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The Tales of the Northwest Nomad

 by Joseph Terrell

 Olympia, Wa…Rarely would I have weekend during race season that I didn't have to work and at the same time didn't attend any races. Such was this weekend. Due to some commitments out of my control Saturday and the fact I was running a half marathon early Sunday morning (start time 745 am) meant no racing in the cards this weekend. That doesn't mean I don't have a lot to write about though.

 

            First and foremost nice job by Colton Heath Saturday night at Skagit. Heath started alongside Jason Solwold and trailed early on but eventually chased down Solwold and secured his first win of the year. In the eight starts in 2019 Heath has been on the podium five times - getting off to a nice start in the competitive northwest 360 scene. Heath is one of those drivers that is the backbone of sprint car racing. Aboard the LAW Motorsports XXX Heath supports both Skagit Speedway and Grays Harbor Raceway while making treks down to Oregon when time allows. He is also regular competitor and and already registered for the Trophy Cup in Tulare.

 

            Heath has been on the northwest scene for a while starting in his family owned Sportsmen Sprinter before moving to 360 and 410s and finally establishing himself as a star in his current ride. As we fans we always get enamored with stars and the up and comers but often loose track those wily veterans like Heath who make the show go. He is not a professional and doesn't have some massive hauler with full back up cars. What he does have a is solid ride that is capable of winning at any track in the northwest on any night. He is one of the many drivers and cars that make the sport so special. A local driver in a local ride who has a chance at winning plenty of big races this year starting this weekend with the $4100 first prize Marvin Smith Memorial in Cottage Grove.

 

            Speaking of the Marvin Smith Memorial this weekend look for a solid field to converge upon the Cottage Grove Speedway this weekend. In addition to Heath many contenders will be on hand. Two time champion Solwold will be on hand. Idaho based Lgan Forler will be searching for his first Marvin Smith Memorial victory. Look for Oregon veterans Garen Linder and Jake Wheeler as well as young Oregon stars Tyler Thompson and Tanner Holmes to be up front. This race usually draws a few from California which begs the question  who will be in the Doug Rutz sprinter. My bet is we will see Justyn Cox in that ride and he has a long history of success at Cottage Grove. With Skagit racing Saturday night it very likely that a few cars will make the tow from Skagit to catch the second night of the weekend.

 

            In addition potentially one more big name driver could be added to the mix. Nothing is concrete as of press time but ASCS superstar Seth Bergman has indicated he might be in town for this show. Also there is a good chance Seth will spend a good part of his summer in the northwest as he not following the national series this year. Indications are he will compete in an array of shows including Dirt Cup, Brownfield Memorial and the Skagit Summer Nationals. One would also assume Northwest Speedwell is in his plans. This will definitely change the landscape of the northwest scene this summer brining another top tier contender to the already stout northwest competition.

 

West Coast Sprint Stuff: With no racing I had some time to look back at the season so far in winged sprint car racing in the northwest and west coast…first the northwest…Colton Heath became the fifth different winner in nine main events in the northwest…His five podiums trail only Solwold who has six…Youngster Devon Borden registered his third podium of the year after driving all night from  Tulare the night before…Jay Cole is the only driver with a perfect podium record - two races with two podium finishes…Amongst drivers looking for their first wins of the year are Eric Fisher, Brock Lemley, Travis Jacobson and the previously mentioned Jay Cole…Now onto the west coast in general which includes California, Oregon, Washington…Amazingly in a combined 51 410 and 360 winged races their have been 30 winners…And still Tim Kaeding, Ryan Bernal, Brad Furr, Geoff Ensign, Colby Copeland and plenty of other talented drivers have yet to taste victory lane…Mitchell Faccinto, Andy Forsberg and Sowlold continue to lead the win list with four…Kyle Hirst is also winless but in his limited starts this year has been a contender each night and currently only sits 14 points behind Shane Golobic in SCCT points…Rico Abreu finally broke into victory lane Friday night in Tulare as he has struggled to get that first win this year…And if speaking about Tulare then Trophy Cup must mentioned…preregistration is off and running with both Roth Motorsports (the Scelzi brothers) and Tarlton Motorsports (Tim Shaffer and Buddy Koifoid) already forming super teams…Lastly one of the bummers of Saturday’s rain out in Tulare was that California legend and four time Dirt Cup champion Jonathan Allard was going to make a rare start as spends most of his time these days spinning wrenches for youngster Kyle Olfill.

 

            Lastly I want to branch out nationwide and talk about the World of Outlaws this last week in Pennsylvania. With Lance Dewease winning two out of three shows he allowed the posse to reign king this weekend. In addition to his victories Ryan Smith ran second Wednesday in Lincoln and Danny Dietrich second Friday night at the Grove. After running roughshod over the California contigent early in the year and the amount of posse drivers that are no longer porch sitters it seemed like some nationally were discounting the rivalry. The locals never did however and they were right as though the Outlaws dominated the top 10 the posse dominated the top two. Their is nothing better as a fan than seeing your local stars battle and beat the outlaws and I have been fortunate to see it many times in Washington and California. With that said the Outlaws always rise to the challenge and the agitated interview with Donny Schatz makes me think the outlaws will return in July looking to show the posse up. Easier said than done though.

