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Wilson simply has been aces

If this were poker, everyone else might, at the first sight of Seth Wilson, be tempted to throw in and push away from the table.

But this is the increasingly competitive world of dwarf car racing, and not even a hand ... er, foot ... as hot as Wilson's is enough to force others to fold.

Wilson, a San Clemente, Calif., driver riding an improbable streak of success, will be the feature attraction when the West Coast Dwarf Car Nationals return to Southern Oregon Speedway.

More than 60 of the fast cars of antique body type are expected to line up tonight for qualifying and again Saturday for main events.

Gates open at 4 p.m. both days, and racing starts at 6. Tickets are &

36;10 for general admission and &

36;7 for seniors and children 7-12. Those under 7 will be admitted free.

This is the third of four races in the West Coast series, and Wilson has already won the previous two. Those victories, coupled with a regional runner-up, have the 28-year-old in prime position to win the national championship before the season even runs its course.

A win at the White City track would, by all rights, trump the field.

That would be impossible to beat, says Wilson, the reigning California Dwarf Car Racing Association champion. It's almost like cards, you know.

And he has the deal.

The best of Wilson's five seasons as a dwarf car racer comes at a time when the circuit is expanding and, theoretically, getting tougher.

Wyoming and Colorado most recently joined the region, Minnesota has adopted the association's rules and there are rumblings out of Texas that its association could do likewise, says Joe Fort, vice president of the Southern Oregon Dwarf Car Association.

We have to keep moving our emblem across the map of the United States, he says. It's appealing to a lot of people to get under the same rules.

Unification reassures drivers that the cars they buy and sell will be legal to race, and it promotes fair play because the cars are evenly matched.

Then it comes down to the drivers, says Fort. Those who can set it up and drive it the best are the ones who get to the top. It makes for more competitive racing.

When it gets to the main on Saturday night, chances are there will be 24 cars running real close to each other in one group. The drivers are all so good and so even, it makes for some pretty tight racing.

There will be no shortage of challenges to Wilson this weekend, beginning with Howie Ross.

Ross has won the national race here the past two years and is always on fire, says Wilson, fourth here in 2001.

Ross took the checkered flag in an Arizona regional race in March and was third behind Wilson and Ryan Cotrell at the July national at Perris, Calif.

Cotrell, in particular, is worrisome to Wilson. It wasn't until the 25th lap of 30 at Perris that Wilson overtook Cotrell and held on for victory.

Other out-of-towners who figure to contend are Jim Scribelitto, Jesse Chinn and Frank Munroe.

Local drivers Gary Fitzsimmons and Rick Harms competed in the first national at Pahrump, Nev., in April.

They, along with Bob Sousa, the local track points leader, and Jon DeBenedetti, a former national champion who has switched to modifieds, could also make noise.

Fitzsimmons is running second in the Southern Oregon point standings but has never made it to the A main in a national event. He was in the process of transferring from the B to the A last year when a wipeout cost him the left front corner of his car and forced him to the sidelines.

The top 10 qualifiers tonight go straight to the A main, and Fitzsimmons would love to be in that group.

It gets tougher every year, says the 53-year-old. There are new drivers and new cars and they're coming from farther away.

Fitzsimmons uses his old car, a 1934 Chevy Coupe, to race, but has a newer one waiting in the wings.

He built the new car, a '34 Ford Delivery Sedan, and tricked it out with chrome wherever possible.

I just haven't made up my mind if I want to get it banged up, so I use the old car, says Fitzsimmons. Plus, the old car and I get along.

He did take his Delivery to a sizable Nevada track in June with the idea he would take it easy over the three-eighths-mile oval. He was runner-up in the heat race, won the trophy dash and captured the A main, clocking nearly 100 mph into the corners.

If his coupe takes a hit, Fitzsimmons will draw his Delivery.

Anything to keep from folding.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail