The racing was nothing less than spectacular on Saturday night at Champion Speedway, where every race was a nail-biter to the finish.
At the fall of the final checkered flag, 25-year-old Josh Bews, a Champion Speedway semi-regular from Roseville, Calif., stood tall in the winner's circle.
But his path to victory was not an easy one. The Intermountain Late Model 100-lap main event, featuring drivers from Nevada, Idaho, Oregon and California, saw a flurry of early yellow flags and enough oil dumped on the track to float the Exxon Valdez.
The field was fully inverted for the start, and Brad Young led the first few laps while Bews, 13th fastest qualifier, moved to third. Jeff Hillock then took the point, staying in front until a yellow at lap 19.
Former track champions Phil Perry, Harold Long (in Chet Danburg's familiar 3X car) and Jerry Allec Jr. were moving up from the back of the pack. Allec was caught up in a chain-reaction accident as the field slowed for the caution, buckling his front bodywork. By lap 24, Allec had moved to fifth, with Perry right behind him.
Another caution on lap 32 sent Perry to the rear of the field for his part in a multi-car tangle. His electrical system was also acting up, causing the engine to quit during slow caution period running.
After a brief caution on lap 35, the field ran green for almost 30 laps, with Bews in front and Allec all over him like a bad smell.
"All I could see behind me was the 50 car. He was everywhere!" Bews said after the race.
On lap 64, Travis Kidd blew his engine entering turn 3, and the leaders hit the slick stuff at full tilt, resulting in still more body damage for Allec and a bashed-in right side for Bews.
Intermountain officials sent Allec to the pits for removal of loose bodywork, effectively ending his bid for the lead. On the restart, Russell Butler took up the challenge and passed Bews for first on lap 66. Long moved Danburg's 3X into fifth, then fourth, and Allec was on the charge from the rear of the field.
A three-car tangle and another major oil spill slowed the field on lap 71.
"The upper groove was really slick late in the race from all the oilspills," said Allec, who was trying to rejoin the leaders.
Five laps later, Young deposited yet more of the slick stuff in turn 2, then Perry's electrics finally expired on lap 77. The next 15 laps were run under green, and Allec moved around Long for fourth. Ten laps from the end, Butler and Bews encountered lapped traffic, and Butler went high, giving Bews an opening underneath. Bews dove low to take the lead, and held it on the restart after a lap 92.
Bews and Butler ran nose to tail, and sometimes side-by-side for the final eight laps, but Bews stayed low and took the checker.
"On that last restart, I knew the race was mine to win," Bews said after the race.
Butler was second, Kenny Rich third, Allec fourth, and Long fifth. Clint Kidd was sixth, and Joe Hood seventh, the last car on the lead lap. Gary Porter and Jim Parnell finished a lap down, and Jim Curbow took the final top 10-spot, two laps in arrears.
Could it be that there is a new challenger to Al Goss and Dave Sciarroni in the sportsman division? Virgil Miller, whose No. 21 has been out of action for the past couple of months, came back with a vengeance when he too the victory in a thrilling sportsman main.
Early leader Frank Sanfillipo and Stuart Moon tangled on lap 4, with Moon's car climbing up the side of Sanfillipo's machine in turn 2o. On the restart, second-fast qualifier Miller showed his strength in a dead heat with Goss for the lead. Goss pulled to the front on the next lap, while Miller and John Hood tussled for second. Miller finally got clear, and Hood had his hands full with Gary Nevers and Sciarroni for the next five laps. Sciarroni took over third, while Miller was putting heavy pressure on Goss.
Sciarroni joined the lead duo and tried a turn 3 pass, which sent him on a ride through the infield. The caution came out on lap 21 when Gary Nevers lost a wheel in turn 3 and took a ride through the sagebrush. Goss again took the lead on the restart, but on the last lap Sciarroni went high to try a pass as Miller went low. Not sure who to defend against, Goss left some room at the bottom, and Miller dived underneath to take the win.
Hood hung on for fourth, Keith Mikealson was fifth, and Stuart Moon recovered from his earlier collision to finish on the lead lap in sixth. Goss won the trophy dash and Moon beat Miller to the flag for the heat race victory.
Twenty-one seemed to be the magic number because Rocky Boice Jr. captured his first-ever hobby stock main victory. Nellie Presser returned after a two-year absence and led the first two laps from the pole.
Mark Pace took over on lap three, with Chris Betz moving to second. A pair of yellows quickly ensued, as Ken Rogers smacked the wall at turn 2 and Nellie tangled with Bill Gould in turn 3. On the lap eight restart, Betz and Don Hill battled side-by-side for the lead, while Boice quietly worked his way to third.
Behind him, Allen Hunter, Gould, and Rafael Gomez fought over the fourth spot. Hill took the uncontested lead on lap 12 and began pulling away, while Gomez worked his way to the front of what was now a five-car battle for fourth.
Caution came out again on lap 19, and Boice was alongside Hill on the restart. The pair ran side-by-side for a lap, and then Boice pulled ahead.
While Boice pulled away to a comfortable victory, Hill ran second ahead of Joel Worley, who made a nice charge to the front after being sent to the rear of the pack early in the race.
Gomez - who had ominous smoke passing from the rear of his car, managed to finish fourth, and Mike Fuller rounded out the top five. Chris Anderson, Gould, Betz, Hunter, and Pace, finished sixth through 10th. Boice had a clean sweep on the night, as he won his heat race and used the "chrome horn" to take the trophy dash from Hill. Gould won the other heat race.
D.J. Krentz also scored a hat trick in the Legends division, winning the main, heat and dash in what has become business as usual.
However, he had a serious challenge from Mike Morrissey Jr., who turned a 14.78 second qualifying lap, identical to the qualifying time by Krentz.
At the start of the main, Morrissey took only two laps to blow by Denny Hadler Jr. to take the lead. Krentz got by Jim Klopp for second two laps later as Monte Adcock moved into fourth.
Krentz made his move on lap 7, diving underneath Morrissey in turn 3. Morrissey was having none of it, and the pair ran side-by-side for the next two laps until Krentz finally pulled out a car length advantage.
Morrissey stayed with him, while Klopp dropped back in third with a comfortable margin to the fourth-place battle among Adcock, Hadler Jr., Jack Randall, Wayne Estes and George Weeks. By lap 13, Krentz and Morrissey were lapping the tail-enders, and Hadler Jr. recaptured fourth on lap 16. A yellow set up another side-by-side restart, and it took Krentz a lap to pull slightly ahead of Morrissey. Klopp held onto third, and Adcock repassed Hadler Jr. for fourth. Another yellow on lap 21 set up an instant replay of the previous restart, with similar results. Three laps later, another yellow, another restart, and this time Morrissey briefly took the lead until Krentz dove under him in turn 4. At the checker it was Krentz, Morrissey, Klopp, Hadler Jr., Adcock, Randall, Estes and Weeks, all on the lead lap. Mike Morrissey Sr. finished ninth, a lap down, followed by Andy McCool and Jennifer Hodges. Next Saturday will be the final race of the season at Champion Speedway, an all-main event show with late models running 100 laps and other divisions 50 laps. Outlaw karts are also on the program. For further information, call 267-3723.