Time to Review: Notes for 5/7 
It was another beautiful day for round number two at Grays Harbor Raceway last Saturday. The Washington Modified Tour was there for its third race of the year after a two-night show at Yakima in early April. The Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks were back for their second race, while the sportsman sprint cars and the outlaw tuners had their first race of '16 at GHR.

Season opener winner Brenton Schnitzer was the pole sitter for the street stock A-Main, but his rival Jack Parshall stole the lead from the outside pole at the start and he led all 20 laps. B. Schnitzer was in second, while "Big" Will Madison and Shane Kerrigan were side-by-side for third and fourth. Behind them was Scott Fritts, but he went for a spin in turn four and brushed the wall on the second lap. Fritts’ problems weren’t over when he spun in turn one on lap five, collecting Tiffany MacDonald and Rodger Perry. Dave Forte also got a piece of the crash and it prompted a red flag. Everyone was okay, and Perry was done for the night. Parshall and B. Schnitzer were running one and two all race long, as they were driving through slower traffic. Brenton was on Jack’s bumper, but he made a mistake with three laps left as he got couldn’t get around Forte in turns one and two. That gave Parshall the breathing room he needed to get his first win of the year. B. Schnitzer crossed the line in second, while Kerrigan was third for the second straight week. Tyson Blood ended up fourth and Madison was fifth.

Next up was the 25-lap main event for the sportsman sprints. Derek Roberts and Kevin Kirkpatrick were wheel to wheel down the backstretch on the opening lap before Roberts slipped up in turn four. That was all it took for Kirkpatrick to get by, and he led from beginning to end. Brett McGhie went for a spin in turn four on the 13th circuit and Bert Johnson, Jr. just missed McGhie before going for a spin also. It was anyone’s guess on how it wasn’t a huge crash. Another quick yellow occurred with seven laps to go when Roger Oudman looped it in turn four while trying to take third from Devin Barnes. Roberts kept it close on the last restart, but Kirkpatrick didn’t have any of it and won. Roberts was second with Oudman in third and Barnes in fourth.

The third main event was the 25-lapper for the modifieds. Don Jenner led the first lap, but lost it to Tom Sweatman out of turn two on the following lap. The man on the move was Jason Beaulieu, who started 12th. He was up to fourth on lap eight, as he got by Brian Izzi at the line. A yellow flag didn’t fly until the tenth go-around when Mike Knox spun in turn two. Lawrence O’Connor went to the outside of Jenner on the 11th lap out of turn two and made it stick. The field got stacked up in turn four, and Kyler Moore ended up facing backwards. The race was over for O’Connor, as he stopped in turn four during the yellow with a damaged left front wheel and fellow Vancouver Island racer Beaulieu was in the runner-up spot. The next yellow flag waved on lap 14 for a four-car crash in turn two involving Sam Carlisle, James Wolfard, Del Schnitzer, and Aaron Weston. Carlisle and Weston returned, while Wolfard and D. Schnitzer were finished. The position changes continued, as Izzi passed Jenner for third in turn two on lap 16. Beaulieu got by Sweatman for the lead in turns one and two on the following lap and he didn’t look back. Scott Miller started 16th after winning the B-Main, but he climbed to fourth with six to go by passing Jenner in turns one and two. Another yellow flag was needed on the next lap for Kerrigan’s turn two spin. Jenner took the fourth spot back from Miller in turn three on the 21st lap, and their spirited battle ended tragically as they completed the next lap. They made contact at the flagstand and Scott went for a horrific flip. The five-time and defending champion climbed out unhurt, but his car was badly torn to shreds. Beaulieu held everyone off in the end and won it with Sweatman finishing second. Izzi drove an masterful race for third with Jenner fourth and Lane Zerbin fifth.

