Skagit Speedway set to open 2013 race season

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDApril 20, 2013 

Drivers will now be racing on Hoosier tires, fans will be drinking Pepsi products, the Bob's Burger and Brew 360 Nationals will be known at the Summer Nationals and the Outlaw Hornets division will change its name to the Outlaw Tuners.

Don't expect any big changes from Skagit Speedway as the three-tenth-mile, high-banked clay oval prepares to open its 59th season of sprint car racing on Saturday, April 20.

"The biggest things we've been working on is working on some little, subtle things," track owner and promoter Steve Beitler said in a phone interview.

The biggest change Beitler would like to make over 2012 is something he has almost no control over - Mother Nature.

Two straight days of rain, along with World of Outlaw rules later in the season, cost the track the championship night of its annual showcase event - Dirt Cup. For the first time in 40 years, no champion was crowned.

"That was disappointing," Beitler said. "It ended up costing us a lot of money and frustrating a number of fans who wanted to see that race run."

To help ensure a similar problem doesn't develop for this year's Dirt Cup, which is scheduled for June 20-22, he has two rainout dates already on the schedule - June 23 (the Sunday after the scheduled championship night, as it was last year) and July 25 (the Thursday before the Summer Nationals).

"Most everybody is already going to be here for that event (Summer Nationals), so I figured we might as well put it on the schedule now, just in case," Beitler said.

Though the Summer Nationals has a new name, it still will be the highlight of the season for the 360 Sprints racing division, which will once again join the 410 Sprints, Sportsman Sprints and the newly named Outlaw Tuners on Skagit's weekly racing schedule.

"Tuner is more what they are anyways, and we've changed up a few rules to allow them to put wings on their cars and make them look more like sprints," Beitler said.

2013 champion Eric Fisher returns to defend his 410 Sprint title in a new car fielded by Bob and Lori Scott. He'll face stiff challenges in the 410 Sprint class from former track champions Brock Lemley, Travis Jacobson and Jesse Whitney.

The 360 Sprints division is wide open, as returning champion Trevor Turnbull from Alberta has not solidified his racing plans for 2013, leaving veterans Chad Hillier, Rod Perkins, Kelsey Carpenter, Bud Ashe and Michael Harris to challenge. They will face stout challenges from Kenny Rutz, Matt Jensen, Mack Brown and former Sportsman Sprint champion Derek Roberts expected.

Steve Parker returns for another crack at winning the Sportsman Sprint class championship. Cory Swatzina and Zach McCabe should challenge. Also returning are Cale Brooke, Rob Schroder and Clayton Sibley, along with Ashley Lewellen, Victoria Cantu, Ben Gunderson and Skyler Pawlowicz.

Back-to-back Outlaw Hornets championships for Freddy Vela has only whetted his appetite for a third title, but he faces serious competition for his Outlaw Tuner title. Rick Young, Matt Ploeg, Cliff Ballenger and Clint Meins return after strong seasons. The female Hornet contingent is well represented with Tina Thibert, Becky Boudreau and Stephanie Bailey being joined by Jenn Matteson.

Skagit also will welcome a new division this year with the addition of five open-wheel Modified races.

"We've had them here before in some small groups, but we thought we'd make a big commitment and start the new division," Beitler said. "They're pretty popular in other areas of the country, and I have heard a number of people in this area that are interested in owning their own Modifieds."

The USAC Northwest Midgets also return for a seven-race series in 2013.

Beitler said he expects 15 to 18 cars for the division's first race on May 18. Though Beitler isn't expecting any local cars to start - the nearest being from Everett and British Columbia - he said he hopes area racers will start looking to enter before long.

The World of Outlaws national touring series will make its annual visit to the speedway on Aug. 30-31, and the season championships will wrap up 2013 two weeks later on Sept. 14.

Beitler said he and his staff have also put a lot of effort into improving the track menu this offseason, and he's also raised the race purses.

"We've focused on the little things, and hopefully that will help make everything just a little better this year," Beitler said.

Reach David Rasbach at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2286.

SKAGIT SPEEDWAY

Opening night: Saturday, April 20

Gates open: 5 p.m.

Racing starts: 7 p.m.

Regular night tickets: $14 adults (18-64); $9 juniors (7-17), seniors (65 and older) and military

Season highlights: Dirt Cup (June 20-22), Mid Season Championship and fireworks (July 6), Bob's Burgers and Brew Summer Nationals (July 26-27), World of Outlaws (Aug. 30-31), Season Championships and fireworkds (Sept. 14)

2012 champions: Eric Fisher (410 Sprints), Trevor Turnbull (360 Sprints), Steve Parker (Sportsman Sprints), Freddie Vela (Outlaw Hornets)

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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