 

 

            Next weeks entry will be a look back at when the wave crested in Northwest Sprint Car racing and the long journey since then. Anybody who is familiar with the Northwest sprint scene will appreciate this piece.

 

            Until next time if I am not chasing races I must be running, swimming or in the summer cycling.

 

            Follow me on twitter @idrinkiswim.  E-mail terrelljoseph@hotmail.com

           

 

 

 

THE TALES OF THE NORTHWEST NOMAD

by Joseph Terrell    

Grays Harbor, Wa….Oh how the weather changes in the northwest. After enjoying a nice warm day in Olympia which included a long run, a couple afternoon beers and an evening BBQ it was time to head out to Grays HarborRaceway about 630 pm.  As we departed the sun was shining and the sun was warm…but I knew not to be fooled. The weather would be different in Elma. I had my cold weather clothes packed and ready to go. I threw a couple of blankets in the van and rounded up my traveling partner for the night and headed west.

            As predicted as we left Olympia and merged onto highway 8 the weather began to change. Away went the sun and in came the clouds. As we winded through the rolling hills on the way to the track the clouds got thicker and the weather cooler It was over 70 when we left Olympia and by the time we arrived in Elma it was 55. Why do I mention this? Because for the second time this year I left my bags of warm clothes at home – they are not going to do me much good there. As I got out of my car I realized this epic mistake but luckily I had an extra blanket and used that for warmth and was able to survive night without buying another desperation sweatshirt.

            This was my first time out to GHR this year. It is located in the fairgrounds in Elma and has gone through quite a transformation the last 20 years - from a run down narrow track with long straights and short turns to a track a featuring sweeping turns and high speeds on one of the best track surfaces in America. At its best GHR has multiple lanes, endless slide job and features speeds that make you hold your breath. The legend of Fred Brownfield is evident every time I walk into the raceway.

            Early in the season the GHR race surface can be a little difficult as the wet, cool climate makes it difficult for the track todry out enough to get racy. Often as the track just starts to dry and the action picks up the moisture will rise as the sun sets reverting the track to qualifying conditions – fast speeds with little lifting and even less passing. As the summer months come and it gets just enough warmer the track really comes on and provides endless action. By the time the Brownfield memorial comes in late June these will be the conditions that will be present. Tonight would be the opposite – only three divisions, lack of laps on track and very cloudy, cool evening created an endless night of hot laps.

            Both heat races and the main were won from the front row. The main featured heat race winners Cam Smith and Jay Cole on the front row and by the time they roared out of two Smith was gone. He would never be challenged during the 25 lap main event and multi time track champion Cole maintained second without much competition. The only race up front that looked interesting was JJ Hickle and Jason Solwold battling for third.  Solwold tried to use the top lane as everybody else pounded the bottom but after a handful laps he gave up and moved to the bottom and followed Hickle.

            This is not in anyways an indictment of GHR but just a reality of northwest racing in spring time. Track conditions are often determined by the weather and at no track is this more evident than GHR which battles the ocean moisture rolling in at night.

            On a positive note 15 sprints qualified as the dual track series between Skagit and GHR pays dividends. Car counts have averaged almost 17 sprints for the first four nights of the series after last year when Skagit was often around 10-12 and GHR would be lucky to get 10. This year the fields have been bigger and stronger.

            Now time to talk about Cam Smith. Smith had a relatively easy run to victory from the pole - much to the delight of my partner for the night - and continues to grow as a driver. Although the track lacked much passing up front the one lane groove made lap traffic difficult and Smith handled it with ease. Smith has been working on his craft for around a decade now and has really come into his own and tonight showed as he worked the traffic with ease - never letting the narrow track conditions hinder his progress. He has become patient and aggressive at the same time and has eliminated the mistakes that used to set back a good night. He is now a driver that is either on or near the podium each night regardless the competition.

            Smith used to bounce around from track to track and seemed to avoid Skagit for a while. In the last year he has become dedicated to running Skagit and GHR and he continues to get good results at each track. In a brief conversation with Smith at last year’s trophy cup he mentioned he specifically was focused on running good at Skagit with an eye on winning the two bigs 360 races held there -  but if he continues to up is game at GHR he may have more opportunities to win a big race than he thought.

