For the first time in decades big-time stock car racing returns to the Inland Northwest complete with the exposure for the region that comes with hosting a NASCAR event.
The Spokane 200 is set for Saturday night at Spokane County Raceway. Many of the facility’s recent improvements have been geared toward NASCAR’s return, including new retaining walls around the corners and a fresh layer of asphalt in the pit area.
This will be the first NASCAR event at the raceway since 1979. It is being recorded and is scheduled to be shown on the Speed Channel on Thursday at 3 p.m.
The NASCAR K&N Pro Series event will feature some of the top talent from across the western United States and Canada. Expected to compete will be current points leader Greg Pursley; back-to-back race winner Dylan Kwasnieski; defending series champion Eric Holmes; Richard Childress Racing development driver Michael Self; the current points standings No. 2 driver, Moses Smith; Canadian father and son duo Carl and Darryl Harr; and Idaho’s Brett Thompson.
Gene Price Motorsports, which fields Pursley and Kwasnieski’s Ford Fusion race cars, is the hottest team in the circuit heading into Spokane with seven wins in its last 11 starts dating back to last fall.
Local fans will have a rooting interest as two Inland Northwest drivers, David Garber and Braeden Havens, have entered the NASCAR event along with running their late model cars in the 100-lap preliminary race.
Havens climbs behind the wheel of the No. 88 Western Rail Chevrolet fielded by Canadian team owner Dick Midgley. The team had success last year with four-time Idaho 200 champion Gary Lewis, netting a pair of top-five short track finishes (Sacramento, Calif., and Montana) in the same car the Airway Heights native will drive.
Excitement is an understatement for Havens as he prepares for his NASCAR debut.
“I was stoked to get the call from NASCAR on Tuesday that they’d approved me for my license to race in this one, and so now we’ll go out there and focus on getting some good laps in and having a solid night,” Havens said.
Having his late model crew chief, Chuck Carruthers, step in and help with the NASCAR entry is a big boost, he said.
“Chuck knows his stuff and has been one of the keys to our late model success this season,” he said. “When we talked with him about getting into this car, he was all for it, and to have him in the pits will give us a boost of confidence as we go into the weekend.”
For Garber, it marks his second consecutive start in the series after making his debut on Aug. 13 at Montana Raceway Park in Kalispell.
Garber will be back behind the wheel of the No. 52 Reader Concrete Chevrolet. In Montana, Garber had two hours of practice to get his Impala dialed in for qualifying. He posted the 12th-fastest time, then rode out a 16th-place finish as the race was run in a record time of 39 minutes with only two caution flags thrown in the 150 laps.
“It was a quick night, that’s for sure, but we were able to learn a few things that will hopefully prepare us for Spokane,” Garber said.
Car owner John Wood has been in constant contact with Garber to gauge what will be needed to give the Spokane native his best shot at a solid finish.
“We’ve been talking quite a bit about setups for the car and how we can improve as a team to get a good result this weekend,” Garber said.
Gaining assistance from Carruthers, who also guides Havens’ effort, has proved beneficial, Garber said.
“We’ve gotten a shock and spring package from Chuck that will definitely help the car on Saturday, and Chuck has said he’ll give us some help if needed over the weekend,” he said. “Having him even step up and help is big with all the experience he has on the series.”
For ticket information call 244-3333 or go to www.spokanecountyraceway.com, which provides an online purchasing process. As of Thursday night, the event had not sold out its allotment of tickets for the two-day racing schedule.
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