Former track champion Chad Norton was on the pole for the outlaw tuner 15-lap feature and looked to be well on his way to the win. Jason Parmelee passed George Lovell for second place out of turn four on lap three, and then Don Briggs, Sr. got by Lovell at the same spot one lap later to move up to third. Parmalee was a few car lengths behind Norton, but he fell off the pace on the backstretch on the seventh lap and drove to the infield. Moments later, Timmi Foster got together with Willie Wright in turns one and two for a yellow flag to slow things down. Wright had more problems on the restart, as he spun Tyler Sundstrom around in turn two. Wright’s struggles continued on lap ten as he got sideways in turns one and two, and he spun Sundstrom out yet again. Lovell left the track during the yellow with a flat tire and that gave third to Don Briggs, Jr. Norton still showed the way on the final restart, but Briggs, Sr. made that lead disappear. Don passed Chad in turns one and two for the top spot on the final lap, but Chad tried to get it back in three and four. The two drivers drag raced for the checkered flag and Don got it in a photo finish. Norton settled for second with Briggs, Jr., Foster, and Sundstrom next in line.

Grays Harbor Raceway has round two in the books for the year, while I’m up to four races in '16. I'm smoking Mother Nature, 4-0! My bits and pieces start right now...

Keeping It Over 20: The turnouts for the street stocks and modifieds remained strong, as both divisions had over 20 cars for the second week in a row. There were 21 street stocks to match the number to what they had in the season opener. The modified class jumped up to 25 entries, which was enough for a B-Main.

Different Rides: Tommy Hecker pounded the backstretch wall on the opening lap in the first street stock heat, and switched from his white #5 car to the red #5 machine for the main event. The change turned out to be a good call, as he charged from 16th to seventh. Jason Tole had mechanical problems in hot laps and was scheduled to start on the pole for heat three, but didn’t make it. He jumped into Alan Clingen’s #91 car for the A-Main, but retired before halfway.

Girls from Far Away: MacDonald made her GHR debut, making the trip down from Victoria, B.C. She’s a regular at Merritt Speedway, where she finished second in points in the street class last year. Tiffany was involved in the lap four melee, but continued with minor damage and posted a 12th-place finish. Tiana Berkeley also made her first trip to GHR, and it’s a long haul from her hometown of Colville. She was last year’s modified champion at Eagle Track Raceway, and stepped up her racing program big time. She plans on racing the entire Washington Modified Tour, and the next race is at Skagit Speedway next Saturday (May 21). Tiana was sixth in the B-Main, which was one spot shy of going to the big dance.

One Repeat Winner: The sportsman sprint drivers raced nine times at GHR since the fall of 2012, and only one person has won more than once. That would be Kenny Rutz, who swept the Harbor Classic Weekend in 2013. The 2012 season finale went to Jesse Thistle and Cory Swatzina took the season-ending race in '13. Otto Jorgenson and Jared Peterson won in '14, while last year’s events went to Jake Helsel and Sean Johnson. The next race at GHR for the sportsman drivers will be held on July 16.

Two for Three: Beaulieu didn’t race the Washington Modified Tour opener at Yakima on April 1, but he showed up on the 2nd and scored a narrow victory over last year’s champion Mark Carrell. Jason led the first seven laps of GHR’s season opener before getting a flat tire, and then spun out in turn four on lap 18 to finish a disappointing 17th. He turned his luck around on Saturday with a pass on Sweatman for the lead with eight to go on his way to his second win of the year.

Keeping a Promise: Briggs, Sr. told Phil Martelli before the races that he was going to win and Don made good on his word. He led just one lap, but it was the one that counted the most and held off Norton by a fender. Don won for the first time in his career on July 18 of last year, and wasted little time to get win number two.

Tuner Truck: Staying with the Briggs family, Briggs, Jr. mixed it up in the tuners by bringing a light-duty Toyota pickup to take on the cars. Don didn’t get a lap in his heat race, as he got spun out by Parmelee coming out of turn two. Don started eighth and Tail End Charlie for the main event, but came home third to join his dad on the podium.

Number for the Weekend: 0.536. Although there were just six sportsman sprints, their time trials are very close. That’s the difference between top qualifier Oudman and number six qualifier B. Johnson. They were in the high 13-second bracket in the heat and low 14’s in the main event, so the speed was still there.

Hard Luck Award: Tyler Walker. Tyler spun out twice in turn four during the first modified heat race before spinning two more times in turn two in the B-Main. Street stock racer Dave Larson and tuner driver Brittany Diggle both lost motors in hot laps to bring their nights to an end.

