ELMA — For the first time in its short three-year run, the modified Speed Week kicked-off its racing week at Grays Harbor Raceway. With a memorial lap for long time Grays Harbor Raceway reporter, Jack Fordyce, 360-Sprint driver, Jay Cole, was granted the honor of the checkered flag lap to start the evening of racing and the Wild Wild West Modified Shootout. Speed Week was one of Fordyce’s favorite times of the year.
Thirty drivers ran through eight heat races with a last chance qualifier to trim the A-Main race to twenty for the final race of the night.
The 2012 defending Speed Week champion, Jesse Williamson, took the inaugural 2013 race in a constant battle with Kyle Casson in early laps, Williamson dominated the final ten to start his Speed Week off with a win.
Drivers who will participate in the remainder of Speed Week will travel through Oregon to California and back to finish on June 22, at the Southern Oregon Speedway in White City. Only taking Father’s Day as a rest, Speed Week runs through Grays Harbor, Banks, Lebanon and Cottage Grove, Ore., stopping in Coos Bay on June 20, before dipping into California at the Yreka Siskiyou Motor Speedway, June 21, and closing their week in White City, Ore.
Woven between the Modified heat races, 360 Sprints, Street Stocks and Hornets also made their way around the clay track in Elma. In one of the most exciting races of the night, Jason Tole clipped the field of Street Stocks, losing most of his front quarter panel and brought home the checkered flag for his fourth win of the season. Henry Van Dam took the field in the 360 Sprints and Chad Norton took his second season win in the Hornet class.
Dominating time on the track, modified drivers ran through eight heat races, two B-Mains, and a last chance qualifier to set the field for the 20-car, 35-lap A-Main, the final race of the night.
With cars getting tangled in the first initial laps, as drivers had trouble getting through turn four, a re-start of the field was quickly set. Kyle Casson of Yreka, California and Coburg, Ore. driver defending Speed Week Champion, Jesse Williamson, kept the auto carnage behind them as they led the group of 30 drivers through five cautions until the group was whittled down to 14 cars in the final lap.
Williamson took control by circuit 25 and led the rest of the way with Casson still giving chase. The occasional threat was seen by Mark Carrell, Jeremy Shank and 2011 winner Brian Poppa.
With the final caution at lap 31, Williamson took command to rush the line at the final flag. Right on his bumper was Casson and Shank held on for third. Nick Trenchard and what looked like Carrell brought in the top five. After the race tech check, Carrell was disqualified for running an improper RPM chip, moving Monte Bischoff into the top five finish. The best run for local Grays Harbor drivers in the modified class was Zack Simpson taking sixth. Right behind Simpson was Joe German and Tom Sweatman.
Henry VanDam finally got a win at Grays Harbor after a season start of second and third place finishes. With a field of eight cars in the Sprint class, the largest showing at Grays Harbor Raceway so far this year, the 16-minute race went fairly clean for the scheduled 30-lap run.
New to the order of Sprints, Midget driver Allison Journey made her Grays Harbor Raceway debut, but finished two laps down. Mike Roming got things started early with an unexpected wheelie on the back straight away with an unavoidable run in heavy traffic. A total re-start saw Jay Cole take an early lead until VanDam ran him down by lap eight and ran the rest of the race out front. Cole attempted to make back the lost space, but VanDam kept him a few seconds behind. Running third, Reece Gotez continues to improve his season making it in front of Evan Margenson in fourth and Seth Nunes in fifth.
In what looked to be the race of the night, Jason Tole continued his winning streak in the Street Stock class. Tole, who started deep in the pack of 15, took his time in the middle of the pack. Local threat to the Tole possible repeat, Jack Parshall, bottomed out at lap seven, looking like he lost most of his drive train and had to be pushed off to the pits. Parshall, who had grabbed second before he lost it on the backstretch, was looking for an opening around Brian Izzi who looked to be controlling the race. But it was really more of a cluster of cars running in the front pack, as with each pass in front of the grandstands, all one could see was a flurry of cars racing to take the lead. With Izzi just edging out the group, the pack consisted of Cory Sweatman, Brian Harding, Shane Kerrigan and Eddie Blood all looking like they were glued together.
Tole had started to make his way into the lead group after Parshall had to leave the track, and methodically made his way to the front. Izzi continued to edge the group as the 25 laps started to wane, Kerrigan slipped past for a couple laps, but Izzi would get it right back. A caution at lap 19 gave Tole his opportunity to break out in front and take the race the rest of the way home. Izzi was able to keep Sweatman behind him and finish with second, with Harding being chased by Kerrigan and Blood closing out the group.
But like the Modified class, another official call from the Tech Shack brought a disqualification to Izzi for an illegal break system. The DQ gave Sweatman second, Harding third, Kerrigan fourth, Blood fifth and heartbreak to Izzi fans.
Chad Norton takes his second win at the track with Jesarae Norton taking the second bill. In what looked like a J. Norton initial win for the season, leading the first seven laps of the 20-lap Hornet race, C. Norton finally was able to get around and drive the race to its final flag. Shay Turner got the drop on Willie Wright and beat him out for third, with Shane Norton closing out the top five.
Next week at the Grays Harbor Raceway, the second running of the Northwest Extreme Sprints will kick up the dirt. Also on the schedule the return of the Midgets with more Street Stocks and Hornets.