Youngster Price keeps up with elite at Dirt Cup

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJune 26, 2014 

ALGER -At 16 years old driving a 360 while everyone else rode in the higher-powered 410, Robbie Price was trying to do something unthinkable - finish the first day of the Jim Raper Memorial Dirt Cup with a win in the A-main event on Thursday, June 26, at Skagit Speedway.

Price was doing quite well at it, too. Starting on the first row, Price broke out to a lead and continued to hold off Jason Solwold lap after lap, restart after restart.

The story repeated itself for Price the first 10 laps, break well from a restart, avoid the crash, line up again.

Eventually, the higher-powered cars caught up to him.

Solwold broke out to the lead on a restart on lap 10 and just rolled away from everyone after that, leading the final 20 laps of the race.

"It's good to be racing in front of my family again," Solwold said. "The motor was running good tonight. A little traffic, but it was alright. We'll take that."

Price eventually fell back to sixth place, but the effort was no doubt recognized by the crowd.

Second-place went to Brock Lemley, who challenged Solwold at points but was no match for him on Thursday.

Solwold started off in sixth place and picked up passing points in an attempt to capture his first-ever Dirt Cup.

Jared Peterson finished third, Kyle Hirst took fourth and Jonathan Allard rounded out the top five.

The A-main event was stop and start at the beginning, with several big crashes, which wiped out Kelly Miller, Daniel Anderson, Barry Martinez and Jesse Whitney.

The B-main was much like the main event - a lot of red flags at the beginning of the race but eventually got some momentum late.

Matt Jensen didn't let that stop him from taking the B-main event. Jensen jumped out from the start. Riding the pole, he hit the green perfectly, jumping ahead of Logan Forler, who he would battle with the entire race.

It didn't take long until the red flag was thrown. Skylar Gee slid out and hit the wall on lap one while Bill Rude slid to the inside. The race was completely restarted with the same results - Jensen taking the lead.

Three laps in, Clayton Sibley came into the back turn and hit the wall, flipping his car. The car landed on its top, bouncing off the ground. Debris flew everywhere. Sibley got out safely.

Behind him, Marc Duperon had to stop on the track to avoid hitting him. Duperon was in qualifying position and there was concern he would lose his spot on the restart. Fret not, the officials granted him his spot back. He would go on to finish fifth and qualify for the A-main event. The top six qualified.

At the same time, Bud Ashe and Eric Fisher both stopped down front of the track after bumping tires.

Racing resumed after several minutes and once again Jensen broke well and kept his lead over Forler. Two laps later, Lawrence Kirkham and Ross Mathewson made contact with each other on the front straightaway.

After the race restarted again with, you guessed it, Jensen's quick break, racing finally was able to take place with 10 laps without caution.

It was Jensen leading the whole way, followed closely by Forler until Jensen widened the gap in the last few laps after he managed to get around Geoff Needham and the lapped cars.

Forler was followed by Bud Kaeding, Steve Vague, Duperon and Kelly Miller. They all qualified for the A-main. Just missing was Eric Fisher, who finished seventh, more than two seconds behind Miller.

Jensen started the day off just as well as he did in the B-main. He took the fourth-best qualifying time with a 11.24, but struggled in heat four, starting in the second row, but falling to sixth place, missing out on a direct qualifying into the A-main by two places. Jensen started at the back of the pack in the A-main despite winning the B-main after he had to change a wheel cover in between races.

Forler also was in position to qualify at the start of heat three, but got passed by Barry Martinez.

It was Rico Abreu who impressed the most in qualifying, being the only driver to break into the 10-second barrier, clocking a 10.913.

Dirt Cup continues on Friday, June 27, before completing on Saturday.

Reach Joshua Hart by email @joshua.hart@bellinghamherald.com or by phone at 360-715-2851.

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