ELMA — Five-time track hobby stock champion Zack Simpson of Hoquiam notched his first main-event victory of the season in the modified classification on Saturday at Grays Harbor Raceway.
Simpson was the fifth different driver to win a main event in this highly competitive classification this season.
Brian Harding of Oakville (hobby stocks), Henry Corbin III of Oregon (Pacific Hardtop Racing Association dwarf cars), Henry VanDam of Enumclaw (360sprint cars) and Kyle Mast (hornets) were the other main event winners.
The pole-sitter for the main event, Simpson fought off the challenges of two modified veterans — reigning track champion Joe German of Aberdeen and Shelton’s Scott Miller — to take the checkered flag.
Miller stayed on Simpson’s back bumper for the first 12 laps of the 30-lap feature. The Hoquiam driver gained some breathing room over the next 11 laps as German overtook Miller for second.
On lap 24, German pulled behind Simpson’s back bumper as lapped cars slowed the Hoquiamite’s progress. Using lapped traffic to his own benefit, however, Simpson stayed in his preferred low groove to hold off German over the final six laps.
German and Miller placed second and third, respectively. Craig Moore of Seabeck took fourth and Aberdeen’s Greg Dineen held off Tom Sweatman of Cosmopolis for fifth. Having attended his son Cory’s graduation from Aberdeen High School earlier in the day, Sweatman arrived only in time for the main event and was forced to start from the back of the 14-car pack.
Simpson and German were the heat race winners. Miller and Del Schnitzer finished second and third, respectively, in the first heat, while Dineen and Moore occupied the same places in the second heat.
Harding ended Hoquiam driver Jason Tole’s four-race winning streak in this classification. The two are the only hobby stock main-event winners at Elma this season, as Harding also won the season opener.
Harding went wire-to-wire, but had to survive a few caution flags to do so. The four cautions allowed Tole to pressure Harding at times, but the Oakville driver pulled away.
Tole finished second, followed by Hoquiam’s Jack Parshall, Tom Hecker of Spanaway and Eddie Blood of Olympia.
Shane Kerrigan of Aberdeen won the first heat race, with Ryen Haney and Harding taking second and third. Tole nabbed the second heat, followed by Parshall and Austin Kerrigan.
Cory Sweatman also made it to the track following his graduation, but lasted only seven laps before car trouble sent him to the pits for good.
360 Sprint Cars
The reigning track champion, VanDam never relinquished the lead in the main event and averted potential disaster at the end.
VanDam was largely unchallenged until the final turn of the night. Burlington’s Jeff Westgard, driving a lapped car, spun out in turn four and moved up the track enough to force VanDam to swerve before missing the car en route to the victory.
Earlier in the race, multi-time track champion and fan favorite Jay Cole of Shelton lost control of his car in turn three and hit the wall hard, bringing the race to a standstill on the 15th lap. After several minutes, Cole emerged from the car and was taken to an area hospital for observation.
Mitch Olson of Tacoma wound up second, with J.J. Hickle of Quilcene, Ricky Fauver of Everett and Reese Goetz of Snohomish placing third through fifth. Hickle, who had trailed Cole by five points entering the night, likely will assume the season points lead.
Goetz won the only heat race, with Fauver and Olson taking second and third.
The defending series champion and winner of the only PHRA race at Elma last year, Corbin fought off early and late challenges on Saturday.
He and Ronnie Gilmore Sr. traded leads for the first seven laps. After a yellow-flag caution on the eighth lap, Corbin used lapped cars to distance himself from the competition.
On the 27th lap, however, a yellow flag brought the entire field together for a green-white-checkered finish. After one false start, Corbin III pulled away for the win.
Troy Kunas quietly came out of the pack to finish second, edging Henry Corbin II. Leo Hachler and Jeremiah Hester rounded out the top five.
Heat-race winners were Corbin III, Clay Goven and Nik Larson. Dale Knutson and Corbin III captured trophy dashes.
Mast went wire-to-wire in the 15-lap main. The racing Nortons of Tenino — Brian, Jesarae, Chad and Shane — occupied the next four places.
John Song spun out in turn four in the fourth lap, wrecking his car and kicking up huge chunks of clay. Jesarae Norton wound up hitting his vehicle, bringing out the red flag. Mast, however, took command after the restart.
Mast, Chad Norton and Zack Fuller were the top three finishers in the heat race.
A rare Tuesday night event — dubbed Prelude to the Dirt Cup — is scheduled for Elma this week. The 410 sprint cars will come to the raceway for the first time since 2008. Racing begins 30 minutes later than usual, at 7 p.m.