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 Posted: Thursday Jun 30th, 2016 12:58 AM
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Racer4u
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The 45th annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup presented by Jack in the Box had different storylines for all three days. As I was coming up Thursday, I had some light rain and even a few peeks of sunshine. The rain came down hard around 2:00 p.m. and the races were canceled later in the afternoon. The format was changed to a standard two-day format for the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series presented by MAVTV Motorsports Network. Instead of the top 16 drivers getting locked into Saturday’s main event, only the top four drivers from Friday’s A-Main earn automatic spots in the show. Everybody else has to race their way in.

There were still some pesky showers on Friday, but the races were completed and that’s the good news. The bad news is that the fans saw a lot of carnage. Nik Larson had an early jump over Mike Vollbrecht in the Northwest Focus Midgets 25-lap A-Main. The race had two red flags in the early stages. On the second lap, reigning champion Tristin Thomas took a violent flip between turns three and four on the second lap. Michael Hodel got sideways in turn two a couple of laps later, and Jeremiah Franklin rolled over after contact with Hodel. Both Thomas and Franklin were A-OK. “Bad News” Nick Evans took the lead from Larson down the backchute on the fourth lap, and didn’t look back. The top three cars of Evans, Larson, and Chance Crum pulled away from the rest of the field, while there was a four-car fight for fourth. Jonathan Jorgenson, Vollbrecht, Dougie James, and Ryan Cully were having a sensational battle for that spot. D. James got sideways in turn four on the eighth tour and dropped to ninth. The race didn’t have another slowdown until lap 15 when Randy Hodel crashed into the turn two guardrail. Crum took second place away from Larson by using the high line out of turn to complete the 15th lap. Vollbrecht was running fourth, but he lost power down the backstretch on lap 18 and that resulted in another yellow. It looked like Evans was on his way to the win, but he saw the yellow flag instead of the checkered when Tanner Holm stopped on the backstretch on the last lap. Holm started 16th and was up to fifth when he came to a halt. D. James was up to fourth on the restart and he made an incredible move to get up to second on the last lap. He passed both Crum and Larson in turn three to do so, but Evans was well ahead. Nick got the victory over D. James, Crum, Larson, and Jorgenson.

Two Alberta prepared sprint cars started one and two for the 25-lap ASCS main event with Travis Rilat and Marc Duperron occupying those spots. Duperron led the first lap and the yellow lights came on shortly thereafter, as Bricen James bounced in turns three and four before stopping. Bricen kept his car upright, but the next drivers wouldn’t be so lucky. The next four restarts all had red flags. :shock: First, Chase Goetz went for a nasty flip down the frontstretch. Next, Rilat took a bounce in turn one and went topsy turvy. The third red happened as Eric Fisher tumbled in turns three and four with Seth Bergman flying into the fence and Matt Covington going for a spin. The fourth and final red flag waved when Jake Helsel somersaulted in turns three and four. All drivers were okay. Last year’s Dirt Cup winner Jason Solwold passed Duperron coming out of turn two for the lead before the Helsel flip, but the pass didn’t count and Duperron got the top spot back. Duperron was still the pace setter, but Solwold and Blake Hahn were right there. The next flag to fly was fortunately a yellow one, as Wayne Johnson and Justin Youngquist came together in turn two with 14 laps complete. Duperron didn’t get fazed and he scored an upset victory to become the first driver from Alberta to win an ASCS national event. Solwold, Hahn, and Sam Hafertepe, Jr. were second through fourth to go to Saturday’s big show. Cam Smith rounded out the top five.

