Blake Wiliams holds off veteran David Garber for the NAPA Idaho 200 victory at Stateline Speedway. The night was a local strong suit of sorts as all three leaders of the race were from the greater Spokane area.
Many of the region's high stakes, big purse late model events have been dominated in recent years by an out of area driver coming in and stealing the thunder of local stars.
In the case of the Montana 200 it's been nearly 15 years since a local driver has won the prestigious event. Yakima's Fall Classic has been won for two straight season's by a Western Washington driver with its Apple Cup also going to out of town drivers in recent years.
The scenario has not played out for the NAPA Idaho 200 as Kevin Richards won the race in 2011 with Stateline Speedway's premier event usually seeing a good mix of locals running at the front of the field.
Saturday night was no different as all three drivers who led the race were local including Nicole Behar, David Garber and race winner Blake Williams each of whom have had success at Stateline.
Williams and Garber thrilled the crowd in the late going with several side by side battles only to see the veteran Garber yield to the young gun Williams on many occasions. With 10 laps to go Garber caught Williams in lapped traffic setting the stage for one last charge to the checkers. Many times in recent weeks Williams has fallen victim to mechanical woes and to incidents that have cost him a shot at winning a premier regional late model race including the Montana 200 and Evergreen Speedway's Summer Showdown. On Saturday night the Spokane Valley teen held Garber at bay long enough to see the checkers fly for his first Idaho 200 and first career premier late model event.
Andy Brown, who was making his first start of the season, brought home a third place finish with past Montana Raceway Park champion Alex Lessor claiming fourth and three-time Idaho 200 champion Gary Lewis rounding out the top-5.
Of the top-10 finishers six were from the greater Spokane area proving that the Idaho 200 is one big money late model race that locals have a fighting chance to succeed on the big stage. Of the eight local drivers to start the Idaho 200 all but two finished inside the top-10 at the end of the night. In addition to Williams, Garber and Brown running top-10 they were joined by Behar (8th), Braeden Havens (9th) and Joey Bird (10th).
News & Notes-
#64 Garrett Evans, the defending Idaho 200 champion had to come through the B-Main to earn a starting position in the 200-lap finale. Evans held off a hard-charging Erick Hargraves en route to the victory then advanced from his 13th starting position for a seventh place finish.
#73 Gary Lewis had to pit twice under yellow during the course of the 200 lap main event. In his first visit Lewis brought his Chevrolet to the attention of his crew for repairs to a fender that was damaged in a racing incident while his second trip was for a flat right front tire. Each stop forced the four-time late model touring champion to restart in the rear of the field then march his way back to the front eventually making it to fifth place at the finish.
#83 Braeden Havens continued his impressive summer run as the 19-year old qualified within the top-5 positions during time trials. Havens, the 2011 INSSA champion and last year's Idaho 200 runner-up, was running a steady fifth place when he was forced to pit under yellow for a broken drive plate. Having the plate changed, Havens restarted in 19th place and advanced through the pack to finish ninth.
#33 Nicole Behar matched a record she set in Montana last month as she became the youngest female to start in the Idaho 200. Behar also became the youngest female to lead the race and had a solid night going until being forced to pit under yellow for repairs to the bodywork of her Chevrolet. Like Havens and Lewis, the Otis Orchards teen rallied from the back of the pack to return to the top-10 running order when the 200 laps were completed.
#24 Joey Bird made his first start in an Idaho 200 and had a good night for his efforts. Locking in as the last driver to qualify within the top-12, Bird made advances into the top-10 running order on several occasion only to be caught in racing incidents that sent him to the pits for repairs. Staying on the lead lap Bird was able to salvage a 10th place finish and continue his solid rookie season of late model competition.