“Never Say Die” Award: Moore. After going for a spin in turn four on the 11th lap in the mod feature, Kyler almost had a top five as the checkered flag fell. He finished sixth, right behind Zerbin.

Next race: I’ll be taking a break before returning to GHR on June 4 for the Summer Thunder Sprint Series, Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks, and Pacific Hardtop Racing Association (PHRA) dwarf cars.

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

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

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Pics from GHR season opener uploaded 
My pictures from the season opener at GHR are finally here. I'll be heading back at Elma on Saturday, so I'll see some of you there!

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

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Jumping the Start: Round #2 at Grays Harbor Raceway 
After a successful season opener, Grays Harbor Raceway is back in business on Saturday for round number two of 2016. The Washington Modified Tour, Cut Rate Auto Parts, sportsman sprint cars, and outlaw tuners are on the program.

The Washington Modified Tour had their first two rounds at the Yakima Dirt Track on April 1 and 2. Jesse Williamson won the April 1 feature, while Jason Beaulieu snared the April 2 main event. Williamson is the points leader over Collen Winebarger, Don Jenner, Kyle Yeack, and last year's champion Mark Carrell. 35 cars were at both rounds at Yakima, so look for another strong turnout for Saturday.

The Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks raced at the season opener and it was a barnburner. Brenton Schnitzer passed two-time and defending track champion Jack Parshall with just two laps to go to get his second career win. Parshall barely held off Shane Kerrigan for second with Jason Tole and Kelly Fugate completing the top five.

The sportsman sprints are preparing for the first of two appearances at GHR. In last year's competition, Jake Helsel was the winner on May 2 and Sean Johnson took the July 18 event. The sportsman drivers were at Skagit Speedway last Saturday and Logan Forler picked up the win.

The outlaw tuners get their 2016 season underway on Saturday. Willie Wright won his first championship last year thanks to five wins.

Like last week, it's going to be sunny and warm. The season opener at Grays Harbor Raceway was very exciting, and Saturday's racing program promises to be just as action packed.

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Time to Review: GHR '16 season opener thoughts 
The season openers at Grays Harbor Raceway are known to be cloudy, cool, or getting rained out. Saturday had none of that, as it was sunny and gorgeous. Everyone was ready for the season opener and we couldn't have timed it any better. Four classes were in the house, and all four provided us with exceptional racing.

The Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks had the first main event of the night, and Jason Tole was the early leader of the 20-lap affair. Kelly Fugate was in second, but he surrendered it to Tommy Hecker to complete the second lap at the stripe. Defending track champ Jack Parshall was up to third on the following lap, as he also got by Fugate at the line. The red flag came out on lap six as Brandon Babcock’s car went up in smoke in turns one and two. Brandon climbed out unhurt, but his car caught fire and kept rolling into the infield! :shock: The fire crew was there to extinguish the flames, but it was an odd and scary situation. Parshall moved up to second on the restart before taking the lead away from Tole in turn three on lap seven. The race didn’t have any slowdowns until four to go, as Dave Forte spun in turn two and Dave Larsen stopped in turn three with engine problems. Parshall was still the leader, while it was a battle royale behind him. Austin Kerrigan had fourth, but he coasted to a crawl in turn two on the 17th lap for another yellow flag. Tole, Hecker, and 16th-starting Brenton Schnitzer were three-wide for second down the backstretch on the restart before Hecker and B. Schnitzer made hard contact. Hecker spun out moments later in turns three and four, and his race was over. B. Schnitzer went high in turn two to get second from Tole before dropping down low to pass Parshall for the lead in turn four with two to go. With his car seriously damaged and smoking badly (and even caught fire), Brenton drove his ticking time bomb to the victory. Parshall got second by a nose over Shane Kerrigan with Tole finishing fourth and Fugate fifth.

