As the drivers of the 2003 U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Northern Sprint Tour season opener completed their final lap, defending champion Roger Crockett of Eugene, OR barely pulled off the win over a fast charging Jason Solwold on the tight...
As the drivers of the 2003 U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Northern Sprint Tour season opener completed their final lap, defending champion Roger Crockett of Eugene, OR barely pulled off the win over a fast charging Jason Solwold on the tight Willamette Speedway clay oval in Lebanon, OR.
Action at the end of the first lap had two cars into the inside wall of the front straight with Chad Hillier of Sedro Woolley, WA in front. Hillier held that lead the first 12 laps of the Friday, May 23rd event, but while working heavy traffic on the next circuit Crockett found a hole exiting turn four to sneak by for the front spot with Cottage Grove, OR's Dale Smith taking second place from Hillier a half lap later.
Solwold, of Burlington, WA, had picked up three spots to fourth and was putting pressure on the top three at the mid-point of the 30 lap feature event when Ron Myska and Kevin Etchison tangled to bring out the yellow on lap seventeen with Myska to the pits.
Two laps later rookie Mark Torres spun in the first turn, for a short slowing of the action, with Solwold moving to third over Smith on the restart.
Five laps later it was Crockett at the backmarkers and unable to find a way past Jay Cole, Kevin Etchison and Marvin Smith, all fighting to keep from going a lap down. While Crockett was holding the low line through the corners and thwarted in his attempts to pass, Smith, Solwold and Hillier were almost wing-to-wing behind him as they diced for position. With two to go, Smith and Solwold was nose to tail behind the winner with Solwold stealing second from Smith in turn three on the last lap and almost catching Crockett at the line.
"It was a tough race," commented Crocket in the winner's circle. "It was hard to pass, and with lots of marbles high in the corners I had to keep low to protect my position."
Solwold said, "the lapped cars helped and we had a real good car, but Roger ran a great race and I'm not sure I could have passed him". Third place finisher Smith was happy with his finish. "Jason's tough and I should have stayed low, but we felt if we got a top 10 tonight and went home in one piece it would be a success. I'm real happy with tonight's results".
The B-main had action a plenty, all of it behind Solwold who led wire to wire. Solwold's greatest threat was Jimmy Carter of Cloverdale, BC, who dogged his rear nerf for the first half of the race, and Boise, ID driver Shawn Smith who took over the second place spot on lap 9 of the 15 lap event.
A short yellow on lap 6 closed the field and the loss of his left rear wheel put Peter Murphy on his side two laps later to bring out the red flag. Two laps later the old adage that it's hard to put more than one car in a specific spot on the track came true when Jeff Bell of Marysville, WA, Sydney, Australia's Peter Murphy and Nampa, ID driver Mark Harrison all tried to claim the same spot exiting turn four. Bell and Murphy flipped, with Bell getting the most airtime, and Harrison somehow staying on the ground. All drivers were OK but Bell, who had flipped in his heat, took some serious damage to his car.
On the restart with Solwold an S. Smith in front, Marvin Smith snatched third from Carter as John Tharp rounded out the top five.
Heat race action saw Barry Martinez run down Randy Van Aagten in the 5th lap for the lead and the win. Jay Cole went wire to wire in the front for the heat two win with Crockett pulling off the same feat in the third heat. Both heats had red flags, with Bell in the second and rookie David Gilmore in the third heat.
The final heat went to rookie Mark Torres, running his first sprint car race and leading flag to flag.
Hillier took the dash win and Solwold set fast time for the night with a 12.412 second lap of the three-tenths mile oval.
Fast Time -- Jason Solwold -- 12.412.
Heat 1 -- Barry Martinez, Randy Van Aagten, Jay Barnes, Chad Hillier, Jason Solwold, Shawn Smith, Melissa Yates, Mark Harrison, Jeff Thompson (DNS).
Heat 2 -- Jay Cole, Shawna Wilskey, Kevin Etchison, Dale Smith, Marvin Smith, Jason Finley, Mike Magnuson, T.J. Winningham, Jeff Bell.
Heat 3 -- Roger Crockett, Ron Myska, Jeff Hodgson, Dawn-L Morrison, Rory Price, Steve Veltman, Steve Walker, David Gilmore, Roger Oudman (DNS).
Heat 4 -- Rick Torres, Travis Jacobson, Billy Nutter, Jayme Barnes, Jimmy Carter, John Tharp, Peter Murphy, Randy Pierce, Tony Menard (DNS).
Dash -- Hillier, Crockett, Hodgson, D. Smith, Wilskey, Jayme Barnes.
B-Main - Solwold, S. Smith, M. Smith, Carter, Tharp, Winningham, Finley, Walker, Outman, Price, Pierce, Yates, Magnuson, Veltman, Harrison, Murphy, Bell, Thompson, Gilmore (DNS), Menard (DNS), Shane Forte (DNS).
A-Main -- Crockett, Solwold, D. Smith, Hillier, Jayme Barnes, Hodgson, Wilskey, S. Smith, Martinez, Carter, Nutter, Van Aagten, Morrison, M. Smith, Etchison, Cole, Jay Barnes, Torres, Myska, Jacobson.