Accomplished local driver looking for elusive Dirt Cup title

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 20, 2013 

18 DIRT CUP

Brock Lemley, left, keeps ahead of Kevin Smith during the first night of racing of the Dirt Cup at Skagit Speedway Thursday June 17, 2010 in Burlington, Wa.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Bellingham driver Brock Lemley's trophy haul is vast. Clay Cup National Championships, Skagit Speedway season titles, feature wins: Lemley's become a regular in the winner's circle. He even drove his way to a pair of Golden Driller trophies at last year's Tulsa Shootout in Oklahoma. At 31 years old, he's one of the most accomplished sprint car drivers in the Northwest.

But year after year, that coveted Dirt Cup championship has eluded him.

Backed by a new Valliant Motorsports team, which hasn't been shy in handing out its money and a great running car, Lemley's cautiously optimistic about his title chance during the 42nd Annual Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup on Thursday-Saturday, June 20-22, at Skagit Speedway, where some of the best sprint cup drivers in the country will gather and try to master the three-tenths-mile high-banked clay oval.

"It's been running really good," said Lemley of his new car. "Actually, this is probably the best opportunity I've had (to win). I've been winning a lot of races."

Success has found Lemley on most tracks and at most times of the year, but for some reason the third week of June at Skagit Speedway has never produced a win. Given Lemley grew up around the speedway and has attended nearly every Dirt Cup race, a win would mean a whole lot, he said.

Lemley's father, Paul, has owned Deming Speedway for more than 30 years, and his son Tyson also races. He comes from one big racing family.

"It would be a huge accomplishment," Lemley said. "I won a Nationals 360 race last year, and that was big. I think that was in Montana, though. To win this in my own backyard, it would kind of be a family atmosphere. It would be really special for me."

Lemley has driven with Kentch Bros. for several years, but when he was told before the season no funding was available he needed to find a new team. Valliant Motorsports, out of British Columbia, was the answer, and Lemley's been driving 360s and 410s this season. The move could be considered a blessing in disguise.

"I've been backed by more money than I've ever had before," he said.

It seems the extra funding has helped, especially of late. Lemley won in the 1,200cc division at Deming Speedway Friday, June 14, then turned around the next night and won the feature in the 360s at Skagit Speedway.

Lemley ranks ninth in the 1,200s at Deming with 502 points. He sits fifth and ninth, respectively, in the 410 and 360 Sprint Cup Series at Skagit Speedway.

The Bellingham native faces a tough task against a stacked field in his quest to claim the Dirt Cup's $20,000 top prize. His best ever finish is fifth place, and he knows a lot will have to go his way in order to win this weekend.

"It definitely takes a lot of luck," Lemley said, "and a lot of times I don't seem to find it at Dirt Cup."

Based on weather forecasts, it appears someone will be winning a title Saturday. Last year's championship night was called off due to inclement weather, and after a plan was quashed to run the race prior to World of Outlaws due to a contractual conflict, no 2012 dirt cup champion was produced. That makes California driver Jonathan Allard, who won the 2011 Dirt Cup, the de facto defending champion.


42ND ANNUAL JIM RAPER MEMORIAL DIRT CUP

When: Thursday through Saturday, June 20-22

Where: Skagit Speedway, Alger

Grandstands open: 5 p.m.

Racing starts: 7 p.m.

Tickets: Adults (18-64) $23 Thursday, $24 Friday, $28 Saturday; Juniors (7-17), Seniors (65 and older) and Military $18 Thursday, $19 Friday, $22 Saturday; Child (6 and under) free Thursday and Friday, $10 Saturday.

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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