ELMA – The key to success in a 100-lap race, like Saturday’s Iron Man 100 at Grays Harbor Raceway, is patience.
Hoquiam’s Jason Tole showed his patience for exactly one-half lap, charging 10 spots through the field to take the lead and win the inaugural street stock endurance race.
Tole led 98 out of the scheduled 100 laps, bringing a long night of racing to a close. Joining him on the front straightaway for trophies and interviews were Montesano’s Josh Muller (modifieds), Snohomish’s Reece Goetz (360 sprints) and Tenino’s Brian Norton (hornets).
“I had a blast,” Tole said of the 100-lap race. “We don’t normally get a chance to run a race like this. It was cool to run a race like this, get a NASCAR (Sprint Cup) feel of it, a long-term run like that. It was a lot of fun.”
The four-classification racing card, however, was highlighted by the first long-distance race at GHR in recent memory. Tole, the current season leader in race wins in the street stocks class, stepped up to the front.
Iron Man 100
Starting 11th on the grid after qualifying second overall via an inverted seeding procedure, Tole realized quickly that his chance to get to the front of the field came when the green flag dropped.
“I had a different plan, but the green flag dropped and my plans changed,” Tole said. “I figured I’d get what I could and it panned out in the end. If the advantage was there, I would take it. If it wasn’t there, I’d hold back and show some patience to see if another chance developed.”
As Tole picked through the field, the race leader spot changed hands twice in the opening two laps. South Prairie’s Ross Watkins held the race pole position for the first turn before Olympia’s Brian Izzi claimed the lead for the first lap.
Tacoma’s Mike Knox on the backstretch on the second lap overtook Izzi, with Tole now right behind. The Hoquiam driver used nearly the same spot on the track to get the lead for the third lap and pulled away.
Hoquiam veteran Jack Parshall, who started 13th, followed Tole through the field and grabbed second place a few laps later. This set up a 45-lap dogfight through the first 50-lap segment.
“I race (Parshall and Oakville’s Brian Harding) a lot and I trust them to not be too shady,” Tole said. “They’re very dependable to be around. I know that if something happens, it is accidental. I had a lot of faith in that, so I’d run out front as long as I could. If I got challenged, I’d let them go and hold on until the end.”
Lapped traffic and six yellow caution flags fell during the first segment, slowing the proceedings. Tole had 2-3 lapped cars in between himself and Parshall for most of the flags, but Parshall navigated through to press for the lead.
Race rules said that any yellow flags after the fourth incident in the race would result in caution laps being counted toward the 100 scheduled. Thirteen laps in the first segment and 26 laps overall were run under the yellow flag on the night. Eleven yellow flags were flown for spinning cars, no major wrecks.
After 50 laps, Tole led the field into the off-track work area for gas. Parshall, along with Cosmopolis’ Cory Sweatman, would get moved to the back of the field for changing tires.
“You had a choice – if you wanted to work on your car (at the break), you had to go all the way to the back,” Parshall said. “I switched from slicks to treads. The threads stick a little bit better for my style of driving.”
Sweatman’s crew, however, angrily disputed the tire change after the race. The move took him from fourth overall (after starting 23rd) after the first segment to 22nd place. He finished seventh overall.
With Parshall at the back, Tole had Harding to contend with. The duo battled hard, with Harding staying right on Tole’s bumper. Harding had three caution flags restarts to try and get by, but Tole pulled away each time.
By lap 70, Aberdeen’s Shane Kerrigan entered the fray to challenge Harding for second place. This allowed Tole a bit of room to lead. Harding used lapped traffic to hold off Kerrigan and got himself into position against Tole.
Tole used some lapped traffic to block off Harding on a few occasions, then Harding did the same thing for what appeared to be a race-changing pass for the lead on lap 94.
Just as Harding got the lead coming out of turn 2, two cars stalled and stopped on the backstretch to bring out the 10th yellow caution flag.
As per track rules, once the yellow flag comes out, the field is reset to the last complete lap. This sent Tole back into the lead, with Harding second, an unfortunately timed caution for Harding and a fortuitous flag for Tole.
“I saw that and I was laughing in my car,” Tole said of Harding’s move. “Then, the caution came out. I’ve been bit by that before, so this time, I was fortunate.”
This would be the last charge against Tole on the night. One final caution flag turned the finish into a two-lap sprint, but Tole claimed the checkered flag going away.
Parshall, who weaved his way through the field for the entire second segment, finished second, passing Harding in the final couple of laps.
Shane Kerrigan took fourth and Izzi rounded out the top-five spots.
“I was really fast,” Parshall said. “I think I was faster than both of them (Tole and Harding) and I was running them down. Then, I don’t know if I boiled the rear brakes, because I was running the rear brakes real hard, and I lost my rear brakes. That created a push in the corner, so I had to lift a little earlier. So, I had to back off and really play for second instead of first at the end.”
Nine cars finished all 100 laps of the race – Olympia’s Eddie Blood sixth; Sweatman seventh; Elma’s Ryan Haney eighth; and, Aberdeen’s Austin Kerrigan ninth.
Snohomish’s Reece Goetz has shown that he can take over a race when he gets the chance. On Saturday, he did just that.
In an 11-car, 30-lap A-main feature, Goetz led wire-to-wire from the pole position for his second win of the season in Elma. The teenager deftly handled lapped traffic and was never threatened.
Only one caution flag flew in this race, giving Enumclaw’s Henry VanDam a chance to challenge. However, Goetz blasted through the single-file restart and pulled away.
VanDam finished third overall after Quilcene’s J.J. Hickle overtook him in turns 3 & 4 on lap 28. Shelton’s Jay Cole finished fourth and Marysville’s Colton Heath rounded out the top five.
Montesano’s Muller was also a wire-to-wire winner on this night, handling several challenges during this 30-lap, A-main feature for his first feature win of the season.
From the pole position, Muller held off Shelton’s Scott Miller, Lebanon, Ore.’s Scott Carrell and Wishkah’s Joe German throughout.
Miller provided the opening pressure, and then Carrell got in his licks as well. German, the track class points leader, took over second late and was gaining on Muller just as the checkered flag dropped.
German, Carrell, Miller and Cosmopolis’ Tom Sweatman rounded out the top five.
Tenino’s Norton, one of several from the Norton clan in the classification, grabbed the lead on the fourth lap.
The race leader at the time, Tom Heckard, stalled on the backstretch and five cars went by him before he got back under power. Norton was right behind him at the time and made the pass.
For the next 16 laps, Norton stayed away from the field to claim the victory, his second of the season.
Willie Wright, Ryan Williams, Tenino’s Chad Norton and Elma’s Amanda Allery rounded out the top five.
This Saturday, the raceway will host the start of the Wild, Wild West Modified Shootout Speedweek, with the 360 sprints, street stocks and hornets running as well. Green-flag racing starts at 6:30 p.m.
The Daily World’s Justin Damasiewicz contributed to this report.