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Lilac Funny Cars Turn 20 At Spokane Raceway

Spokane’s longest running motor sports event turns 20 years old on Saturday when Spokane Raceway Park hosts its annual Lilac Funny Car Championships.

Defending Lilac champion Don Moffatt leads a contingent of a half-dozen 6-second, 220-mph funny cars that also includes World Finals champion Forrest LeBlanc.

An alcohol dragster match race featuring two former world champions, Kenny Sitko and Paula Gage, is part of the racing card, as are exhibition runs by jet cars and the wheelstanding Kenworth truck of “Diesel Louie” Force, brother of funny car ace John Force. Time trials begin at 4 p.m., racing at 7.

The first Lilac race was held in May 1976, when only a dozen or so races were staged on the relatively new asphalt at SRP.

Ed McCulloch’s legendary “Revelloution” and Gordie Bonin’s “Bubble-up” Vega, both nitro funny cars, headlined that first race, with McCulloch ultimately winning.

Bird set to fly

Jeff Bird will likely return to local late model racing this Saturday night when the Northwest series runs its third race of the season at Stateline Speedway.

The Columbia River Open Wheel Challenge, as well as appearances by Hobby Cars and Stateline Street Stocks, completes a program that begins with time trials at 6 p.m.

Bird, who has been racing in the NASCAR Late Model Sportsman series in Yakima the last year, is reportedly upset over a protest of his victory last weekend.

The former modified champion will provide a solid test for current series points leader Billy Swift of Newman Lake, the winner of the series’ first race at the track three weeks ago. Swift holds a 236-231 lead in points over Cory Wolfe of Ronan, Mont.

Long Lake hydros

The waters off Long Lake’s Willow Bay Resort will be churned by the propellers of high-speed limited hydroplanes in the third running of the Interstate Battery Lilac Spring Championships.

Gates open at 9 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday with racing starting at 11:30.Admission is $5 adults, $2.50 ages 6-12. Under 6 are free. Proceeds of the regatta go to the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

Luck of the English

Ron Hall, owner of the Lubrication Station NASCAR Northwest Tour race team, believes in the “luck of the English,” as in Port Angeles’ Monte English.

New life has been pumped into the Spokane-based team now that English has taken over driving. English was the 1991 series champion, and was hired over the winter by Hall, a veteran late-model car owner and former driver. English is fifth in points.

The Tour visits Wenatchee this Saturday.

Pit Stops

With the funny cars in town Saturday night, there is no stock car racing at Spokane Raceway Park. Oval track racing resumes next Saturday night. … Stateline Speedway kicks off its “Wednesday Night Fever” series next week. … Ephrata’s State Central Speedway hosts the All-Star Late Model racing series Saturday night. … Tuscor Speedway in Trout Creek, Mont., will host the Northern Light Sprint cars Saturday at 1 p.m. … Gary Herrin didn’t get a “brake” during his rookie run in the NASCAR Super Truck Series last Saturday at Monroe. Running as high as 16th during the first 75 laps of the 150-lap race, Herrin’s Enerjetix Motorsports Chevy suddenly lost its brakes in the final 16 laps. “We literally had to stop him by hand,” said team owner Richard Balestrieri, of Spokane. … Mark Weaver won his second modified class main event last Sunday at Northport International Raceway. … Travis Swift served as flagman in last Saturday’s NW Late Model Superstock race in Kalispell. Travis is the son of Billy Swift, and was put in the awkward position of having to “black flag” his dad in the 75-lap feature. The elder Swift’s car blew an oil-pan gasket and Travis had no other choice than to send dad to the pits. “I guess he was getting me back for me making him eat liver as a kid,” said dad. … Chad Little tries for his second two-race winning streak in the Busch Grand National Series Sunday at Nazareth, Penn. … Kirk Rogers tries to qualify for his first AC Delco/ASA Series race Saturday at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

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