By Andrew Kunas
COTTAGE GROVE, Ore. – Kyle Miller loves his non-wing sprint car racing, and it showed on Saturday as he raced his way to a very dominating clean sweep of the season opener for the NorthWest Wingless Tour sprint car series at Cottage Grove Speedway.
Miller, from Eugene, set fast time in qualifying, charged from sixth to quickly take the lead and win his heat race, charged from the fourth spot to win the trophy dash and the pole for the main event and then led all 25 laps of that main event for his second career NWWT victory aboard the Scott Miller No. 10 Springer-powered Triple X. Miller’s other NWWT win, also coming at Cottage Grove, came during his series championship run in 2009.
The feature race, which eventually ran 25 laps, saw Miller blast away from everyone on the track where he’s won many races – winged and non-winged – over the last few years, lapping the field through seventh place. While Miller pulled away, outside front row started Josh DeWitt of Mount Vernon, Wash. was also lapping one car after another although he failed to keep up with Miller, who was much more familiar with his home dirt track.
DeWitt, who the week before won the winged 410 sprint car event at Skagit Speedway in Washington and had decided to jump into a non-wing 360 sprint car for Saturday’s race mostly for the fun of it, made his lone mistake of the night on Lap 18 when he slid off the track in Turn 1 and did damage to his car, bringing out the yellow flag. Being one of only six cars remaining on the lead lap, DeWitt was towed to the work area outside Turn 4 and after quick repairs was back out on the track.
While navigating his way around more slow cars, and escaping after contact with Tony Offutt, he made a few more passes for position in the closing laps and finished third aboard the DIRT Inc. No. 5d Shark-powered Maxim.
Reigning NWWT champion Theo McCarty of Hillsboro, Ore. had one of the drives of the night as he came from the 16th starting position to eventually finish second aboard his own No. 24 McKinney-powered Maxim. McCarty, a former main event winner at Cottage Grove Speedway, was hindered by a poor qualifying time that put him toward the back of the field to start, but he gradually worked his way through the field himself before inheriting second place after DeWitt’s mishap. Unable to reach Miller because of eight lapped cars between them on that restart, McCarty held off the hard charging DeWitt for the runner-up spot.
Miller pulled away on the final restart with four laps remaining and won by just over six and a half seconds – about half a lap around the ¼-mile clay oval – ahead of McCarty. Miller was the only driver to run a sub-13 second lap in the feature race, his quickest trip being 12.919 seconds.
The feature was slowed by cautions on Laps 6, 16, 18 and 22, the second of which was for debris on the track and the restart was delayed for a time by difficulties getting the field of cars properly lined up for the restart.
Hometown driver Colin Baker, driving the Steelhouse Racing No. 23b Drummond-powered “Lunatic Fringe” chassis, had only occasionally taken the wings off but decided to join the festivities on Saturday and finished the night with a fourth place finish after starting eighth. Mark Nichols of Eagle Creek, Ore. made his own charge through the field to finish fifth after starting at the back of the field in his own No. 64 Massey Ferguson-powered Zeitler. Nichols was involved in a multi-car crash in hot laps and missed qualifying and heat race action, but with no B-Main being run he was able to tag the tail end of the main event field.
Corey Esteban, Kyle Mehner, Zack Spaulding, Jesse Thistle and Mike Romig rounded out the Top 10.
The event also marked the return of the old race format used by the Northern Sprint Tour, which ran from 1996 to 2006. The qualifying-based format received generally positive reviews from the drivers on Saturday, including Miller. One quirk of the format is the six-lap dash race that features the fastest six qualifiers who officially transfer of their heat races and the finish of the dash determining their starting positions in the main event. Spaulding drew the pole for the dash but finished fourth as Miller charged to the victory to take the main event pole position. The other drivers taking part in the NWWT’s first NST-style dash were DeWitt, Dale Smith, Corey Esteban and Raquel Ivie.
After Miller won the evening’s first heat race over Smith, Colin Baker topped DeWitt to win the second heat race and Spaulding made a late pass around Thistle to win the third and final heat race. Miller pace-setting time in qualifying was 13.107 seconds, just besting the 13.198-second run by DeWitt on the ¼-mile, high-banked clay oval.
The NorthWest Wingless Tour sprint car series is now scheduled to race back-to-back weekends in Washington. Saturday, May 14th will see the NWWT make the first of five visits this year to Grays Harbor Raceway in Elma. On May 21st, the series will run its inaugural event at Skagit Speedway, just north of Burlington.
More information on the NorthWest Wingless Tour sprint car series can be found online at http://www.nwwinglesstour.com.
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NorthWest Wingless Tour sprint car series
Cottage Grove Speedway
Cottage Grove, OR
April 30, 2011
Fast qualifier: 10 Kyle Miller, 13.107 seconds
Heat 1 (10 laps): 1. 10 Kyle Miller, 2. 41 Dale Smith, 3. 7k Kyle Mehner, 4. 22 Mike Romig, 5. 24 Theo McCarty, 6. 28 Mark Herz, DNS – 64 Mark Nichols. First five finishers are eligible for trophy dash.
Heat 2 (10 laps): 1. 23b Colin Baker, 2. 5d Josh DeWitt, 3. 15 Tony Parker, 4. 36 Corey Esteban, 5. 52 Tim Alberding, 6. 7g Mike Griffith Jr., DNS – 04 Brad Rhodes. First five finishers are eligible for trophy dash.
Heat 3 (10 laps): 1. 24z Zach Spaulding, 2. 4 Jesse Thistle, 3. 18 Mike Carrothers, 4. 1v Raquel Ivie, 5. 8 Tony Offutt, 6. 65 Brendan Boyce, DNS – 25 Pat Canfield. First five finishers are eligible for trophy dash.
Trophy Dash (6 laps): 1. 10 Kyle Miller, 2. 5d Josh DeWitt, 3. 41 Dale Smith, 4. 24z Zach Spaulding, 5. 36 Corey Esteban, 6. 1v Raquel Ivie. Finish determines first six starting positions of feature.
Feature (25 laps, time): 1. 10 Kyle Miller, 2. 24 Theo McCarty, 3. 5d Josh DeWitt, 4. 23b Colin Baker, 5. 64 Mark Nichols, 6. 36 Corey Esteban, 7. 7k Kyle Mehner, 8. 24z Zach Spaulding, 9. 4 Jesse Thistle, 10. 22 Mike Romig, 11. 1v Raquel Ivie, 12. 18 Mike Carrothers, 13. 15 Tony Parker, 14. 7g Mike Griffith Jr., 15. 8 Tony Offutt, 16. 41 Dale Smith, 17. 52 Tim Alberding, 18. 65 Brendan Boyce, DNS – 04 Brad Rhodes, 28 Mark Herz.
Lap leaders: Kyle Miller 1-30