Taking her first U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Northern Sprint Tour feature event win of the year, three times NST Champion Shawna Wilskey led wire to wire at the tour's first appearance of the year on the three-tenths mile clay oval at Grays Harbor...
Taking her first U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. Northern Sprint Tour feature event win of the year, three times NST Champion Shawna Wilskey led wire to wire at the tour's first appearance of the year on the three-tenths mile clay oval at Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma, WA.
"Boy, we needed that", said Wilskey after thanking 'Oh, Boy Oberto' and her many other sponsors. "The car was too tight, but it was still good. I love to race with Roger and Dale. You know it will be clean and it just makes it a lot of fun."
Trailing but seldom challenging the Mt. Vernon, WA based Wilskey, pole sitter Roger Crockett of Eugene, OR held off many challenges by Dale Smith of Cottage Grove, OR to hold second place. Crockett, the defending and two time champion, had set fast time, ran well in his heat, won the dash and looked to be the favorite going into the feature event but early on it was apparent that he wasn't a match for the winner.
In post race interviews, all three of the top finishers commented that changing track conditions had left them with cars set way too tight for the track. "We were so good in the dash that we didn't make any changes", said Crockett, "but when the track went away from us I just couldn't mount a charge. It's kind of frustrating just driving around knowing you could be better but there's no way to make any changes.
After his third place finish in four races, Dale Smith's first comment was, "I was hoping to move up a spot at least." "We were a little tight, it was hard to pass and Shawna was fast. Actually, I'm pretty happy with third because we have been very consistent this year.
The race came to a sudden halt on lap four when Jayme Barnes and John Tharp, who had been in a wing-to-wing battle for fourth, came together entering into the third turn. Tharp, out of Snohomish, WA, took a high spinning flip, which ended his night on the spot. Everett, WA's Barnes went to the work area but was able to return and finished a very respectable sixth place. Lynnwood's Barry Martinez, who one the Medford, OR race on the opening weekend, also went to the pits under the red for some work.
When action on the track resumed, Wilskey jumped to an eight-car length lead as Crockett and Smith diced for second. Shelton, WA's Jay Cole and Jeff Thompson of Harrisburg, OR had a good battle for fifth going behind Chad Hillier until Thompson made a foray to the infield out of turn two on lap 8 and dropped about five positions.
With nine laps down and Wilskey in traffic, Crockett was closing the gap when a yellow on lap 10 for Bill Nutter gave her a clear field again. Mike Harris went dead in turn one on the next lap and then Thompson brought out another yellow two laps later.
On these restarts, Barnes and Martinez had been picking their way through slower cars and when the last caution flew on the 17th lap they were in a three-way battle with Randy Van Aagten for sixth place.
With almost half the 30 lap race left to run, the race behind the top three was between Hillier of Sedro Woolley, WA, Cole, Dawn-L Morrison of Millet, AB Barnes and Martinez with Shelton driver Van Aagten falling back.
With six laps left, Wilskey was slowed by back markers, giving Crockett and Smith fans hope that they would catch her. Unfortunately for them, traffic problems seemed to even out for every one with the top drivers all giving the fans a good show on how to work the traffic but unable to make a move to improve their position before the checkered flag flew.
In the B-Main, Thompson proved once again that leading the last lap is the one that counts. After failing to pass leader Morrison for 14 circuits around the Grays Harbor clay oval, Thompson took the high road out of turn two on the white flag lap to get the lead going into turn three and pull away going to the checkered flag.
Thompson started putting the pressure on mid race but although he could close the gap in the corners, Morrison would pull away on the straights. With the entire field running a good pace, Thompson had no lapped traffic to help his cause as he tried both high and low grooves. Exiting turn two on the last lap Thompson made the final effort work by going faster and deeper into the third turn, making the pass for the win.
While the rest of the field trailed the lead pair by 10-20 car lengths with Johnson leading the group, it was Sponberg, Kirkham, Yates and Menard swapping spots on the way to the final flag for the final transfer to the feature event. At the checkered Johnson and Kirkham moved to the A-main behind Thompson and Morrison as the rest were through for the night.
At the checkered it was Thompson, Morrison, Johnson and Kirkham
Shawn Smith led off the first heat race of the evening but it was Martinez taking command on the back straight on lap four and going to the win. Crockett sent Smith back to third as they crossed the finish line on lap six of the 10-lap race. Tharp was the final transfer.
In heat two, Brad Holms led the first eight laps until Van Aagten took the lead through turns 3-4 on lap nine. Holmes held position with Hillier and Wilskey moving to the A-main also.
Mark Torres didn't look a rookie as he led all 10 laps of the third heat with Glenn Borden, Jr. & D. Smith close behind and challenging. Harris finished fourth.
Nutter pulled to the lead over Randy Pierce exiting turn 4 on the opening lap of heat four. Barnes moved from 6th to take 2nd on lap 9 as Jeff Hodgson made contact with Pierce in a battle for the last transfer spot sending Pierce to the pits and bringing out a yellow. On the last lap Dave Gilmore went over in turn 4 to set up a one-lap dash to the checkered. Top four at the line were Nutter, Barnes, Cole and Hodgson.
In the dash it was Crockett taking the high groove to the lead out of turn 2 on the green and going to the win over Wilskey. Fast time for the night went to Crockett with a 13.275 time.
Fast Time -- Roger Crockett -- 13.275.
Heat 1 -- Barry Martinez, Roger Crockett, Shawn Smith, John Tharp, Rob Johnson, Jimmy Kirkham, Tony Menard.
Heat 2 -- Randy Van Aagten, Brad Holmes, Chad Hillier, Shawna Wilskey, Rory Price, Jeff Bell, Lance Sponberg.
Heat 3 -- Mark Torres, Glenn Borden, Jr., Dale Smith, Mike Harris, Melissa Yates, Jeff Thompson. Dan Dunlap (DNS).
Heat 4 -- Billy Nutter, Jayme Barnes, Jay Cole, Jeff Hodgson, Dawn-L Morrison, Randy Pierce, David Gilmore.
Dash -- Crockett, Wilskey, Barnes, D. Smith, Tharp, Hillier.
B-Main -- Thompson, Morrison, Johnson, Kirkham, Sponberg, Yates, Menard, Price, Pierce, Dan Dunlap, Gilmor. Bell (DNS)
A-Main -- Wilskey, Crockett, D. Smith, Hillier, Cole, Barnes, Morrison, Borden, Hodgson, Van Aagten, Martinez, S. Smith, Holmes, Torres, Kirkham, Thompson, Nutter, Johnson, Harris, Tharp.