NST: Season opener preview

Northern Sprint Tour Opens 2004 Season The Northern Sprint Tour kicks off it's ninth year of wheel banging, wing-to-wing Sprint Car racing with an exciting three-race weekend in Oregon on May 28th, 29th and 30th, bringing the best in action...

Northern Sprint Tour Opens 2004 Season

The Northern Sprint Tour kicks off it's ninth year of wheel banging, wing-to-wing Sprint Car racing with an exciting three-race weekend in Oregon on May 28th, 29th and 30th, bringing the best in action packed dirt track sprint car racing to the fans of the great Pacific Northwest.

The high-speed action of the 15-race 2004 season starts on Friday the 28th, when the season's first green flag flies at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon, OR. Last year's opening visit to Willamette's tight three-tenths mile clay oval saw three-time and defending NST champion Roger Crockett, of Eugene, OR take the first of his six wins during the season. Crockett will surely be looking for a repeat showing, but there will be many other top drivers looking to see that this doesn't happen. Among those drivers will be the Smith Brothers, Dale & Marvin, from Cottage Grove, OR. Following the opening night action, the years first feature event winner and the rest of the field will move south to Southern Oregon Speedway in Medford, OR.

The fast third mile track at SOS has always provided the fans with exciting action and Saturday night should be no different. Lynnwood, WA driver Barry Martinez took the first win at Southern Oregon last season, but 2002 SOS winner Rick Fauver of Everett, WA will be on track in the Scotty Pierce Oberto Sprint, and their sights are set on the 2004 championship. Local driver Dan Menne of Ft. Jones, CA will undoubtedly be in the thick of things also. Look for wheel banging, wing-to-wing action at this year's first SOS race.

Cottage Grove Speedway in Cottage Grove, OR will host the final Northern Sprint Tour Memorial Day Weekend trio with the only 2004 Sunday race. The first race at The Grove in 2003 was a barnburner with Billy Nutter of Central Point, OR sneaking across the line just ahead of Crockett. Unfortunately, Nutter failed to pass the post race inspection and the win, his second in three races, went to Crockett. Action is always close on the Cottage Grove bullring, a favorite of both racers and fans.

Most of the drivers expected to race this weekend have already been behind the wheel at various tracks in California, Oregon and the northwest with some doing very well in this new 2004 season. Northern Sprint Tour champion Roger Crockett of Eugene, OR has had good success in California, and Melissa Yates, Marvin Smith and Billy Nutter already have wins at Cottage Grove.

While most top drivers will joining Champion Crockett this weekend, fellow three-time NST champion Shawna Wilskey, of Mount Vernon, WA and 1998 NST Champion, Burlington, WA's Jason Solwold, are questionable. Wilskey is expected to run only a very limited schedule as business endeavors cut into her race schedule. Solwold has been racing with the World of Outlaws and at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa. Fauver, the 1997 NST Champion, is back on the NST trail full time in 2004 and will be a threat at any time. Everett, WA driver Jayme Barnes, who finished third in 2004 has moved south to California but is scheduled for several races, including this weekend, in the Fernley Farms Sprinter, based in Ft. Jones, CA.

With fuel prices a cost concern for many teams, drivers from the Edmonton, Alberta area are questionable. However, Jeff Hodgson, who placed fourth in the 2003 standings, has been chasing races around the country since early in the year and is expected to be in attendance.

Top Idaho drivers Shawn Smith, Nampa and Randy Pierce of Meridian have already ventured west and are expected to run the full season. Also a possible runner is Michael Harris of Nampa.

Other top Washington drivers ready to take to the clay over the weekend are Shelton's Jay Cole, Steve Vague of Kirkland, 2003 Rookie of the Year Mark Torres of Snoqualmie, George Graham of Seattle, Barry Martinez of Lynnwood, Tacoma's Shawn Rice and Glenn Borden of Raymond.

Along with defending champ Crockett, Oregon will again be providing their best to thrill the crowds as Cottage Grove's Smith brothers Dale and Marvin, Bill Nutter of Central Point, of Gold Hill, and Melissa Yates of Roseburg are among those expected to be putting the pedal to the metal with the Northern Sprint Tour in 2004.

Joining Dan Menne and Finley in the California contingency are Jimmy Trulli of Diamond Springs and Colby Weisz of Colfax. One of the biggest threats to the NST regulars could be Brent Kaeding who is rumored to be racing at least part of the weekend. A many time champion, Kaeding may be trying to avenge his defeats during last years Northwest Speedweek at these tracks.

With this, the first appearance of the Northwest's premier dirt sprint group in Oregon, anticipation among the fans and racers alike is high as they await the fast paced action on track.

The Northern Sprint Tour will return to all three Oregon tracks again later in the year along with appearances at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, WA and Central Washington State Fair Raceway in Yakima, WA.

-nst-

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About this article
Series Sprint
Drivers Shawna Wilskey , Roger Crockett , Shawn Smith