 

West Coast Winners: First and foremost last week I forget to talk about Justin Sanders going into Silver Dollar Speedway and sweeping the weekend. He won the Brownwell memorial Friday night and then cruised to victory Saturday against King of the West competition during the historic Broadway memorial. Two 410 wins in two nights for a primarily 360 driver although he has been on the cusp of outlaw wins the last two years at Silver Dollar and seemingly wins every where. Amazingly these were his first two wins of the year and he started this weekend off in good fashion Friday with third straight at Ocean Speedway. He was in prime condition Saturday to win his fourth in a a row as he started up front at Placerville but lady luck soured on him after one lap. Sanders continues to be maybe the most underrated driver in America as he usually drives multiple cars at different tracks to a lot of wins. Although he has started slow by his standards come late September something tells me he will be at his “normal” win total of 12+…only a few drivers win 12+ races regularly and they have names like Schatz,Dover and Hagar…speaking of wins Andy Forsberg and Mitchell Faccinto continued their early season success bringing their win totals to four this week…Forsberg won for the third time at Placerville and Faccinto won his third race of the KIings/Tulare challenge…This ties them with Solwold for most Sprint wins on the west coast…Chase Johnson - maybe California’s most versatile driver - picked up his third win of the season Saturday night at Petaluma..Johnson has three 360 wins, competes full time in NARC 410, dabbles in USAC/CRA competition, does some midget racing and moonlights at Cycleland is going to get a huge win one day the question is just what division…Somewhat surprisingly Shane Golobic has only two wins this year - I say surprisingly because with the semiretirement of Kyle Hirst Golobic has become the unofficial best driver in California…Many drivers in California seemingly have many rides - Kalib Henry was in Jensen #5 this weekend and at least his third ride this year - he competes full times in the Worden #63 on SCCT; Colby Copeland was in the Van Lare #5v at Petaluma Saturday has been in at least two other rides beside the Antaya Motorsports #16a he normally pilots; Justin Cox has been in at least four rides this year; and Justin Sanders was in the three cars over the last two weekends - the Von Schriltz #121, his families #17 and his normal chariot the Dale Miller 4sa and don't forget Geoff Ensign as he has been spotted in the Snow #7 and Finkerbinder #3f amongst other rides. These are just a few of the drivers that seemingly are always present but just not sure what ride it will be.

            Well that is about is for this week. I will be MIA the next few weeks as far as attending races before a busy June but that doesn't mean the tales of this nomad stop. Next two weeks will feature special topics that are TBA.

            As usual if I am not swimming or running then I am chasing races and might land at a race track near you.

            Follow me @idrinkiswim on twitter. Email terrelljoseph@hotmail.com

 

 

 

The Tales of the Northwest Nomad

 by Joseph Terrell

  5/5

Sweet Home - Olympia, Wa…As we left home and headed to the beautiful Skagit Speedway for round three of the Summer Thunder Series and Dual Track Series my mind wandered as the miles ticked away on I-5. The northwest season is just getting going but I feel the tone of the season and drivers to be beat are becoming apparent. So far northwest racing has been dominated by Jason Solwold who had scored four wins in four starts (sweeping weekends in Yakima and Cottage Grove). In addition JJ Hickle and Devon Borden had claimed Dual Track series races . Tonight it was time to see if a new winner would emerge on the season as all three winners would be present as well as host of other contenders. Or would one of the previous winners cement their status as contender in the northwest.

                         As we pulled into the Skagit parking lot at about 6:15 we could hear the 360 sprint cars working through their hot lap sessions. A quick look into the pits confirmed a strong field with seemingly all the usual suspects in the pits. We continued along to a familiar camp site and parked. My partner headed in as the sprints got ready to qualify but I stayed by the camp gabbing a little bit and stretching my legs after the two hour plus drive up. As qualifying for the sprints winded down I headed up and purchased my ticket and entered the hallowed grounds. As I walked in qualifying was just ending and 18 of the 20 cars present had taken qualifying laps. Solwold had set fast time in the Shalen Raye #18. Notably second place in points Logan Forler and last years runner up and Summer Thunder regular Oregon’s Garen Linder were not in the field.

             After opening ceremonies the the show proceeded in rapid fashion with ford focus midget heats, sprint heats and the outlaw tuner heats. The midgets had a 12 lap b main and the sprints had a pill draw for the fastest eight qualifiers to see where they would start the A main. When Solwold drew the one pill it seemed that we had seen the end of the movie. Who was going to beat him? Linder and Forler were not present and defending champion Colton Heath had struggled in qualifying and was starting 10th. Cam Smith who has been running strong was starting 6th but would he be able to catch and then pass Solwold. And surely 16 year old Devon Borden who was starting second would not muster much resistance? Would he? As the A pushed off the I openly opined I thought that Borden would at least lead early. But even I kind of assumed Solwold would track him down at some point and that would be that.

             Skagit Speedway has been the subject of much criticism over the years - some earned for sure but much more of it made up and completely unwarranted. But one thing was for sure - for much of then 2000’s and 2010’s Skagit Speedway would get super dusty. And I mean SUPER DUSTY. Only the most loyal and dedicated fans (yes I was one of them) would tolerate this. The conundrum was the dustier it got the better it got - the ultimate catch 22. But in middle of 2015 Steve Beitler flipped the script to bring in some new clay. It took some time for it to pay dividend but a year later at the 2016 Summer Nationals it was apparent the new clay was a difference maker as it had provided a dust free version of racing that included slide jobs and multiple grooves. By the time the World of Outlaws left in 2017 even long time critics from that series had been transformed into believers. Why does this matter?  Because as Solwold and Borden raced into turn one and sliding to the top of two it was obvious Skagit Speedway was in peak form this night.