Tristin Thomas is the reigning Northwest Focus Midgets champion, and he showed why in the 20-lap A-Main by leading wire-to-wire. The yellow lights came on with four laps down, as Derek Holmwood lost his left front tire and stopped in turn four. T. Thomas had the race securely in his hands with Eric Turner holding down second place. Indianapolis, Indiana’s Ross Rankine was third, but he lost it to “Bad News” Nick Evans in turn four on the sixth lap. Garrett Thomas also passed Rankine on the next lap to move up to fourth coming out of turn two. The race went condition red on the tenth lap, as G. Thomas flipped in turn two after getting together with Evans. Garrett would be okay. Evans climbed up to second by passing Turner in turn four on the tenth circuit, then Rankine got back up to third on the 13th lap by taking it from Turner at the line. It was all about Tristin the Piston as he won over Evans, Rankine, Turner, and Mike Vollbrecht.

It was an all-Canadian front row for the 26-lap feature for the Shipwreck Beads modifieds with Graham Cook and Jason Beaulieu. The first start was a fail, as Kyler Moore got sideways in turns one and two and a pileup occurred. Sam Carlisle, Aaron Weston, Chris Beaulieu, and Steve Signal were involved. Everyone would restart. The second try was also no good, as last year’s modified champion Scott Miller went spinning in turn one. J. Beaulieu led the first seven laps, but he had his right front tire go flat as he completed lap eight and would stop in turn one. Cook was the new leader and he stayed up front despite five more yellow flags (including one on the last lap for Moore, who stopped in turns three and four to make the race 26 laps). A. Kerrigan took second from Sean Fox out of turn four with three laps to go, and reeled in Cook on the last restart. Graham held off Austin for the win by just over a car length with Fox finishing a strong third. Rounding out the top five were Del Schnitzer and Miller.

The final main event was for the 360 sprint cars. Last year’s champion Henry Van Dam shot off with the lead in the 25-lap race, followed by Jeff Dunlap and Jake Helsel. Jake’s motor expired on the backstretch on lap ten, and he pulled into the infield. Van Dam got to the back of the field at the halfway point, but he couldn’t get by Lance Sargent. Dunlap was only a few car lengths behind HVD, as was Reece Goetz. Jeff’s shot at a possible win ended in heartbreaking fashion after completing lap 21 when his right rear tire exploded going into turn one. Van Dam still had the lead for the four-lap dash, but Goetz wasn’t going away. After a few failed attempts to take the top spot, Reece passed Henry out of turn four as they came for the white flag. Reece got his first win of the year over Van Dam, Tayler Malsam, Trey Starks, and Garen Linder.

The recap of the main events are over. It’s time to switch gears and go over some usual little bits that are worth noting. Here we go, everyone!

Four Full Fields: The midget division had the highest car count of the four classes with 31 cars. There were also 22 modifieds, 21 street stocks, and 16 sprint cars. Those are very solid numbers for all four divisions to kick off the season at GHR, especially for the midgets.

Feeling Grand: T. Thomas completed the sweep by being the fast timer, winning the first heat race, and capturing the A-Main. Coming up later this week, he’s got a shot to do something pretty special. GHR was round one of three for the Northwest Focus Midgets Mini Speedweek. Round two takes place at Deming Speedway on Friday, while round three is at Skagit Speedway on Saturday. If Tristin can pull off the three-peat, he’ll collect an extra $1,000!

Smashing a Record: The midgets had car counts in the teens for a lot of their races last year, but they made it to over 30 cars and that’s a new record by far. They had 18 entries for the first night of the Fred Brownfield Classic last July. The midgets also had their first B-Main ever, and that was won by Todd Hartmann. Hats off to Carla and Gaylon Stewart on helping this series grow at an incredible rate.

Rookies Going Racing: The midgets had five rookies for their first race of '16: Brian Hayes, Chris Bullock, Randy Hodel (father of Michael, a.k.a. “Hodie the Outlaw”), David Postle, and Tabitha Stebbins (daughter of Ray). Postle finished fifth in the B-Main and got a ticket to the A as the first alternate when Tanner Holm, who was third in the B, didn’t start. David wound up 15th in the main event.

Making the Switch: Brian Harding was a street stock regular at GHR and he made his third start in a modified this year. He was at Yakima in April for the Summer Thunder Sprint Series/Washington Modified Tour opener. Jonathan Jorgenson was the 2009 runner-up with the midgets before going up to sprint cars. He’s back in a midget, and ditched the bright orange for a dark gray scheme for his #2J car. Shane Biles was in the NASCAR Northwest Tour in the '90s and '00s, and he’s racing a midget with his wife Renee Angel. Turner and Jacob Brown were Deming regulars and transferred to the midgets along with fellow Deming standouts Chance Crum, Holm, and Holmwood.

