With the 20th annual Montana 200 on tap for this weekend, several of the Inland Empire’s best late model drivers are making the trek to Kalispell for their opportunity to return the prestigious trophy to Eastern Washington for the first time since Marc Groskreutz’s win in 1996.
Three-time Inland Northwest Super Stock Association champion David Garber will lead the pack into Montana as he has been running the entire Lucas Oil Super Late Model schedule in Kalispell on his off weekends. The Spokane native will have some sibling rivalry going this weekend as his brother, Dan, has been signed to drive the Hilliard Enterprises Chevrolet for Todd Havens.
Havens also fields a car for his son, Braeden, who will be attempting to become the youngest qualifier for the Montana 200. Seventeen-year-old Wrango West (Kalispell) currently holds that distinction, but should Havens make the 24-car field, Spokane may add more Montana 200 history to its racing lore.
Another local driver that will be out to lower the age record is Blake Williams, the current Rookie of the Year leader on the Appleway Chevrolet Parts Center ICAR Series. Already a main event winner on the series that runs predominately at Stateline Speedway, Williams also made a start at the INSSA’s June 26 event to get acquainted with the Super Late Model race car out of the McClintock & Turk Race Team’s shop.
Williams, who is just 15 years old, has come quite far in racing, and making the starting field for the Montana 200 is now the Spokane native’s primary goal heading into his biggest late model race in his brief career.
“I am very excited to be heading out to Montana and attempt to qualify for the 200 of course. It’s our goal to be the youngest person to ever qualify for the race and I am going to try my best to do that and to try and win the race itself,” Williams said.
With guidance from renowned late model crew chief Kevin Richards, having the right set-up underneath him for the Montana 200 will be a key to success. Coaching tips from Richards on how to handle the high-banked oval and its multiple grooves are just some of the many things Williams has learned from his team’s leader during his rookie season.
“He (Richards) helps me a lot with how to set things up on the car and of course he’s helping to work on the car,” Williams said. “When it comes to driving we talk strategy and that has also been a big help for me.”
That help has given Williams a quicker learning curve from the four-cylinder and kart racing he’s been doing over the last few years, he noted.
“It’s a lot different driving these late model cars then the karts or my road runner. There is a different feeling in the car and the biggest challenge is getting use to that and working to find a felling that I like.”
Williams has been around stock car racing from an early age. With his father, Don, involved in supporting Richards’ career, the younger Williams has known nothing but success. This weekend Richards will not only be helping on the car but will also be out to put his McClintock & Turk Chevrolet into the 24-car starting lineup.
Looking up to Richards, his father and grandfather have provided the inspiration Blake Williams needsto be successful this weekend.
“I look up to them and they’re my biggest influences in my racing. I’ve learned a lot from them,” Williams said.
To learn more about the 200th Annual Montana 200, log onto www.montanaraceway park.com. Live audio of the race will be provided on the track’s website so that Inland Empire fans can track their favorite driver at home.