Round #1 at GHR goes to Mother Nature 
I arrived at Grays Harbor Raceway at about 1:30 yesterday afternoon, and the showers fell off and on as I arrived. Everyone in the pits got the word that it's a rainout a little after 3:00.

If you go back to last fall, Ma Nature has won five straight races at GHR. I have an early shift at work, but I plan to go back to GHR this Saturday and try it all again. The Washington Modified Tour, sportsman sprints, Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks, and outlaw tuners are all on the card.

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Jumping the Start: Grays Harbor Raceway 2017 season opener 
The dirt track season is officially underway, as Skagit Speedway started its 2017 campaign last weekend. Meanwhile, Grays Harbor Raceway's season will kick off Saturday with four divisions on the program. The 360 sprint cars, Shipwreck Beads modifieds, Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks, and the Northwest Focus Midgets will all be participating in the opener.

Last year's champions at GHR are Reece Goetz (sprints), Nick Evans (midgets), Tom Sweatman (mods), Jack Parshall (streets), and Don Briggs, Sr. (outlaw tuners). Parshall is the champion for three straight years, while Evans also collected the title up at Skagit and the overall Northwest Focus Midgets championship. Goetz and Sweatman have two championships each, as Goetz previously had a midget title and Sweatman had a street stock championship to his credit. Briggs had his first full racing season last year and he snared his first title.

There was a healthy car count in last year's season opener, as 90 cars were in action among the four classes. Goetz won the sprint feature, as he passed Henry Van Dam as they saw the white flag. Tristin Thomas was the winner in the midgets, while Graham Cook took the modified main event and Brenton Schnitzer captured the street stock feature.

Hey, Grays Harbor race fans...it's almost that time again. Your season opener is getting closer and closer!

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Yakima pictures are up! 
My pictures from the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour openers in Yakima are finally uploaded. You get pictures from all three days, including some from Thursday's practice night.

I reached a landmark of sorts, as my Photobucket page has over 6,000 pics since I started it in late 2006. My camera has been with me to countless races and so many other cool things in the last ten plus years. My pictures were taken in ten different states...and counting!

Check them out, and I hope to see some of you for the season opener at GHR on the 29th. Later!

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

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Time to Review: Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge '17 refresher 
If you got tired of all of the rain and snow during the winter, raise your hands. I thought so. The Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour started their seasons at the Yakima Dirt Track for the third straight year. It was the second consecutive season where the Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge was two nights. A test and tune session was held on Thursday before everything went full throttle for Friday and Saturday. A total of 34 racers took advantage of Thursday's practice session, while 58 took part in Friday and Saturday's racing.

Don Jenner and Austin Kerrigan were on the front row of Friday's 25-lap Washington Modified Tour main event, but third-place starter Collen Winebarger made quick work of both of them on the opening lap. Winebarger went down low on Kerrigan for second in turns one and two, then passed Jenner for the lead coming out of turn four. The first yellow came out with seven laps complete, as Zach Olson looped it in turns three and four. Travis Peery moved up to second on lap nine in turn two, as he passed Jenner and Mark Carrell followed suit in turn four. Jim Whisler had a potential top five run, but he got sideways in turns one and two and went spinning on the twelfth lap for another caution. The race had a long stretch of green flag racing and it looked like it'll go the rest of the way without interruption, but Don Jenner stopped in turn four on the final lap with a broken fuel pump belt. During the yellow, the third-place car of Carrell pulled into the infield with a broken left front spindle. No one had anything for Winebarger as he picked the win over Peery, 15th-starting Grey Ferrando, Joey Price, and defending series champion Kyler Moore.

The Summer Thunder Sprint Series 30-lap A-Main had Austen Wheatley and Colton Heath setting the pace. Heath had the initial jump, but the red lights came on as Garen Linder got into the back of Henry Van Dam and rolled over in turn three before the first lap was in the books. Take two was better, as Wheatley had the lead that time around. More carnage occurred on the third lap, as Chris Schmelzle hit a rut in turn one and went end over end into the wall. Schmelzle was okay, but his car was junk. A scary moment happened on lap five, as Reece Goetz clipped an infield tire and spun numerous 360's. Fortunately, he stopped spinning and the yellow lights came on the following lap for Lawrance Kirkham's turn two spin. This race went green for a long time as well, as Wheatley was still showing the way. Heath was holding down second, but reigning STSS champion Jason Solwold made a slick pass on lap number 21 as he split Heath and the slower car of Luke Didiuk just past the flagstand. Solwold sets his sights on Wheatley as the laps tick away, as the two sliced and diced through slower traffic until the final yellow came out with four to go. Logan Forler lost fourth place, as he clipped a uke tire in turn three and spun. Solwold passed Wheatley momentarily on the final restart in turns one and two, but Wheatley passed him back and drove away. After many races with awful luck, Wheatley finally turned things around with a win. Solwold came home second ahead of Heath, J.J. Hickle, and Evan Margeson.

