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Keeping Pace

Sun., Oct. 11, 2009, 5:30 p.m.


No. 66 Mark Jones picked up the win during Columbia Motor Speedway's first ever Northwest Sprint Car Invitational. (Photo courtesy of INSCA) (The Spokesman-Review)
No. 66 Mark Jones picked up the win during Columbia Motor Speedway's first ever Northwest Sprint Car Invitational. (Photo courtesy of INSCA) (The Spokesman-Review)

Inland Northwest Sprint Car Association driver Mark Jones picked up the inaugural win at Columbia Motor Speedway in the first running of the Northwest Sprint Car Invitational.

For Immediate Release: Northwest Sprint Car Invitational Media Relations

HERMISTON, Ore. (October 10, 2009)-Mark Jones used a near flawless set-up underneath his V-Power sprint car chassis early Saturday evening en route to victory in the inaugural Northwest Sprint Car Invitational held at Columbia Motor Speedway in Hermiston, Ore.

Tony Berry, who watched the water temperature climb over 240 degrees in the late stages of the 50-lap main, held off fast time winner, Craig Deaver, for second place.

Mike Fought and Rich Fast rounded out the top-5.

The race was slowed for three caution periods and run in just over a green flag time of 40 minutes.

Cole Tupling led the field to the green flag but bobbled exiting turn No. 4 just before the first circuit was completed. That opened the door for Don Kundra to dive underneath and lead the race’s first handful of laps. Jones jumped on Tupling’s misfortune and grabbed second place while Berry dropped back to fourth in the early going.

Deaver started 12th based on an invert and steadily climbed through traffic to seventh but was forced to pit under the race’s first yellow flag on lap 10. The Lake Tapps, Wash. native replaced a flat left front tire and restarted the race in 16th place but still maintained a lead lap position on the track.

Jones and Berry worked their way by Kundra just past the race’s first quarter point and began to pull away from Kundra, Fought and Rick Brown in the middle portions of the event.

Justin Mack brought the race’s second caution and the slowdown allowed the field to bunch up. Deaver had managed to gain 12 positions in the short burst of racing and found himself fourth behind Fast, Berry and race leader Brown as the race resumed.

Berry and Deaver waged a spirited battle for second place as lap 31 began but Berry’s Oak Tree Inn sprinter had the upper hand exiting each corner and began to pull away from Deaver’s CES Northwest machine. By lap 33 the pair worked through lapped traffic but started to lose ground to Jones’ V-Powered chassis.

Kundra lost a motor in turn No. 3 on lap 36 resulting in the early evening race’s final yellow flag. With lapped traffic interspersed in the field, Jones, Berry and Deaver were nose to tail with several lapped cars behind them to Fought in fourth place and Brown in fifth. Jones jumped on the restart and flew away from his closest challengers to notch the first ever sprint car race victory at Columbia Motor Speedway since it reopened in May.

“(Columbia Motor Speedway) is a blast to drive,” Jones said from victory lane. “This is a tough track to hook-up on with a sprint car and we got the set-up right and our Don Vonderfecht engine was great. Don was out here from Nebraska to help us this week and this is great to get a win for V-Power with him at the race. I knew we hit it just right as we were able to move away from the traffic and Tony and Deaver there in the late going.”

Berry battled Deaver and the potential anxiety of a boiling motor to take a runner-up finish.

“We had the water temp go to 240 right from the get’go. I saw Deaver get along side us twice there in the late going and I was just trying to save the car for a late race run to the end. Our Oak Tree Inn sprinter got tight there at the end and I just couldn’t get to Mark there like we wanted,” Berry said. “All in all this was a great race and a lot of fun to run here at Columbia Motor Speedway. I have to thank their staff for working with Justin (Popple) Mark and I to get this going and we’re looking forward to coming back in 2010.”

Deaver also indicated that he’d be back for the second running of the Northwest Sprint Car Invitational after having a strong car throughout the day.

“It’s a very challenging track and I think it plays into being a place where the driver has to take control. It just wasn’t our night but we’ll come back and see what we can do with it again next year. We had that flat tire there early and it set us back in the field and then in the late going we started to have our right rear go down and the car went tight until it’d build some heat up to ride on the (tire). Every restart I’d have to wait until it’d build up that heat then make a charge.”

1st Annual Northwest Sprint Car Invitational Finishing Order

1) 66 Mark Jones, V-Power, Page, ID
2) 53 Tony Berry, Oak Tree Inn, Spokane, WA
3) 15 Craig Deaver, CES Northwest, Lake Tapps, WA
4) 78 Mike Fought, Beaver Lake Nursery, Othello, WA
5) 6 Rich Fast, Rottinghaus Farms, Mesa, WA
6) 36 Rick Brown, Isackson Dozing Inc., Springfield, OR
7) 71 Kirk Eklund, Kerslake Machine, Edgewood, WA
8) 11 Rich Leighty, Walker Motorsports, Pacific Beach, WA
9) 27 Ralph Deaver, CES Northwest, Edgewood, WA
10)  16 Ron Rhode, What’s a sponsor?, Lewiston, ID
11)  23 Wes Helgeson, Performance Associates, Spokane, WA
12)  55 Don Kundra, Two Dogs Cylinder Head Shop, Othello, WA
13)  3 Cole Tupling, Lloyd Logging, Okanogan, WA
14)  34 Rob Matherly, A-L Compressed Gases, Colbert, WA
15)  34x Justin Mack, Rock Lake Race Team, Benton City, WA
16)  69 Butch Duren, Duren Custom Paints, Cheney, WA
17)  6w Ian Thomas, Thanks to Dixon Helgeson, Rossland, BC
18)  86 Joe Smith, Mackey Seed, Moses Lake, WA
19)  13 Mike Basher, Buds Machine & Engine, Yelm, WA
20)  19 Justin Popple, Spokane Pump, Colbert, WA

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Keeping Pace

Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.