Speedway to host Skinner Memorial
They are anything but out of control, although it's hard to tell by watching them flick dirt sideways around the track.
A contingent of modifieds are invading the Southern Oregon Speedway, site of the 14th annual Lon Skinner Memorial on Saturday and Sunday.
"I think it's the most competitive class there is," says promoter John Skinner, who established the event to honor his late father.
"It's a 700-horsepower car on a hard eight-inch tire. It's hard to get traction. You've really got to have throttle control."
Skinner estimates there will be more than 70 cars competing for the $5,000 top prize, which goes to the winner of the 50-lap feature on Sunday.
In order to qualify for the main event, the drivers will spend Saturday racing in a pair of heat races. They will draw a pill to determine their starting position of the first heat, while the second race will be an inverted lineup from the first. The points earned from the driver's finish in both heats will line them up for the main events that night.
The top 12 in the main event on Saturday night will be locked into the feature on Sunday, when racing begins with a couple of last-chance qualifiers before several main events leading up to the 50-lap A main.
"The key the first 25 or 30 (laps), if your car is good, just be patient," says Medford resident Brian Poppa, one of only two two-time winners of the event. "We're all capable of having brain hemorrhages and putting ourselves in a position we shouldn't be. When your car is good, you do get excited, so you need to exercise some patience. Fifty laps is a lot of laps."
The feature on Sunday pays $300 to start and the purse for the weekend is almost $30,000, which has continued the recent trend of drawing national attention.
Several of the top modified racers in the country are expected to compete, including the defending International Motor Contest Association national champion P.J. Egbert of Copperas Cove, Texas, and reigning Lon Skinner Memorial winner Bobby Hogge IV from Salinas, Calif.
"It's the Lon Skinner Memorial, so that in itself means a lot to me," Hogge IV says. "It's one of the races that is important to a lot of people for the prestige of it."
However, Rogue River resident Jon DeBenedetti thinks the local talent shouldn't be overlooked.
"The Southern Oregon area has a real deep modified talent (pool)," says DeBenedetti, who is the current track record holder and won the Lon Skinner Memorial in 2007. "The hardest thing about (Southern Oregon Speedway) is to beat the locals because the locals are fast. And then also to conquer the race track because the race track has been known to throw us curveballs."
Whether it's a local or national guy, DeBenedetti is sure of one thing.
"I think it's gonna be a great show," he says. "We should be able to race side by side, three wide. We get right up against each other. It makes for some real good door-to-door action."
The front gate will open at 4 p.m. with racing scheduled for 6 p.m. each day.
Tickets are $15 for Saturday and $20 for Sunday, or $30 for a two-day pass. Children 12 and under are half price each day.
Reach reporter Shawn Miller at 776-4469, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org