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Ode to 2 racing favorites at Southern Oregon Speedway this weekend

Local drivers Bruce Rayburn and Dwayne Melvin, who died within days of each other around Christmas, will be honored with races at Southern Oregon Speedway this weekend
Dwayne Melvin, who drove the No. 69 car, will be honored Saturday at Southern Oregon Speedway with the Dwayne Melvin Clash, a 69-lap race with a purse of $3,000 for the winner. [courtesy photo]
The 55-lap Bruce Rayburn Classic, honoring Bruce “the Rabbit” Rayburn Sr., of Eagle Point, will boast a $5,500 prize Friday. [Courtesy photo]

A pair of races this weekend at Southern Oregon Speedway will honor the memory of two beloved race car drivers who passed within days of each other in December.

The speedway will host back-to-back events: Friday, the 55-lap Bruce Rayburn Classic will boast a $5,500 prize; Saturday, the Dwayne Melvin Clash, at 69 laps, will award $3,000 to the fastest driver.

Lap counts for each event are an ode to the drivers’ car numbers.

Gates for both events open at 5 p.m., with races starting at 7 p.m.

Southern Oregon Speedway General Manager Travis Hoppes said the local race community is looking forward to honoring two of their favorites this weekend. Hoppes said it had been an emotional time at the track, with almost back-to-back passing of the two local racers.

Dwayne Melvin, of Medford, lost his battle with COVID the day before Christmas while Bruce “the Rabbit” Rayburn Sr., of Eagle Point, died two days after Christmas of non-COVID-related health complications.

“They both were very well known. Bruce was one of the legends of the Medford Speedway. He’d been in racing for many years. He was a car builder and was known for his Rayburn race car chassis,” Hoppes said.

“Melvin was a sport mod driver and a big teddy bear of a guy. Everybody loved him. He’d work on your car before he worked on his own. He was one of our track champions when sport mods first started. So many nights, I would say, ‘Where the heck is Dwayne? We got to work on his car,’” and he’d be off working on somebody else’s car. That was Dwayne.”

Melvin’s wife, Stacey Melvin, said the outreach from the local race community had been a boost in recent months.

“It’s totally amazing. I just shared a picture on Facebook of Dwayne this morning and wrote a note to him saying how cool it will be having him looking down over all those racing families while they’re celebrating him this weekend,” she said.

“It’s bittersweet because it’s cool to see everyone come together. People all over the West Coast are sending me messages about this weekend, but it’s also sad. Dwayne was only 41. He should still be out racing on the track with everyone.”

Stacey Melvin, who grew up with Rayburn’s kids, said her late husband, who worked in highway construction, had a Rayburn chassis, and the men were friends. His car number, she pointed out, was a tribute to his uncle, renowned local race car driver Roger Haudenshild, whose hot pink and black car bore the same number.

Ardie Rayburn, Rayburn Sr.’s wife, said she looked forward to seeing familiar faces at the pair of weekend events. She said her husband might laugh off the idea of a memorial race, having raced in so many. The Rayburn family held his memorial service at the track.

“He was really sarcastic and funny, so I can’t even imagine what he’d be saying. He’d probably be sitting up in heaven laughing at us, but I know he’d be honored, too,” said the widow.

“His number was 55, so the race payout is $5,500, which is a big purse for this area. Bruce was a man of few words, but when he said something, he said what he thought. I know he raced in a lot of memorial races for others, so he would be honored to see his friends racing in his own.”

Hoppes said the loss of the two men, coming so close together, had been on the minds of the local speedway and supporters.

“The loss of both these men was a huge impact to our racing community, so this weekend will be very emotional for all of us, and we’re expecting a lot of fans for both races,” he said.

“Putting on a memorial race for guys you barely knew is one thing, but when they’re part of your family, it’s something completely different. It's going to be a very emotional weekend.”

For more information, see southernoregonmotorsports.com

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or bpollock@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.