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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.



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.




By Joseph Terrell


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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