Wauge continues winning ways on the track

Local modified driver hoping to extend his success at Lon Skinner Memorial
Mark Wauge has 12 wins this season in the modified class.Jamie Lusch

WHITE CITY — Keeping Mark Wauge off the race track is hard enough when he's feeling horrible, like on the warm summer evening in 1991 when a bleeding ulcer forced him into the emergency room. Doctors had to sedate him because, well, Wauge wasn't being cooperative.

He wanted to leave and go race and they wouldn't let him.

LON SKINNER MEMORIAL

WHEN, COST: Today and Sunday. Gates open at 4 p.m. and racing at 6 p.m. Admission for today's racing is $15 for general admission (13-61) and $10 for children 6-12, seniors and veterans with identification. Reserved seating is $20. Kids under 6 get in free. On Sunday, the cost is $20 for general admission and $15 for children 6-12, seniors and veterans with identification. Reserved seating is $25, with kids 6 and under getting in free.

WHERE: Southern Oregon Speedway, 6900 Kershaw Road, White City.

It was a rare absence at Southern Oregon Speedway for Wauge, who — aside from that painful experience and a multiple-month suspension in 2004 — has been going around in circles every weekend for years.

And when the 45-year-old Jacksonville resident is feeling good — like he's been recently — it's even harder to stop him.

Wauge has picked up 12 wins this season and will be shooting for Victory No. 13 at this weekend's 17th annual Lon Skinner Memorial. The popular dirt modified race at Southern Oregon Speedway will feature some of the sport's best drivers on the West Coast and offers a $3,000 prize for the victor.

"I posted on my Facebook that I am living the dream," Wauge says. "It is truly amazing."

With $10,600 in 2012 winnings to back the claim, Wauge is considered one of the favorites to take Sunday's 100-lap A Main feature.

Wauge is also rich with experience, especially when it comes to the track at White City. He's captured the checkered flag here six times this year — including in the last four modified races — and is a regular in the Lon Skinner Memorial.

He secured a win in the prestigious race in 2006 when the prize was $10,000. But last season, his car's steering box broke and Wauge ended up flipping during the first few laps.

Brian Poppa became just the second driver to win three Lon Skinner Memorial races with a victory last year, ending Bobby Hogge IV's three-year dominion.

With a victory this weekend, Wauge would break his personal record for wins in a season. He had a 12-victory year in the early 2000s, he says.

Wauge has raced for speedway promoter John Skinner for much of the year, earning 10 wins in his car.

"Wauge is just the most determined driver I have ever seen in my life," says Skinner, whose race honors his late father.

The two have a relationship of synergy, Wauge says.

"Driving for John has been great," Wauge says. "We've got good equipment."

And Wauge is taking advantage of the opportunity. He is first in the speedway's Modified A Main standings with 814 points. Matt Duste is second with 790 and Nick Trenchard is third (732) with four more modified races on the Southern Oregon Speedway schedule. Wauge, the defending modified champion, has earned five season titles, but has never won two in a row.

Things weren't always coming up roses, though. Wauge didn't win a single race during the seven-race Wild West Modified Speedweek in June. The team was having tire troubles initially, but figured things out.

"We switched over to newer technology stuff," says Wauge, adding that the refurbished suspension on his car has also proved advantageous. "I spent a lot of time this winter doing a lot of homework. And we put some of that homework into this car."

His research is paying off. Wauge has secured victories at six different tracks this year — Southern Oregon, Yakima, Willamette, Sunset, Grays Harbor and Siskiyou Motor — with seven total in White City. One of those local wins came in a B Modified event on the same evening that he took home the A Modified victory.

Wauge's hot streak started in early May in Yakima, Wash. His biggest paycheck has been $2,500, which he earned at Modified Nationals in Elma, Wash., on July 28.

Southern Oregon Speedway track officials are expecting more than 50 teams from around the region to converge on the 3/8-mile clay oval for the two-day event. The 24 drivers who earn spots in Sunday's A Main will get at least $500, and the total prize pot will be around $20,000, Skinner says.

"It's pretty much world renowned on the West Coast," Wauge says of the race. "To drive for John in his father's race, it's a big deal for him and that makes it a big deal for me."

Gates open at 4 p.m. with racing at 6 p.m. Admission for today's racing is $15 for general admission (13-61) and $10 for children 6-12, seniors and veterans with identification. Reserved seating is $20. Kids under 6 get in free.

On Sunday, the cost is $20 for general admission and $15 for children 6-12, seniors and veterans with identification. Reserved seating is $25, with kids 6 and under getting in free.

The speedway is located at 6900 Kershaw Road.

For more information, visit www.sospeedway.com or call 541-826-6825 or 541 772-6264.

Reach reporter Dan Jones at 541-776-4499, or email djones@mailtribune.com


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