ELMA —Defending champion Jesse Williamson of Coburg, Ore., dominated the final 10 laps en route to victory in the opening race of Modified Speed Week on Saturday at Grays Harbor Raceway.
The Elma track was the site for the kick-off to the Modified Speed Week. For the last three years, Grays Harbor has participated in Speed Week, but this was the first year that the raceway was the host track to get things running by hosting the Wild Wild West Modified Shootout Kick-Off.
Thirty drivers ran through eight heat races with a last chance qualifier to trim the A-Main race to the top twenty of the night.
Drivers who will participate in the remainder of Speed Week will travel through Oregon to California and back to finish on June 22, at the Southern Oregon Speedway in White City, Ore.
Sprinkled between the Modified heat races 360 Sprints, Street Stocks and Hornets also made their way around the clay oval in Elma.
In one of the most exciting races of the night, Jason Tole of Hoquiam clipped the field and brought home the checkered flag for his fourth win of the season.
Henry Van Dam of Enumclaw took the 360 Sprints and Chad Nortonof Tenino captured his second win of the season in the hornet classification.
Taking the lion’s share of time on the track, modified drivers ran through eight heat races, two B-Mains, and a last chance qualifier to set the field for the 20-car, 35-lap A-Main, the final race of the night.
With cars getting tangled in the first initial laps, a re-start of the field was quickly set, as drivers had trouble getting through turn four, trying to take the turn three at a time.
Williamson and Kyle Casson of Yreka, Calif., kept the auto carnage behind them as they led the group of 30-drivers through five cautions until the group was whittled down to 14 cars in the final lap.
Williamson took control by circuit 25 and led the rest of the way with Casson still giving chase. The occasional threat was seen by Mark Carrell, Jeremy Shank and 2011 winner Brian Poppa.
With the final caution at lap 31, Williamson took command in the rush to the final flag. Right on his bumper was Casson and Shank held on for third. Carrell crossed the line fifth, behind Nick Trenchard, After the race tech check, Carrell was disqualified for running an improper RPM chip, moving Monte Bischoff into the top five finish.
Zack Simpson of Hoquiam had the best Harbor finish by taking sixth. Joe German of the Wishkah Valley and Tom Sweatman of Cosmopolis were right behind Simpson.
Veteran driver VanDam finally picked up his first win of the season at Grays Harbor after a succession of seconds and thirds.
With a field of eight cars in the Sprint class, the largest showing at Grays Harbor Raceway so far this year, the 16-minute race went fairly clean for the scheduled 30-lap run. New to the sprint classification, midget driver Allison Journey made her Grays Harbor Raceway debut, but finished two laps down.
Mike Roming’s unexpected wheelie on the back straightaway in heavy traffic forced a re-start. Shelton’s Jay Cole took the early lead until VanDam ran him down by lap eight and spent the rest of the race out front.
Cole attempted to make up the lost ground, but VanDam kept him a few seconds behind. Reece Goetz of Snohomish finished third, followed by Evan Margenson and Seth Nunes.
In what may have been the race of the night, Tole continued his winning streak in the street stock class.
Tole, who started deep in the pack of 15, took his time in the middle of the pack while Brian Izzi of Olympia set the pace.
Hoquiam’s Jack Parshall, bottomed out at lap seven, looking like he lost most of his drive train and had to be pushed off to the pits. Parshall, who had grabbed second before he lost it on the backstretch, was looking for an opening around Izzi. The latter enjoyed a narrow lead over a pack that consisted of Cory Sweatman, Brian Harding, Shane Kerrigan and Eddie Blood, all looking like they were glued together. Kerrigan slipped past for a couple of laps, but Izzi regained the advantage.
Tole had started to make his way into the lead group after Parshall had to leave the track, and methodically made his way to the front. A caution on lap 19 gave Tole his opportunity to break out in front and take the race the rest of the way home.
Izzi was able to keep Sweatman behind him and apparently finish second, with Harding, Kerrigan and Blood closing out the group. But another official call from the tech shack brought a disqualification to Izzi for an illegal brake system. The DQ gave Sweatman second, Harding third, Kerrigan fourth and Blood fifth.
Chad Norton nabbed his second win at the track with Jesarae Norton taking the second bill.
J. Norton led the first seven laps of the 20-lap hornet race. C. Norton finally was able to get past and maintain the lead the rest of the way. Shay Turner got the drop on Willie Wright and beat him for third, with Shane Norton closing out the top five.
Next week at the Grays Harbor Raceway, the second running of the Northwest Extreme Sprints will kick up the dirt. Street stock, midget and hornet racing is also planned.
A Feature: 1. Henry VanDam 2. Jay Cole.3. Reece Goetz 4. Evan Margenson 5. Seth Nunes.
A Feature: 1. Jesse Williamson; 2. Kyle Casson 3. Jeremy Shank 4. Nick Trenchard 5. Monte Bischoff. 6. Zack Simpson. 7. Joe German 8. 11-Tom Sweatman. 9. Curtis Towns; 10. Scott Miller.
A Feature: 1. Jason Tole; 2. Cory Sweatman 3. Brian Harding. 4. Shane Kerrigan. 5. Eddie Blood. 6. Ryan Haney. 7. Austin Kerrigan 8. Don Briggs. 9. Nick Bramer; 10. Kelly Fugate.
A Feature: 1. Chad Norton; 2. Jesarae Norton; 3. Shay Turner. 4. Willie Wright. 5. Shane Norton.