Fast forward to Saturday. It was the nicest of three days by far in terms of weather and track conditions. Brothers Kevin and Rick Smith were on the front row for the High Society Modifieds 25-lap main event. Kevin jumped out front, but Rick got sideways out of turn two on the opening lap and caused a huge melee for a red flag. Lawrence O’Connor was involved along with Kyler Moore, Jason St. Paul, David Wolfard, and Carl Franssen. Chris Beaulieu took the lead from K. Smith at the line on the third lap, and they distanced themselves from the rest of the field. The race stayed green until the 11th lap when the fourth place car of Adam Holtrop spun in turns one and two and collected sixth-running Melvin Decker. Beaulieu went into the infield with mechanical issues and he was able to come back, but he gave the lead back to K. Smith. The race was stuck on laps 17 and 18 for a long time, as there were three more yellow flags and two reds. :( As the cars tried for another restart, Holtrop spun Jeff Blanton around in turn one and Kirby Hoyle waved the checkered flag with 19 laps in the books. K. Smith won the race over 12th-starting Don Martin, Beaulieu, 18th-starting Shane Kerrigan, and 14th-place starter Tyler Walker. Holtrop originally crossed the stripe fourth, but he was docked to seventh for spinning Blanton out. 18 cars took the green flag, but only six saw the checkered flag. :?

Solwold had the pole for Saturday’s 40-lap ASCS main event and was looking to win his second straight DC. Hafertepe had other ideas, as he led from the outside pole and he led wire-to-wire. Solwold kept Hafertepe in close contact as they drove through lapped traffic, but Hafertepe didn’t make any mistakes. Behind them, Bergman passed Duperron for third in turns one and two on lap number 18. The race was slowed down just once, as Travis Jacobson looped it in turns one and two on the 23rd lap. There were three lapped cars between Hafertepe and Solwold on the restart, and Hafertepe took advantage. Bergman stole second from Solwold at the line on the 24th lap, and Solwold started to go backwards. Jason lost third to defending ASCS national champion Aaron Reutzel in turns three and four on the 33th circuit, then Hahn took fourth from Solwold at the same place two laps later. Reutzel started the race tenth and used a massive side job on Bergman in turns three and four with two to go to advance to second. Hafertepe was all by his lonesome and he saw the checkered flag first, collecting $15,000. Reutzel was second for the second straight year with Bergman getting third for an ASCS top three. Hahn and Solwold were fourth and fifth, but Hahn got DQ’ed for not going to the scales after the race. That gave fourth to Solwold and Johnny Herrera moved up to fifth.

It was night and day for this year’s Dirt Cup. I wasn’t so sure about Friday’s race after all of the red flags and the torn up equipment, but Saturday was much more enjoyable. The ASCS drivers evened the score after the local racers took last year’s DC. The locals look to turn things back in their favor Friday and Saturday at Grays Harbor Raceway for the second annual Fred Brownfield Classic presented by Little Creek Casino. As they get ready for that, let’s go over a few things from last weekend...

Tumble in the Rough: Friday was like a trip to past Dirt Cups, where it seemed like the red flag came out very frequently. :( Eleven people got on their lids (eight sprint cars and three midgets), but everyone climbed out uninjured. The track for Saturday was much, much better. It was very smooth all the way around...and there were no holes! :D We still had red flags for flips, but only three people got upside-down.

Hafertepe Handles It: Hafertepe came into Dirt Cup leading the ASCS points standings by 63 over Herrera. After DC was completed, Sam’s lead is up to 89 points. He leads all drivers in wins with four and top ten finishes at 13, and is also tied for first in top fives with Herrera at eleven apiece. Hafertepe and Herrera are both looking for their first championship, as Herrera lost the title in 2011 by one point to Shane Stewart.

Jumping Into the Top Five: Reutzel was looking to turn his luck around in Dirt Cup, as he was eighth in points. He dropped from fifth to 14th in Friday’s main event, but he rebounded big time on Saturday when he took second place from Bergman with two laps to go. After his runner-up finish, Aaron vaulted four spots in the points to fourth. He’s just two points ahead of Covington and Hahn, who are tied for fifth.

Playing Leapfrog: Travis Jacobson is out of Blake Cook’s #22X car, as 2014 Dirt Cup champion Brock Lemley was back in it. T-Jac jumped into Roger Oudman's #7O entry on Friday, but he got his front end knocked out in a crash with three laps to go in the second B-Main. Travis drove Michael Bollinger’s #20 machine on Saturday, and took it to an easy victory in heat four. :) After spinning out just after halfway in the main event, Travis restarted for a 14th-place finish.