Demolition Derby: The main events for the street stocks and modifieds both had a lot of carnage. There were cars that went up in smoke, catch fire, and had body work that was badly crinkled or even come off. Eleven of the 19 hobby stocks that were in the A-Main made it to the end. 20 modifieds started the main event, but only eleven saw the checkered flag. It’s not how you finish a race in some cases, but to survive one.

Backing It Up: Schnitzer won for the very first time in his career last October at GHR’s season finale. He didn’t start in heat three and began the A-Main deep in the pack, but showed some incredible driving in the final laps to get another win even though his car looked like it had enough. Brenton was fourth in points for the last two years, and he’s well on his way at another shot for the street stock championship.

Bergman’s Back: Snohomish native Seth Bergman returned to his home turf last weekend, as he was at Deming on Friday racing 600 mini sprints. He was behind the wheel of Jon Farrell’s #51F car, and he finished tenth in the A-Main after coming through the B. For Saturday, Seth was second in qualifying and finished second to Dunlap in heat two. Seth would go on to finish sixth in a very quiet performance in the feature. He goes back on the road with the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series presented by MAVTV Motorsports Network, and the next race is Thursday (Cinco de Mayo) at Lakeside Speedway in Kansas City, Kansas.

Twelve Seconds: The sprint cars didn’t quite make it to the track record of 12.061 seconds set by Steve Vague nearly seven years ago, but they weren’t far off. Trey Starks was TQ at 12.266 and the speeds were still up there as the night continued. Van Dam, Dunlap, Bergman, and Malsam had times around 12.4 seconds in the heats. HVD ran a 12.7 on the second lap of the A-Main.

Number for the Weekend: 31. I still can't believe how many midgets there were in the pits! With that number, drivers have to step up their game in the heats or they'll have to go to the B-Main.

Hard Luck Award: Sterling Kane. Sterling had engine problems all day and didn’t take a single racing lap. Street stock racers Doug Brewster and Jeff Daniel had their nights come to a premature end. Doug had his rear axle break in half during warm-ups, while Jeff’s engine blew up big time on the final lap in the first heat while running third.

“Never Say Die” Award: Miller. Scott came back from a turn one spin on a lap one restart in the modified main event to finish fifth.

Best Appearing Car: Jay Cole. The #0J car had a refreshing and different look with the white, blue, and gray on it. It’s very unusual for Jay to go kind of flashy for his car, but not over the top. Love, love, love it! I also have to give honorable mentions out to Miller, Brian Izzi, Tyson Blood, and Thomas Walker.

Next race: Back at Grays Harbor Raceway on Saturday for round three of the Washington Modified Tour. Jesse Williamson and J. Beaulieu were main event winners at Yakima on April 1 and 2. The Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks, sportsman sprint cars, and outlaw tuners are on the card as well.

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 2016 season opener 
Grays Harbor Raceway is ready to get its 2016 season underway on Saturday, and four divisions are on the program. Race fans will get a chance to see the 360 sprint cars, Shipwreck Beads modifieds, Cut Rate Auto Parts street stocks, and the Northwest Focus Midgets in competition.

The reigning champions at GHR are Henry Van Dam (sprints), Scott Miller (modifieds), Tristin Thomas (midgets), Jack Parshall (streets), and Willie Wright (outlaw tuners). That makes it five track titles for Miller, while Van Dam and Parshall have two apiece and Wright got his first championship. Thomas picked up a total of four titles in ‘15 by also winning track championships at Deming Speedway and Skagit Speedway, as well as the overall Northwest Focus Midgets title.

If you were at the season opener last year, it took a while to get finished thanks to Mother Nature. Showers were in the area before the racing started and everything didn’t get done until after midnight. Trey Starks (sprints), Miller (modifieds), Garrett Thomas (midgets), Austin Kerrigan (streets), and Wright (tuners) were the winners. The forecast for Saturday looks good, as it’ll be sunny and pleasant in the daytime.

