Arpin headlines Lon Skinner field

The reputed best driver in the history of the Lon Skinner Memorial stock car race and a potential star on the NASCAR circuit will be the featured attraction at Southern Oregon Speedway this weekend.

Steve Arpin, who earlier this week tested for a sanctioning group that feeds drivers to the major stock car circuit, is making his first venture to Southern Oregon.

"He's acknowledged as the best dirt modified driver in the country," says promoter John Skinner, who will stage the race for the 13th year in honor of his father. "That's the general opinion. You can't pick up a racing magazine without seeing his endorsements in it."

Qualifying for the race is Saturday, followed by the main events on Sunday. Gates open at 6 p.m. both nights.

Tickets are $15 Saturday and $20 Sunday. A two-day pass is $30. Kids 12 and under will be admitted for free.

The race is among the richest modified events in the country, offering $10,000 to the winner out of a total purse of $40,200.

Modifieds are the largest class of race cars in the country, and Skinner is on pace to attract a larger field than last year, when there were 85 entrants.

The featured race is 100 laps, with a 10-minute break at the halfway point for refueling, tire changes and assorted other adjustments.

Last year, Rogue River driver Jon DeBenedetti earned the pole, then went on to lead wire-to-wire for the victory. It was shortened to 50 laps after a major wreck delayed it for nearly an hour.

DeBenedetti is one of a handful of former champions set to return. Others are Scott Lenz (1997), Rich Papenhausen (1999, 2002), Dan Estremado (2000), Brian Poppa (2001, 2005) and Mark Wauge (2006).

About half the field is made up of local drivers, and their familiarity with the track should help, said Skinner.

Whether it helps enough for them to contend with Arpin remains to be seen.

The 24-year-old Canadian got his start racing snowmobiles and was a six-time world champion by his 18th birthday.

It's a discipline for which John Skinner was the Oregon champion 30 years ago.

"It teaches you a lot about racing," said Skinner.

Arpin, now a resident of Grand Meadow, Minn., made his mark at the UMP Winternationals in February, winning an unprecedented seven out of nine competitions.

Other top out-of-area drivers registered are Bobby Hogge IV of Salinas, Calif.; Jesse Williamson of Eugene; Scott Busby of Martinez, Calif.; Blair Shoemaker of Tacoma, Wash.; Randy and Ryan McDaniel of Marysville, Calif.; and Jason Beaulieu of Campbell River, British Columbia.

Lon Skinner raced stock cars in the Rogue Valley for a couple of years and "was the best when he did it," says John Skinner. "He was the guy to beat."

He also was a two-time world boat racing champion.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail

Correction: The original version of this story inaccurately stated the cost of a children's admission. This version has been corrected.

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