By Andrew Kunas
LEBANON, Ore. – Last September, Steve Vague decided to try racing his sprint car without the wings at Grays Harbor Raceway. He finished third in that main event, had so much fun and was immediately hooked. Friday night at Willamette Speedway’s Strawberry Cup events, he began to like it even more as he picked up his first career non-wing sprint car victory in the NorthWest Wingless Tour sprint car series main event.
The Kirkland, Wash. driver, piloting his own No. 08 Shark-powered Rocket, led all 30 laps of the feature race on a slick track that he mastered better than anyone on this night. It was just his second main event start without the wings. He now plans to race in Saturday’s NWWT event at Coos Bay Speedway, where he has raced before with the wings.
Vague, also a former main event winner at Grays Harbor Raceway in winged sprint car competition, earned the pole for the main event after winning the six-lap dash race. He inherited the lead in that event when earlier leader Robby Vaughn slid up the track and struck the wall, forcing him to the pit area.
Twenty laps were completed in the feature race before the first yellow flag of the entire evening came out when former series champion Kyle Miller spun around in Turns 1 and 2 after making contact with Vaughn. The only other yellow flag of the event came on the restart for the stalled car of Theo McCarty.
The initial restart after Miller’s mishap saw cars stacked up coming out of Turn 4 and Everett, Wash. visiter Jayme Barnes momentarily got by Gaston, Ore.’s Corey Esteban for second place. The move, however, was negated by the yellow flag for McCarty’s mishap. While Vague again motored away from the field, Esteban held off Barnes on the second restart and would take the runner-up finish in his own No. 36 Chevy-powered Eagle. Combined with his strong qualifying and heat race efforts, Esteban’s finish has unofficially put him in the lead in the NWWT point standings.
Gary Davis of Albany, Ore. started 12th and over the course of the event worked his way up to race with the front runners. After getting by Mark Nichols and Jesse Thistle, he eventually got Barnes for the third position on Lap 23 and would finish there in his No. 9 Chevy-powered Triple X. Barnes, making a surprise appearance in the Eddie Isackson No. 36 Jay’s-powered Eagle, finished fourth. Nichols, out of Eagle Creek, Ore. earned his second straight Top 5 finish in his own No. 64 Ferguson-powered Zeitler.
Jesse Thistle, who is now unofficially tied with Nichols for second in the point standings, finished sixth. Miller, who won the NWWT season opener at Cottage Grove Speedway on April 30th, came back to finish seventh after his earlier accident. Vaughn, Colin Baker and Mike Romig rounded out the Top 10.
Barnes was the last driver out to qualify and with his last lap set quick time with a lap of 16.200 seconds around the 3/10-mile, high-banked clay oval. Heat races were won by Kyle Mehner and Miller.
The NWWT will run their inaugural event at Coos Bay Speedway on Saturday. 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
June 3, 2011
Fast qualifier: 36 Jayme Barnes, 16.200 seconds
Heat 1 (10 laps): 1. 7k Kyle Mehner, 2. 36 Jayme Barnes, 3. 9 Gary Davis, 4. 64 Mark Nichols, 5. 29 Robby Vaughn, 6. 1v Raquel Ivie, 7. 41 Ryan Bothwell, 8. 14 Doug McVae. First five finishers become eligible for trophy dash.
Heat 2 (10 laps): 1. 10 Kyle Miller, 2. 23b Colin Baker, 3. 36c Corey Esteban, 4. 08 Steve Vague, 5. 24 Theo McCarty, 6. 4 Jesse Thistle, 7. 22 Mike Romig, 8. 04 Brad Rhodes. First five finishers become eligible for trophy dash.
Dash (6 laps): 1. 08 Steve Vague, 2. 36c Corey Esteban, 3. 64 Mark Nichols, 4. 36 Jayme Barnes, 5. 7k Kyle Mehner, 6. 29 Robby Vaughn. Finish determines first six starting positions of Feature.
Feature (30 laps): 1. 08 Steve Vague, 2. 36c Corey Esteban, 3. 9 Gary Davis, 4. 36 Jayme Barnes, 5. 64 Mark Nichols, 6. 4 Jesse Thistle, 7. 10 Kyle Miller, 8. 29 Robby Vaughn, 9. 23b Colin Baker, 10. 22 Mike Romig, 11. 7k Kyle Mehner, 12. 24 Theo McCarty, 13. 41 Ryan Bothwell, 14. 1v Raquel Ivie, 15. 04 Brad Rhodes, DNS – 14 Doug McVae.
Lap leaders: Steve Vague 1-30