ELMA — For the third time this season, The Northwest American Sprint Car Series brought its show to the Grays Harbor Raceway. Along with it, the Northwest Wingless Tour touted its wingless version of a sprint car to show that you don’t need wings to fly around the dirt oval in Elma.
The ASCS National Sprints ran a fairly clean race for the opening night of road warrior madness. The field of 27 cars pared down after four heat races and a B-main to jettison six additional cars into the 22 car A-main event. Out of the B-main, Grays Harbor fan favorites Jay Cole and Reese Goetz joined the National top runners such as Johnnie Herrea, Seth Bergman and Jason Johnson. But it would be a Northwest Sprint driver who would take the first checkered flag on opening night.
Travis Rilat of Forney, Texas, second to Bergman in their heat race, overcame Johnson after the first lap and never looked back in the scheduled 25-lap main event.
Johnson would get his turn the following night. Just shy of the mid-point of Saturday’s A-main, Johnson was able to get past both Herrera and Dustin Morgan, to place him at the top of the points race for the national tour.
Warming up the fans on both nights, the Northwest Wingless Sprints carried 12 cars into both main events. Kyle Miller tracking out of Eugene, Ore., set a margin of more than six seconds in his win Friday night ahead of Evan Maginson and bettered the field by 10 seconds on Saturday for a double-parlay weekend.
With the field seeing the top three points leaders taking to the clay oval of Elma — Sterling Kane, Bill Winsley and Rob Lindsey — drivers provided a clean race with only two cautions. The first took Kane out by the hook after completing only six laps. The second, a little slip coming out of turn three by Jeff Bell.
Miller, who had made his way into the top five after the third lap, rode the outside lane to take the lead just as Bell rose the second caution. After the restart, Miller distanced himself from the field with Marginson in hot pursuit. Miller was overtaking cars by lap 20, giving Marginson track litter to contend with.
Following Marginson in the chase to the finish line was Pat Canfield, Mike Roming and Garret Johnson, completing the top five for the first race.
Saturday, Miller sat on the pole and never gave up his front position. This time Canfield would be the one trying to close the gap. Introducing lapped traffic earlier in this race, Miller tried to loose Canfield by feeding him Johnie Butler on lap 10. Butler, who had just tightened the final bolt on his new wingless, would leave the track for the infield under a cloud of smoke and a hole in his engine block.
As Canfield tried to close the distance on Miller, Roming was in a battle for third with Kyle Mehner. After trading positions a couple of times in as many laps, Mehner would grab and hold the third-place slot by the end of the 30 laps. Canfield never did catch Miller, giving him his second win for the weekend, and his third win in a row at Grays Harbor. Mehner slid in to third ahead of Roming who was just ahead of Lindsey in fifth.
As slick as the wingless cars ran the course, the ASCS followed suit in its first main event. Rilat quickly took the lead over Johnson, and the lead group settled in for the first dozen laps. It was Rilat, Johnson, Herrea, Roger Crockett and Seth Bergman until Brandon Hahn left the track with aid of Grays Harbor Raceway towing service. Henry VanDam slid into the infield and the group cooled for a restart. Dustin Morgan would take a few laps away from Bergman, until Crockett got loose coming through turn four and reset the field one last time.
With just under 10 laps to finish the 25-lap race, Rilat and Johnson continued where they left off — out in front, leaving Herrea to deal with both Morgan and Crockett. Johnson pressed Rilat, but was unable to make the final pass as traffic control, Bob Valencia, let fly the checkered flag closing out the race for the night. Herrera was able to keep his third-place position and Morgan edged out Crockett for fourth.
Rilat would not be able to repeat in the feature race on Saturday. In fact, it seemed that the Grays Harbor race track clay would cause most of the trouble through the night. After several tours around the track, the top lip of the dirt field had become thick and soft, causing several mishaps in the form of blown tires for drivers.
Rilat would be the first to find the soft pile of clay in turn one and be taken out of the race. On the restart after the caution, Crockett had to be pushed from the field after coming out of the same end of the track. VanDam would not be able to complete the restart after the Crockett caution, but was able to breath power back into his engine with the assistance of a push-truck. Three rapid cautions stalled the race at lap 12, but racing finally resumed for a few more laps. By that time, Herrera had taken the lead from Morgan, who had been leading for the first eight circuits. Herrera managed to keep his lead through the triplet of cautions but would soon see the flash of Johnson run past him.
A total of eight cautions during the night was a mix of drivers being assisted off the track and some under their own power — most with a blown tire. Jay Cole was one of the ticket holders to the change-a-tire club and left to the pits under his own power. Cole was not allowed back on the track after replacement, as he had gone down a lap and the go-go green was presented before he could re-enter.
Out of the 22 starers, only 15 made it to the 30-lap total by the end of the race and one driver was asked to leave after being charged with one to many cautions. Johnson and Herrera finished one and two at the flag, with Tony Bruce Jr. and Jeff Swindell third and fourth, respectively. The fifth-place position was taken by Bergman.
Grays Harbor Raceway announced during the event that there would be no racing this coming weekend.
Promoters on both sides of the scheduled AMA Grand National Flat Track Motorcycle race had run into “unforeseen circumstances” and had to cancel the event. Officials at Grays Harbor Raceway said they are already attempting to ensure a re-schedule of the event next season.
The next race at Grays Harbor Raceway will be the 14th annual Shipwreck Beads Northwest Modified Nationals, running July 26 and 27.