Grays Harbor fans, it’s time for that old question again. Are you ready to go racing? Everything begins in only five days!

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Yakima Dirt Track pics are here! 
My shots from last weekend's Summer Thunder Sprint Series/Washington Modified Tour season opener have arrived. You get all three days' worth of shots and I'm ready for some more racing! See you around...

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

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Time to Review: Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge thoughts 
I decided to do something different to kick off my 2016 season, so it was an eastbound drive to the Yakima Dirt Track in the State Fair Park. I was there for all three days, as I was at Thursday’s practice session to see the drivers who are participating and to also get a few speed shots with my camera. The Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour were back for a two-day show for the Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge to get their seasons started. Sprint cars, modifieds, picture perfect weather, people ready to go racing again...what’s not to like?

Jerry Schram and Craig Hanson were on the front row in Friday’s Washington Modified Tour 25-lap A-Main with Hanson getting the top spot. There was a lot of side-by-side racing early, and drivers were swapping positions constantly. The first yellow flag flew with six laps complete, as Morgan Criswell spun out on the backstretch. Hanson lost the lead on the restart when his left rear tire went flat and he coasted to a stop in turns three and four. That gave the top spot to Jesse Williamson. Another yellow was needed two laps later when Don Martin spun in turn three and Don Jenner stopped a few feet away. John Campos took second from Schram on the restart at the flagstand and had his eyes on Williamson. Yellow flag number three came out on lap eleven, as Sam Carlisle and Grey Ferrando did synchronized spins on the backstretch while fighting for fifth. The rest of the field scattered to avoid the wreck and Martin made hard contact with Ferrando. Only Carlisle would restart. A red flag occurred on lap 13 and it was unlucky for Nick Bessette. He spun around in turn four before getting plowed by Hanson, resulting in Bessette getting on his roof. Nick was okay. The second half of the race went nonstop and the driver on the move was Collen Winebarger. He started 13th, and he got by Monte Bischoff for third in turn one on lap 17. Winebarger’s next victim was Campos, and the two went side-by-side for a while before Collen finally made the pass stick out of turn four with four to go. All along, Williamson had everything under control and took home the win with C. Winebarger getting second. Campos and Bischoff went at it for third as the laps wound down with Campos getting it by a nose. D. Jenner recovered for fifth after starting 19th.

There was also a lot of carnage in the Summer Thunder Sprint Series 30-lap main event, as it had four yellow flags and three reds. The first red flag happened on the opening lap, as Steve Vague and Justin Youngquist flipped in turn two with Robbie Price getting collected. Vague got the worst end of the deal, as he bounced off the catch fence. On the ninth lap, Travis Jacobson and Cam Smith were battling for fifth when Jacobson’s left rear tire came off. T-Jac rolled over and Lance Sargent was also involved. The third and final red was displayed on a lap eleven restart when Austen Wheatley somersaulted down the backchute. All drivers were okay. Jared Peterson led laps one through seven before reigning series champion Jason Solwold passed him out of turn four on lap eight. Solwold started the race in eighth, but he left the rest of the field far behind. He would win it over Peterson, Cam Smith, J.J. Hickle, and Price.

Williamson was on the pole in Saturday’s 30-lap modified main and looked to complete the weekend sweep. Defending series champ Mark Carrell finished 18th on Friday and searched for a better result, as he got by D. Jenner for second out of turn four to complete the second lap. D. Jenner lost third two laps later when he got sideways in turn two and lost many spots, but got third place back as the red flag came out moments later. Scott Winebarger, Bischoff, Matt Jenner, Ferrando, and Campos were involved in a big wreck in turn three. Just Ferrando would return. Williamson and Carrell were still running first and second, while Jason Beaulieu moved up to third when he got by D. Jenner out of turn on lap five. Carrell closed in on Williamson lap by lap during a long stretch of green flag racing and he took the top spot on the 18th lap out of turn two, but the pass didn’t count. The yellow lights came on for Ferrando, who stopped on the backstretch. That meant Williamson got the lead back. J. Beaulieu got a great restart and took second from Carrell and wasn’t done. Jason didn’t race on Friday and he was there to win. He used the high line to pass Williamson out of turn two to complete lap 18. The yellow lights were on right after that, as Danny O’Neil and Kyle Yeack spun in turn three. Carrell passed Williamson for second out of turn one on the restart and his sights were on J. Beaulieu. The final yellow was displayed with three to go when O’Neil and Hanson went spinning in turns three and four. J. Beaulieu was still out front, but Carrell was still there. Mark tried to make a a pass on the final lap, but fell about two car lengths short to Jason. The top five went J. Beaulieu, Carrell, Williamson, C. Winebarger, and 19th-starting Chris Beaulieu.