             Borden would take the initial lead and even as Solwold waged relentless pursuit he seemingly had no answers for the young emerging star. About lap 11 Solwold started to work his patent bottom groove as everybody else banged the cushion but even as he pulled next to Borden on a few occasions the youngster was not be deterred and Solwold was now dealing with onslaught from Brock Lemley. At one point Borden, Solwold and Lemly were nose to tail as they raced through turn two. By lap 15 though Borden had reestablished control as Solwold and Lemley continued to battle. On lap 17 a caution flew as STSS regular Chris Schmelzle found the wall - unfortunately at the same time Lemley was spinning in turn two. Now Solwold was behind the youngster and as the green flew the crowd assumed Solwold would make a move but again Borden was up to the challenge. As the laps waned it was obvious Solwold was up in the saddle as he tried to desperately to make one last move but Borden had all the answers and held the late charge to finish a car length ahead of Solwold for the $2000 win.

             In victory lane Borden stood next to his Borden #8 and was beyond elated as all the hard work and time he and his father had put in during the last year plus was being realized. Borden has had his up and downs in both the sprint and 600s during the last year and their has been plenty of nights as I cruised the pit area and his pit was thrashing as they rebuilt a race car. But the talent that was so evident is now coming through. After a win a week earlier that some critics had said was against a weaker field and thus for not legit Borden had proven it was no fluke and that he is now a player in the northwest. We have had many teenage sensation in the northwest including Kasey Kahne, Travis Rutz and Trey Starks. Looks like it is time to add a new one to the list. And like all the previous their was some equipment torn up along the way.

             As we made that familiar drive home and cruised through Seattle and the lights shined bright I wondered if the world of Sprint Car Racing had just found another shining light tonight at Skagit Speedway.

 Northwest Sprint Notes: The Summer Thunder Sprint Series (STSS) in the brain child of Steve Beitler and is in the long line of 360 sprint touring series in the northwest. It provides a chance for drivers in the northwest to chase a touring series that races at four different tracks…In a weird turn of fate Saturday’s race had no drivers that lived out of Washington as Oregon regular Garen Linder and Canadian regular Luke Didius were not present…Travis Jacobson making another appearance in the Cook #22x was fast and competitive and brought the car home fourth after some impressive slide jobs through traffic that caught the attention of a more than a few spectators…Cam Smith continued his consistent ways to start the season in the Smith #17 and rolled home third - he inherited third after the Lemley spin and kept Borden and Solwold in sight but could never quite mount the challenge I thought he might…After starting 10th Colton Heath in his LAW Motorsports #33 used his experience to navigate to fifth - I look for Heath to pick up the pace as the summer months and big money shows arrive…Elma’s Jason Reed always seems to have an interesting night at Skagit and on this night he missed qualifying but finished fourth in his heat then started 12th in the A and finished in the top 10…In seven main events this season in the northwest the win count is as follows: Solwold - 4; Borden -2; Hickle 1…Speaking of Hickle he finished 7th and was never really a factor all night after a strong opening night at Skagit…Former track champion Eric Fisher was one spot ahead of Hickle in the A but after qualifying a stout third didn't seem to have the same speed the rest of the night…29 Northwest ford focus midgets were on hand to support the night…Former Skagit Speedway Sprint driver Nick Evans lead the whole way but the race was far from eventful…Mini Sprint star Chance Crum, Ford Focus Midget hot shot Tristan Thomas, and midwest transplant Ross Rankine went wheel to wheel to settle second through fourth…I have been a critic of the ford focus midgets in the past but I have to say that they have joined modified as my favorite support division in the northwest.

                         Before I head out I only want to say that I wish all Summer Thunder Series main events were 40 laps - especially the races at Skagit and Cottage Grove. But this is just my little rant as overall the Summer Thunder Series is a great series that provides some extra money and prestige to the northwest sprint car scene with racing at four very different tracks: the big track in Yakima, the super fast and scary track in Elma, the comfy confines and top to bottom action of The Grove and the legendary and unpredictable Skagit Speedway.

                         Headed out to Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma this Saturday. One thing is never forget your sweatshirt when going to GHR. This track is one of the true hidden gems in the dirt track world. The sprints can really fly at this wide sweeping 3/8 mile oval.

                         As always if I am not swimming or running I am chasing races and on my way to track near you.

                         Follow me on twitter @idrinkiswim. Email terrelljoseph@hotmail.com

 

 

THE TALES OF THE NORTHWEST NOMAD

BY JOSEPH TERRELL  

 4/29

Kitsap Peninsula…It is Saturday Night and I should be at Grays Harbor Raceway catching opening night but instead I am on the Kitsap Peninsula after a long day of wok swirling an easy IPA. I am annoyed by the fact I am missing opening night and the sound of sprints of roaring into turn one. I was also missing the modifieds slice and dice like they only can on the ultra wide 3/8 mile oval.
Also down in Oregon Cottage Grove Speedway was having a two night show fearing the 360 sprints. A lot of sprint car action in the northwest this weekend and it got me thinking who are the best northwest sprint car drivers since 1990. A little trip down memory lane - the biggest criteria ismost of said drivers career has taken place in the northwest (Oregon and Washington). The decision making process was difficult and the committee of one needed a second beer to finalize the decision. After much thought and deliberation the committee decided:
The obvious answer is former USAC midget national champion and NASCAR legend Kasey Kahne. But Kasey did not spend much of his time in the Northwest despite two dominant Dirt Cup championships. So while he is no doubt the biggest name too come from the Northwest - he was not eligible. The vote was so close that the committee decided on a split decision:

