The longest continually held stock car event in the Northwest, Yakima Speedway’s Apple Cup, gets the region’s late model season underway this weekend. As an added dimension to the race, Apple Cup also serves as the inaugural race for the newly formed Tri-Track Late Model Series. Tri-Track races will be run at Wenatchee Valley’s Super Oval, Yakima Speedway and Hermiston’s Super Oval this season with plans to expand to other tracks including Stateline Speedway in 2015.
With the demise of Pacific Northwest late model traveling series including INSSA last season and ICAR at the end of 2012, the Tri-Track Series looks to fill the touring void.
Several area drivers, along with those who have ties to the region’s two asphalt tracks, will be in the mix for Apple Cup victory this weekend and the Tri-Track championship that will be awarded in October.
That charge will be led by 2012 Spokane County Raceway track champion and two-time Apple Cup winner, Owen Riddle. SCR and Yakima, both being half-miles, have produced some Riddle’s biggest victories in his career and Riddle will be a threat this weekend to make it three Apple Cup victories in as many seasons.
2011 INSSA champion Erick Hargraves has entered this weekend’s Apple Cup. A Fall Classic winner at the Speedway, Hargraves looks for his first career win in Yakima’s season-opener.
While all eyes may be on Riddle and Hargraves, a strong contingent of Inland Empire talent will be on hand to ensure they’ll have to work for victory. Local drivers looking for their first Yakima Apple Cup victories include Braeden Havens, Nicole Behar, Blake Williams and Shelby Thompson.
Each of the four brings unique storylines into the weekend.
For Williams, the defending Idaho 200 champion, Yakima is the site of an incredible backstretch flip in the 2010 Fall Classic that ended his day and significantly damaged his Ford Fusion. This weekend will be the Spokane Valley high school senior’s first trip back to the Central Washington track.
Behar has been one of the hottest drivers in our area over the last year as she netted a track championship at Stateline Speedway, became the first female to qualify on speed for the Montana 200, set the first track late model qualifying record at Hermiston’s Super Oval, ran top-10 in the Idaho 200, became the highest finishing female in a Northwest Modified main event and got a tryout with Rev Racing through NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity.
With a NASCAR K&N Pro Series team being assembled for the Otis Orchards teen, Behar will be out to continue her blistering pace by tackling the tricky Yakima Speedway oval. The Apple Cup will be her first career start on the famed half-mile.
Havens comes off another consistent season in which he picked up a main event victory, scored a career-best NASCAR K&N Pro Series finish of fourth (at Evergreen Speedway) and qualified for the prestigious Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Fall Classic. For 2014, the Medical Lake native will continue a partial NASCAR schedule and focus on regional late model events and the Tri-Track Series. The Spokane Falls Community College sophomore will also have a new teammate at Killer “B” Racing.
Shelby Thompson has been signed to drive the team’s No. 20 Chevrolet and will join Havens as the duo headed to Yakima this weekend. A past ARCA West Rookie of the Year and 2011 Spokane 200 winner, Thompson is no stranger to big-time late model events, but has not competed fulltime in several seasons. The Mead High School product is expected to run 10 races this season, including the Stateline Speedway super late model events along with starts in the Montana 200, Evergreen Speedway Summer Showdown and Yakima Speedway Fall Classic.
For more information on this weekend’s 48th Annual Yakima Speedway Apple Cup log onto www.yakimaspeedway.us.