Coming from All Over: Dirt Cup always has a big mixture of drivers from near and far, and this year was no different. Along with the ASCS travelers, there were a strong field of Skagit and GHR regulars. As far as people spending long hours on the road, they were also there. Duperron, Steve Reeves, Skylar Gee, and first-time visitor Matthew Dusseault came down from Alberta. B. James and Jared Ridge made the tow up from Oregon, while Trever Kirkland was the only driver coming from Montana.

Mighty Midgets: The midgets continue to have impressive turnouts for their 2016 season, as 30 drivers signed in on Friday. :) That’s just one person short of tying the all-time high, which was set at Grays Harbor Raceway’s season opener on April 30. Skagit is surely the place to go for midget racing, as there were 29 entries on May 7 and 26 drivers competed on June 4. :D The midgets join the ASCS Friday and Saturday at GHR for the second annual Fred Brownfield Memorial, so expect another great car count.

Good News for “Bad News”: Evans remains in third place in overall Northwest Focus Midgets points, but he’s still in the mix for the title. Eric Turner inherited the points lead, as he leads Thomas by 13 points and Nick is just one point behind Tristin. The Skagit points were just updated and there’s a new points leader, too. Evans moved up from third to first. Thomas drops to second and he's 18 points back. Turner is a close third, only five points behind Thomas.

Kevin Doubles Up: K. Smith is transitioning nicely from the sprint cars to modifieds, as he made his first mod start last May. Kevin is the only driver with two victories at Skagit in '16, as Vancouver Islanders Graham Cook and Lawrence O’Connor have one win each. Saturday’s win was the second career W in a mod for Kevin, as he scored his first victory at Skagit’s season opener on April 30 beating out his brother Rick. The next modified race at Skagit takes place on July 9 for the midseason championship presented by Les Schwab Tire Centers.

Number for the Weekend: 15,000...the number of reasons to smile for Hafertepe after Saturday’s triumph. This wasn’t the first huge victory for Sam at Skagit, as he took Kevin Rudeen’s #26 car to his first career World of Outlaws win in 2011. That victory was worth 20 grand.

Consistency Award: Solwold. Racin’ Jason was the top Skagit regular both nights with a second and a fourth. I want to give a shout-out to Shaylen Raye Motorsports owner Mike Anderson for the hat and shirt! :cool:

Hard Luck Award: Lemley and J.J. Hickle (tie). Brock flipped end over end in the first lap of Friday’s fourth ASCS heat after contact with Luke Didiuk in turns three and four. Trey Starks was also involved, and got hammered by Steve Parker. All drivers were uninjured, but Lemley and Parker’s Dirt Cups were over. :( Hickle had engine problems on Friday and never took a competitive green flag. He left the pits early Saturday, as his woes got worse. :( Steven Hendrickson flipped down the frontstretch in Friday’s midget hot laps to bring his night to a close, but he was okay.

“Never Say Die” Award: Bergman and Goetz (tie). Bergman had to use a spare car on Saturday after destroying one on Friday after getting together with Fisher very early on. Seth ran in the top five throughout Saturday’s big show and got a well-deserved third. Chase took a wicked series of barrel rolls on a lap one restart in Friday’s main event, but he was the hard charger in Saturday’s feature. He finished second to Rilat in the first B-Main, and drove from 19th to seventh in the A. Speaking of Rilat, he was one of the last drivers to arrive on Saturday after destroying a car on Friday as well. Travis passed five cars to wind up 12th.

Next race: The second annual Fred Brownfield Classic presented by Little Creek Casino at Grays Harbor Raceway Friday and Saturday with the Lucas Oil ASCS Sprint Car Dirt Series presented by MAVTV and the Northwest Focus Midgets. Solwold and Herrera captured the ASCS main events in last year’s event, while D. James won both nights in the midgets.

____________________
Avatar: Stomp Your Hands, Clap Your Feet from glam rockers Slade (1974).

Last edited on Tuesday Jul 5th, 2016 02:21 AM by Racer4u

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