1a) Jason Solwold - Won an amazing 23 races in the Northwest in 2003 (16 -360, 7-410)…2008 WoO winner at Skagit Speedway…2 career outlaw wins, 4 ASCS National wins and also wins with the All Star Circuit of Champions and the now defunct National Sprint Tour…2015 Dirt Cup Champion at Skagit Speedway…1996, 1997, 2001 and 2017 Summer Nationals Champion at Skagit Speedway…2015 and 2016 Marvin Smith memorial winner at Cottage Grove Speedway...1998 Northern Sprint Tour Champion…2010 ASCS NW Champion…2015, 216, 2017 Summer Thunder Series Sprint Champion…Has been the most dominant driver in the northwest since 1996. Has never won the Fred Brownfield Memorial at Grays Harbor but has won the prelim night in 2015 and 2018. Put on a show for the ages at the 2016 Summer Nationals to only have the next driver on this list take the win.

1b) Roger Crockett – born in California spent a majority of his career racing out of Oregon until recently moving to Oklahoma following number three on the list…While most of the drivers on the list have had their heroics at Skagit – Crockett made living at Cottage Grove and Grays Harbor…Dominated the 360 touring series in the northwest for years (NST, NSCS, ASCS Northwest)…Total of nine championships between the three touring series (2001-04, 2007, 2009, 2011-13)…ASCS National main event winner on multiple occasion including last years opener at Devil’s Bowl Speedway…1998 California Civil War Series Champion…2017 Marvin Smith Classic winner…Nationally recognized as one of the best 360 drivers in the nation…World of Outlaws winner in Minnesota…won Summer Nationals in 1998 and 2016 – beating Solwold on a classic late restart that proved to be one of great nights of racing ever at Skagit Speedway…only lacking a Dirt Cup victory…possibly the smoothest driver I have ever seen

3)Seth Bergman…ASCS National star who has spent most of his career on the road chasing the dream…but has spent enough his career at home with major wins that I couldn’t leave him off the list…2014 and 2015 Summer Nationals Champion…2018 Super Dirt Championship in dominating fashion…won the 2018 Dirt Cup Friday night preliminary main from 16th in a historical run…three major wins is enough to get you on this list…Still looking for a Fred Brownfield Memorial win…Consistently wins 10 + races every year…If he raced in the northwest consistently he would probably be number one on the list.

4)Travis Jacobson…maybe a little bit of surprise but like Bergman it is his work in the big shows that solidifies his spot on this list…3 consecutive Summer Nationals Championships from 2010-12...but it is his 2012 World of Outlaw race that cemented his legend…led all 35 laps repealing all challengers as he joined Solwold as locals who have won an Outlaw race at Skagit…his struggles at Dirt Cup are well noted but he did have a runner up finish in 2005 chasing Jon Allard throughout the latter half of the race. Maybe the best drive I have ever seen at Skagit Speedway – unbeatable when he is on.

The final spot on this list was heavily debated but in the end it is performances in the big shows that win out…

5)Jayme Barnes…not the most consistent driver ever…but nobody can do the things he can when he is in the zone…2008 ASCS Northwest Champion…runner up in 2008 World of Outlaw race at Grays Harbor Raceway…20th to 2nd at 2001 Summer Nationals…but it is Dirt Cup that gets this driver on this list…back to back Dirt Cups wins in local low buck rides in 2008-09 and third in 2010…could have won outlaw races in 2009 and 2010 at Skagit but lady luck was not his friend…while he has had big lulls in his career and some failed adventures in bigger and better financed rides Barnes work at Dirt Cup is legendary… Legend has it someone told Danny Lasoski “They are running 10 second laps around Skagit”and he said “no they aren’t…Barnes is running 10 seconds lap.”… That is enough is for me.

Travis Rutz gets a special spot on this list. Though his career was cut short he did manage two Summer Nationals championships and enough thrilling moments for a lifetime.

Many names did not make the list just because of space and they are in no order: 1991 Dirt Cup Champion Bobby Burrow, Chad Hillier, Marc “the Shark” Huson, Jay Cole, Shawna Wilskey, 2014 Dirt Cup Champion Brock Lemley, Danny Horner, Trey Starks, Dale Smith, Logan Forler and Ricky Fauver are just a few of the greats who didn’t make the cut.

My list is done, my beer is finished and it is time to point the car toward home roll down highway 16, cross the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and b-line for I-5.

