellow flag came out on the final lap when Bobby McMahan spun on the backstretch. Statler lost the top spot during the yellow period, as he ran out of fuel and stopped in turn one. It was a huge heartbreak for “The Big Guy”. Golobic led the field for the green-white-checkered restart (the race was now 31 laps) and didn’t give it up to collect $3,000 for his second career KWS win. Croft quietly drove from 17th to second, followed by 11th-starting Bud Kaeding, TK, and 15th-place starter Colby Copeland.

Despite starting a day late, fans were treated to some awesome cowboy up racing and two racing series ended their seasons in very exciting fashion. Here’s my final recap for 2014 before I catch up on some well-deserved rest...

Records Being Shattered: The track was really fast when time trials were completed and not one, but two new track records were set. Gregg’s lap of 13.473 seconds was a new 360 sprint record, beating the old time of 13.577 set by Bud Kaeding on March 21. Macedo had the old KWS record of 13.375 seconds on August 2, but he trampled that big time with a lap of 13.008. Carson and ten other drivers had times that were faster than the old mark.

Doing Double Duty, Part 2: Fans were expecting a good number of drivers to race in both the KWS and Civil War and eleven racers did the “double dip”. They were Hirst, TK, Abreu, Golobic, Croft, Forsberg, Macedo, Netto, Copeland, Scelzi, and Gregg.

A Cool Grand: Both racing sanctions held a Dash for Cash that had eight drivers go at it for six laps and the winner took home a nice $1,000. Forsberg held off Abreu to claim the Civil War dash, while Parker won the KWS dash in impressive style.

Rico Gets Number 24: 2014 has been a phenomenal year for Abreu regardless on what he's racing. His Civil War win is another addition to his win total, which is now at 24 to match his car number. This is very reminiscent of Kyle Larson’s 20+ win seasons in 2011 and 2012. Rico’s aggressive year isn’t done yet, as he gets ready for the Bad Boy Buggies World of Outlaws World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in North Carolina which is going on as we speak. His season is scheduled to come to an end November 27 at Perris Auto Speedway for the 74th annual Turkey Night Grand Prix.

Getting His Wings: USAC West Coast Sprint Car Series regular Ryan Bernal runs without a wing, and the Civil War race was just his fourth career winged start. He was driving a car normally piloted by Dylan Black and ran as a teammate to Heath Duinkerken. Ryan qualified 11th in the 45-car field and won the third heat race, securing a spot in the Dash for Cash. He was running sixth on a lap nine restart, but drove to the infield before the green flag and that dropped him to 20th.

Not a Way to Go Out: Both Dash for Cash winners and both series champions had nights come to disheartening ends. Forsberg led the first two laps of the Civil War main event before drifting high in turn four and fell out with driveline problems. Parker’s hopes for a potential first KWS win were eliminated as he went for a flip in turn two on lap number four. Golobic was challenging Macedo for the second spot on the tenth lap in the Civil War A-Main when he hooked a rut in turn three and ended up on his side. Hirst had mechanical problems all day long and all he had to do to clinch the KWS championship was to take the green flag in the feature. He did that, but he stopped in turn one on the third lap with more mechanical issues.

They Came to Play: The pits were packed with cars and this year’s total attendance nearly duplicated the numbers of last year’s event. Last year saw 35 KWS cars and 39 360 competitors. Even though there were just 27 KWS drivers that were signed in Sunday, 45 drivers signed in for the Civil War. The Civil War format had four packed heat races, a Dash for Cash, and three main events.

Number for the Weekend: 2. The hard chargers for both races finished in second place, as TK and Croft came from very deep in the field to get there.

Consistency Award: TK and Croft (tie). Both guys had finishes of second and fourth. TK gallantly rebounded for a top five finish after spinning out of the lead on lap 18 in the KWS main event. He started 11th in the Civil War B-Main and finished in the sixth and final transfer spot, beating Justyn Cox in a photo finish. Croft was subbing for Jonathan Allard (who is getting ready to race in New Zealand) and he gave car owners Clyde and Marion Lamar two outstanding top fives.

Hard Luck Award: Dane Lorenc. The Patriot Sprint Tour rookie was surely the one who had the longest trip from Lancaster, New York. He made contact with Anthony Simone in turn four on a lap five restart in the third Civil War heat race, and both flipped end over end. Both drivers were okay, but Dane’s trip to California didn't have a happy ending. Cody Hodgson and Branden Mansfield had mechanical problems in warm-ups and didn't race for the remainder of the Civil War and KWS program, respectively.

Next race: Until next year!

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

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


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20k already? 
Well, that was fast! This blog is up to 20,000 plus visits. All I can say is thank you again and I'm floored on how many hits this page has had. I'm truly blessed.

The next goal is 25,000 by let's say...next April before racing season starts? My recap for my trip to Stockton is almost done. I have to do some more typing and revisions, and I'll hopefully have it up tomorrow morning or early afternoon.

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