Spokane County Raceway’s premier late-model event of the season, the second Annual Spokane 200, was filled with plenty of racing action that dazzled the capacity crowd on Saturday night. A field of 34 drivers entered the race with each one earning the right to start the feature. In the end all but two answered the bell after qualifying and positioning races were completed with 17 cars running at the end of the event.
Puyallup’s Jay Sauls motored past Owen Riddle in the late stages of the second 100-lap run to take the checkered flag. The win gives Sauls his first victory in one of the Inland Northwest’s high-profile 200-lap races that include the Idaho and Montana 200’s.
“We’ve worked so hard to win a race like this,” Sauls said. “Our team has won races on the NASCAR Northwest Series, the (Northwest) ASA Late Model Tour, but every time it looks like we’re in a position to win one of the big shows like a Spokane 200 we get caught in a wreck, have a flat tire (as was the case earlier in the month at the Idaho 200) or break something in the car that forces us out of the race. To finally win one of these races is a great feeling that’s for sure.”
Taylor Riddle led the pack in qualifying as the Naches native was the only driver to lap the half-mile in less then 18 seconds. Riddle’s elapsed time of 17.867-sec. at an average speed of 100.744 mph was one of the fastest laps turned in time trials this season.
During the first-half of the 200-lap finale the race had the look of a typical short-track feature with carnage, mayhem and short runs that bred cautions. Taylor Riddle held the point in the early going with Moxee’s Mike Longton moving to second-place by lap 10. Longton moved to the top spot as he passed Riddle in the backstretch on lap 15. At lap 39 Owen Riddle found a line that worked to his advantage as he cleared his younger brother for second and set sail to chase down Longton who had built a 2-second lead that stuck until the halfway break.
Owen Riddle quickly moved to the lead just after the second half began with Longton giving chase. The two raced in tight quarters through the corners with Longton dropping the left side of his Ford off the track causing the race car to bottom out. The resulting damage to the suspension forced Longton to pit for repairs and hand second place to Garrett Evans.
Evans stayed with Riddle over the next 20 laps but also contended with a hard-charging Sauls who had worked his way to third by lap 143. Sauls dipped underneath Evans in turn No. 1 and cleared the NASCAR veteran entering the backstretch for second place with 40 laps to go in the event.
As Riddle passed the flagstand to begin lap 171 he found Sauls knocking on the back door for the lead and the pair were side by side entering the corner. Sauls kept his car high through turns one and two and nailed the throttle entering the backstretch to nose ahead of Riddle’s Ford as they entered turn No. 3. Through the corner Sauls held his high ground again forcing Riddle to maintain position on the bottom and like Longton earlier, bottom out the left side of the car on the edge of the racing surface.
“We were running well in the second half and knew Jay was coming but for us running the left side tires off the track towards the end hurt the handling,” Riddle said. “We broke something in the left-front suspension and that hurt us trying to keep up with Jay towards the end. (Sauls) ran a heck of a race and closed us down in a hard charge and is deserving of the victory.”
Evans for his part kept his eye on Riddle and Sauls hoping to cash in on a mistake that would allow him the opportunity to move up from his third-place position in the late going.
“The second half of this race was the longest green flag run we’ve had on this new race car all season,” Evans said. “We learned a lot about the car but just missed the setup a little bit to run with the leaders there at the end.”
Andy Brown was the region’s highest finishing driver as he came home with a fifth-place finish. Other notable area finishers included NASCAR K&N Pro Series driver Braeden Havens (seventh) with Rusty Webb (ninth) and David Garber (10th) also giving a strong local presence to the top 10.