Northwest Notes: Devon Borden picked up the first win of his career Saturday night at Grays Harbor Raceway. After showing a lot of speed and a heavy right foot Borden broke through – look for more wins for this young man as confidence will only accelerate the fast learning curve...12 360’s showed up for the second night of the dual track series – less than the 20 at Skagit the previous week but up from last year…Up at Skagit Chase Goetz won his second straight Sportsmen Sprint race – talk about fighting out of your weight class…northwest drivers and cars are all over the county representing – Cory Eliason in the Rudeen ride (All Stars), Chad Kemenah in the Shannon Wheatley ride (World of Outlaws mainly), Trey Starks (Knoxville), Skylar Gee (All Stars), Seth Bergman (ASCS national) and Robbie Price (ASCS)…while I would love to see all these cars and drivers in the northwest it is always nice to local stars and car succeed…Finally in 2003 as previously mentioned Solwold had the greatest season ever in the Northwest and the 2019 season is starting to bring back memories as Solwold swept the Spring Fling at Cottage Grove…that is four wins in four starts – I am definitely keeping an eye on this and see where this might go.

Next week I will head up to Skagit Speedway for round three of the Summer Thunder series and the dual track series. Looking forward to a solid group of sprinters and whether someone can stop the Solwold train.

If I am not swimming or running I am chasing races so until next time you never know if I will be at a race track near you.

Follow me @idrinkiswim on twitter. E-mail terrelljoseph@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

4/23

The Beautiful Skagit Valley, Wa… Racing season in April and May in the northwest is always a bit unpredictable. The weather is in constant flux and the rain gods may appear at anytime and stay for an extended visit. I have endured springs where it seems the rain will never stop even and when it doesn’t rain on Saturday you have to be the most dedicated fan to sit through the cold, wet nights. Other springs have offered nice days and cool nights - the sky is clear and the air is dry. What type of spring this season will bring only time will tell but for this last weekend it offered one of those ideal spring days that leads to a great night of racing.

            Mobbing up the I-5 towards Skagit Speedway the traffic was rather thick on this Saturday before Easter. Traffic built up at numerous locations in Seattle and its surrounding areas - plus an unplanned stop in Everett at the request of one the passengers on this trip - made a two hour trip closer to four. As we worked out of the bottleneck and headed for Skagit County the roads began to open up. Working through the rolling hills and finally the Skagit valley appeared before us. Opening up to the Puget Sound to the west the Skagit valley is an immense valley cut out the by Skagit River. Littered with small towns such as La Conner, Conway, Bow and Edison it can seem like a step back in time. As you snake through the valley and pass through the city centers of Mount Vernon and then Burlington you began to ride back into the rolling hills. And just as the Skagit Valley fades into the background we departed from I-5 and cruised on highway 99 following sprint car ace Lance Seargent until the great Skagit Speedway appeared to our left and opening night was upon us.

            As we drove up we didn't know what to expect for opening night. Last year only 11 360s had showed up and all year car counts would struggle during weekly shows in northwest at Skagit and Grays Harbor Raceway. Over the winter promoter Steve Beitler went to work and upped the weekly purses and also created the dual track challenge between Skagit and Grays Harbor raceway in Elma - this series is the northwest version of the Attica-Fremont Series. After a couple of years of struggling car counts Beitler was definitely looking to create more excitement in weekly racing. His popular Summer Thunder Series has consistently drawn nice fields and is a one of the best regional series around. Tonight though was to be the first night of dual track challenge and would it make it difference…

            ….The answer is yes - The nice crowd of avid fans were rewarded with a solid 19 360 sprints which provided 18 starters come main event time. The field was competitive and deep - providing great racing on the comfy confines of Skagit Speedway. Turns 3 and 4 turned out to be the most eventful with multiple lines containing unpredictable ruts. After an early but eventually fruitless challenge by former Word of Outlaw main event winner Travis Jacobson Washington peninsula resident JJ Hickle drove away from the field to score his first ever 360 main event at the legendary grounds. Hickle has won multiple races at Grays Harbor Raceway but before tonight had never graced victory lane at the home of the Dirt Cup. Greg Hamilton - who has shown lots improvement the last year and half - chased Hickle the last half of the race but settled for second. Hamilton is becoming a contender and could be a sleeper come Dirt Cup and Summer Nationals.

            Amazingly in the sportsmen sprint accomplished northwest sprint shoe Chase Goetz also won his first sprint car race ever at Skagit.This surprised me as Goetz has always been fast at Skagit Speedway in his 360 ride. Goetz was not the only sprint star in the sportsman field as he was joined by former two time Dirt Cup champion Jayme Barnes. I have been going to northwest racing long enough that anytime Barnes is in the house you need pay attention. After showing early speed he was a DNF. Somebody needs to get this guy in a 360 for the summer big shows.

            It was a great opening night at Skagit and the little traffic on the way out was a minor inconvenience to see so many fans out supporting dirt track racing. Yes we could have bummed around the camp sites and driven home with sun coming up but tonight we took the easy way out. We headed back down the rolling hills, through the valley, down the freeway leaving great Skagit Speedway behind us. We rolled through the cities with ease as the clocked turned the page to Sunday and the previously four drive was the two hour drive it should be. Traffic was a thing of the past and the freeway rolled with ease on this perfect northwest spring night.

