Late model series runs at speedway

The 2009 DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour championship will be on the line this tonight and Saturday at Southern Oregon Speedway.

The inaugural season under the DIRTcar Racing banner for the Northwest's premier dirt late model series is headed for a dramatic finish.

John Duty of Portland leads the standings by just two points over Jeremy Shank of Salem entering the "Battle of the Border," which features full points shows both nights.

Gates open at 4 p.m. and racing starts at 6 for each show. Tonight's tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for kids (7-12) and seniors (60-and-older). Saturday's tickets are $15 and $12. Children 6 and under get in free both days, and pit passes are $35 each night or $50 for the weekend.

The track is at the Jackson County All Sports Park, 6900 Kershaw Road in White City.

A 30-lap A main will headline tonight's program and a 40-lap feature is scheduled to close out the DIRTcar Northwest I-5 Late Model Tour campaign Saturday. Both events will pay $1,500 to win.

With eight races completed at five different tracks in Oregon and Washington, Duty and Shank are well ahead of the field. Third-place Mike Miller of Springfield is 88 points off the pace.

Duty, 43, is winless on this season's Northwest I-5 Tour but has finished second twice — to Shank on May 13 at Willamette Speedway in Lebanon and on July 3 in the first series visit to Southern Oregon.

He grabbed the points lead from Shank after Southern Oregon's summer event and has held it since. In that race, Shank broke a radius rod in his heat and finished 16th in the A main following his involvement in two tangles.

Duty season got off to a rough start in April when he fractured the humerus bone in his right arm and suffered nerve damage after falling off a trailer while his team was unloading equipment. He returned a month later despite numbness and weakness in his right hand and fingers.

The 30-year-old Shank, meanwhile, is gunning for a championship double in 2009. One week after securing his first career late model track title at Willamette, Shank will go for the gold here.

He leads all drivers with six top-five finishes — including his spring win at Willamette and three runner-up placings — but has had to fight back from consecutive disappointing outings during the Fourth of July holiday swing (16th here and 18th at Willamette).

Jimmy Whisler of Lincoln City is the only driver with two wins on the tour. Other winners are Casey Vitale of Albany, Brett McCutcheon of Sweet Home, Rob Mayea of Bend, Steve Moore of Scio and Greg Walters of Brownsville.

An open event for the 4-cylinder division will also be run. Qualifying heats will be tonight, with a trophy dash and the feature part of the Saturday card.

There will be a pre-race gathering from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at Lava Lanes. Breakfast will be served and several drivers will be on hand.

For more information, visit or or call 245-2755.

Drag Racing

NHRA LUCAS OIL SERIES — Klamath Fall's Clint Thompson, a top competitor in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series who is battling for the NHRA Northwest Division title in the top alcohol funny car division, will be a featured competitor today and Saturday at Champion Raceway.

Gates open at 8 a.m. both days, and qualifying and time trials begin at 9. Top alcohol dragster and top alcohol funny cars start at 1 each day.

The track is at the Jackson County All Sports Park, 6900 Kershaw Road in White City.

General admission tickets are $15 both days. Children 9 and under get in free.

Champion is Thompson's home track, and he needs a strong showing to vie for the region championship and a top-10 national placing.

"We are still in the hunt," Thompson, a car dealer, said in a release, "so we must win the Medford race to get it done."

Last year, Thompson was in a similar situation but lost in the first round to California's Mike Gordon. This year, Thompson hopes to duplicate wins he's earned in Seattle and Mission, British Columbia, where he has won three B.C. national titles in a row.

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