The front row starters for Saturday's 26-lap modified feature were Monte Bischoff and Jenner, but Carrell passed them both and took the top spot out of turn four on the first lap. Winebarger started fifth and passed Bischoff for second out of turn four on the following lap and he was quickly on Carrell's tail. Winebarger switched over to the high line and made the pass stick on Carrell in turns three and four on lap number four and that was the winning move. Just after the completion of the fifth lap, Olson spun 360 degrees in turn four and continued on. Kevin Smith, Whisler, and Zack Simpson got together behind him to bring out a yellow flag. Peery took second from Carrell with a pass up high in turn two on lap number seven, and that happened just before the yellow lights came on again. It was for Todd Newton and Larry Buchanan, who both went spinning in turns three and four. Carrell and Peery swapped positions again, as Carrell took second back on the restart in turn two. The next yellow flag wasn't displayed until lap 16, as Buchanan and Adam Holtrop spun in turn four. Peery stole second again from Carrell out of turn two on the restart, but got high in turn four on the next lap and Carrell got back by. K. Smith brought two yellow flags at the very end. He spun in turn four with two to go and again on the final lap in turn one. Another attempt to the finish the race was thrown out the window, as Peery got too high in turns one and two and got into the wall on the last lap. There was no stopping the Superman car despite the drama towards the finish, as Winebarger saw the checkered flag first for the second straight night. Carrell finished second, but he was disqualified for being light at the scales. That gave the runner-up spot to 19th-starting Lawrence O'Connor with Jenner, 11th-place starter Scott Miller, and Nick Bessette third through fifth.

Wheatley and Heath were on the front row once again for Saturday's 30-lapper for the STSS. Heath had the lead on the first try to start like last night, but it didn't count when Cam Smith spun in turn two. Attempt number two was good, as Wheatley took control. The racing didn't last for long, as Jared Peterson lost power out of turn four on the second circuit and brought out the caution. Solwold took second from Heath out of turn two on the restart and was on the attack again on Wheatley. Solwold tried a slide job in turns and two on lap nine, but Wheatley passed him right back like the night before. The red lights came on the following lap, as Robbie Price flipped in turns one and two and Wheatley spun to avoid. Wheatley was still out front despite sparks coming out of his brakes, but Solwold's perseverance finally paid off as he passed Wheatley on lap 16 with an inside pass in turn two. Another yellow flag was needed on the 19th tour, as Kirkham spun in turn four. Solwold was in command, but Wheatley wasn't going down without a fight as they started the lapping process. Wheatley's night came to a disappointing close, as he spun in turn two with just two laps remaining and collected his teammate Chance Crum. It was all Solwold in the final two laps and he won over Heath, R. Goetz, Forler, and 12th-starting Linder.

After a long and nasty winter, it finally felt like spring and the season opener came at a perfect time. Two races down for me in '17, umpteen races left to go. Let's get after the bits and pieces from my second trip to Yakima...

Crazy Eights: Doug Rutz brought along two cars for the season opener, as Wheatley was aboard the #8R and Crum was in his first 360 sprint car race driving the #8C. Wheatley was the fastest qualifier for both nights and scored a hard-fought win on Friday. Crum, a regular with the Northwest Focus Midgets, qualified an impressive seventh out of 21 cars and went on to finish eighth in the A-Main. The nights were over for both racers on Saturday with only a couple of laps to go, as they got together in a turn two crash. Austen was credited with 14th and Chance was 16th.

A Cook and a Baker: It was a case of north meets south, as Sedro Woolley-based Blake Cook hired former Cottage Grove Speedway champion Colin Baker to drive the #22X sprint car. Haulin' Colin started Friday's main event in the 13th positon, but went backwards to 16th at the end. Baker moved forward Saturday by advancing from 15th to 12th.