Weekly Notes: Cam Smith and Hickle struggled early in qualifying but improved through the night with Hicklewinning and Smith coming home fourth…Both of these drivers expect and should compete for wins all season long…Another that will be contender all season isColton Heath who rebounded from a tough opening weekend at Yakima with quick time and a third place finish in the potent LAW motorsports sprinter…Jacobson was in the Cook family sprinter and had it rolling before incurring a DNF…another star of the past gracing the grounds was Brock Lemley as he looks to resurrect his sprint car career after a few years of not running much – if Brock puts the time in he will be a contender sooner than later this year…Canadian car owner Doug Rutz competed in California over the weekend with solid results. He had Tony Gualda and Justyn Cox in the cars Friday night and Cox in the car Saturday…

            Lastly I went a give big THANK YOU to all the promoters and race tracks (you know who you are) that are busting tail making Sprint Car racing the best it can be on the west coast. Whether it is Steve Beitler, Jim Allen (NARC), Tony Jones (USAC/CRA), the Russell family (Placerville/SCCT) or the many others I missed sprint car racing is alive and well on the west coast thanks to your hard work and dedication.

            More than likely I will not make it out to any races this weekend – work commitments and one of my racing partners is unavailable to ride along – but until next time if you can’t find me in the pool or running long distances check your local dirt track.

            Follow me @idrinkiswim on twitter.

 

4/16/19


Along I-5, West Coast…. As I roared down I-5 heading to Stockton, Californiathis past weekend for the Asparagus Festival (of which the Asparagus Cup was part of) at some point I left the northwest behind and saw the promise land of California ahead of me. I think the exact spot is somewhere in the Shasta Lake area as you wind through the mountains and eventually into the central valley. Once you land in the valley the sun arises and the climate changes immediately. It was nice to cruise through the valley, window down, pegging 80 mph leaving the dark rain clouds behind.
I arrived in Stockton mid day Thursday giving ample time to get setup and situated for the weekends asparagus cup. $25,000 if a driver could sweep – but with this tough California competition it seemed doubtful this would happen. Too many good drivers, too many good teams, too much luck needed. With such stars as Shane Golobic, Kyle Hirst , Gio Scelzi, Mitchell Faccinto, Rico Abreu and DJ Netto to name a few the weekends action was sure to be fast and furious.
Getting situated involved setting up my tent in a covered barn that I am sure houses animals during the fair. Luckily the asparagus festival doesn’t feature farm animals…meaning I did not have to share my sleeping quarters with some over sized stinking boar. On the other hand the faint smell of that oversized boar lingered.
After wasting the day Friday riding bad carnival rides over and over and eating the much anticipated fried asparagus it was time to head to the track. This was my first visit to the Stockton Dirt Track. It is cut out of an old mile horse track with the front stretch coming out onto the horse track front stretch. The turns are carved into the ground creating the banking necessary to ensure drivers can run the bottom and push the cushion. A little later as I walked the pits I noticed a few major absences – Dominic Scelzi , Chase Johnson (who won at Ocean on Friday) and Washington star Jason Solwold were MIA. Also two of the most potent rides in California were not in the house – the legendary Beef Packers machine and the Tommy Tarlton special decided home was the place to be for the weekend. Still the pits filled with 37 stout sprint cars each night (a total of 40 different drivers).
Most of the early action Friday was rather uneventful - although Jason Statler and Blake Carrick made the main through their heats after starting last which is a rare feat. The action in the B picked up but it was the A that really set off. Rico did his thing and rolled 24th to 5th while Gio Scelzi stalked Mitchell Faccinto relentlessly until finally seizing his opportunity as the leaders raced into turn one on lap 28. It was at this moment Scelzi let the slider rip. The 17 year old was $10,000 richer.
Walking back to the camp that I night mentioned maybe Gio would sweep - opinion had changed and a sweep now seemed reasonable. And he did just that. After Colby Copeland set the early pace Saturday Gio rolled by him with ease, opened the can of whooping and set sail. It was never in doubt…Gio had double dipped and got paid $25,000. What a weekend for this 17 year old young star.
Walking back to camp I decided to indulge in one last Asparagus Festival artery clogger. It has going to be the Clam Chowder with shrimp covered fries. Yes over the top…but yes super necessary for the enjoyment of the experience After a roaring crowd all day Saturday the crowd had settled late in the evening but still many lingered on the grounds. As I waited for my heart bomb order I overheard an Asparagus Festival goer talking to a friend how they should hit 99 and cruise to some other valley city on this warm summer night and ride the wave of life. I was kinda jealous and wanted to join them and ride the wave but that long ride home awaited in the morning. I got my loaded fries headed to camp and chewed the fat for a while before heading to sleep.
The drive back home is the reverse to the drive to California. From the sun to the weather cooling to inevitable spring downpour it was sad to leave but good to go back home. As I crossed that Oregon state line I waived goodbye to California and looked forward to the season in the Northwest and the inevitable spring buildup that leads to the grand daddy of them all - Super Dirt Cup at Skagit Speedway.

