For 21/2 years, Dan Estremado languished in mediocrity at the Southern Oregon Speedway.

For 21/2 years, Dan Estremado languished in mediocrity at the Southern Oregon Speedway.

The Gold Hill logger, who dominated the track in 1999 when he won 14 modified division main events, had opted for a more sophisticated suspension setup. But the plan backfired.

This year, Estremado abandoned the fancy, bar configuration for the simplified, mono leaf suspension system that had treated him so well in the past.

Presto. Estremado placed sixth on opening night, added a third two weeks later and snagged his first feature win since the middle of the 2004 season last Saturday.

Estremado has ascended to third in the point standings, trailing Monte Bischoff by 22 points and second-place Mark Wauge by just three points.

"The biggest thing is, I went back to what I knew," Estremado says. "I should have stayed with the mono leaf system all along, but you get caught up in the moment and want to try the fancier equipment."

The bar setups, typically outfitted with four bars, can be moved into hundreds of different positions to match the always-changing conditions of a dirt track. But you practically need a degree in mechanical engineering to figure out the plethora of setups.

Two years ago, Wauge also junked a bar system for a mono leaf and went on to win the 2005 points title.

"The bar cars are great if you know what you're doing, but the track can change quickly and it's so much easier dealing with the mono leaf," Estremado says. "I was never comfortable or confident in the bar car. You want the car to be secondary, so you can concentrate on the other drivers instead of worrying about whether your car is going to hold its line."

The mono leaf suspension systems also seem to fare best on dry, slick tracks, which are common at the Southern Oregon Speedway.

Estremado races despite putting in 60- to 70-hour weeks as the owner of a logging company. He's up at 4 a.m. every weekday, out the door at 4:30 and often toils until 6 p.m. or later.

Estremado grew up working in the woods for his father, Joe, and eventually took over the company. He was setting chokers at 14 and running a yarder at 16.

"It's a demanding job," says Estremado, who has a 40-man crew but routinely operates heavy machinery at landing sites. "But I like being outdoors and it's what I know."

Estremado doesn't have much time to work on his car during the week, leaving those duties to race crew members Jeff Johnson, Rick Ward and Himey Fernandez.

Last Saturday was a perfect scenario for the friendly driver: He won the feature event and his car didn't suffer a scratch.

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MODIFIED POINTS LEADER Monte Bischoff didn't have much time to ponder his third-place finish in the feature event last Saturday.

After crossing the finish line, Bischoff was forced to stop along the front straightaway wall because two lapped cars had tangled in front of him.

Seconds later, Bischoff was plowed into by Jeff Hudsen.

"He (Hudsen) saw me at the last second, but it was too late," Bischoff said. "It's nobody's fault. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time."

Bischoff's car was essentially destroyed. Local car builder Bruce Rayburn is attaching a new body and rear clip.

Bischoff suffered from whiplash and a very sore neck. He went to a chiropractor Monday.

"He worked me over good," Bischoff said.

Bischoff's car won't be ready by Saturday but, luckily for him, the modified racers have an off-week.

Reach reporter Don Hunt at 776-4469, or e-mail dhunt@mailtribune.com