Racin' Jason and Superman: In the seven Yakima races for the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour, only Solwold and Winebarger have multiple wins there. Solwold has three, while Winebarger collected two thanks to his weekend sweep. Hickle, Trey Starks, Henry Van Dam, and Wheatley all have one win apiece in the sprint portion. Scoring a single victory in the modified features were Wild, Jesse Williamson, Jason Beaulieu, Bricen James, and Carrell.

Mirror Image: While the Summer Thunder Sprint Series struggled with their car count like last year, the Washington Modified Tour brought it with their talented group of racers. There were 21 sprints for both nights, while 36 mod racers signed in on Friday and 35 showed up for Saturday. There were a lot of surprise drivers that made the A-Main for the modifieds, while a lot of heavy hitters had to watch the A from the pits.

Racing from the Rockies: There was a small group of racers that made a long tow from Montana to race at Yakima. Sprint car driver Phil Dietz hailed from Billings, while Olson and J. Price reside in Great Falls. If you head further east, that's where Peery lives. Travis calls Williston, North Dakota home after moving from Fort Jones, California. J. Price and Perry were at Yakima's season opener two years ago, while Dietz and Olson made their first Yakima starts.

Bow Down to "Sir" Lawrence: Even though he hasn't won at Yakima yet with the Washington Modified Tour, O'Connor's consistent streak remains intact. He has two top finishes and has finished in the top ten in all seven races. He wound up sixth on Friday and he was the hard charger by far on Saturday with a 19th-to-second jump. It wasn't an easy day Saturday, as he went pitside during a lap five caution period with a flat left rear tire (K. Moore came into the pits with a flat right rear, and G. Ferrando also had a flat right rear two laps later). O'Connor is one of three racers that has been to all seven Yakima races, with Carrell and Don Martin being the others.
 
Family Ties: There were a small group of families who made the haul to Yakima. The sprints had brothers in competition (Chase and Reece Goetz). The modifieds had a father-and-son team (Craig and Kyler Moore) and also a husband-and-wife combo (Grey and Kersey Ferrando).

Shake and Bake: Craig had the "Shake..." part on the back of his car, while Kyler completed the phrase with "...and Bake" on his machine. It was Craig's first modified start since the Northwest Modified Nationals at GHR in 2015. He struggled on Friday by only finishing tenth in the B-Main, but had a much better day Saturday with an 11th-place run in the A. On the flip side, Kyler had a respectable weekend with a fifth on Friday and a sixth on Saturday after starting 16th (he started alongside his dad). For the 2017 season, two Moores are better than one.

Going Up to the Mods: Grays Harbor Raceway regulars Cory Sweatman and Tyson Blood both made the jump from the street stock class to the modifieds. Cory sported a new number (#3), while Tyson stuck with #97. It was the first Yakima start for both and it was a learning experience. They didn't transfer out of the B-Main both nights, and the B's in both programs were stacked.

Number for the Weekend: 67. That's the high temperature on Saturday at Yakima. It was 59 on Thursday and 64 on Friday. While it wasn't as warm as last year, it was very spring-like. Although, Thursday and Saturday were both very windy at times and it felt like going to Elma.

Consistency Award: Heath (sprints) and O'Connor (mods). "The Outlaw" ran up front in both sprint main events and scored two podium finishes (third and second). As mentioned earlier, O'Connor was sixth on Friday and second Saturday after starting 19th via a third-place finish in the B.

Hard Luck Award: Bud Ashe. Bud had mechanical problems before time trials Friday and Saturday, and sat out the remainder of both programs.

“Never Say Die” Award: James Wolfard. James lost the fourth and final transfer spot in Friday's modified B-Main to Holtrop as they took the white flag, but he got it back as they raced to the checkers and beat Holtrop by a mere 0.107 seconds.

Best Appearing Car: Kerrigan. Austin had a radically new look on his #AK47 modified with a combination of yellow, orange, black, and white. It was a huge change from the plain white, blue, and black look he had the last two seasons. I would have to say it's a tie for second between Sweatman and Blood. In the sprint cars, my vote goes to the Goetz brothers. They had flashy new schemes from Roger Crockett's Rocket Designs, and it was weird to see Reece wearing straight-up #9 instead of #9R.

Next race: The Grays Harbor Raceway season opener on April 29 featuring 360 sprint cars, modifieds, street stocks, and the Northwest Focus Midgets. The winners in last year's season opener were Reece Goetz (360's), Graham Cook (modifieds), Brenton Schnitzer (streets), and Tristin Thomas (midgets).

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

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

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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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