Vague shot out to the lead in the 30-lap feature race for the STSS, with Hickle and Trey Starks in second and third. Hickle and Starks were side-by-side on lap six, with Trey taking second from J.J. out of turn four. Starks was about ready to pass Vague for the lead on the ninth lap when Sargent spun in turn three for a yellow flag. Bollinger stopped in turn two and Bud Ashe also stopped a few feet behind Bollinger. Vague and Starks were one and two on the restart, but the third spot changed hands on lap number nine when Solwold took it away from Hickle. Starks once again was putting some pressure on Vague, as they worked through lapped traffic at the halfway point and Solwold was in the hunt as well. Starks made the pass on Vague on lap 16 in turns one and two, but Vague and Solwold were not far behind as they drove through more slower traffic. Solwold passed Vague for second at the stripe with on the 20th lap, but Starks had a comfortable lead. The yellow lights came on two laps later, as Sargent spun again in turns one and two. Cam Smith found himself facing the wrong way in turns three and four to bring out a caution with three laps to go. Starks didn’t have any problems with the late yellows and won over Solwold, Hickle, Jacobson, and Vague.

I can finally cross off the Yakima Dirt Track from my bucket list, and what a way to get my 2016 season off and running! As always, I have some thoughts about everything and let’s dive in...

Spring’s in the Air: The weather for all three days was absolutely perfect to kick off the season for the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and Washington Modified Tour. All three days got up to 76 degrees and there’s really no need to bundle up, although there was a cool breeze on Saturday. This was warmer than last year’s event, where the high temperature was 59.

New Faces in the Crowd: One thing that stuck out in the roster for both classes was that a majority of the field were not at last year’s event. 35 out of the 60 total drivers were first-time entrants in the Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge (eight sprint car racers and 27 modified competitors).

57 Varieties: Last year’s race had 31 sprint cars and 26 modifieds in the pits. Friday’s total turnout had 57 cars as well, but with a very different combination. Just 22 sprints showed up, but the modifieds had 35 strong. Drivers came from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, British Columbia, and Alberta to race.

Catch-22: Two Skagit Speedway veterans were showing off their new riders last weekend. Justin Youngquist was driving the #22 car owned by Dale Melin from Edmonton, Alberta, while Travis Jacobson drove the #22X machine as a teammate for Trevor Cook. Justin and Travis had their nights end early in the main event on Friday, as they both flipped over. Both guys kept it dirty side down Saturday with T-Jac finishing fourth and Youngquist ending up ninth.

Oh, Oregon!: The modified racers from Oregon proved to be a group reminiscent of last year’s Shipwreck Beads Modified Nationals presented by FinishLine Graphics at Grays Harbor Raceway. Six of the top ten finishers in Friday’s main event were from Oregon, including first through fourth place. Five Oregon drivers were in the top ten in Saturday’s show, even though the $1,000 winner’s check went up to British Columbia.

Freeway Truckin’: It’s interesting when you come to a race and you may never know whose trailer might pass you along the way. Brandon Nutter went by me on I-90 between Easton and Cle Elum before Thursday’s test and tune. A couple of hours later, Tiana Berkeley passed me going down I-82. The Beaulieus got by me traveling northbound I-82 after Saturday’s racing was completed.