Stockton Observations: Blake Carrick and mini sprint star Joey Ancona were representing the under 16 crowd…Ancona led most of the way the last year at the $10,000 to win Super 600 Clay Cup Nationals at Deming Speedway before a DNF…Speaking of mini sprint stars Caden Sarale was also in attendance both night s as he advances his career into sprint cars…The Keith Kunz connection was deep this week with former and current drivers including Rico Abreu, Ryan Robinson, Tanner Carrick, Blake Carrick and Logan Seavey…Speaking of Seavey he was making a rare winged appearance in the Larry Antaya sprinter however the defending USAC National Midget Champion was never a factor showing just how the stiff the competition was…Garren Linder and Jake Wheeler represented the state of Oregon during the weekend…The car count may have been lower than what would of have been expected but it didn't effect the level of competition as stars such as Justin Sanders, Rico Abreu, DJ Netto, rising midget star Tanner Carrick and NorCal legends Andy Forsberg and Sean Becker were never factors all weekend…watching Kyle Hirst is a treat - he makes it look so easy sometimes. I hope he gets behind the wheel more as the season progresses.

Looking to head to Skagit Speedway this week as long as weather permits. Until then…if I am not swimming or running I am chasing races. follow me on twitter @idrinkiswim.

 

 

THE TALES OF THE NORTHWEST NOMAD

By Joseph Terrell

4/9/19

Somewhere, Wa….The northwest sprint car season kicked off this past weekend over the hills in Yakima at the Yakima dirt track. This was the first races of the season for the regional Summer Thunder Sprint Series. Unfortunately I was unable to make it over the mountain to the valley as work commitments had me tied up all weekend. Instead I followed along on twitter over the weekend.

Jason Solwold continues to be the dominant force in the northwest. His sweep of the weekend only emphasized this point. However this doesn’t mean he is unchallenged. Garen Linder, Colton Heath and JJ Hickle to name a few are sure to offer many challenges to Solwold. Linder and Heath specifically have shown the ability to compete and beat Solwold. Also running strong over in Yakima was Logan Forler. Forler tends not to follow a series but just pick and choose and the former ASCS national regular is a threat every night he shows up. If he chooses to follow the series he will not only step up the competition level but would be a serious contender for the championship. In addition Forler is the hardest working driver in show business – don’t believe get a pit pass sometime and just observe Forler throughout the night. Race and wrench and repeat.

A couple of other drivers who stepped up last year were Cam Smith and Austen Wheatley. Smith has become super strong at Skagit Speedway especially and I look for him to compete for both Dirt Cup and Summer Nationals glory. Wheatley also came on strong last year – was really good at Elma for the ASCS national weekend – but at this time I am not sure of his racing plans for the year.

Another nugget from the Yakima weekend is the driver shuffle that often happens aboard the potent Richmond engine powered Doug Rutz sprinter. Last year this car featured among others mini sprint star Jared Peterson (mainly at Skagit), JJ Hickle and California now Midwest superstar Buddy Koifoid. Other drivers that have ventured into this ride are Trey Starks and Wheatley. At Yakima this weekend Rutz had young New Zealand star Breyton Davison in the car both nights and California high flyer Tony Gualda turning the wheels Friday night. In typical Gualda fashion he was hammer down as he set fast time and led early in the feature before finishing with A DNF. No word on how many appearances the Hollister, Ca. driver will make aboard the Rutz sprinter. Gualda would finish a close second to Justyn Cox Saturday night at Placerville.

But wait there is more….it was announced that Cox will be making numerous appearances in the Rutz sprinter throughout the year starting this week in Stockton at the mighty Asparagus Cup. Cox has also stated he would like to be in the Rutz ride in Nortwest during the summer when all the big northwest shows occur. As always the summer should be awesome in the northwest.

Of course every time I see the Rutz sprinter I can not help but think of the original shoe – Travis Rutz. Anybody from the northwest can speak of the legend that this young man is and will always be in the northwest. More talent and charisma than almost any driver I have ever seen. I will never forget seeing Travis Rutz gushing as Joey Saldana graced the campsite – Travis felt he was in company of a legend. Me and my partners new we were in the presence of two legends.

Now on to the Asparagus Cup…I am now packing and getting ready for the road trip down. This will be my first visit the Stockton dirt track and am looking forward to the watching the stars of the Golden State do battle. I think it is awesome the Nocetti Group put together this great race and purse. I know their has been some negative feedback on twitter but there is nothing wrong about promoter putting on shows that pay $10,000 and $15,000 to win. Maybe it could pay better through the field…but if aren’t first you are last J

Combine the Asparagus Cup with Dirt Cup at Skagit Speedway, Summer Nationals at Skagit Speedway and Trophy Cup at the Tulare Thunderbowl and the west coast boasts many of the highest 360 ci winning purses in the United States. As I like to say the WEST COAST IS THE BEST COAST.

Follow me on twitter @idrinkiswim as I will posting different betting odds for each night of this weekends Asparagus Cup. Be pre warned though – finding the betting window is like finding Narnia (nearly impossible)

Until next week, when I will fill everybody in on the ins and outs of the Asparagus Cup which is part of the much bigger Asparagus festival (I can already taste the fried asparagus), so long and stay safe chasing races.

 


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