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Sprint cars head to speedway

WHITE CITY -- The opening event of the Northern Sprint Tour series comes to the Southern Oregon Speedway this weekend.

The two-day event, which features most of the top sprint car drivers in the Pacific Northwest and Northern California, begins Friday and concludes Saturday at the one-third mile dirt track.

Gates open at 4 p.m. each day, with racing scheduled for 6.

Separate shows will be run each night with qualifying, heat races and a main event.

This weekend marks the beginning of the 16-event Northern Sprint Tour, a roving circuit of sprint cars that journeys to Cottage Grove, Lebanon and Elma, Wash., in addition to the Southern Oregon Speedway.

Although the sprint cars on this circuit aren't as fast as the ones on the World of Outlaws tour, they're still faster than any other vehicles that compete at the White City track. The open-wheeled, winged cars feature 600 to 750 horsepower, weigh just 1,200 pounds and can reach speeds in excess of 100 mph on the straightaways.

The fans love these cars because there's always so much action on the track and throughout the race, says Mike Troy, director of administration for the Northern Sprint Tour. These guys are at full throttle the whole way, and to be honest the fans like to see them crash. Since they're open-wheeled cars, the wrecks can really be spectacular.

And since they're only going 30 or 40 laps, there isn't a lot of strategy involved in terms of conserving fuel and tires.

Local drivers expected to be on hand include Dan Menne and Jason Finley of Fort Jones, Calif., and Billy the Kid Nutter of Eagle Point.

Defending Northern Sprint Car points champion Jason Solwold of Burlington, Wash., and Shawna Wilskey, who won the NSC race at the Southern Oregon Speedway last year, are also expected to compete.

Friday's sprint car main event will pay $1,000 to the winner while Saturday's winner will collect $2,500.