Bill Nutter was off to a good start in the Northwest Sprint Challenge Series this summer until Speedweek arrived Monday at the Southern Oregon Speedway.

Bill Nutter was off to a good start in the Northwest Sprint Challenge Series this summer until Speedweek arrived Monday at the Southern Oregon Speedway.

Nutter, who entered the week third in points, labored to a 19th-place showing in White City after heading to the pits with mechanical problems. He then finished 10th at Cottage Grove and Lebanon the following two nights.

Speedweek wraps up today and Saturday at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Wash.

Nutter, a 45-year-old millwright from Central Point, will need a couple of strong showings to stay near the front in points.

Nutter won what was then the Northern Sprint Tour championship in 2005 when White City-based Cross Creek Trucking served as his major sponsor. The trucking company dropped him prior to last season, but Nutter still found a way to take third in NSCS points and win the Oregon State Challenge Series that runs at Cottage Grove and the Southern Oregon Speedway.

This year, Nutter has spent a lot of time building a new shop in back of his home, but it hasn't stopped him from remaining competitive.

"It's got a heat pump and air conditioning and lots of room," Nutter said of his new shop. "I spend a lot of time there. It makes the preparation of the car a lot more fun."

Nutter's most satisfying race this season came on June 30 at Gray's Harbor Raceway in Elma, Wash. Nutter had the fifth-fastest qualifying time, but was sent to the back of the B main after his car weighed in eight pounds under the limit. Nutter finished fourth in the B main, which earned him a spot at the back of the A main. He fought his way to seventh in the feature event.

"That was hard work — it felt as good as winning a race," said Nutter, whose best finish this year was a second at Elma on April 28.

Nutter, who drives a 2006 Zeitler chassis, has picked up a couple of new sponsors but still shells out a lot of his own money to support his hobby. How much?

"I don't want to know," he said. "My wife (Michelle) takes care of the budgeting."

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MONDAY'S SPRINT-CAR RACE at the Southern Oregon Speedway featured some of the top drivers in the Pacific Northwest and California. They put on quite a show, tearing around the three-eighths mile dirt oval at speeds in excess of 80 mph.

It ended prematurely, however, when race officials stopped the feature event at 10 p.m. sharp to meet a week-night curfew imposed by Jackson County. Thus, a scintillating race between Shane Steward, Roger Crockett and Brent Kaeding was suddenly trimmed from 30 laps to 20.

Steward and Crockett, the NSCS points leader, collided on the frantic final lap of the shortened race after running 1-2 nearly entire way. Steward somehow managed to stay on the track and won, but Crockett stalled and never finished. Kaeding took up the slack and got second.

Several fans voiced their anger after the race. At $15 for a general admission ticket, who could blame them?

Co-promoter Valerie Rapp said the track had already been fined $500 for missing curfew once this summer and she didn't want to get hit again.

There's an easy solution to the problem: Start the racing at 5:30 p.m. instead of 6.

Another option would be to run the support class — on this night it was the super 4's — after the sprints and cut THAT race short if needed. The vast majority of fans were there to watch the sprint cars and they — as well as the drivers — deserve a complete feature event.

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DAN ESTREMADO PROVED once again that driving talent means more than horsepower when navigating the bumps, ruts and smooth and slippery spots of a dirt track.

Estremado stepped into a super-4 division car for the first time Monday night and promptly guided it to victory in the main event.

Estremado was filling in for John Barger, who was out of town and couldn't make the show. Barger's best finish in a feature race this season is fourth place.

"That car was a pleasure to drive," said Estremado of the Rick Rapp chassis. "I really enjoyed it."

Estremado, who ranks third in modified points, said the super-4 cars are easier to keep on the track.

"The modifieds have so much power and sometimes it's tough to control them," he said. "When the track gets dry and slick you can't use all that power and it's easy to spin out or slide off the track.

"With the super-4s, you just keep them wound up and going hard."

Estremado, who also recorded the fastest lap of the night during time-ins, seized the lead on the third lap and kept it to the checkered flag.

The worst part of the night for Estremado was that morning came early. The Gold Hill logger didn't arrive home until after midnight and had to be up at 3:30 a.m. Tuesday.

"I was dragging," he said, "but it was worth it."

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