Taking the Bus: Race teams usually take vans, trucks, or semis to get to their destination. Some of them have open trailers, while others have closed ones. Yeack went way out in left field, as his vehicle of choice was an old Blue Bird school bus. The front of the bus was the truck, while the back acted as the trailer. Kyle had a respectable weekend and avoided the havoc. He won Friday’s fourth heat race and got eighth in the A-Main. He was put to the test on Saturday when he had Lawrence O’Connor all over him for the fourth and final transfer spot in heat four, but Kyle held onto fourth to transfer to the big dance. Despite spinning in turn three with O’Neil with seven laps to go, Kyle still finished ninth. #YeackFest

Getting Some Laps In: A small group of drivers with the Northwest Focus Midgets came to Yakima on Saturday for testing, even though they don’t have a race confirmed there as of yet. Ryan Cully, Jacob Brown, Eric Turner, Chance Crum, and Gaylon Stewart ran two sessions of hot laps to get a feel for everything. They were in the 20- and 21-second bracket, and Stewart was the fastest driver in both sessions. The season opener for the Northwest Focus Midgets is on April 30 at GHR.

Number for the Weekend: 11. That’s how many cars that finished in the modified A-Mains for both nights. Quite a few cars left the track either on the hook or on a flatbed.

Consistency Award: C. Winebarger (modifieds) and Hickle (sprint cars). There’s no kryptonite for the Superman car, as Collen got a third and a fourth for the weekend. Even though he didn’t win the Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge like last year, Hickle still racked up a fourth on Friday and a third on Saturday.

Hard Luck Award: Cook. Trevor qualified ninth out of 22 cars on Friday, but mechanical woes plagued him all weekend long and didn’t make any laps in the heats or the main events.

“Never Say Die” Award: Vague. After taking a nasty flip into the turn two fence on the opening lap of Friday’s A-Main, Steve led the first fifteen laps of Saturday’s main event before surrendering it to Starks and coming home in fifth.

Best Appearing Car: A few modified racers had new awesome paint schemes for the 2016 season, and they’re things that picture and video people absolutely love. My selections are Bischoff, Criswell, B.J. Wild, Kyler Moore, Schram, Carlisle, Campos, and Tom Warner.

Next race: The Grays Harbor Raceway season opener on April 30. Four classes are on the card: 360 sprints, street stocks, modifieds, and the Northwest Focus 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 
For Pacific Northwest race fans, this will be their Spring Break vacation. The Summer Thunder Sprint Series and the Washington Modified Tour begin their 2016 seasons with a trip to Yakima for the Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge Friday and Saturday. Both racing tours were at Yakima last year to start their respective seasons with a one-night show, but they’re coming back for a two-day night show this weekend.

Jason Solwold won four times with the Summer Thunder Sprint Series and he also won the championship by 16 points over 2014 champion Colton Heath. Rounding out the top five in points were Robbie Price, Reece Goetz, and Cam Smith. Solwold’s standout victories include winning the 44th annual Jim Raper Dirt Cup presented by Jack in the Box at Skagit Speedway and taking the first night of the Fred Brownfield Classic at Grays Harbor Raceway (both races were also Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series events).

The Washington Modified Tour completed a successful first year in ‘15 and Redmond, Oregon’s Mark Carrell was the champion. Carrell had magnificent performances in Washington, as he won at both Skagit and Grays Harbor. Lawrence O’Connor was second in points, followed by Aaron Weston, Melvin Decker, and Kris Asche.

J.J. Hickle was the winner of the STSS portion of last year’s event. Evan Margeson led the first seven laps before Hickle took over on lap eight. Hickle went on to capture the 30-lapper over Solwold, Margeson, Jared Peterson, and Trey Starks.

B.J. Wild won the 25-lap Washington Modified Tour A-Main after starting tenth, as he used the high line to get by Decker for the top spot on the 11th lap. Carrell was second for a 1-2 finish of the Central Oregon racers. Travis Peery spun out while running second with seven laps to go, but rebounded for third. O’Connor and Decker completed the top five.

A practice session will be held on Thursday, so the drivers get a chance to test the high-speed Yakima track out. Friday’s Summer Thunder Sprint Series main event pays $2,000 to win and Saturday’s feature is bumped up to a $3,000-to-win show. Friday’s Washington Modified Tour A-Main pays $500 to win, and the stakes get higher on Saturday with a $1,000 payday for the winner.

For the second straight year, sprint car and modified racing will get an early start with a race east of the Cascades. The Yakima Valley Sprint Car Challenge is expanded to two nights, so race fans will see some electrifying side-by-side racing...times two!

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