ELMA — Jeremy Shank took the low line on the Grays Harbor Raceway track and made it stick to claim the biggest win of his career Saturday night.
On a track that featured four lanes of driving, some wild maneuvers and a solid night of racing overall, Shank stuck his modified car on the low side of the track and outraced Nick Trenchard for the lead and the victory in the 14th running of the Shipwreck Beads Northwest Modified Nationals.
Shank, from Salem, Ore., took the lead with five laps remaining, getting enough momentum from the bottom of the track to slingshot past Trenchard, who stayed on the high line throughout, out of turn 4.
“I feel a little bit bad for (Trenchard); he led a ton of laps there,” Shank said. “I felt pretty good coming out low from turns 3 and 4 and I tried not to squeeze him out too much for the lead. I just had to make the move and I hope I left him enough room there. That was a lot of fun. Finally, I got close enough to slide in front of him. Definitely, this is my biggest modified win. I’ve had some some with the late models and this is just my second year in modifieds. So yeah, this is my biggest. I love coming up here.”
The post-race inspection shack became home to some drama following the 40-lap A-main. Trenchard and Troy McElroy, who finished third, were both disqualified for finishing below the minimum weight on the car. Both cars were reportedly low on gas at the end of the race.
Trenchard, of Klamath Falls, Ore., appeared to be the driver with the winning car throughout the 40-lap A-main. Wishkah’s Joe German, by virtue of a pill draw during the opening ceremonies, drew the pole position for the race and kept it for the first two laps.
Coming out of turn 4, Trenchard squeezed by German for the lead by the nose of his car and took advantage of the open track in front of him. German shuffled back into the pack, but stayed in the top eight cars throughout the night.
Mark Wauge, the reigning modified nationals champion from Jacksonville, Ore., took over second place and challenged Trenchard early. Matt Mitchell, of Vancouver, moved up to third and Kyle Casson, Friday night’s Race of Champions winner and the 2011 Modified Nationals champion, was fourth.
Casson, of Yreka, Calif., moved to second place on an aggressive restart off a yellow-flag caution on lap 15 and pressed Trenchard. A series of yellow-flag cautions and restarts kept the field close and offered Casson more chances to stay aggressive to challenge for the lead.
Trenchard found the highest line on the track to his liking once he took the lead and he stayed up there exclusively. It allowed him to grab the preferred line coming out of turns 2 and 4 and hold off challengers. In fact, that may have led to Casson’s kamikaze move on lap 30.
Casson went hard into turn 3, slung down from the middle-high line to the low apex of turns 3 and 4 and popped in front of Trenchard. However, Casson couldn’t maintain control of his car and spun out to give up second place. He finished ninth overall.
The Casson spin moved Shank to second overall on the lap-30 restart and the battle for the lead began. For five laps, Shank cut down time and space to press Trenchard, who stayed high. Coming out of the backstretch, Shank drove the low line hard and got enough momentum to hold off Trenchard as he came down from turn 4 for the lead on lap 35.
From there, Shank pulled away and used lapped traffic to stay away for the $2,500 victory.
Because of the post-race disqualifications — which cost Trenchard $1,500 and McElroy $1,000 in prize money — Jeremy Ritchie, of Medford, Ore., took second place and Seabeck’s Craig Moore finished third.
Veteran late model driver and race track promoter Jerry Schram, of Vancouver, moved up to fourth place. Schram was the hard-charger of the night: he didn’t race on Friday, moved into the A-main from one of the last-chance races and started 21st in the field.
German, the two-time reigning track modified champion who stayed within striking distance despite the early race fall-back, took fifth.
A wild 25-lap B-main set up the rest of the night’s racing, starting with Creswell, Ore’s Gus Cooper, the inaugural Modified Nationals champion. The B-Dash winner traded the lead with Port Hardy, B.C.’s Lawrence O’Connor for the first couple of laps.
Once the yellow-flag cautions and restarts began to pile up, the top-four automatic transfer spots changed hands continuously.
Cooper was the leader, taking the top spot for good on lap 13, with C-main transfer driver Craig Hansen moving from the back of the field to second.
Sean Fox, of Rainier, Ore., used a lap-20 restart to solidify his hold on third place after fighting off several challengers.
The final transfer spot moved around between Dane Smith, of Medford, Ore.; Morgan Criswell, of Vancouver; and Matt Jenner, of Vancouver. All three shuffled through the fourth and final transfer spot before Smith took control in the final three laps to move on.
Cooper started near the back of the field, then moved quickly to win the B-Dash and pick up the pole position for the B-main.
In turns 3 & 4, Cooper split Fox and O’Connor to take the lead on lap 4. Fox held the first lead from the pole position to take second, holding off O’Connor.
Schram had to move from the back of a six-car field to claim this 20-lap transfer race. Craig Hansen, of Albany, Ore., slipped into the lead on the opening lap and took the second and final transfer spot to the B-main.
Hansen put pole sitter Zack Simpson, of Hoquiam, into second and Schram moved past Simpson for second off the lap-2 yellow-flag restart. From there, Schram reeled in Hansen and got by on lap 16 for the lead and the win.
Simpson, who had major engine trouble on Friday and never raced on the night, started the six-lap C-Dash and fought the entire time with Craig Hansen of Albany, Ore., for all six laps. Two caution-flags later, the dash finished with Simpson leading all six laps to win.
Last Chance Races
If you didn’t qualify for the A-main through the B-main race, you had one of two 15-lap last-chance races to run to get in.
In the first 15-lap race, Schram overcame some tough going in the B-main to win the last-chance race and qualify for the A-main. Criswell got past Jesse Bailey, of Center Point, Ore., in turns 3 & 4 on the final lap to claim the second and final transfer spot.
In the second 15-lap race, Grays Harbor Raceway modified champion Craig Moore, of Seabeck, took the the lead from Jenner midway through the race to claim the win. Jenner held on for the second and final transfer spot.
Race of Champions
Casson was the wire-to-wire winner of the 30-lap Race of Champions on Friday night, beating out a veteran field of track and Modified Nationals champions from throughout the Northwest. Wauge, Shank, Mark Carrell, of Redmond, Ore., and Moore rounded out the top-five spots.
Racing returns to the raceway for the Grays Harbor Fair Races on Aug. 10. The modifieds, midgets, street stocks and hornets will be in action. Racing starts at 1 p.m.